North America’s largest genre film festival, Fantasia, is back this year with its 27th iteration of the iconic fest, running from Thursday, July 20th, through Wednesday, August 9th. The Montreal based festival is once again “in person” only, with their selection of can’t miss premieres, classics, panels, and workshops that is sure to please any genre fan. The fest will open this year with Red Rooms from celebrated Quebec Filmmaker Pascal Plante (Fake Tattoos, Nadia, Butterfly) and close with We Are Zombies, based on the comic Les Zombies Qui Ont Mangé Le Monde (The Zombies that Ate the World). Other highlights for this year include the debut production from Vinegar Syndrome, Eight Eyes, and a career achievement award which will be bestowed upon icon Nicolas Cage.
Along with their traditional programming, the festival spotlight this year is South Korean cinema! This spotlight will emphasize current and past works of South Korean filmmakers, who work in genres ranging from horror to arthouse. Some examples from this year’s program are the North American premiere of New Normal by Jung Bum-shik (Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum), the Canadian premieres of An Tae-jin’s The Night Owl, The Roundup: No Way Out by Lee Sang-yong, The President’s Last Bang (2005) by master Im Sang-soo and the 4K restoration of Jeong Jae-un’s coming-of-age Take Care Of My Cat (2001).
The remaining program is still chock full of some great offerings, some titles I can personally vouch for are Talk to Me, Satan Wants You, Birth/Rebirth,Onyx The Fortuitous and The Talisman Of Souls, Sometimes I Think About Dying, In My Mother’s Skin and My Animal.
I queried my fellow writer attending here on Cinapse Frank Calvillo, for the titles he was also excited about checking out and I decided to throw in my most anticipated as well.
You can check out fantasiafestival.com for a full rundown of the program.
In the meantime here’s our picks:
People don’t talk enough about how the animation side of cinema has evolved to lengths no one imagined with stunning new visual levels and stories that can be high-concept or surprisingly profound. Looking to fit into both categories is Mother Land, a gorgeous-looking tale about a young girl who embarks on a mystical journey in order to save her mother. The fact that the film is made with stop-motion animation alone would make it worth checking out, but Mother Land already holds the noteworthy distinction of being the first South Korean stop-motion feature film in almost half a century.
What You Wish For
What You Wish For is one of the reasons I look forward to Fantasia every year. The film has all the makings of the kind of classic thriller any genre fan could love. There’s the international setting, a big old house, dark humor, and the kind of Hitchcock-inspired twists and turns that can’t equal anything but a riveting time in this story about a chef who assumes his rich friend’s identity with dire consequences. Writer/director Nicholas Tomnay’s previous effort, The Perfect Host, was a dark comedy thrill ride that subverted expectations and proved impossible to predict. If the setup for What You Wish For is only a taste of what’s to come, it might end up being one of Fantasia’s runaway favorites.
Without a doubt, one of the most talked about titles at Fantasia this year will be this Ukrainian-based thriller set against the actual backdrop of last year’s Russian invasion. This tale about a resistance fighter (Liza Zaitsev) who is determined to help a young boy find his missing parents in the midst of the war surrounding them promises a level of emotional storytelling that will be impossible to look away from. The debut of writer/director Eva Strelnikova, Stay Online is sure to be a landmark film that will serve as both a thrilling actioner and a document of this dark time in history.
Late Night with the Devil
With a ringing endorsement from Stephen King under their belts, directors Colin and Cameron Cairnes unleash Late Night with the Devil, a surreal and terrifying tale set in the late 1970s about a television broadcast that has horrifying events for all who are tuning in to watch it. David Dastmalchian leads this feature in what is already being described as a “career-best performance” playing a talk show host whose desperation knows no bounds. Filmed with a real-time sensibility and vintage 70s television touches, Late Night with the Devil is the kind of horror find fests like Fantasia were made for.
Good sci-fi cinema has always excelled the most when it’s focused on the human element of the story it’s telling. Writer/director Jared Moshe’s latest effort, Aporia, promises to deliver an experience that’s both exhilarating and emotional with this time-traveling tale about a widow (Judy Greer) who has the opportunity to restore the life she lost and the heavy price she could pay for doing so. Not only does Aporia offer up a new entry in the time machine side of the genre, but it also offers Greer, one of the acting world’s most beloved character actresses, the kind of leading turn she’s deserved for so long.
First off, Fantasia is just killing it this year with their Japanese selections this year, plucking three of my most anticipated titles from their spring blockbuster season, having just left theaters far east.
Those titles are:
Slam Dunk, the iconic sports anime/manga that ran for six years (1990-1996), left an indelible mark on the sports manga/anime. Now over three decades later the original creator Takehiko Inoue is back making his directorial debut, writing and directing the first new animated feature length film for the property in over three decades. This latest entry was a box office juggernaut in Japan and I can’t wait to check it out.
The Tokyo Revengers Saga: Part 1 and 2
Tokyo Revengers is a manga/anime I’ve been hearing A LOT about, which just finished its 31 chapter run last year, and just completed two seasons in animated form.
The basic setup follows Takemichi Hanagaki, a miserable 26-year-old who’s just scraping by when he learns about the death of his ex-girlfriend, who died in a dispute involving the Tokyo Manji Gang. The next day, on his way home from a part-time job, Takemichi mysteriously gets pushed off the subway platform, and as he is about to be hit, he jumps back in time twelve years. This just so happens to place him in the same year he was dating his ex and Takemichi quickly dedicates himself to doing everything he can to prevent her death.
Director Tsutomu Hanabusa offers up two riveting new chapters in this beloved saga, in a star studded live-action adaptation.
Shin Kamen Rider
Shin Kamen Rider has anime auteur Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion) reimagining yet another iconic Japanese Tokusatsu property, in what’s being dubbed as the Shin Japan Heroes Universe. (Shin in Japanese here means “new”). In this project Anno has updated not only his own property Neon Genesis Evangelion, but also Godzilla and Ultraman, and now he’s tackling a long time personal favorite Kamen Rider. (There’s famously a photo of a young Anno dressed in full Rider attire). In a canon that has over 30 iterations, Anno has chosen to focus on not only the original 1971 TV series, but Shotaro Ishinomori’s companion manga that ran congruent with Kamen Rider’s original airings.
Now for the final two:
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes was a festival phenomenon a few years ago, and the fact that director Junta Yamaguchi is back with another time twisting tale, makes this easily one of the can’t miss titles for this year. River focuses on Mikoto (Riko Fujitani) who works as a waitress at the Fujiya Inn, who is stuck in a “tiny loop” repeating the same two minutes at a time! This alone sounds interesting enough, but there appears to be a mystery component here, which has the occupants trying to unravel it at 120 second increments.
Marry My Dead Body
Singularly based on the title above and the below description this film made my top 5:
“Ghost stories, gangsters, and gay pride collide in this three-way of supernatural goosebumps, high-octane thrills and odd-couple comedy. Official selection Taipei Golden Horse 2022. Canadian Premiere.”