Special Actors Bring Cult Hijinx to Fantasia Fest
An insecure wannabe actor, the kind that faints at the very instant of confrontation, gets involved with a group of “special actors” as they infiltrate a bizarre new age cult.
How special are these actors? They’re the kind that get hired to make store lines seem busy, cry at funerals for unsavoury individuals, make movie screenings appear funnier than they are. They help you impress that girl you like, or get you out of that abusive relationship. They’re actors for everyday mundane life. They help people get what they need to get done. And right now they need to prevent a family inn from being given to a shady cult for possible nefarious purposes.
That is the very weird premise of a very weird film. Saying any more would just ruin the fun. And this film is very fun. Much like Shinichiro Ueda’s previous mindfuck of cinematic experiences, ONE CUT OF THE DEAD. And much like that genre-bending, meta-masterpiece, SPECIAL ACTORS jumps into several genres all at once, giving you something you weren’t quite expecting, but were very glad to have seen.
Seriously, if you haven’t seen ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (streaming on shudder.ca) stop what you’re doing and watch that right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Here’s a trailer.
ONE CUT on the surface is a single-continuous take cheesy zombie film wrapped up in a film about filmmaking wrapped up in a comedy about something else entirely. Something about the human spirit, art, redemption and facing one’s demons. It was a delightful treat to any genre fan. It hit you on the head, and does things you wouldn’t expect.
SPECIAL ACTORS does that too. Not quite in the same ways. But it does give you a multi-genre feel good experience. It’s part comedy, it’s part drama. It’s part heist/con film, it’s part cult film. There’s even a hilarious film within a film that tackles the superhero genre, but drenched in copious amount of gore and blood. There’s a tiny psychological thriller aspect to it too. The overcoming of one’s anxieties plays really central to this film. The journey to accomplish one’s dreams by being totally out of your element. This one has everything. There’s drama, tension, and laughs.
It’s quite the charming and feel good film. You’re rooting for the gang of oddball misfits in this Special Actors troupe. There’s the over-eager actor. The confident, cool-as-fuck writer. The frazzled director that just wants respect. His sassy domineering daughter/actor coach. Even the cult-leaders and cult-members are just as quirky as the actors, from their riceball meditation, to their ridiculous merch, to their silent guru with the distracting perm.
And then there’s the lead character, Kazuto. A hapless young man who just wants to be an actor, but his condition prevents him from auditioning without collapsing. And not just on auditions, everyday life. It’s left him an utter wreck. He seeks comfort in an old, worn tape of RESCUEMAN, a campy as hell superhero who conquers the baddies and saves the girl — in the most bloodiest way imaginable. He wants to have that confidence, and he isn’t too sure about his younger brother coaxing him to join the Special Actors group, but he’s late on rent and they pay the same day.
And that’s when things really start getting zany. He starts going on these real-life-acting gigs and things seem to work out. He’s even able to hide his condition from his new colleagues. But then the stakes get really high when they learn of this strange cult that have taken advantage of another emotionally broken individual. Is this his chance to do the right thing AND get over his anxiety? Will he totally mess things up? Just how dangerous is this cult? What are they EVEN up to?
And again, just like ONE CUT, saying any more about SPECIAL ACTORS will totally ruin that cinematic experience. The early twists and turns and tense moments of hilarity constantly keep you guessing. Just when you figured it all out, more wrenches are thrown in the works. It’s a hell of a fun journey.
SPECIAL ACTORS is a fun, light-hearted, screwball ride with a lot of heart and feels. This is a quintessential Fantasia Fest film, and was a great choice for their opening night. Shinichiro Ueda is easily becoming my favourite Japanese comedy director, and I can’t wait to see what other wonderfully weird film he works on next.
FANTASIA FEST is streaming online, nationwide, throughout the month until September 2nd.