Fantasia 2024: The Cinapse Crew’s Most Anticipated

North America’s largest genre film festival, Fantasia, is back this year with its 28th iteration of the iconic fest, running from Thursday, July 18th, through Wednesday, August 4th. The Montreal based cinematic celebration returns with their usual selection of can’t miss premieres, classics, panels, and workshops that are sure to please any discerning cinephile.

The fest will open this year with the World Premiere of Ant Timpson’s latest Bookworm, which will reunite the New Zealand filmmaker with his Come to Daddy star Elijah Wood and the fest will close with André Forcier’s Ababouiné. The film is an important local story chronicling a time in the 1950s, when the Catholic Church ruled over Quebec with an iron fist. Other highlights this year include, the book Launch for Heidi Honeycutt’s latest tome – I Spit On Your Celluloid, talks with Gary Pullin and Mike Flanagan and a live recording of The Colors of the Dark Podcast presented by Fangoria. Mike Flanagan will also be on hand to accept Fantasia’s 2024 Cheval Noir career award.

I will be attending covering as press and I put the word out to my fellow colleagues here on Cinapse attending for the titles they’re most excited about.

Dan Tabor’s Most Anticipated:

FRANKIE FREAKO Directed by Steven Kostanski CANADA

Directed by Astron Six’s Steve Kostanski (Manborg, The Void, Psycho Goreman), Frankie Freako promises to be a creature comedy that’s a love letter to the ’80s, with echoes of Ghoulies and the Puppetmaster series. This combo has it as literally my most anticipated films of the fest given Steve’s previous films scrappy insanity. 

AZRAEL Directed by E.L. Katz USA

A post-apocalyptic film starring Samara Weaving? Say less.  

The film pairs the director of Cheap Thrills E.L. Katz, with a script by You’re Next’s Simon Barrett that features Weaving as the titular Azrael, a woman trying to escape a mute cult who wants to sacrifice her to an ancient demon. Given Weaving’s track record for relentless brutality on screen, I expect this won’t end well for the cult.  

THE SOUL EATER (Mangeur d’Âmes) Directed by Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo FRANCE

The latest from directors Julien Maury and Alexandre the directors of the transgressive classic Inside follows a pair of investigators arrive in a remote town in the French mountains, who have been dispatched to look into a married couple’s grisly murder. This pair seldom disappoints, so I am front and center for a film that looks tackle a ficticious urban legend in their patented style.

BRUSH OF GOD (Kaminofude) Directed by Keizo Murase JAPAN

A love letter to all things Kaiju. One day a mysterious stranger appears to Akari who gives the lonely teenager a prop from her recently deceased grandfather’s unfinished giant monster film, a handmade ink brush. The stranger then explains to Akari and her nerdy classmate Takuya that the brush is the key to stopping the world from ending! That’s one hell of a setup and that image above definitely sold me on this film.

THIS MAN Directed by Tomojiro Amano JAPAN

This film adapts a real urban legend that circulated in Tokyo in the 1990, were all the victims have psychiatric histories, and have drawn portraits of a sinister, monobrowed man seen in their dreams just before they died. This Man promises a folk inspired entry in J-horror that looks to use this premise to delve into mental illness from a Japanese perspective and that sounds like a fascinating approach for a J-Horror film.

Julian Singleton’s Most Anticipated:

HOUSE OF SAYURI Directed by Koji SHIRAISHI JAPAN

To me, Koji Shiraishi is the most exciting voice in Japanese horror since the J-Horror movement of the early 2000s. Noroi: the Curseis my all-time favorite horror film, a found-footage symphony of dread that has only been followed up by Shiraishi’s genre-defying body of work. He brings a wacky, wild sensibility to the skin-crawling creepiness J-Horror is most known for, tempering the slow-burn frights established by Hideo Nakata and Takashi Shimizu with the scrappy, go-for-broke zaniness of Sam Raimi and John Carpenter.

House of Sayuri is Shiraishi’s adaptation of a sublimely creepy manga by Rensuke Oshikiri, one that harkens back to the Ju-on-style haunted house genre with a gleefully gorier bent. It’s a story whose genre subversions and radical left-turns marry well to Shiraishi’s modern mission to “destroy J-Horror entirely”–and the story’s pivot from passive, bloodcurdling haunting to combative bloodthirsty revenge is something only a director like Shiraishi can pull off.

