Fantasia Fest

Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Beth (Aubrey Plaza) is dead, and her boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan) is all torn up about it. Sure they were having troubles and it looked like they might be heading for a split, but now that she’s gone — as in gone gone — he’s finding it difficult to think about anything else as he sinks into his pit of despair. Hoping for company with like-minded people he takes to spending time with Beth’s equally distraught parents, but just a few days later they shut him out of their lives. Distraught and driven for similarly bereft companionship he heads to their house only to glimpse something odd through a window. Beth is still alive. Kind of. She’s returned from the dead, and overcome with joyful confusion her parents are hiding her from the world. Beth’s memory isn’t all that great — she’s really stressed about a test she has tomorrow and has no idea that she’s dead — but Zach isn’t bout to turn his back on this second chance at a struggling relationship. Every couple hits some bumps in the road right? He soon discovers though that some love stories are better off dead.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Blaire (Shelley Hennig) is online chatting with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) while they wait for their other four friends to join. The couple takes a brief stab at cyber-sex before they’re interrupted by the gang, but something isn’t right with their Skype connection. A seventh person is on the call. No one knows who it is, the person isn’t speaking and nothing they do seems to get rid of it. They soon discover the mystery caller’s motive has something to do with the suicide of a girl named Laura Barnes exactly one year ago. Once the caller starts communicating it’s with death threats, shocking revelations and the seeming control of each person’s computer. Attempts to disconnect or reach outside help are squashed, efforts to delete certain pictures or accounts are made impossible and ultimately the six friends are forced to face just how tenuous their friendships truly are as they come face to face with the guilt of past misdeeds. Cybernatural uses a similar format to the recently released The Den, but it does so to tell a very different story. We see only what appears on Blaire’s laptop screen, and nothing else, but in those dozens of windows and tabs a tale of cruelty, failed relationships and revenge unfolds. This sounds terrible I know, but you’ll just have to trust me here. It’s a slickly made production that serves to enhance […]

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. A family is involved in a minor fender bender and proceed to snap some pics of the accident, but South Korean soldiers arrive in an attempt to confiscate their cameras. No photos are allowed this close to the border between South and North Korea, but the matriarch of the family stands firm asking the soldier incredulously, “What, do you think we’re spies?” Of course they are North Korean spies, passing themselves off as an entire family of four, and they’ve been living and working in the South for years. But while they’ve committed murder and other deeds in the name of the Great Leader back home the pressures of being away from their own families as well as being immersed in a more free and open society are beginning to take a toll. When news from the North triggers the team to take an unsanctioned action they find themselves on the wrong side of their vicious handlers and facing the end of not only their mission but also of their lives. Think of Red Family as a season of “The Americans” condensed into a 100 minutes, and you’ll have an idea of the genre dynamics and subjects at play here. The balance between honoring and respecting their homeland while facing constant exposure to a place that goes against everything they ever knew leads to temptations, behaviors and decisions that Kim Jong-un would most definitely […]

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Naoto Tamura (Yuki Yamada) is a bit of a dick. He’s obnoxious and indifferent to everyone around him including his hard-working mother, but he takes his attitude one step too far when he lashes out at her. While on his own a short while later he receives a package with a novel titled “Live” in it timed to a phone call and a video. His mother has been abducted, and she’ll be killed unless Naoto participates in and wins the caller’s elaborate “death triathlon.” He sets off to the first location only to discover that he’s not alone. A dozen other people, each frantic and glued to their cell phones, are also in the race. Other players lessen Naoto’s odds of winning, but so do the various obstacles put in their place including, but not limited to, a pair of bikini-clad crossbow-wielding women on roller skates. You probably thought Live was looking like a serious movie didn’t you.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Let’s just get this out of the way right up front. Yes, Zombeavers is about zombie-beavers. No, they don’t look even the slightest bit realistic. Yes, you’re still going to love this movie anyway. Three sorority sisters head to a remote cabin by a lake for a girls weekend away from the boys. The trip was motivated by the recent revelation that Jenn’s (Lexi Atkins) boyfriend cheated on her with an unknown skank leading Mary (Rachel Melvin) to organize the weekend to help her friend heal. Zoe (Cortney Palm) is just along for the ride and the possibility of a full-body tan. Their plans are interrupted by two types of mammals. First, their boyfriends arrive looking to set up camp in the girls’ vaginas, and then the undead beavers show up looking for food. So yes, it essentially follows the old horror trope about the dangers of young people mixing wood and beavers.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. The country is in disarray after a financial collapse. Which country isn’t exactly important, but judging by the accents and locations on display let’s go with the United States of Middle Eastern South Africa. Criminal syndicates run rampant while neutered and frequently bribed police struggle to keep them in check, and the biggest victims are also the smallest as child sex trafficking becomes the crime du jour. Into this societal morass comes a waif-like girl in the violent grip of a clearly malicious thug. Her name is Sawa (India Eisley), and after blowing out the back of the guy’s head with an exploding bullet she continues on her way up the food chain of evil deeds looking for the man at the top, the man responsible for her parents’ murder, the man she is intent on killing. Along for the ride are her father’s ex-partner (Samuel L. Jackson) and a homeless teen (Callan McAuliffe) who taught himself parkour. Kite, based on an anime from 1998, is a post-apocalyptic and mostly generic mash-up of The Professional and Léon, and before you say “But Rob, those are the same movie” rest assured that I know they’re the same movie. This film takes the former’s central conceit of a young girl’s thirst for revenge assisted by an adult and mixes it with the more sexualized latter film that was deemed too challenging for American audiences. Granted, it’s […]

