Programmer Frank Lee clearly has an eye for bloodcurdling horror movies, as evidenced by his opening night selection of director Takashi Shimizu's unsettling ghost story Ju-On: The Grudge 1. Inspired by Hideo Nakata's Ringu series, Ju-On contains some of the same props -- creepy little kids, videotapes as a source of terror -- but is so spookily atmospheric that it makes the American Ring look like a Disney cartoon. Equally scary is the low-budget shocker A Living Hell, which combines inventive Evil Dead II-style camerawork with gory torture scenes à la Marathon Man. Dentistry phobics, you've been warned.
Lee's collection of crime capers is no less scintillating, especially Drive, director Sabu's sharp, breathless tale of an ordinary man whose car is hijacked by a group of bumbling bank robbers, and Men Suddenly in Black, the smartass Mafia-film spoof centering around a group of philandering Hong Kong men.
And then, of course, there are the period dramas. Chief among them is The Soong Sisters, a lush retelling of the true story of three sisters whose marriages influenced Chinese history, and Szechuan Concubine, a hallucinatory look at prostitution and opium addiction in the 1930s Chinese countryside. But I'm betting that the biggest crowds will gather for One-Armed Swordsman, a lusciously restored print of the 1967 kung fu cult classic about a crippled warrior out for vengeance. If the film fest were a martial arts battle, that movie would be the last one standing.