CUCKOO Directed by Tilman Singer GERMANY

Speaking of singular horror voices, Tilman Singer’s Luz came out of nowhere for me, providing a creepy different take on single location thrillers, police procedurals, and exorcisms all in a brisk 70 minutes. It’s been way too long since Luz’s 2018 debut, and after several years of delayed post-production, Singer’s follow up Cuckoo looks like another blend of horrific mayhem on a far broader canvas. The cast is also stacked with some incredible faces, namely Euphoria’s Hunter Schaefer, The Matrix Resurrections’ Jessica Henwick, and everyone’s favorite chameleon Dan Stevens–who seems to be turning in another unpredictable and unhinged horror performance!

SHELBY OAKS Directed by Chris Stuckmann USA

It’s always fascinating when a prominent, insightful critic pivots into a creative role–and having been in the works since its record-breaking Kickstarter campaign in 2021, Chris Stuckmann’s Shelby Oaks has certainly been percolating on my to-see list for quite a while. Framed as a faux documentary following the search for a missing Paranormal YouTuber, Stuckmann’s feature debut has garnered the support and backing of storied horror vets like Mike Flanagan and Aaron B. Koontz, as well as the legendary Keith David among the cast. With support at a fever pitch among creatives and anticipatory audiences, Shelby Oaks may be the debut of a strong new vision in horror.

RITA Directed by Jayro Bustamante GUATEMALA

Jayro Bustamante’s La Llorona was a meditative terror whose insights into genocidal guilt sparked international acclaim during its Oscar campaign as Guatemala’s entry for Best International Feature. A dreamlike horror film that infused folk terrors with disturbing modern ones, Bustamante appears to be taking a similar tack with his follow up feature Rita. The film follows a 13-year-old girl incarcerated in an all-girls’ custody facility, as rumors persist of a winged savior who will deliver these girls to freedom. It’ll be fascinating to see how the surreal melancholy of La Llorona translates to a gritty magical realism, which the Fest has already drawn comparisons to the works of Guillermo Del Toro. With US buyers already locked via IFC Films and Shudder, one can’t help but also draw potential comparisons to Issa López’s similarly majestic and magical Tigers Are Not Afraid.

A SAMURAI IN TIME Directed by Junichi Yasuda JAPAN

I’m always going to be down for magical, genre-pushing movies that manage to turn a winking eye to the thrill of making movies themselves. Junichi Yasuda’s A Samurai in Time sounds like a blast, as a time-traveling Samurai finds himself far from a fish out of water when he appears on the set of a modern jidaigeki swordplay drama. It’s a story whose heart and charm already leaps off the page, and I’m excited to see how Yasuda’s film pays homage not just to the Samurai era itself, but to the legendary film epics they would later inspire. 

Justin Harlan’s Most Anticipated:

DARK MATCH Directed by Lowell Dean CANADA

Those who know me know I’m a pro wrestling “mark” – a term for a superfan of said sports entertainment fare – who even runs a podcast about wrestlers in film. Combine this with the fact that I’m a huge horror and genre nerd, a sucker for movies about cults, and love low to mid budget fare – and Dark Match seems like a movie made especially for me. With well-known wrestling superstar Chris Jericho (formerly of WWE and WCW, currently with AEW) in a prominent role and Wolfcop director Lowell Dean at the helm, this is easily the film I’m most excited for in this year’s Fantasia lineup.

An indie wrestling company takes a well-paying gig without knowing the real motives of the mysterious cult leader who brings them to town. Honestly, what’s not to like?

Frank Calvillo’s Most Anticipated:

4PM

After having to back out last year due to family reasons, I’m chomping at the bit to dive back into the world of Fantasia Fest. Out of the nearly 10 years I’ve been covering the festival, I can’t think of a lineup more varied and exciting than the one that’s been set for 2024. Director Jay Song’s 4pm promises a nightmarish tale of a couple quietly tormented by a neighbor in a tale that feels like the offspring of Rod Serling and Stephen King. The fact that I practically grew up in a library (my mother was a librarian) has me eager to watch Darkest Miriam, the story of a librarian who finds herself in an unexpected romance which brings with it a spot of danger.

HOLLYWOOD 90028

On the retrospective side, the resurrection of Hollywood 90028 is the highlight of this section of Fantasia for me. The once thought lost examination of a cameraman driven to murderous impulses remains one of the most provocative female-helmed films of the 1970s. Penalty Loop takes us to the other end of the Fantasia spectrum with a Japan-set tale of love, loss, revenge, and major déjà vu. Finally, the remake of the 80s original cult classic Witchboard has me excited as director Chuck Russell transports this story about a group of young people who dare to tamper with the afterlife to New Orleans.

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