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Fantasia

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Reiji (Tôma Ikuta) is not a good cop. Not only did he score the lowest in the police academy’s history, but the citizens he’s serviced have had nothing but complaints about his lack of work ethic and unprofessional behavior. The latest incident — one that leads him to defend and qualify his own level of perviness as compared to real criminals — ends in his long overdue dismissal from the force. But as that door closes a new window opens, and Reiji jumps right through. In a manner of speaking. His boss, in collaboration with Japan’s version of the DEA, want him to go undercover in the yakuza, specifically with the Sukiya-kai gang, to discover the source of a deadly new street drug and arrest the man at the top. It won’t be easy, but if there’s one man for the job it most definitely isn’t Reiji. Unfortunately, he’s all they have and the only one seemingly capable of passing their tests. The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji is a mouthful of a title, but it’s worth opening up and taking it in as the film is easily Takashi Miike‘s most purely entertaining movie in thirteen years. With a sharp script, great performances and just the right amount and kind of cartoonish antics the film manages to be incredibly funny, wildly engaging and a bonkers feast for the eyes that riffs beautifully on the […]

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Pathe

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Jacky (Vincent Lacoste) is just like every other guy in the Kingdom of Bubunne. He’s uneducated, forced to wear a burka-like outfit every day and is entirely subservient to women. The ladies rule the land by force and tradition and make up the entirety of the military and government all the way up to the General who is in complete charge. Men can be performers of course, but their duty is in household chores meaning the best they can hope for is to have one of the many powerful women take their leash — take them as their own in marriage — and become the head of their own household. But Jacky’s dreams go beyond finding a strong and successful woman to settle down with as he has his eyes and heart set on the General’s daughter (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who’s next in line to rule the kingdom and currently searching for a husband. The competition is stiff (see pic above), but with love and a whore of a revolutionary uncle on his side he just might stand a chance. Jacky in the Kingdom of Women is, quite obviously, a satirical take on gender politics, and it hits its target more often than not with humor that runs the gamut from biting to broad to scatological. It’s as far from subtlety as it is from reality, but the gags still work throughout. Unfortunately, it […]

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amityvillecb

Editor’s note: This review was originally featured as part of our Fantasia Fest 2012 coverage (and later during Fantastic Fest), but now it’s out in limited release and on VOD, so we’re bringing it back for a third time. We’ve all seen The Amityville Horror, or at least we all should have by now. I highly recommend correcting any possible woeful oversights on your part in this regard. Those who have seen it are most likely aware that the film was based on a true story. The Lutz family moved into a house in Amityville, a suburb on Long Island, in 1975. The house was rather affordable largely due to its sinister history. The previous owners of the house were the DeFeo’s. A little over a year before the Lutz family moved in, Ronnie DeFeo shot and killed six members of his family in a brutal massacre that still haunts the local community. Shortly after they arrive, the Lutz family experience a series of unexplained events that seem to suggest a paranormal presence. Twenty-eight days later they flee the house, leaving all personal belongings behind. Later they would come forward and make their story public, a movie based on their experiences is produced and would go on to be a horror classic. Over time however, aspersions have been cast on the validity of the Lutz family’s story. A paranormal research team was unable to uncover anything strange in the home in the aftermath of the Lutz exodus, and none of the […]

