Fantasia 2014

Fantasia 2014: Frank is this year’s most heartwarming film about a gigantic head

Frank follows a post-internet age Billy Liar and asks, “What if he did follow his dream through, but his idol was a lunatic?” Jon (Domnhall Gleeson), a young middling English songwriter, gets invited to play keyboard for the aforementioned Frank (Michael Fassbender). Frank wears a giant fake head made of papier-mâché and refuses to take it off. Soon, Jon is invited to spend a year in Ireland with the band as they record their painstakingly overblown album, all the while secretly filming it and posting clips to YouTube.

Fantasia 2014: ‘The Creep Behind the Camera’ is akin to an ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ episode

After Tim Burton’s Ed Wood was released, Sarah Jessica Parker remarked in interviews that she had just played the worst actress of all time. Delores Fuller, Wood’s ex-wife and would-be starlet, responded, albeit quietly, merely stating, “That hurt” on a Plan 9 From Outer Space DVD. The Creep Behind The Camera, Pete Schuermann’s docu-drama surrounding the making of 1962’s The Creeping Terror, retains as much class and care for its subjects are Parker did for Fuller.

Fantasia 2014: ‘Puzzle’ is a morbidly humurous film to wrap one’s head around

Naito packages this descent into hell with black humour and disgusting, unnerving visuals that clearly denote the lengths to which Shigeo is willing to go in order to have his way with people. It isn’t just that the live recordings he dispatches are eerie for their content, but the obvious joy the antagonist reaps from putting his victims (both the kidnaped and the sorry souls lured into futile games that never end well anyways) through mental and physical torture. The director finds the oddest ways to infuse humour into proceedings that in the hands of most other filmmakers would be blanketed in an impossibly bleak tone.

Fantasia 2014: ‘Pouvoir intime (Blind Trust)’ is a Quebec genre gem worth rediscovery

Pouvoir intime, or Blind Trust if you’re of the Anglo persuasion, is a film that has more or less fallen through the cracks of time. It was issued on home video once upon a time, in the long-past age known as the VHS era, and hasn’t been seen in a newer format since. Luckily, some enterprising folks at the Fantasia International Film Festival got together with the Cinémathèque québécoise and got them to dust off their 35mm print of the film. Showing these kinds of movies serves a very specific purpose: they add depth and texture to a film culture that was still figuring itself out even in the mid-80s.

Fantasia 2014: ‘Let Us Prey’ offers a tight, tense horror experience

‘Irish horror movie’ isn’t a phrase that comes up a lot, unless someone brings up Grabbers, and why on Earth would anyone do that. And yet, Fantasia 2014 has seen the unveiling of Let Us Prey, a new horror film by first time director Brian O’Malley, which is already making waves in the horror film circuit, and with good reason. Let Us Prey is a tense, tightly-wound and effective horror film that shows incredible promise from O’Malley, and delivers both for gore fans and those in search of something a little deeper than mere exploitation.

Fantasia 2014: ‘Yasmine’ is a familiar but excitingly boisterous effort from burgeoning Brunei

Archetypal characters, an easy to follow story, emotions that are worn on the film’s sleeve, and a soundtrack with easy listening pop rock are all featured prominently in Siti Kamaluddin’s Yasmine. Most have seen this sort of movie before, probably more than once. Credit where credit is due, however, as it should be argued that the filmmakers at least do a very nice job at making a film that can win over an audience, something not all films that follow such tropes accomplish.

Fantasia 2014: Predictable elements of ‘Predestination’ are compensated with emotional satisfaction

Based on Robert A. Heinlein’s short story All You Zombies, Predestination sees an unnamed agent (Ethan Hawke) for the temporal agency leap through time to catch an elusive serial murderer known as The Fizzle Bomber before he destroys over ten city blocks in New York. The only problem is the bomber seems to be aware of the attempts to stop him, as he keeps changing the specific day and time of his latest catastrophe.

