Let us walk you through what we are keen on seeing. Click through the gallery.
It has been over 20 years since the eponymous long-haired ghost became world-famous with Nakata Hideo's iconic horror touchstone, Ringu. Foreign remakes, various reboots, 3D attempts, even a 'versus' style crossover with another Japanese horror franchise.
Nearly 15 years since making the sequel, Nakata returns to the well (sorry) to inject a little class, and a fresh spin on the franchise that made his career.
Sadako is the opening night film of Fantasia 2019. [KH]
After taking the festival circuit by storm with 2005's coming of age rock 'n roll comedy Linda Linda Linda, Japanese director Yamashita Nobuhiro has plugged away with a string of well-received, but less successful features over the last decade.
This year he returns to the spotlight with Hard-Core, which could end up being one of the weirdest films at an already very weird Fantasia.
Featuring leading performances from Yamada Takayuki, Arakawa Yoshiyoshi, and Satoh Takeru, this cast is a who's-who of Japanese indie filmmaking from the 21st century. A shogun's lost gold, a half-assed robot that is more than meets the eye, and a whole bunch of weirdness put this one high on my must-see list! [JH]
Auteur of some of the most insane Japanese films of the last twenty years, Nakashima Tetsuya is back after the devastating The World of Kanako with yet another peek into the abyss with It Comes .
While Nakashima has never been afraid of adding avant garde flourishes to his stories, this is the first time he appears to be adding his unique stylistic touches to a story with genuine supernatural consequences. A happy family is haunted by someone or something that appears to be connected the impending birth of their first child, they have to figure it out before it destroys them all.
When Nakashima goes dark, he goes really dark, making the horror elements of It Comes very enticing for genre fans looking to ruin their day. [JH]
The Art of Self-Defense
Off-kilter and absurd humourist Riley Stearns returns to grapple, block, and punch toxic masculinity. Stearns' underrated first feature, Faults quietly impressed the few that saw it in Fantasia's D.B. Clarke basement cinema in 2014. A dry witted thriller involving cult deprogramming, which featured character actor Leland Orser and leading actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, in several surprise turns and role reversals.
Here he has Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg training in a cult-like karate dojo with a guru/sensei (Alessandro Nivola) who has a secret midnight program for a select number of his students.
Pitched at a darker shade of black, The Art of Self-Defense could occupy the same rarified space of Jody Hill's Observe & Report [KH]
There are not one, but two films with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. Vivarium is a science fiction puzzler, where a couple looking for the perfect home find themselves trapped in a mysterious labyrinth-like neighbourhood of identical houses in the 'extreme suburb' of Yonder.
Promising equal parts Twilight Zone and Luis Buñuel (The Exterminating Angel), it might make a curious double-bill with Riley Stearns' The Art Of Self-Defense.[KH]
Two years ago, Italian filmmaker Jimmy Henderson showed the world what he could bring to action cinema with his film Jailbreak, a very entertaining slice of Cambodian action cinema with some truly astounding camera work.
A year later Henderson gathered his team to play the 'most dangerous game' in the Cambodian jungle. Bolstered by a villainous role by Thai actor Vithaya Pansringarm (Only God Forgives), the self-taught Henderson keeps improving his action game and adding worthy chapters to the Southeast Asian action journey. [AM]
I am always up for a new film from prolific Hong Kong auteur Pang Ho-Cheung.
The man who has mastered horror with balls out entertainers like Dream Home and bizarre gender war in Exodus, satire with Vulgaria and You Shoot, I Shoot!, and even the romantic comedy with the Love in a Puff series, is back with a gonzo comedy about a group of old friends racing the clock to replace a boss's breast milk accidentally stolen from a work fridge.
As one might expect, nothing goes right, and we are all the better for it. [JH]
A post-apocalyptic punk rock coming of age movie? Sign me up! After cutting her teeth on short-film compilation entries, the debut feature from director and long time horror advocate and fan, Jovanka Vuckovic, is finally here.
Honestly, I do not know anything about it, other than what I wrote in the first sentence, but that's enough for me. [JH]
Are we excited by a film which reunites all the key players behind one of the most significant Canadian genre pictures of the last 20 years, Pontypool? You bet your sweet ass we are.
Bruce McDonald's Dreamland brings back writer (and madman) Tony Burgess as well as brilliant character actor husband and wife duo, Stephen McHattie and Lisa Houle, not for the oft teased sequel Pontypool Changes (aw, shucks), but for a surreal gangster (and vampire?) nightmare.
