Fantasia Festival, one of the world’s biggest, best, and longest running genre festivals, is back. With COVID keeping us all stuck outside of the theaters, however, it’s all digital. But the lineup is STELLAR. Besides just amazing films, there are tons of fantastic special events like Carolyn Mauricette‘s Afrofuturism: Visions of the Future Room, Rue Morgue‘s Print’s Not Dead, and Miskatonic‘s Tribute to Stuart Gordon. But, for the ravenous film freaks here at The Farsighted, it’s the movies we’re here for most.
This year, we tackle the fest with 3 names you know and a special guest, who we hope will stick around here at site long after the fest. Jon Chamis, Dino Gangale, and I are joined by writer/curator/cinephile/podcast guest extraordinaire Madeleine Koestner.
A couple of weeks ago, my partner and I were sitting outside having a drink, trying to fake the experience of going out, when I suddenly became inconsolable. “A year ago I was at Fantasia. I should be in Montreal right now,” I sobbed. It was one of countless bad moments I’ve had during this pandemic, distressed by the loss of one of my favorite events in the world. But my grief was cut short – Mitch Davis and the rest of the Fantasia Film Festival crew has persevered and gone digital, presenting the festival as a two-week long online event. And I get to cover it for The Farsighted! I could not be more grateful.
We’re lucky to have Madeleine aboard and we can’t wait to start our coverage this week of the festival, which begins on August 20th. Here are some of the films that we’re most excited for and you can check out the full program schedule by clicking here.
Johnnie To is one of my favorite filmmakers, but when paired with writer Wai Ka Fai, the two share a single spot on my top five filmmakers of all time list. Together, Johnnie To’s grasp of form and action and Wai Ka Fai’s narrative risk taking have created some of the best films to come out of Hong Kong in the past few decades. To has referred to Throwdown as one of his most personal films, a martial arts movie about a deadbeat gambling addict whose life is saved by reconnecting with Judo, the sport that defined his youth. And for me, the film hit deep. The first time I saw it, I was trying to learn Judo to heal both physical and emotional pain I was living with. Later I gave up Judo, too lanky and clumsy to really excel at it, for Jiu Jitsu, the martial art that is the basis of MMA. So how can I resist Chasing Dream, a new collaboration between To and Wai Ka Fai, about MMA fighting? Part sports movie and part musical comedy (like Office from a few years back!), this is my cannot miss title of Fantasia. (MK)
Continuing to thrill, Jon Hyam’s will be continuing his propensity for grandiose violence proven by his Universal Soldier entries but will be stripping it all down into a more personal battlefield in his roadside survival thriller Alone. A young woman seeks to escape her life’s problems on a roadtrip only to find herself stalked and entangled in a vicious fight for her life that is sure to highlight Hyam’s talents as an action director. (JC)
Ryan Kruger is a very impressive music video director and this is his first feature length film. I really liked Kruger’s short film of the same name. I’m very interested in seeing how this character develops through alien possession. (DG)
A few years back I played a video game called Detention, that both wowed and upset me deeply. Set in Taiwan in the 60s during a period of martial law, you play as a young girl who wakes up alone after dozing off in class to a destroyed and unrecognizable version of her school. As you explore, fragments of memories are triggered by items and spaces, but there are creatures lurking the hall as well. Now the film adaptation of the game is having its Canadian premiere at Fantasia. I can’t begin to imagine how Detention has been adapted from the colorless pencil drawn graphics of the game to a live action film, but the story has a depth to it that I am excited to experience in a new format. (MK)
The Dark and The Wicked
One of my most anticipated films being shown is a return for writer/director of modern cult favorite The Strangers, Bryan Bertino. Leaving the slasher suburbs and bringing us into the rural countryside, Bertino’s The Dark and The Wicked summon backwoods evil as a dying man’s family gathers at his home to mourn only to uncover something much more sinister lying in wait. (JC)
I have been very impressed by the films coming out by the upstart film distributor The Horror Collective. Their latest SLAXX is a very unique film about a possessed pair of designer jeans that kills people in a posh boutique. I’m always looking for something non derivative in the horror genre. (DG)
Another modern horror auteur making an appearance is Neil Marshall with his new film The Reckoning. In an all to apropos theme of the year, Marshall’s plague horror concerned with disease, heretics and the questionable morals of authority. Having been worked in the world of Game of Thrones and boasting of horror favorites Dog Soldiers and The Descent, there’s no doubt Neil Marshall’s premiere will receive a blood soaked applause. (JC)
In 2017, I had the pleasure of presenting Natasha Kermani’s film Imitation Girl at a film festival in Philadelphia. While Imitation Girl was a beautiful, bright film about an alien girl experiencing the world for the first time, from the poster alone I get the sense that Lucky will be a much darker experience. Premiering earlier this year at SXSW, Lucky stars the always fantastic Brea Grant as a suburban self-help author whose home is broken into by an intruder. After seeing the elegance Kermani displayed while discussing issues of introspection and identity in her prior film, I am eager to see how she will depict a more terrifying event in Lucky! (MK)
Crazy Samurai Musashi
Crazy Samurai Musashi is a 77 minute, no cut, one shot action film from Japan. This is a huge departure from the quick cut fast paced action sequences of so many films. I’m very intrigued. (DG)
And coming out of the Netherlands is a special kind of film that holds its cheeky knife and giggles with it’s satirical skewer pointed in the face of society. The Columnist is a rage fueled comedy concerned with a journalist and her world of social media followers, haters, baiters, and critics. All of which blur in the constant streams of every browser and if only… if only there was some way they would just shut up. The Columnist looks to be the knife wielding dark comedy long awaited to slice open the culture of internet trolls. (JC)
In our discussions, so many other titles jump out and excite us. Dino plans to check out Japanese Kaiju comedy Monster Seafood War. I am stoked to see a woman change her life with the help of porn in documentary gem Morgana. And, there’s so much more. Join us as we begin our coverage of this year’s online edtion of one of the best fests in the land, cheers to Fantasia!