Fantasia Festival is North America’s premiere (and largest) genre film festival. It is also my favorite film festival and so I could not wait to share the highlights of this years line up. Below is just some of the films we will be reviewing on our upcoming podcasts.
THE CHILDREN – North American Premiere
UK Dir: Tom Shankland
A holiday weekend turns into a nightmarish battle for survival when children inexplicably begin to slaughter their parents. Far more frightening than CHILDREN OF THE CORN or the bulk part of other killer kids pics that have preceded it, this British powerhouse shocker ranks among the best horror film offerings of recent years. THE CHILDREN inverts unconditional love with an impact that will freeze your blood. Would you be able to protect yourself if the people you loved wanted to cut you to pieces without any sense or reason? The film’s terrors are character-driven, smart and served straight, using the naturally manipulative nature of children to terrifying effect, magnifying trace elements of cruelty into the unthinkable.
COMBAT SHOCK (Director’s Cut)- Hosted by Director Buddy Giovinazzo
USA Dir: Buddy Giovinazzo
Giovinazzo’s heart-stopping 1986 debut remains one of the most upsetting films you will ever see. Vietnam War vet Frankie is struggling to raise a family deep below the poverty line in a skid row neighbourhood full of addicts, prostitutes and killers. His infant is sick and hideously deformed , a probable result of Agent Orange exposure. Shunned by a cutback welfare system and unable to get a job in his visibly broken state, Frankie wanders the streets of the city looking for anything that can get his family through the day. His wife Cathy (Veronica Stork) stays home with their son, both surviving only on baby food and milk. Around them, violence and drug addiction is everywhere. It’s only a matter of time until purgatory explodes into a bloodbath. Giovinazzo fuses the best elements from New York’s history of indie film scene: the immediacy and honesty of Cassavetes, the confrontation and shock of the underground transgression movement, elements of Abel Ferrara, into a deeply personal hand grenade that erupts with devastating impact.
EDISON AND LEO – Montreal Premiere
Canada Dir : Neil Burns
Being a brilliant inventor does not prevent George T. Edison from facing numerous problems. A widow as well as an enemy of the warriors of the Pasana tribe, he finds in his possessionwith a stolen book entitled Book of Light. Edison’s son Leo cannot touch anyone without giving them a lethal electrical shock. Thus begins the story of Leo, the “greatest invention” of George T. Edison. The first Canadian stop-motion animated film has arrived. The creators EDISON AND LEO have invented a new revolutionary animation technique worthy of George T. Edison himself. Thanks to their grit and ingenuity, this Canadian production lacks nothing when compared with the big hitters stop-motion animation.
THE HORSEMAN – Canadian Premiere
Australia Dir: Steven Kastrissios
After his addict daughter is found dead of an overdose following the shooting of an amateur skin film, a middle-aged exterminator embarks on a to-the-death mission of pure, blistering vengeance against Austalia’s underground porn community. A red-hot fire poker of a film, THE HORSEMAN is a modern incarnation of the classic revenge thriller stripped to its purest, most punishing elements. A meaner, less forgiving version of Paul Schrader’s HARDCORE, this is a film packed with many a cringe-inducing moment, but its stabs that cut the deepest are anchored in the almost animalistic fury of its grief. A caustic debut from 1st time filmmaker Steven Kastrissios, who, at the age of 26, wrote, co-produced, directed, edited and even colour-graded the film. A standout at this years’ SXSW.
I SELL THE DEAD – Montreal Premiere, hosted by Director Glenn McQuaid, Star/Co-Producer Larry Fessenden and Co-Producer Peter Phok
USA Dir: Glenn McQuaid
“Never, ever trust a corpse.” Cult filmmaker Larry Fessenden (THE LAST WINTER) and Dominic Monaghan (LOST) star as a pair of ambitious grave robbers who stumble face-first into one occult freak out after another in this Victorian-era thrill ride that’s been winning awards everywhere it’s been exhumed. A gothic love-letter to classic Hammer horror films and all the unnatural things that go bump in the night, I SELL is reminiscent of Tim Burton’s best work, powered with the passion of early Sam Raimi. Beautifully shot and always cleverly staged, this is a film packed to the bursting point with personality, wit and invention, not to mention phenomenally individualistic performances (watch out Ron Perlman and Angus Scrimm). A joy from start to finish, and one of the best horror/comedies we’ve seen in deathless ages.
