Check out some of the 'fringe' films playing in local cinemas

OCTOBER 6 ― With the summer movie season long gone now that we've entered October, the non-stop Hollywood blockbuster assault that's been with us since May is a thing of the past.

Depending on who you are, that might be good news (or not). For me, it's definitely good news, as that would also mean more screen time (and screens) available for the smaller distributors to show their (usually) smaller movies.

The Predator and Johnny English Strikes Again may have been the big releases of the past few weeks, but something like Sebelum Iblis Menjemput also got to flex its smaller muscles on local screens and impress those who are adventurous enough to seek it out.

And this week Venom may be the big news for most movie fans, but if anyone cares to look at the fringes of the local movie listings, they might just be able to find something interesting and rewarding.

Here are four movies currently playing in local cinemas that I've managed to check out:

Searching

Quite a sensation at this year's Sundance Film Festival, I didn't expect this movie to even make it to Malaysian screens.

So the fact that it somehow did manage to find its way here, even if the screenings look to be very limited and at very few cinemas, is enough cause for celebration.

Arriving at least four to five years after webcam/computer screen/found footage predecessors like Open Windows, Ratter, The Den and Unfriended, director Aneesh Chaganty has managed to craft an exceptional feature debut with Searching.

It's a thriller unfolding entirely on computer screens, about a dad searching for his missing daughter.

Cleverly dispensing with following found footage rules early on in the film (there are pans and zooms galore on things that are happening on screen here, and let's not even talk about where some footage or audio recordings may have come from), Chaganty is smart enough to realise that the found footage gimmick is less than even half the reason for people to remember the film.

A bigger reason would be the tightly wound screenplay and a propulsive sense of pacing and suspense, and it's in this regard that the film truly excels. A true gem, it'd be a shame to miss out on seeing this on the big screen.

Final Score

I can't explain why, but for some reason I have a soft spot for wrestlers turned actors, and I think a lot of other people do too.

Just look at how huge The Rock is, and how well his movies do, especially in Malaysia. I even love John Cena, not only in his comic turns like in Daddy's Home and Blockers but also in his early action movie flicks like 12 Rounds and The Marine.

So after his unforgettable turn in the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies, I'd watch any new Dave Bautista movie in a heartbeat, and Final Score is the latest one to appear in Malaysian cinemas.

It's more or less an unofficial remake (or rehash/ripoff) of one of my favourite Van Damme movies ― Sudden Death ― only with a change of sporting event (it's a football semi-final involving West Ham United).

Everything else is pretty much the same ― a terrorist plot, a hero dad (“uncle” here), bombs in a stadium filled with people, and a young girl in jeopardy (a bit older here). And guess what, Sudden Death 2.0 is still a blast, even if I think the Van Damme one is a much more skillfully made movie.

Hell Fest

If I had not already seen two other movies this year with very similar concepts to this one, the much superior Ruin Me and the slightly inferior Blood Fest, I'd probaby have much better things to say about Hell Fest.

It's clearly the one with the biggest budget of the three, but in terms of crafting a movie about a bunch of people attending an event that simulates the kills and events of a horror movie (a bit like an expanded haunted house ride), even down to the goriness and creativity of the kills and maims, Ruin Me (which I wrote about two weeks back) is the clear winner.

As for Hell Fest, it's decent enough so as not to make you feel that you've wasted your RM10 or RM15 ticket money, but you're not going to remember much about it afterwards.

Wiro Sableng: Pendekar Maut Kapak Naga Geni 212

This is a major film in Indonesia, co-produced by Fox International Pictures with a reported budget of US$2 million (RM8.29 million), and is based on not only a much beloved TV series from the 1980s, but also on a series of novels (of which there were 195 in total, from what I read) that inspired said TV series.

It had a reported opening weekend gross of US$1.7 million in Indonesia, which is sure to reach historic numbers as it continues to play in cinemas over there.

But over here, it had a very minimal release in very few cinemas and with not very many showtimes too. In a way I'm glad it ended up that way here, because for all the slick production values of its awesome opening scenes, the film seemed to run out of money after about 25 minutes, and it's further hampered by a pretty weak narrative and loads of unfunny Raja Lawak-style fart jokes, which is a real shame as I really, really wanted to like this one based on the trailer.

 

It looked like an Indonesian version of Drunken Master, and they even have a formula for taking the Hong Kong martial arts movie and localising it with the very good Pendekar Tongkat Emas from a few years back.

Sadly it just didn't happen this time with this one. Let's hope they'll make better ones in the future when this one becomes a new franchise, which I think it will be.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.