FrightFest Patrick Gamble

FrightFest 2012: ‘The Arrival of Wang’ review

★★★☆☆

Italian directing duo the Manetti brothers continue their genre-hoping voyage through the cinematic universe with The Arrival of Wang (2011), an extra-terrestrial sci-fi horror that’ll no doubt titillate and captivate audiences at this year’s Film4 FrightFest. Gaia (Francesca Cuttica) is an Italian interpreter who’s persuaded by a shady government agent (Ennio Fantastichini) to translate a top-secret examination of an enigmatic Chinese gentleman known only as Mr. Wang (voiced by Li Yong). Blindfolded and led to a nondescript bunker, Gaia soon discovers that the job is far more irregular and complex than she was first lead to think.

Our heroine isn’t even allowed to see Wang, and must conduct the interview in complete darkness. However, as the questioning become increasingly aggressive and Wang’s allure more mysterious, Gaia demands that the lights be switched on if she’s to continue. It transpires that Wang is an alien who has logically studied Mandarin after ascertaining it to be the most widely-spoken language on the planet. There’s no escaping the financial impediments of the Manetti brother’s micro-budget sci-fi. From the shoddy set and creature designs to the cast’s amateur acting, The Arrival of Wang has all the aesthetic values of a low-grade B-movie. Yet, there’s an absorbing example of exploitation cinema behind the film’s tacky façade.

The Arrival of Wang is well aware of the absurdity of its central premise, and thanks to a strong understanding of narrative structure, manages to keep the audience captivated throughout. Successfully thrusting the viewer into Gaia’s precarious situation by carefully revealing Wang’s furtive activities – courtesy of a series of flashbacks from her fellow captive Amunike (Juliet Esey Joseph) – the Manetti brothers succeed in keeping their audience both intrigued and engaged.

Like all good science fiction, The Arrival of Wang has a culturally significant message that flows beneath its outlandish premise. Touching on the moral complexity behind interrogation and the heightened anxiety behind police procedural in a post-9/11 world, there’s plenty to muse upon after the film’s dramatic finale. Cheap yet undeniably cheerful, the Manetti’s sci-fi oddity is destined to be one of the most talked about additions to this year’s FrightFest programme.

From 23-27 August, CineVue will be reporting back from this year’s Film4 FrightFest with a bucket-load of gruesome reviews. For more of our festival coverage, simply follow this link.  

Patrick Gamble