Nobody does the 'slow freak out' quite like McHattie. He has one of the most interestingly expressive faces in the business, and here he gets to play two roles, both the hitman and the target. Throw in Juliette Lewis (who previously worked with McDonald in his bafflingly maligned, but rather sweet, ode to Toronto's Kensington neighbourhood, Picture Claire), and we have ourselves a strange reunion party, indeed.
Malik Bader makes seemingly conventional crime stories, which are richly seasoned with an ethnic-American urban grit, and are then cranked tight with emotional tension, and vulnerability. Of course, there is also the threat of extreme violence.
He wowed Fantasia audiences with his Albanian-Detroit meltdown of a petty landlord, Cash Only and he returns here (along with actor Nickola Shreli) with a bigger budget, a bigger city, and a bigger cast.
Liam Hemsworth is a money launderer who gets in so far over his head, that he loses his memory of a cash-rich drug deal. Croatian character actor extraordinaire, Zlatko Buric (The Pusher Trilogy, Teen Spirit, Dirty Pretty Things) is the drug dealer who wants his money back.
But the draw here is Bader's way of teasing out authentic neighbourhoods, authentic emotion, and raw cinematography to deliver something familiar in a decidedly unfamiliar fashion. Killerman looks to deliver.
In this case of art imitating life, Gigi Saul Guerro’s Culture Shock could not have come at a better/worse time.
Like Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion’s action drama Bushwick from a couple years ago, the glaring divide forming in the American empire after the regime change, Gigi Saul Guerrero's feature comes out at a time when the country has since fabricated its own immigration crisis and is handling it… poorly.
Martha Higareda and Richard Cabral go up against Barbara Crampton and Shawn Ashmore and their presumably safe utopia in this nifty thriller horror. It also gives further proof to the statement, ‘If Barbara Crampton smiles at you, run the other way’. [AM]
With more and more of us living single in tiny urban apartments, David Marmor's single location horror film plays on the anxieties that accompany this often lonely and disconnected modern existence.
In a Los Angeles apartment complex, Sarah is subject to a laundry list of nightmares, one that can accompany moving into an unknown place with unknown people, but amplified into full horror territory, becomes a living hell. [KH]
Alice Waddington's gorgeous black and white film Disco Inferno played the first Born of Woman short program a few years ago, and heralded a major talent.
She's back at Fantasia with her feature debut, Paradise Hills, a lush-as-hell fantasy tale within a stylized future dystopia. Co-written by Waddington, Nach Vigalondo (HELL YES), and novelist screenwriter.
Brian DeLeeuw (also a writer-collaborator on this year's excellent Daniel Isn't Real), Paradise Hills stars Emma Roberts, Awkwafina, and Milla Jovovich. This elite finishing school fairytale gone wrong tells us just what happens when we try to be who we are not. I guarantee that this is not the last you'll see from Waddington, who's cut from the same fabric as maestro Guillermo del Toro. Don't miss this one. [MG]
We continue to watch the rise of South African genre cinema on the international circuit. What we are discovering is that it refuses to sit in any kind of predictable niche. You cannot say, ‘Yeah, South African genre film is good for predominantly this or primarily that.’
Last year alone we saw a damn fine Western and a very good Hitchcockian thriller; the region refuses to be pegged down as a hotbed for any particular sub-genre. So we are especially excited that we get to have a look at South African folkloric terror with Harold Holscher’s 8.
What scares rural South Africa? We will soon find out. [AM]
Born of Women Shorts Programme
Every year for the past few summers, Fantasia has shone a spotlight on the latest and greatest short films made by women filmmakers from all over the globe. It remains a highlight of the industry-filled weekend during which the excellent genre film market Frontieres takes place.
That makes me happy, because the more eyes on emerging filmmakers like these, the better. This year, Born of Woman offers nine extraordinary short films from Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, USA, United Kingdom, and Canada. [MG]
The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil
Every year at Fantasia there is crop of ultra-glossy, very long, South Korean action thrillers.
This year, we have chosen Lee Won-Tae's blockbuster, involving a mobster who is the victim of a random attempted murder, and a detective determined to arrest him, and the prolific serial killer that ends up uniting them.
