Considered the world’s largest genre film festival and running over three weeks long, Fantasia is celebrating it’s 19th edition this year and the lineup is pretty incredible. This year’s fest runs July 14 through August 4 and will see over 130 feature films including more than 20 world premieres. Legendary filmmaker Sion Sono is delivering three new movies with Tag, Love & Peace and Shinjuku Swan, meanwhile Tales of Halloween and A Christmas Horror Story are bringing horror anthologies back to the big screen. In addition, the festival will offer up the Montreal premiere of Marvel’s highly anticipated Ant-Man, the world premiere of Israeli horror flick Jeruzalem, the world premiere of Assassination Classroom and the first Canadian screening of the Canadian/Kiwi festival hit Turbo Kid. The festival is rounded out with screenings of Big Match, Crumbs, Deathgasm, The Demolisher, Experimenter, Cooties, We Are Still Here, The Editor, Cub, He Never Died, The Invitation, and so much more. With such a massive lineup, it can be overwhelming when trying to decide what to see, so I’ve decided to help out. My original plan was to publish a list of my ten most anticipated films screening this year but considering the ridiculous line-up, I’ve decided to choose one movie for every day of the fest. Here are my picks for week one.
Day 1. Tangerine
Christmas Eve in Tinseltown!
If you’re not familiar with director Sean Baker start taking notes. The man is a genius and one of the best indie American filmmakers working today. In Starlet, Baker spun an unlikely friendship between a young porn actress and an old lady in the San Fernando Valley. In Prince of Broadway, he chronicled the struggles of a hustler balancing fatherhood while working in New York’s wholesale district. Baker’s work avoids labels by refusing to adhere to them and explores worlds seldom seen on celluloid. His latest film Tangerine will premiere at the Fantaisa Film Festival on opening night, and it is by far the must-see film of that day. The film is somewhat of a technical marvel, shot entirely on Apple iPhones, and not just as a cost cutting measure but to allow the filmmaker to shoot in public places without permits or permissions in hopes of capturing the most authentic view of West Hollywood. But that’s not the reason to see Tangerine. You need to see Tangerine simply because it is gunning to be the best underground American indie of the year. Our very own Dylan Griffin put it best with his Sundance review saying, “Tangerine is the type of film that Sundance was created for: It is bold, it is something that Hollywood would never make, it is a film liberated from formal limitations and it gives definition to the thrown-around term “independent”. Watch the trailer here.
Day 2. Kung Fu Killer
Bone Crunching Action!
Fantasia wouldn’t be complete without the fast-paced, action-packed fight sequences firmly routed in Hong Kong’s martial arts flicks. Donnie Yen is at the center of this hellraising action film and some are calling it his best film in years. But Wang Baoqiang’s performance is the real reason to see this movie. He steals the show with his impressive athleticism and diversity and somehow outshines the legendary Yen in every scene. Fans of Hong Kong martial arts will delight at the number of stars from past and present who cameo including contemporary fighting performers like Xing Yu and Fan Siu Wong, to past masters including Yuen Cheung Yan and even Lau Kar Leung. If you’re looking for a fun time at the movies, you can’t go wrong with Kung Fu Killer. Sure the plot is thin, but the action is fierce!
Day 3. Catch Me Daddy
For those who care about homegrown cinema.
Music video helmer Daniel Wolfe and his brother Matthew have impressed critics world-wide with their feature debut, Catch Me Daddy, a working class neo-Western that is as relentlessly real as it is gripping. With comparisons to John Ford’s The Searchers and with cinematography by frequent Andrea Arnold D.O.P. Robbie Ryan, Catch My Daddy promises to be a bold, stylish and uncompromising Shakespearean tragedy. Be warned: Overall, it is a highly promising debut but it makes for an uncomfortable viewing as Rob Dickie pointed out in his review. Watch the trailer here.
Day 4. Roar
The craziest, most bizarre motion picture of the festival.
Roar is easily one of the most outlandish production stories in movie history alongside the making of Apocalypse Now and Fitzcarraldo. For 11 years, producer-director Noel Marshall, his wife and actress Tippi Hedren (The Birds), and their children (including a young Melanie Griffith), lived, ate and slept in the company of 150 lions, tigers, cheetahs and jaguars. It cost $17 million, and made only $2 million worldwide. Our lead critic J.R. Kinnard summed it up best when saying, “Watching 1981’s notorious nature thriller, Roar, is like subjecting yourself to a psychological experiment. Unbelievable images evoke reactions ranging from horror to hilarity, sometimes within the same scene. Director Noel Marshall infuses his disastrous passion project with so much sincerity, however, that this weird little morsel must be savored like the cinematic singularity that it is. There will never be another film like Roar”. According to Wikipedia, over 70 members of the cast and crew were injured during the production of this film. Cinematographer Jan de Bont had his scalp lifted by a lion, resulting in 220 stitches. Tippi Hedren received a fractured leg and also had scalp wounds. She was also bitten in the neck by a lion and required 38 stitches. Noel was attacked so many times that he eventually was diagnosed with gangrene. The list of injuries is so long that many of the cast and crew members did not want to return to the set. Yet somehow the movie was made and now decades later, this unprecedented and wholly unpredictable action-adventure, will be projected on the big screen for Fantasia audiences to enjoy. Watch the trailer here.
Day 5. Deathgasm
Suburban metal heads wreak havok in New Zealand comedy!
Writer/director Jason Lei Howden has helped to create the some of the amazing digital effects on films such as The Hobbit and The Great Gatsby, and for his feature debut he’s taken his talent for creating outstanding practical effects and combined it with his love for Heavy Metal. Expect plenty of vivid splatstick and amusing setpieces. Deathgasm is a movie made for midnight screenings, and sure to please the Fantasia crowd with high levels of gore, comedy and off-the-wall action. The influence of early Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi and Stuart Gordon are evident, but what may come as a surprise is the amount of heart it has. Watch the trailer here.
Day 6. We Are Still Here
It will make you scream!
If you can only see one movie at the Fantasia Film Festival this year, choose We Are Still Here, the festival darling from first time writer-director Ted Geoghegan. Produced by Travis Stevens (Jodorowsky’s Dune, Starry Eyes) and Dark Sky Films, and shot by Karim Hussain (Hobo with a Shotgun, Antiviral), We Are Still Here is a labour of love by a filmmaker that many Fantasia regulars will know as the festival’s Director of Publicity. Taking a cue from 70s/early ’80s supernatural thrillers (most notably Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery), We Are Still Here is guaranteed to knock your socks off. In our most recent review, J.R. wrote, “It’s so refreshing to find a horror movie that actually takes the time to build suspense. Rather than relying on cheap jump scares to trick the audience, writer-director Ted Geoghegan fills every frame with dread. Mostly, it’s the stillness and calm that keep you off-balance. A shadow here, a rumble there, a subtle droning on the soundtrack… it all adds up to something far more sinister than loud noises and pyrotechnics can simulate. You could say this is an ‘old fashioned’ horror flick, but it has a quirky sensibility that also connects with modern horror. Basically, Geoghegan leads you into the trap of trying to predict the unpredictable, with very disturbing results”. Watch the trailer here.
Visit the official website of the Fantasia Film Festival for more information.