Kenny’s Five Best and Worst Films of Fantasia 2014

Covering Fantasia for the first time was a hectic, enjoyable experience.  They give you a badge with your name on it and everything.  However, as for this year’s lineup, I have a little trouble being enthusiastic.  With some major exceptions like Guardians of Galaxy, not listed here only because it’s appearance at the Festival seemed more coincidental than prestigious, a lot of the hyped up releases played weakly.  Also, I’ve been no stranger to openly criticizing Fantasia audiences as a whole, more than willing to behave as sheep (or, in this case, cats) and applaud even the weakest of films due to a genre-note or laugh –however unintentional.  So I found respite in some of the quieter films, and maybe a few major ones. No matter; Here are five things that truly deserve to gain wider audiences.

The Top Five Films of Fantasia

001 (1)
Time Lapse
Written by Bradley and B.P. Cooper
Directed by Bradley King
U.S.A., 2014

It’s rare that a film can overcome a severely weak ending, but Time Lapse does just that. In a year where festivals seem flooded with time travel stories, director Bradley King and co-scripter D.B. Cooper have found a fairly fresh take on a little-used sci-fi narrative. An old Twilight Zone-gimmick takes to new and interesting philosophical dilemmas beautifully, and it’s nearly enough to get over a messy denouement.

001 (2)

Faults
Written and directed by Riley Stearns
USA, 2014

The most charmingly black comedy of the festival quickly takes a right turn into a frightening intense pic without a noticeable change in tone.  It’s helped along by great turns from leads Leland Orser and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It would work just as well as a stage play were it not for the subtle and clever direction that gently, and then abruptly takes us through a shabby motel room.

001 (3)

At the Devil’s Door
Written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy
USA, 2014

There’s no doubt that Nicolas McCarthy’s film is a little too messy plot-wise, but it’s hard to argue that it’s also fascinating, not to mention gorgeous to look at.  Not every plot shift pays off, but the effectively frightening imagery and lovingly crafted tributes to old horror are hard to look away from.  It may not be perfect, but Devil’s Door is appropriately chilling and unique

001 (4) 

Predestination
Written and directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig (credited as The Spierig Brothers)
Australia, 2014

Another time travel thiller which primarily sets itself up in one location; this time between two guys in a bar before
shifting into a heartrending biography of a sad and confusing life.  It may feel a little familiar, but sci-fi fans will be delighted as destiny weaves its way to a satisfying conclusion.  Australia’s Spierig Brothers have always played with genres, this time rigidly adhere to a time-tested formula, and in turn have made their best film yet.

001 (5)

Frank
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Written by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughn
2014/UK

Frank is without a doubt, one of the best films of the year. Director Lenny Abrahamson takes the story of a Dadaist band that could have been overblown and pretentious and removes any hint of insincerity. Meanwhile, writer Jon Ronson clearly loves his character (someone who is loosely based on fictional rocker Frank Sidebottom), allowing us to live the experience only the way earnest and strangest people can.

 

The Worst Films of Fantasia

The Creep Behind The Camera
Written and Directed by Pete Schuermann
USA, 2014 

An exploitative, supposedly “funny” look at a passionate if severely drug induced filmmaker. Unfortunately, the Creep in question is too sad and disturbing of  a con man to ever get behind. Ed Wood this is not.

Wolfcop
Written and Directed by Lowell Dean
2014/Canada

Everything that anyone not completely won over by the premise of the title feared comes true in the first half hour of Lowell Dean’s film. Canada has never been known for great, cultural cinema; Worse, a great deal of our output can be chalked up to pale imitations of what’s popular just South of the Border. And if that argument holds water at all, Wolfcop should serve as a warning sign; it’s our Snakes On a Plane. The premise is silly, the set-up drawn out and padded to feature length, and, let’s face it, we’re smarter than this, Canada. Or at least we should aspire to be.

The Drownsmen
Directed by Chad Archibald
Written by Chad Archibald and Cody Calahan
2014/Canada

In hopes of recalling the great supernatural slasher films of the 80’s on an extremely low-budget, director Chad Archibald sacrifices violence, scares and even the basic rules of logic and physics the film initially sets up.  This is an unfortunate mess.

The Man In The Orange Jacket
Written and Directed by Aik Karapetian
Latvia/Estonia, 2014

One of the most nihilistic, unrelentingly boring films to come out in years. At just over 70 minutes, Jacket manages to cram in crude misogyny, unnecessary gore and a lackluster performance, all under the guise of absentee social commentary.

Kite
Written by Brian Cox (no, not that one)
Directed by Ralph Ziman
USA/Mexico, 2014

Possible the worst film of the year: After needless exposition about an economic crash, a young girl sets about kicking the ass of criminals. It’s a big, loud, confusing mishmash of post-apocalyptic thrillers and revenge films of old.

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