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF LITTLE DIZZLE – International Premiere, hosted by Director David Russo
USA Dir: David Russo
This ingenious outsider comedy that features pregnant male characters giving birth to marine creatures following their addiction to experimental cookies may very well turn out to be this generation’s REPO MAN! Decked wall to wall with unique performances from a cast that’s likely to attain immortality, LITTLE DIZZLE could almost be an unlikely 4-way love child between Richard Linklater, Judd Apatow, Dan Clowes and William S Burroughs, balancing toilet humour with spiritual ponderings, body horror/metamorphosis and explosive gender grenades. A quasi-intellectual gross-out youth comedy and one of the most refreshing films you’re going to see anyone this year, DIZZLE is coming to Fantasia hot off flooring audiences at Sundance and SXSW.
LIFE IS HOT IN CRACKTOWN – International Premiere, hosted by Director Buddy Giovinazzo
USA Dir: Buddy Giovinazzo
Four tales of crack-smashed devastation are intertwined like toxic arteries in this hard-hitting urban nightmare that plays like a strung-out version of Altman’s SHORT CUTS by way of LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN. An adaptation of his 1993 cult bestseller of the same name, this is a film that Giovinazzo has been trying to get made for nearly 15 years. Through the infamy of the novel and the force of his script, he was able to line up an all-star cast in spite of the film’s low budget. Everyone worked for very little pay and shot completely on location in a downtown Los Angeles neighbourhood that was overrun with drugs, guns and crime. A tensely-woven tapestry of hurt, hope and horror, populated with unforgettable characters in terrifying circumstances, CRACKTOWN is a compassionate work that chillingly illustrates how America has already lost so much more than just its war on drugs.
MUTANTS – International Premiere
France Dir: David Morley
Since the beginning of the summer, a virus has been turning its victims into cannibalistic creatures. It’s the middle of winter, Sonia and Marco seek refuge in a building with a serious problem. Marco is contaminated. His horrified girlfriend watches on as he slowly joins the ranks of the mutants. Reflecting upon many classics of the genre, this debut feature by David Morley exhibits an interesting variation by focusing on the moment when a man becomes transformed into the living-dead. With effective special effects and numerous bone-chilling scenes, MUTANTS underlines the importance that French New Wave horror films encompass on the festival circuit today.
USA Dir: Danny Ledonne
Out of all the reflections on the tragedy in Littleton, the “Super Columbine Massacre RPG!” video game is easily the most provocative one. Downloaded by thousands of internet surfers, the game made headlines and forced its creator, Danny Ledonne, to step out of the shadows to defend himself. Wanting to share his own perspective of the story, this game-designer-turned-filmmaker has created an audacious film on the pertinence of video games as food for thought. His views on counterculture unveils our ambiguous standpoint on freedom of expression and its limits. An important piece on the peculiar age we live in.
SLAM-BANG – World premiere, hosted by director Mark Lebenon
South Africa Dir: Mark Lebenon
It was supposed to be a simple job: steal the information found on a rival’s computer and deliver it to his rival. Unfortunately, everything goes wrong. George soon finds himself with blood on his hands and a gang of killers are wise to his violation. It’s going to be a long night. A multitude of academic terms and concepts could describe SLAM-BANG, but only one does it justice: this film rocks! Mark Lebenon tears apart the screen with a lively cat and mouse chase on the same energetic level as the best Michael Mann films. One of the most exciting discoveries of the year, this film is an explosion of emotions as powerful as any rollercoaster.
