South Korea’s 18th annual Pucheon International Film Festival (PiFan) — perhaps the largest film fest in Asia dedicated to horror, science fiction, fantasy, and similar genre films — will be held this year from July 17 through July 27. I will be covering the festival for both Horrornews.net and the Horror News Radio podcast.
Each July, PiFan presents more than 200 feature-length and short films from around the world — some of which are so new that finding any information about them online is impossible — at five different locations. Most of these selections are making their world, international, Asian, or Korean debuts. Special programs focus on such categories as particular Asian and non-Asian countries; retrospectives of directors, stars, or studios; and classic genre titles. This year, for example, Godzilla gets his own “Great Kaiju: Godzilla 60 Years” mini-retrospective of seven films from the three Toho eras along with two post-film discussion panels; the “Blood Window to Latin America” series features new horror films and thrillers from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela; and “The Masters” features the latest efforts by Terry Gilliam (The Zero Theorem), Tobe Hooper (Djinn), and Miike Takahashi (The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji).
Films for opening weekend tend to sell out their advance allotment quickly, and this year’s opening-day sales seemed to see more near-instant sell-outs than ever before. This year also saw an unprecedented amount of second-weekend advance sell-outs, and even rare midweek sell-outs, showing that PiFan is getting more popular each year. Cinema buffs who were shut out earlier wait in long lines during the two weekends to try and score the remaining same-day tickets (10 percent of theater capacity) that PiFan puts on sale each of those mornings.
Some of the highly anticipated movies that sold out online within minutes include the New Zealand vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows, the Korean 3D horror effort The Tunnel, Chinese mystery thriller The Great Hypnotist, German psychological thriller Whispers behind the Wall, and all three screenings of The Zero Theorem.
Several films from Japan sold out quickly, too. Among them are the original Gojira, high-school horror flick Puzzle, mystery thriller The Snow White Murder Case, science fiction series Spec Close: Incarnation and Spec Close: Reincarnation, and science fiction comedy Time Travel App.
PiFan has an annual tradition of Surprise Screenings, for which tickets are sold (and often sold out) in advance, and films are announced just before the festival starts. These offerings range from obscure current Asian horror films or sex comedies to international titles that don’t get a mass release in Korea. One example of the latter was last year’s Surprise Screening of the Evil Dead remake. Many festival goers, including yours truly, gamble when procuring early-bird tickets for these screenings in hopes of watching something they may never get the chance to see again, or at least, not on the big screen.
Some of the horror films on my itinerary, besides those mentioned earlier, are Argentinian vampire outing Darkness by Day, Danish monster movie When Animals Dream, Australian ghost effort Lemon Tree Passage, Italian zombie story Baal’s Flowers, New Zealand ghost comedy Housebound, American demons-and-zombies chiller Demon’s Rook, Fruit Chan’s Hong Kong zombie offering The Midnight After, American monster comedy Wolf Cop, Australian monster chiller The Babadook, outré Brazilian zombie fest Dark Sea, Swiss/Spanish zombie flick Chimeras, Serbian/American killer mermaid tale Nymph, Austrian monster chiller Blood Glacier (AKA The Station), Norwegian zombie romp Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead, Korean high-school horror hit Mourning Grave, and Argentinian ode to classic giallo films Deep Sleep.
If you would like to see everything that PiFan is showing this year, head over to the festival’s English website at www.pifan.com/eng/ and browse through the “Program” pull-down menu, which is divided into many different sections.
I have also been writing reviews and overviews of PiFan for Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope magazine’s fall issues each year since 2011, so if you are interested in reading about those previous festivals, you can check out those back issues.
Insane schedule permitting, I hope to provide near-daily coverage here on HorrorNews.net through the festival followed by longer, more detailed film reviews during the coming weeks. Doc Rotten and I are also working out the details for me to provide audio coverage on his Horror News Radio podcast, so please keep an ear out for that, as well.
I hope you will all enjoy reading about my experiences at PiFan, and about international releases that may be headed your way at festivals, art house cinemas, or on DVD/Blu-ray; rare films that may never play outside of Asia; and some old favorites that haven’t been on a big screen in ages.