Each Year through technology, the world gets a little smaller. But with the power of film, and great festivals that curate from every corner of the globe, we get to see a little more of it. Opening today, Fantasia Festival in Montreal makes sure we see the darkest corners of the world, the ones shrouded by shadows and from where many do not return. In its 19th year, North America’s largest and arguably most important genre festival (sorry Fantastic Fest), has collected 135 features and 300 shorts from 36 countries, as well as some extraordinary live and transmedia programs. The festival also includes the sixth edition of Frontières, Fantasia’s bi-annual International genre film co-production market (which includes projects from veterans and upstarts alike such as John McNaughton, director HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and WILD THINGS, and the RKSS, whose new cult classic first TURBO KID debuted at Sundance and is a Frontières success story).
I’ll be covering Fantasia for AMFM Magazine this year, and I’m really excited because it’s my first time experiencing the festival (which is a mammoth by the way, running July 14th to August 4th). The program can be a monster to boil down (the program guide is actually 760 pages – seriously), so I’ve put together a few can’t miss picks for the festival, a few I’ve caught at other fests, but mostly new territory to explore. If you haven’t seen them yet, be sure not to miss Cop Car, Excess Flesh, Roar, Turbo Kid, and the Visit, which I’ve previously written about but make their Canadian Premiere at the fest.
BUNNY THE KILLER THING (Finland / North American Premiere) Fantasia does not shy away from the weird and this one certainly proves it. A man is kidnapped, and genetically altered to take on the characteristics of a Rabbit. He prowls the frozen wilderness stalking cabins looking for women to attack with his very long and comically floppy member, apparently filled with the rabbit need to breed. The concept of ‘good taste’ needs to be forgotten when experiencing a film with a name like this, which is equally funny and outrageous.
COOTIES (USA / Canadian Premiere) This was my absolute favorite film at Sundance in 2014 and I’ve been desperate for it come out. Working at an elementary school can be hell, especially when the children have fallen victim to a virus that turns them into pint-sized flesh eating zombies. Teachers finally get to take their frustrations out on their students, and the ensemble (Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer and co-writers Leigh Whannell (SAW) and Ian Brennan (GLEE)) must hack their way through the student body.
CRUMBS and WHO KILLED CAPTAIN ALEX? (Ethiopia and Uganda / both Canadian Premieres) Genre films from the land once known as the Dark Continent. Crumbs, the first Ethiopian SciFi film follows a journey across a post-apocalyptic wasteland where plastic toys are traded for store credit to buy parts for a rocket ship, and Santa Claus is a real man you can go visit and make direct requests. An other worldly experience. WHO KILLED CAPTAIN ALEX? is a zombie film shot commando style in the ghetto of Wakaliga, Kampala by writer/director/editor/cinematographer/producer Nabwana IGG, who has made 40+ films. According to the Fantasia website, the film was made for less than $200, using real blood, a modified car-jack for a tripod, and a pan-flute version of Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose.”
LADY PSYCHO KILLER (Canada / World Premiere) Fantasia likes to spotlight maple leaf features and LADY PSYCHO KILLER looks like the best of this year’s crop. Set in Fantasia’s hometown Montreal, Nathan Oliver’s film features Michael Madsen, Ron Jeremy and Malcolm McDowell, as well as Kate Daly, the titular ‘hero’ who, raised conservatively, finds herself sexually awakened and out to kill anyone with an XY chromosome after a college assignment leads her to a strip club. A tight 81 minutes (seems like a majority of this program tops 110 minutes), Lady Psycho Killer promises black humor and extreme bloodletting.
MÉLIÈS ET MAGIE (Special Event) George Méliès may be the first SciFi filmmaker – his ‘trip to the moon’ which sends a rocket into the man in the moon’s eye is one of the genre’s most enduring images. His adoption of film as an art came after years of work as a stage magician, and a search to find a new source of illusion for his audience. This Fantasia transmedia performance combines genuine 16mm film projection with live music and magic performance, along with the 1952 short doc LE GRAND MÉLIÈS.
ORION (US / World Premiere) David Arquette stars as a wandering survivor, a traveler in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by famine and sickness. Keeping his eye on the constellation Orion, the hero’s pilgrimage leads him to a land ruled by a blood thirsty tyrant, and a kingdom filled with booby traps. He is here to free a ‘virgin mother’ and his opponent is a shape-shifting sorcerer. Steeped in myth and epic, ORION brings its audience a new world, expertly crafted by someone with a very twisted imagination.
REMAKE REMIX RIPOFF: ABOUT COPY CULTURE AND TURKISH POP CINEMA (Germany / North American Premiere) I’ve seen a few Turkish “Spidermen” waiting for the films to start at the Alamo Drafthouse, and the Turkish Star Wars is arguably more entertaining than any of the prequel films. Seven years in the making, this documentary explores the ‘Yeşilçam,’ the Turkish film industry of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s when zombies might show up in a Rambo film and a kitchen-sink drama could include a family robot. This was an era when Turkey had zero copyright laws so everything — title, concept, musical score, even full-on footage from a pre-existing production — was fair game. It was the Wild West of filmmaking.
SEA FOG (HAEMOO) (South Korea / Quebec Premiere) This was one of my favorites at Fantastic Fest last year, an enigmatic tour-de-force with the performances so rich while the canvas is so bleak. In the face of a crippling economy, Captain Kang takes his fishing boat out for one last run, this time though, his crew carries a cargo of illegal immigrants. With horrifying turn after turn, the ill-fated mission burns the soul out of the crew and audience alike, with a payoff of a strength seldom seen. Fantasia is ripe with films from China, Japan, Thailand, most with fantasy or historical fantasy settings and overflowing with martial arts, but this tense drama will stay with you a lot longer. Not to be missed.
TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE (special event) In its first-ever international performance, the wildly original, critically acclaimed live radio drama from horror icons Larry Fessenden (Wendigo, Habit) and Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead) comes to Fantasia July 27th. Already a regular tour item in The U.S., Tales from Beyond the Pale features horrifying scripts, amazing casts, and live foley and music. Directing three all-new original stories for the Fantasia edition will be festival alumni Fessenden, McQuaid, and Montreal’s own Douglas Buck. The festival promises a still-secret cast of top-talent actors and an unforgettable evening.
TRADERS (Ireland / International Premiere) A brilliant concept goes a long way and this one is so impressive, it is surprising that something like this doesn’t already exist. Out of work, two former asset management employees find a new way to exploit people’s worth, or rather self-worth. Econocide is an actual term to describe the harsh reality that for every one per cent rise in unemployment there incurs an eight per cent jump in the suicide rate. Armed with that, the two entrepreneurs find a corner of the Dark Web and set up a unique opportunity. “Better than suicide,” it promises, connecting two would be life-enders, who agree to fill a bag with their current life’s worth of funds, journey to a random, remote location… and fight to the death. The winner buries the loser and leaves with both bags. Trading.
Watch AMFM Magazine for more Fantasia Updates over the next three weeks!
Bears Fonte covers indie film for AMFM Magazine and programs and consults for film festivals nationwide. He is the Founder and Executive Director of Other Worlds Austin SciFi Film Festival as well as the former Director of Programming for Austin Film Festival. His short The Secret Keeper played at 40 festivals, his feature iCrime was released in 2011 by Vicious Circle.