A number of Sound On Sight editors and contributors are geographically fortunate enough to make the Fantasia Film Festival an annual must-attend event. I have never been to the festival, but have followed it from afar since it landed on my radar years ago when a well-received short film I had a major acting role in called My Sweet Satan, played there.
This year’s lineup of films strikes me as substantially more intriguing than the programs of the last couple of years. Given Fantasia’s staggering breadth of programming spread across multiple weeks, the challenge is in trying to narrow a ‘most anticipated’ list down to just five films. My picks, in alphabetical order, are as follows.
Among the Living
Written and directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury
Also known as Aux yeux des vivants (The Eyes of the Living), the third feature film from the outstanding French horror specialists Bustillo and Maury finds the duo making an all-out horror version of coming-of-age films like Stand by Me. A standout film at this year’s SXSW Midnight program, Among the Living is the story of three young best friends exploring an abandoned movie lot and colliding with a nightmarish situation.
Bustillo and Maury established one of the high-water marks in new European horror cinema with 2007’s gruesome and stunningly suspenseful home invasion film Inside, and are currently having their second feature—2011’s horror fairy tale Livid—denied a proper release, as it is being kept off the market by Dimension Films while an American remake that might never happen is planned.
Watch out for the Bustillo and Maury segment of the upcoming The ABCs of Death 2 which, like the first The ABCs of Death, is sure to have its world premiere at this year’s Midnight Madness program at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Written and directed by Yeon-Sik Jung
South Korea, 2013
With films like Jeong-Beom Lee’s hitman tale No Tears for the Dead and Shin-yeon Won’s revenge opus The Suspect on tap, audience members could easily drive themselves to the edge simply trying to decide which South Korean crime films to see during this year’s festival.
My first of two top picks is Yeon-Sik Jung’s debut feature The Fives, which tells the story of a woman who recruits a small group of people in need of organ transplants as part of her plan for revenge against the serial murderer who killed her family.
Hong Kong crime cinema of the 1980s and early 1990s was known in some circles as the Cinema of Vengeance. In the 2000s and 2010s, South Korean crime cinema claimed that title with such classic films as Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy, and Jee-woon Kim’s I Saw the Devil. How will The Five stack up against such heavy competition? We will soon find out.
Hwayi: A Monster Boy
Written by Ju-seok Park
Directed by Joon-hwan Jang
South Korea, 2013
My second South Korean crime film must-see is this tale of a boy kidnapped and trained by five elite criminals over the course of fifteen years, whose traumatic childhood past is about to explode into the present.
Best known for the generally highly regarded 2003 tonal disaster Save the Green Planet, writer-director Jang Joon-hwan returns to the big screen with Hwayi, starring the great South Korean actor Yun-seok Kim, who turned in superb performances in Hong-jin Na’s neo-noir classics The Chaser and The Yellow Sea.
Written by Timo Tjahjanto and Takuji Ushiyama
Directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto
Also known as The Mo Brothers, the tremendously talented duo of Stamboel and Tjahjanto made the excellent short film Dara, which they expanded into a feature film called Macabre. Tjahjanto then wrote and directed the twisted and unforgettable The ABCs of Death segment L is for Libido, and teamed up with The Raid director Gareth Evans for the apocalyptic short film Safe Haven, by far the best segment of the V/H/S horror anthology series.
Before tackling the solo crime film projects One Good Thing and Night Comes for Us, Stamboel and Tjahjanto have brought us Killers, the grim tale of a serial murderer and a vigilante who form a bond over the Internet. A hit earlier this year in the Midnight program of the Sundance Film Festival, Fantasia’s Canadian premiere of Killers promises a highly memorable trip into the heart of human darkness, highlighted by the Mo Brothers’ unique and creative brand of mayhem.
Small Gauge Trauma Short Film Program
Having written two articles for Sound On Sight that collect great horror short films, and with more installments of that series in the works, I’m going to support the short form with my fifth must-see choice.
Programmed as always by Mitch Davis, The Small Gauge Trauma short film program is one of the signature programs of Fantasia, and this year’s highlights include Can Evrenol’s Baksin (which I’ve been fortunate enough to see already—it’s spectacular), Christopher Bryan’s The Cyclist, Meredith Hama Brown’s Nature, and Carles Torrens’ Sequence.
If you love the art of the horror short film, you must keep up with Fantasia’s Small Gauge Trauma every year.
Other screenings that demand attention at the Festival this year include Black Mountain Side, Late Phases, Let Us Prey, Preservation, Starry Eyes, The Man in the Orange Jacket, and The Reconstruction of William Zero.
— Terek Puckett