SMASH CUT – World Premiere, hosted by Director Lee Demarbre and Stars Sasha Grey and David Hess
Canada Dir: Lee Demarbre
What do you get when the director of JESUS CHRIST VAMPIRE HUNTER teams up with Sasha Grey, David Hess and Michael Berryman to shoot a wacked-out tribute to ’60s splatter pioneer HG Lewis? You get SMASH CUT, baby! Yes, Lee Demarbre, Canada’s contemporary King of the B’s has just completed his biggest film to date, and we’re tickled blood red to be presenting its world premiere at Fantasia. Notorious grindhouse heavy David Hess (LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, HITCH HIKE) stars as notorious grindhouse filmmaker Able Whitman, who realizes that the most cost-effective way to have convincing effects in a low-budget production is to use the real thing.
THE CHASER – Canadian Premier
South Korea Dir: Na Hong-jin
An unclassifiable film which found itself categorized as “horror” at the latest Fantastic Fest and “action” at the Deauville Asian Film Festival, THE CHASER has no reason to envy the classics that sparked the new wave of Korean genre cinema. The script skilfully mixes dark humour, cruelty and social critique. Kim Yun-seok, as an ex-cop turned pimp, and Ha Jung-woo, as a blood-thirsty killer, deliver a most impressive actor’s duel. Na Hong-jin offers his captivating first feature, intense and deeply troubling.
THE CLONE RETURNS HOME – Canadian Premiere
Japan Dir: Kanji Nakajima
An astronaut agrees to take part in a scientific experiment right before he is scheduled to depart on an space mission. If he were to die, he would immediately be replaced by a clone. However, would this imply that the copy is identical to the original? Praised at Sundance for its admirable direction, this wonderful movie recalls Andrei Tarkovski with a tale of human evolution through cloning. Its mysterious imagery laden with symbolism and hypnotic atmosphere make THE CLONE RETURNS HOME an unforgettable cinematic experience which must be enjoyed on the big screen.
DREAM – North American Premiere
South Korea Dir: Kim Ki-duk
A man and a woman discover that they are united by their dreams. When one sleeps, the other, like a puppet, carries out the violent acts that occur in the dream. Only one solution seems to exist for this mysterious problem-no more sleep, by any means necessary. For his first venture into the fantastic, the masterful Kim Ki-duk follows the setbacks of a couple whose curse will lead them towards love. As always, the visuals are sumptuous and the performances are exemplary. Jô Odagiri, seen in last year’s ADRIFT IN TOKYO, gives one of the best performances of his career. Cinema on a big scale.
HARD REVENGE, MILLY / HARD REVENGE, MILLY: BLOODY BATTLE – Cnadian Premiere, hosted by writer/director Takanori Tsujimoto
Japan Réal : Takanori Tsujimoto
Director Takanori Tsujimoto will host the two-part HARD REVENGE series. Bloody, violent with a strong, twisted sense of humor, it’s KILL BILL mixed with ROBOCOP and some TOKYO GORE POLICE. Leading lady Miki Mizuno is brilliantly spectacular in her fight scenes as she slices and dices those who killed her family using weapons that have become mechanically attached to her.
USA and Canada Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra
With two children already, a couple wants to a have another, but cannot. Instead, they decide to adopt a little girl named Esther. At first glance she seems to be the perfect addition to the family, but once they arrive at home things start to take a turn for the worse. Esther is not the person she seemed to be and her dark side surfaces in no time. The director of ORPHAN, Jaume Collet-Serra, promises that his latest film offers more than just your average killer-child flick, and will not stop short of shocking and surprising you. ORPHAN has the strong conviction to stand out among the best films of the genre.
LEGENDARY ASSASSIN – North American Premiere
Hong Kong Dir: Wu Jing, Nicky Li
Real-life martial artist Wu Jing stars and makes his directorial debut in this action-packed story that is a throwback to 1980s kung fu-minus the cheesiness. After many years in supporting roles, Wu Jing really shines as a mysterious stranger who charges through a cavalcade of adrenaline-pumping action scenes.
PRIVATE EYE – International Premiere
South Korea Dir: Park Dae-min
A resourceful detective and a brilliant young doctor join forces to uncover the identity of a serial killer. They have no idea where their investigation will lead them. A Sherlock Holmes style detective story, Park Dae-min’s first film is clearly inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This reconstitution of Korea in the early 20th century is ensured by those who brought us THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD.
note: all descriptions provided by Fantasia`s press release