Let us walk you through what we are keen on seeing. Click through the gallery.
Dans La Brume
There are probably very few people outside of Quebec that have seen Daniel Roby's 2004 debut film, La Peau Blanche (The White Skin), a whip-smart vampire drama that doubles as an allegory for race relations, it was poorly marketed in the USA on DVD only, under the generic moniker, Cannibal.
Nonetheless, those of us who did catch it on the festival circuit believed int the promised a full blown genre career for Roby, that did not seem to immediately happen.
He got back on his feet in the Quebec market with a pair of period dramas 2011 and 2015. And here we are in 2018, where Roby is opening Fantasia with large scale apocalypse involving a toxic gas descending upon Paris, and Olga Kurylenko in Dans La Brume (Just A Breath Away). I look forward to that promise, delivered. [KH]
"A provocative nightmare that ponders what happens when the online personalities we shape take on their own lives." I just had a glance at Daniel Goldhaber's sizzle reel, and it has me excited for the visual possibilities in applying his talents to his first feature film.
Written by Isa Mazzei, a former sex-cam worker, and tackling ideas of performance, identity, privacy, and the psychology of fantasy, Cam promises to be as smart as it is stylish. [KH]
Louder! Can't Hear What You're Singin' Wimp!
The latest from Japanese indie hero Satoshi Miki (Adrift in Tokyo, It's Me It's Me) is the story of a clash of musical cultures. When a Marilyn Manson-esque singer loses his voice after busting a blood vessel in his throat, he stumbles upon the meek singer in a soft rock band and decides to take her under his wing. The results looks like absurdist comedy gold. Satoshi has been out of the limelight for a few years, but he's coming back strong with this film featuring Sadao Abe (The Apology King, Maiko Haaaaan!) [JH]
Shaw Brothers' Five Fingers of Death
First rule of Fantasia: NEVER SKIP THE 35mm Shaw Brother's FILM. This year, curator King-Wei Chu has a fully restored King Boxer, the original Mandarin version - no slap-dash dubbing here. Lo Lieh masters the Iron Fist, achieves the power of the glow, and might pluck out an eyeball or two along the way.
If you want to be in a cinema full of rapt and enthusiastic lovers of classic kung fu presented in the original Shaw Scope, then this is the place to be. [KH]
L'Inferno  Remastered and Live Scored by Maurizio Guarini
Italy's first feature film (yes, it clocks in at 68 minutes which was unusually long for the era) flamboyantly adapted the first part of Dante Alighieri's "The Divine Comedy", Inferno with large sets, special effects and pure unvarnished chutzpah. [KH]
Fantasia is presenting a restoration of the film with prog-rock-cum-composer Maurizio Guarini of Goblin fame doing a live score. This is such a rare opportunity, that it would be a mortal sin to not experience it.
Summer of 84
Roadkill Super Stars, Anouk Whissell, François Simard, and Yoann-Karl Whissell, the collective behind the VHS retro-apocalypse throwback Turbo Kid, return to Montreal with a Goonies meets Fright Night, serial killer next door bit of 80s nostalgia.
Summer of 84 made its festival debut at Sundance this year, but is going to tear the Hall Cinema down with the hometown Fantasia Crowd. [KH]
Anna And The Apocalypse
One of our favorites out of Fantastic Fest 2017, director John McPhail's Anna and the Apocalypse is the missing link between High School Musical and The Walking Dead. Packed with catchy as hell original songs and uncompromising zombie gore, the film is just as much an exploration of young love and adolescent angst as it is a propulsive survival horror. Oh, and it's set at Christmas.
Get ready to tap your toes, because you've never seen a horror musical quite like this one. [JH]
This German thriller promises, "to play with the sensory perception of the audience...told as complexly nested and in diegetic flashbacks." Tilman Singer's debut film has been compared to Andrej Zulawski and involves demonic possession. That should be enough to convince us to take the chance on it. [KH]
Along with the wonderful Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts, Indonesian Neo-Westerns are now, apparently, a thing.
In Mike Wiluan's debut feature, two Indonesian men in exile working on the rail-roads in the American west return home and seek revenge on the man who murdered their father, and bring a bit of frontier justice along with them. The result is looks to be both classic and glossy. [KH]
Fantasia has a canny eye for programming quality cinema out of the Philippines. So I am quite curious to see Neomanila, a film that deals head on with contemporary issues in the country.
With the Duterte government in a no-holds barred war on drugs, vigilante killings are on the rise in Manila as hired assassins unlawfully operate as covert hands of the police force. The usual targets are the small-time meth dealers sprawling in the city’s slums.
