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10 Safe Bets At This Year’s Fantasia Film Fest

With over 130 feature films over three weeks, Fantasia can be a dizzying prospect even for festival vets. To further complicate things, since we’re dealing mostly with hardcore genre fare, few will agree on what will constitute the fest’s best. With that in mind, here’s a few suggestions for (nearly) sure-fire entertainment to slide into your schedule – even if some of it might melt your brain a little. (This article only touches on the new features. Re-Animator, The Housemaid, The Complete Metropolis and the Ken Russell retrospective are obvious must-sees, though.)

The Loved Ones / [rec] 2

The safest bets of all – because they’re the only ones I got to see for myself at TIFF’s Midnight Madness section last year. [rec] 2 is a sterling, if imperfect, sequel to one of the most successful Spanish horror exports of recent years, more than worthy of your time, particularly if you like a little action with your shocks. The Loved Ones, though, is an entity into itself, a shockingly brutal and effective Australian horror flick with just the right mix of humor, pathos and gut-wrenching violence. Do not miss it.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed / Down Terrace

No one does crime movies quite like the English, and Fantasia offers two more promising entries from across the pond. Alice Creed is the more hotly tipped of the two, a kidnapping thriller with literally only three performers (one of whom is Happy-Go-Lucky‘s inimitable Eddie Marsan), but Down Terrace, which has earned comparison to the Coens and the Sopranos, also looks intriguing. Expect at least one of these to deliver the goods.

We Are What We Are

Screened at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes earlier this year, We Are What We Are chronicles the trials of a family of cannibals in what appears to be a completely straight-faced manner. It’s a concept with high risk/reward potential, but many of the reviews are ecstatic – which is especially noteworthy since Cannes isn’t exactly known for celebrating extreme genre pictures (anyone remember the reception to Antichrist?). Keep your fingers crossed for greatness on this one.

Deliver Us From Evil

Danish filmmaker Ole Bornedal delivered one of the 2008 fest’s surprise highlights with the raucous, 80’s-style family-friendly adventure film The Substitute, and returns this year with a considerably darker-looking offering that’s been compared to Sam Peckinpah’s famously brutal Straw Dogs more than once. Two different writers over at Twitch called it one of the best of the year, which must count for something. Between the raves and Bornedal’s pedigree, I’m in.

A Serbian Film

The cornerstone of the Fest’s Serbian horror spotlight, it’s prompted agonized reports from fest-goers the world over for its uncompromisingly graphic content, but it’s also said to have a pretty serious dose of subtext behind the mayhem, particularly as it draws on Serbia’s troubled history. Worth chancing – if you think you can stomach it.


A doc with a fascinating premise: a war vet, stricken with memory loss, creates a one-sixth scale model of a town of his own invention in order to process and deal with the effects of the war on his body and mind, only to have his therapeutic hobby become subjected to greater scrutiny when it gets exposed to the outside world in an art show. Seems like a difficult-to-bungle story.

Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

A seriously hyped comedy-horror flick that’s centered around a pretty ingenious reversal of genre norms: here, the good ol’ boys with chainsaws are the good-natured heroes, and the attractive preppies are the ruthless villains. Sounds a little more lifelike to me; count me in.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

Yes, it’s an obvious pick, and far from the sort of obscurities Fantasia has built its reputation on, but Edgar Wright’s first two features (Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) were pitch-perfect, and Scott Pilgrim looks like a mighty good time. Even if you’re suffering from Cera fatigue, it boasts a great supporting cast, an exciting visual approach, and what promises to be a great soundtrack. It can’t all be blood and gore, after all.

– Simon Howell