Fantasia 2014: ‘Gun Woman’ takes the concept of concealing weapons to strange new heights

Is Gun Woman stupid? Yes, it is very stupid. Is it revolting? Yes, in some scenes it is quite revolting. Just as shocking as some of the plot developments themselves, Mitsutake’s film ends up a pretty memorable lark. One has to enter with the proper mindset of course otherwise it will easily turn off the average viewer. The film embraces the ‘show, don’t tell’ mantra, never shying away from depicting some truly gross effects. If one can handle a little queasiness, Gun Woman is a brash and bold bit of dark humour.

Fantasia 2014: ‘The Infinite Man’ is a funny and heartfelt time travel tale

Though time travel often demands expectation of the messiest, awfullest worst, Hugh Sullivan’s debut feature-length effort is one smoothly cut time machine. Whereas Primer has taught us to expect headaches, hair-splitting logic, and, for some of us, an utter lack of a point, The Infinite Man delivers laudable clarity, fun, and a deceptively straightforward end in sight.

Fantasia 2014: ‘The Run’ offers promise but goes nowhere fast

There is perhaps no worse criticism to throw at a film than calling it boring. A terrible film can be gleefully ripped to shreds and analyzed for its awfulness. A boring film simply fails to elicit considerable emotion. Yes the filmmakers obviously put effort and heart into creating the best fights scenes they could and in many respects those moments do pay dividends but there is very, very little else of note. Even the title itself is a bit misleading, suggesting that the protagonist shall be the one fleeing his pursuers whereas in fact the opposite occurs for the most part in the story.

Fantasia 2014: ‘Hwayi: A Monster Boy’ is a family feud all gone to hell

Assassins and thieves taking young hopefuls under their wings is nothing out of the ordinary in film and television. It takes the concept of the familial bond and gives it a perverted twist which easily appeals to movie goers. What Hwayi does is put a spin on the spin itself by having the titular character actually live as the adoptive teenage son of not one but five of them. What’s more director Jang throws in a lot of side plots and stories details that take the central figure through a topsy-turvy journey of self-discovery

Fantasia 2014: ‘Faults’ works on your confidence

The essence of a confidence game is as follows: the con artist describes a terrific bargain in which the mark is offered a chance in which to invest. Due to the mark’s own greed, he hands over whatever personal assets he must to the confidence man, expecting a greater return that he never receives.

Fantasia 2014: ‘Crows Explode’ surprisingly punches its way near to the top

Following in the footsteps of Takashi Miike is a frightfully unenviable position to find oneself in. Outdoing him in terms of audaciousness is a ludicrous goal to aim for, as few ever could. Even so, director Toyoda offers a rather strong piece of entertainment that bizarrely finds a middle ground between telling an overarching story of misguided teenagers, who view beating each other to a pulp as a viable technique to socialize, and delving into their more troubled personal lives, thus providing the picture with a speck of gravitas. What’s more, the film looks very handsome; further indication that the filmmakers took this premise quite seriously and wanted to give audiences the best picture possible. Crows Explode is a strange mix of ingredients but disproves the odds. It might not be the king of the heap, but prince is not a bad second place.

Fantasia 2014: ‘The Suspect’ entertains primarily due to its unabashed relentlessness

Director Won Shin-yun’s The Suspect is a generally fan-pleasing, sometimes rousing entry in the genre. It boasts tremendous energy, showcasing the amazing tailspin of a chase the anti-hero finds himself caught in with enviable vim and verve. The movie doesn’t trot, it races at the speed of light to the finish line, which is an impressive feat considering it runs just over two hours long.

Fantasia 2014: ‘Life After Beth’ entertains, but fails to truly rise from the grave

Twenty years ago, if someone said that ‘zombie romantic comedy’ was going to become an actual cinematic sub-genre, they’d have been called a witch and burned at the stake. And yet, they would have been right, and Fantasia 2014 has seen the unveiling of yet another film in the rapidly expanding genre, Life After Beth. Starring Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation and Dane DeHaan, recently of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Life After Beth is best described as a zombie breakup comedy. It’s also best described as “decent, but not amazing”, a serviceable enough zom-rom-com kept afloat mostly by the supporting cast.

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