Nancy Kilpatrick reviews Fantasia Film Festivals

Fantasia 2012

Ah, FanTasia … the film festival that keeps me glued to a seat in the dark for nearly four weeks of the best weather Montreal has to offer. But I love this darkness where so much creative cinema is screened.

Every July, I approach Montreal's FanTasia Film Festival with trepidation. Will there be another spate of intriguing and worthwhile films? Can they deliver, yet again? Is this the year when I will walk away disappointed by the noir and gruesome fare offered to fanatical fans of horror and dark fantasy cinema, which are the films I love to review?

Sixteen summers and not one dud. No wonder I quake in my Doc Martens! How do they maintain the intrigue? This year, yet again, there is a superior crop of dark and dangerous cinema, much of which you will find, if not on a silver screen near you, at least in your living room via Netflix or on DVD/blu-ray.

I'm reviewing 28 of the 32 films I viewed, so it's not just those I'm enamoured with. These shorter reviews attempt to provide you with a nugget that reveals why a movie is good, or so bad it's good, or just plain hideous—the last category better known as Watch at your Own Risk.

The Preternaturals Cannibals Eddy the Sleepwalking Cannibal (Canada/Denmark)

Wow. And Wow again! I expected little and got a lot. This film is Good! It sounds cheesy but there you go—titles aren't everything. Intelligent fun with two great stars that carry this clever and unusual story. Thure Lindhardt is the second most famous actor in Denmark and he took on the role of the artist formerly known as Lars who now teaches (in a cold spot in Canada) instead of paints. He's uninspired, until he meets the silent, not-too-bright Eddy (Dylan Smith) who, needless to say, has an unusual...

How I Spent My Summer Vacation or, Films to Love Forever

FanTasia Film Festival in Montréal has an odd name. You’d never know that most of the movies are horror films, but that’s the ‘fantastic’ part. About half are from Asian countries (the asia part), and the rest from other places around the globe. This festival—2008 was it’s 12th year—draws over 80,000 people during its three weeks every July. There are world premiers with directors, writers and cast members on stage to reveal some of the weird and funny situations that occurred during filming, and to answer questions. Each July for the last dozen years I’ve sat in the dark before the silver screen for maybe one quarter of the hundred or more films showing. This is the continent’s largest and most relevant film festival for horror fanatics and I’ve seen amazing films this year which I’d like to tell you about.

Repo: The Genetic Opera (USA)

R: TGO started life as performance art, the brain child of Terrance Zdunich (who plays Gravedigger in the film) and Darren Smith. They wrote the story and composed the music for a ten minute piece that was staged (with other short pieces they wrote) in a tiny theater “So small,” Zdunich says “that during intermissions the audience had to walk across the stage to get to the bathroom.” 

Zdunich and Smith had the foresight to tape a performance and show it to director Darren Lynn Bousman (he of SAW 2, 3, 4 fame). Bousman’s heart was pierced and miraculously he managed to get this “passion project”, as he calls Repo: The Genetic Opera, to screen.

What’s it about? That’s pretty hard to convey. As actor Bill Mosley who plays Repo Man says, “You’ve never seen anything like this.”

The post-apocalyptic future is all about organ failure and the subsequent organ transplants...

How I Spent My Summer Vacation or, Films to Love Forever 2010

FANtastic FanTasia, Montreal’s little genre film festival that could, has just ended. Fourteen years old and bigger and better than ever, FanTasia is an ecclectic mix of Asian films and horror/dark fantasy/fantasy/science fiction films with many a combination of both, shown over three weeks. All in all there are 120 films.

I admit it. FanTasia is one of the great pleasures of my summer. I thoroughly enjoy watching films that range from Hollywood blockbuster premiers to obscure independent horror flicks to two-minute shorts that show a director’s potential. There’s something utterly refreshing about viewing what, otherwise, for the most part, I’d probably never run across. And then there’s the utter thrill of sitting in the dark with a packed house of like-minded movie-goers, mainly horror fanatics, many of whom are not above a startled scream, spontaneous jolt, nervous laugh, frustrated groan and wild applause at the high points of creative cinema.

Of the dozens of films I saw this year, these (listed by category & alphabetically) stand out:

Fantasy

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (US). Nicholas Cage and Jay Baruchel star in Walt Disney/Jerry Buckheimer production, directed by John Turteitraub. Disney, she says??? I know, I know, but I loved it! The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has had so-so reviews in the mainstream media. Reviewers who didn’t like it compared it unfavorably with the classic Disney Fantasia animation. I haven’t seen Fantasia so I was unhampered by a comparison, although doesn’t it seem silly to compare a long-ago animation to a feature film released so many years later. Consequently, for me, the film was cute, fun and the FX cool...

How I Spent My Summer Vacation or, Films to Love Forever 2011

Montréal's fantastic FanTasia Film Festival has just ended and with 35 or more films devoured by yours truly this year over a three week span, I've once again selected my favs in order to inflict, I mean bestow on Chizine readers my views about what's innovative and upcoming in our beloved dark field.

FanTasia offered up about 130 films, split as usual between Asian cinema and horror/fantasy/science fiction. I see mainly the H/F/SF films, and the Asian films when they overlap.

These are the most interesting films that I ran across:

Absentia (USA). If you love horror and you are looking for a movie that fits dead center of this genre, Absentia, winner of awards at festivals in Sonoma, Phoenix and Fargo is for you. This micro budget indie film kicks it big time. You won't have heard of the writer/director/co-producer Mike Flannigan, or the stars Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine and, Doug Jones, but down the road you will. There is nothing like being caught by surprise, although this movie had so much advance buzz both screenings were sold out two weeks before FanTasia opened, and the festival was compelled to set up a third screening. This movie deserves a theater release but sadly may not get one, so look for it on DVD/Blu-ray/Netflix. You will not be disappointed.

Desperate for an antidote to Twilight? Stake Land (USA) is it. You won't find one pretty vampire and none you'd want to date. These are the revolting undead stalked post-apocalypse by a grisly vampire hunter and his Karate Kid-like protégée. Rough,...