A notorious vigilante death squad recruits a teenage orphan named Toto. The orphan soon forms a maternal relationship with the vigilante group’s matriarch Irma, who also works as a pest exterminator during the day. Irma and Toto’s loyalties are ultimately put to the test when one of the targets in their kill list turns out to be a familiar face. [KH]
Filipino director Eric Matti goes full action film with BuyBust with spectacular results! After surviving the slaughter of her entire squad in a drug raid compromised by dirty cops, anti-narcotics special operative Nina Manigan is eager to go head-to-head with the drug cartels that hold a bloody grip on Manila.
But when her new mission in the city’s most dangerous slum goes south, the angry civilians turn on her squad. Trapped between a brutal drug gang and hordes of bloodthirsty citizens, their only option is to fight their way out, turning one claustrophobic street at a time into a symphony of apocalyptic violence. [KH]
The Witch in the Window
Andy Mitton (co-writer/director of We Go On, Yellowbrickroad) returns with The Witch in the Window. A divorced dad and his bored 12-year-old son head from NYC to Vermont to renovate an old house. Of course, they discover that they’re not alone in the house.
But the film sounds like it’s going to surpass that trope by far. In the words of Fantasia Director of International Programming Mitch Davis: “supernatural beats, consistently unconventional and scary, frequently serve towards character evolutions and heightened interpersonal drama, creating a potent nightmare that lands with soulful emotional resonance.” Sold. [MG]
If you had told me ahead of time that my favorite film of 2017 was going to be a black comedy about a white dude stomping his way to the top of the cutthroat battle rap scene, I might have laughed in your face. But here we are.
Controversial director Joseph Kahn's Bodied is one of the most prescient, angry, well-observed, and savagely funny films of the year. Not for the faint of spirit or those easily offended, Bodied keeps it real and does not give a fuck about your feelings. [JH]
We are huge fans of Indonesian genre maestro Joko Anway (Forbidden Door). And here he tackles his first remake, that of the 1982 local classic, Pengabdi Setan (Satan's Slaves), where the ghost of a dead mother terrorizes her children in the family home.
Ard Vijn caught the film when it screened in Rotterdamn. and praised it for, "Being a showcase for Joko Anwar's strengths: the film looks fantastic (Joko can make a dollar look like ten on-screen), acting is great across the board, there is some wicked humor to be found throughout, and he's not afraid to kick at a boundary or two." [KH]
You know and love Anime/Manga Bleach. Gantz director Sato Shinsuke has brought it to the big screen as a live action feature. This is exactly the kind of thing that Fantasia is known for screening to its super-eager audiences. [KH]
Dennison Ramalho is one of those filmmakers who doesn’t put something out very often, but when he does, you take notice. After his jaw-dropping shorts Love for Mother Only and Ninjas, I’ve been looking forward to seeing what this Brazilian madman could create if he made a feature.
Well, Fantasia audiences will find out soon in The Nightshifter, a bizarre story of a morgue worker who has conversations with the dead. Of course, that’s not all! The dead always have something damning to say, and those who’ve passed over in The Nightshifter, are no exception. Horrible secrets are revealed, changing everything for the morgue worker. This premise could go anywhere, and I can’t wait to see where Ramalho takes us. [MG]
The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot
If Robert Krzykowski’s debut feature film about a grizzled WWII veteran asked to serve his country once again and hunt down the Bigfoot does not win over the Fantasia crowd the title of his film stands a good chance of winning film title of the year. And because we are allowed only so many words per film we have to refer to it as TMWKHATTB from now on.
There is a very deep pedigree to Krzykowski’s film. The special effects were done by double Oscar winner Douglas Trumbull. TMHKHATTB was produced by writer/director John Sayles and notorious horror director Lucky McKee among others.
Then the lead of your debut feature film is the legendary Sam Elliott with his signature drawl? Damn, just close your eyes and listen to him for 98 minute run time if what’s on screen is not to your liking. [AM]
Blue My Mind
Always make room for the straight up drama that makes its way into the Fantasia Programme. This year, it is Lisa Brühlmann's Blue My Mind which is not entirely that, but it is a coming of age film that wears its body-horror freak-flag proudly.
15-year-old Mia is facing an overwhelming transformation which calls her entire existence into question. Her body is changing radically, and despite desperate attempts to halt the process, she is soon forced to accept that nature is far more powerful than her.
With comparisons to Julia Ducournau's visceral Raw, and super-handsome wide-screen photography, this looks like one of this years gems. Our own Tom Kiesecoms loved it, "The film overflows with elegantly composed shots [but] doesn’t sugarcoat explicit scenes." [KH]
My friend Gigi Saul Guerrero is quite simply one of hardest working young women in film that I know. She does a little bit of everything. When she’s not writing and directing patented Luchagore product she’s also teaching, acting, voice acting, and performing mo-cap for a video game...that she wrote.
As Gigi and her team at Luchagore get ever closer to make their first feature film (they are oh so close) we have been enjoying their rise within our community for their outlandish and often hardcore short film work.