With a title like that, how could we not? Our own Pierce Conran describes the film, "thoroughly enjoyable and gleefully violent." And besides, we loved Don Lee's 'heavy' in Train To Busan so damn much. [KH]
A part of the new wave of Indonesian genre film that hit genre fans hard in the early 2000s, The Mo Brothers - Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel - have recently struck out on their own with solo features that have been every bit as impressive as their work as a team.
The first from Stamboel is the video game adaptation Dreadout, based on the Indonesian horror game of the same name. I have no frame of reference for the game, but I am very excited to check out this film that appears to blend elements of the game, social media satire, and a host of classic horror references to build a thrilling ride. Gimme Mo! [JH]
Thiagarajan Kumararaja's Super Deluxe is my Indian film of the year thus far. Challenging thematically, ridiculously entertaining, and incredibly bold in its storytelling, it is one of the finest multi-narrative features I have seen in a long time.
Featuring an incredibly talented cast of South Indian superstars, Kumararaja follows several seemingly unrelated stories with wildly varying styles and some super dark humor to create an absolutely crazy gumbo of comedy, drama, science fiction, satire, romance, and thriller elements that will keep you guessing, even when you think you've figured it out.
Just a ton of fun! [JH]
Larry Fessenden's Indie-Frankenstein picture wowed the audience at What The Film Festival in March, where our own Jaime Grijalba Gomez described it: "Clever[ly] it pieces together the elements that we already know about and how it introduces technology and elements from real life to generate the definitive Prometian tale of the decade. It's a surprisingly entertaining film that speaks enough about what is humanity, while having quite a bit of fun as well." [KH]
Homewrecker and Re-Home
Basically, we are coming at you with a “Hey! Come look at what our kids have done! Let’s put it up on the office fridge!” mentality.
Let’s start with Homewrecker. If Screen Anarchy’s Zach Gayne and Ben Umstead (as one of his producers) thought we were going to let them off easy and not mention Gayne’s feature film debut they are both sadly mistaken. Both Gayne and Umstead are wonderfully insightful gentlemen when it comes to their prose for the site so we expect nothing less when it comes to Gayne’s film. Written together with his leads Precious Chong and Alex Essoe (Starry Eyes) we hope that his comedy horror satire is well received by the Fantasia audience.
And then our own Izzy Lee has another short film at the festival, Re-Home. A prolific short filmmaker, with her new film Lee taps into the xenophobia plaguing the United States under its autocracy. Her short film has been paired with another glaring look at this black spot in historia de los Estados Unidos, Culture Shock. [AM]
The Boxer's Omen [35mm Retro Shaw Brothers]
Every year, photographer, curator, and celluloid enthusiast, King-Wei Chu, procures a classic, usually bizarre, Shaw Brother's feature from the 35mm vault. This, without fail, brings the house down to a wildly enthusiastic audience.
This year is no different, where he is presenting the 1983 gonzo-gumbo of Black Magic and icky special effects that is Mo, aka The Boxer's Omen. (If it was not a CAT-III film, it probably should have been.)
As we often say regarding this event: The first rule of Fantasia, is that you do NOT skip the Shaw Brothers film.
So Many Other Retro Screenings!
Spread across the program this year are a number of very good retro screenings. Previously mentioned was our go-to Kung Fu 35mm screening which is consistently a joy.
But they year you also get Ringo Lam’s Full Contact, Ted Kotcheff’s First Blood, Alex Proyas’ The Crow, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue from Jorge Grau, Brian de Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, and pictured above, Sisworo Gautama Putra’s Satan’s Slave, which if you recall, was updated/remade Joko Anwar as Satan's Slaves and played Fantasia last year.
There is the adage, 'What is Old is New Again,' but how often, if ever, do you get to see classics like these on the big screen? Take advantage. [AM]
BLOOD & FLESH - The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson
Severin Films' David Gregory is back at Fantasia this year with a doc on murdered horror and exploitation director Al Adamson.
BLOOD & FLESH is the bizarre and fascinating tale of a filmmaker who wound up buried under the floorboards by a "murderous handyman." Plus, the film is followed by the World Premiere of Severin Films’ new restoration of Al Adamson’s DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN (1971) starring Lon Chaney Jr & J. Carrol Naish! [MG]
The World Premiere of co-directors/co-writers (and siblings) Drew and Brett Pierce is described by festival director of programming, Mitch Davis as "full-throttle horror film that’s also a dark, contemporary fairy tale" and "a dead serious new spin on witchcraft cinema, with a fresh set of rules." I. Am. in. [MG]