The third week of July beckons and, if one is a genre film lover in the Canadian city of Montreal, that really means only one thing: the return of the Fantasia International Film Festival. Like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and zombies, Fantasia keeps coming back for more action time and time again, always promising the best and brightest that genre cinema from the world over has to offer.
In the preceding few weeks a litany of announcements were made, titillating fans like few movie-themed festivals can, such as Tobe Hooper’s presence for an honorary award (as well as a screening of his newly re-mastered The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and a screening of the highly anticipated Marvel Studios mega-production Guardians of the Galaxy a few days before it opens wide. Both will rightfully garner much attention, as shall a host of other special events and screenings. That said, each patron and media outlet representative lives through his or her personal festival experience, which encompasses not only the thoughts and feelings as the events occur but also the gleeful anticipation prior to opening night. This being my third year as a Sound On Sight badge holder, it would be amusingly snobbish for me to claim that the buildup feels like business as usual. The truth of the matter, however, is that the bustling potential still gets me terribly excited. What follows are five films in particular that should, if they fulfill on their promises, be delightful cinematic experiences.
Directed by Toshiaki Toyoda
Set in a strange all-boys high school, Toyoda’s picture shares a tale of the hardcore rivalries that erupt among various gang members. Fisticuffs are what settle scores and determine hierarchical rankings within the student social structure. Toru Gora is the current king of the hill until challenged by a newly transferred student.
The trailer makes Toyoda’s film look like a bubbling cocktail of stylish violence, a film in which pseudo-retro and ultra-modern hairstyles and dress attires speak as loudly as the punches and kicks. One hopes there may be a dash of comedic value thrown into the mix (the tone of the trailer is a bit on the self-serious side) for safe measure, although on the whole Crows Explode looks to be a rip-roaring good time. This is supposedly the third instalment in a trilogy of films inspired by a popular manga. For those who have not seen the previous two, rest assured that this entry is actually a prequel to the original and features a new cast.
20 July, 7.05pm - Concordia Hall theatre
Directed by Riley Steams
It was only a few weeks ago that the Sordid Cinema podcast heaped praise onto an excellent American horror film concerning the power of a cult, Ti West’s The Sacrament. This year’s Fantasia offers another take on the concept with Riley Steams’ directorial debut Faults, the profile of which is given a bit of a boost by the presence of popular actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays a victim of cult brainwash in need of dire help.
While it remains to be seen what the final product has in store, the premise is certainly intriguing. This genre is something of a personal favourite, and while films like The Sacrament are thrilling for how they depict a cult’s efficiency on a grand scale, the notion of a movie dealing with the mind games afflicting a single individual, and how said person may or may not be saved, can be equally as powerful.
18 July, 9.30pm - J.A. De Sève screening room
24 July, 7.15pm - J.A. De Sève screening room
The House at the End of Time
Directed by Alejandro Hidalgo
Venezuela is not exactly known for its film industry, least of all for its genre outings, making the inclusion of this specific film in the 2014 Fantasia lineup all the more intriguing. Part drama, part suspense thriller, and part ghost story, The House at the End of Time revolves around one woman for whom it is revealed that her husband will kill their children in the future, setting off a chain of terrible events lasting many years after the initial warning.
Scary tales, when done well, always make for a solid lark. Mix that with dour familial history that haunts a home for years on end and one is potentially left with an excellent, well-rounded picture. Here’s hoping Venezuela brings its A-game to the front.
26 July, 9.30pm - DB Clarke theatre
30 July, 5.20pm - J.A. De Sève screening room
Directed by Takashi Murakami
In what looks to be one of the odder children’s themed films released in the past few years, Jellyfish Eyes relates the story of a group of children who, in order to settle their differences in the playground, call upon the forces of their monster friends. The problem they face, however, is whether the existence of these fantastical creatures can be kept from adults forever.
Some might call this a Pokémon rip-off, and it may very well end up being just that, but the trailer makes the picture look like ludicrous fun. The employment of CGI rather than practical effects for many of the beasts will have some scoff at the film (that is, admittedly, a mildly disappointing directorial decision), but the fact remains that Takashi Murakami is a well-known and respected pop artist venturing into cinema for the first time, so his eye for visuals will certainly lead to some zany and memorable sequences.
20 July, 12pm - Concordia Hall theatre
Among the Living
Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo
France’s recent track record with thrillers is pretty solid, making the prospect of another effort enough to have fans salivating. Among the Living follows a trio of boys as they play hooky in the woods, only to get caught up in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a mysterious and dangerous man living nearby.
The trailer for the film is excellent, building an exquisite level of tension as well as hinting at some unequivocally gut-wrenching scenes. Adult-oriented films with kids as protagonists are a quite rare, especially ones that look to be as intense as this one.
28 July, 7pm - Concordia Hall theatre
Enjoy the festival!
– Edgar Chaput