Gigi`s web series La Quinceanera marks the team's first foray into the studio system. While it may not be one hundred and ten percent Luchagore the series is still an efficiently made, darkly funny and of course violent ride. [AM]
A new Xavier Gens film is always a treat. The french director brought us the heist picture gone terribly, terribly wrong Frontier(s) and post-apocalyptic The Divide all the while dabbling in Hollywood (Hitman).
Cold Skin is a period picture, a creature feature, and one set in Antarctica to boot. Two men are trapped in an outpost while a race of blue-skinned monsters besiege it. Both of them come at odds with one another when a female creature that comes into their midst. Handsome and chilly, Cold Skin could very well be The Shape of Frozen Water. [KH]
Without knowing it, Argentine filmmaker Demian Rugna has made a paranormal horror movie that is pitch perfect for the Fantasia audience.
I am pleased as punch that Terrified is finally venturing further into North America. After catching the world premiere last Fall in Mexico, then watching it play across Latin America and into Europe, I was left wondering which Canadian or American festival would be the first have the cajones to program it.
Fantasia stepped up.
From its amazing opening volley Terrified is full of shocks and scares, carefully wrapped in wonder and humor. I cannot wait for this audience to lose their shit over Rugna’s film. [AM]
Mega Time Squad
This New Zealand time travel film slash buddy comedy slash heist caper as some of the behind-the-screen talent of past Fantasia favourites, Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Turbo Kid and Deathgasm. It looks to be some great silly fun.
John is a struggling criminal lowlife. He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer and he has the modest dream of getting enough money together to move to Paeroa with his boss's sister, Kelly, and start his own gang. When John's boss Shelton sends him to rob a ‘Triad’ cash deposit at a local antique store, John decides to grab the opportunity and keep the money for himself. He makes the robbery, and flees with the cash... along with a curious bracelet that makes time travel possible. [KH]
I have already seen Glass Eye Pix producer Jenn Wexler’s first feature film, The Ranger at another festival. Does that mean I’m not up for another round? Hell no! In fact, I can’t wait to see this trip through forest Hell with a Fantasia audience, who will no doubt cheer and hoot and clap at all the spots. Jeremy Holms stars as a “strictly by the rules” park ranger who’s idea of upholding his special brand of law is pretty demented. His obsession with pink-haired punk Chelsea is unnerving, and while you might think you’ll suspect why, you definitely won’t get it until the revelation. Bonus: Larry Fessenden!
The Ranger is an anarchistic crowd-pleaser with a nostalgic ‘80s feel that is sure to satisfy like your favorite comfort food. [MG]
Canadian director/producer/programmer, Justin McConnell is another one of those friends who works his hiney off.
For other people.
So, when he gets to settle down and make some of his own material I am always interested to see what he’s come up with. So when we have heard about his new film Lifechanger, a body-shifting horror film about reclaiming lost love, regardless of the cost, well, colour us intrigued.
What is interesting here with his new film, even from only watching the trailer for his film, is that it appears that McConnell is exploring emotional depths that he has yet to dive in to in his previous work. [AM]
(Ed Note: And hey, it has Kurt's son, Willem Halfyard, in it in a tiny role.)
Small Gauge Trauma
Every year (if I am able), I try to make it to Fantasia’s annual celebration of the scariest, harshest, and most fucked-up short films submitted to the festival. Aptly titled, Small Gauge Trauma is a long-running program committed to the darkest corners of humanity.
In this year’s edition of Small Gauge Trauma, we can look forward to several weird films, including the following: Australian Heidi Lee Douglas’ (Little Lamb) new film, Devil Woman, in which female activists clash with loggers in Tasmania; Mike Marrero & Jonathan Rhoads’ Riley Was Here from the U.S., which focuses on a post-pandemic world; and Spain’s The Invaders (Canadian Premiere), which explores the complex fears that a Muslim girl being followed home must face. [MG]
Tigers Are Not Afraid
Believe the hype.
Fantasia may be the last stop of the year-long tour of Tigers Are Not Afraid and everything you have heard about Issa Lopez’s fantasy drama is true. Her film is the real deal. Confronting the traumatic fallout from the war on drugs in her native Mexico, and wrapping her story with fantastical elements, her dramatic fantasy packs an emotional wallop.
It may be entirely possible that Lopez is the heir apparent to Guillermo Del Toro and after you have seen Tigers Are Not Afraid you will see why everyone who knows GdT’s back catalogue has been saying just this. [AM]
You already know how excited we are about Panos Cosmatos's Cage Match vs. Satan bit of gonzo weirdness. Mandy is the closing night film of the festival, which this year has chosen to go out with a bang.
The quiet life of devoted couple Red (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) takes a dark and bizarre turn when a nightmarish cult and their maniacal leader seek to possess Mandy…body and soul. A shocking assault on the innocent pair leads to a spiraling, surreal, bloody rampage of all out, mind-altering vengeance. [KH]