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Fantastic Fest: Cold Steel

Editor’s note: This film was originally featured as part of our Fantasia Fest 2012 coverage, but it’s also playing Fantastic Fest, so we’re bringing it back. Mu, a young hunter with a staggering talent behind the eyepiece of a sniper rifle, saves an American pilot shot down by the Japanese in WWII-era China. When he returns to his village with his wounded new friend, he finds a trio of Chinese soldiers stirring up trouble in the local tea house and insulting the lovely widowed owner; something he cannot abide. His intervening actions land him on a prisoner transport, but when that transport is attacked by Japanese snipers, Mu demonstrates his lethal abilities to get them out of their dangerous predicament. He is immediately given a choice: enlist or be shot. Assigned to an elite sharpshooting corps, Mu becomes a local hero for his valor and the success rate of his team’s missions. This however also lands him in the crosshairs of a ruthless Japanese sniper. Cold Steel, in a rifle shell, is an affable wartime actioner reminiscent of, but certainly not beholden to, Enemy at the Gates. It was directed by long-time editor/John Woo collaborator David Wu, whose similarity in sensibilities hits you right between the eyes…particularly in the action department.

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Montreal’s Fantasia Fest has one of the most gargantuan lineups of genre titles of any film festival in the world. Its diverse roster of foreign and domestic crowd-pleasers is an absolute marvel, and we’ve been covering it with gusto. Today, we bring you a selection of these films in a capsule format we like to call the 3-View. This time around we’ve got two period martial arts films and a classic, if maybe a touch underseen, 70s ghost story starring Mia Farrow. Just think of it as a Mia Farrow sandwich. Oh, and could someone please get Mia Farrow a sandwich?

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Jackpot Film Review

Oscar is having a bad day. When we first meet him, he’s lying underneath a massive woman clutching a shotgun at a strip club full of corpses. The police are obviously curious as to his connection with all this death and destruction. As Oscar sits in the interrogation room of the police station, he relays a bizarre tale of soccer betting winnings, of gangsters, and of murder. Is Oscar a liar, a killer, or just completely out of his mind? More and more, the collected nations of Scandinavia are proving to have an unparalleled mastery of the crime film. Whether it be a brutal descent into the depths of human ugliness like Sweden’s Millennium Trilogy or something intricately tense and darkly comedic like Norway’s Headhunters, it’s gotten to the point that the assemblage of the words Scandinavian and crime film are enough to heighten many a film geek’s excitement and expectation. Sharp as a concealed knife, and dripping with black comedy, Jackpot proudly takes it place beside the best of this budding new wave of rule-breaker cinema from the north of Europe.

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The Starship Troopers franchise is a bizarre animal. Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 original was overlooked by many as a bloody sci-fi blockbuster; little more than dull buggery. Point of fact, Starship Troopers is, true to Verhoeven form, a biting satire that takes skillful aim at the military industrial complex, fascism, and the price of patriotism. It is a film that is actually far smarter than a cursory glance would reveal. It is also far too good a film to suffer the indignities of two middling to poor direct-to-video sequels. However, the third film in the series did have the distinction of being directed by effects icon Phil Tippett, to date his only feature film. Starship Troopers 3: Marauder also brought back Johnny Rico himself, Casper Van Dien. For this fourth film, Van Dien is now a producer and the series has ventured into animated territory. Japanese director Shinji Aramaki brings us the story of a requisitioned spacecraft, a treacherous, but familiar member of the Federation, and more of the beloved insect carnage we’ve come to expect. It’s hard not to lower one’s expectations for a fourth film within a franchise, particularly when dealing with an entirely new medium. However, Starship Troopers: Invasion manages to maintain one of the progenitor film’s principle strengths: action. The action sequences here are intense, well-edited, and impressive. The computer-generated animation style proves to be of major benefit to these sequences as the bugs have full range of motion and their speed is perfectly frightening. Aramaki obviously […]

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Starship Troopers Invasion

Citizens, prepare yourselves for an all new onset of bug attacks. This is not a drill. After three feature films, it turns out there is still more violent man-on-insect combat to explore within the Starship Troopers universe. An all new animated feature, Starship Troopers: Invasion, enjoyed its North American premiere at this year’s Fantasia Film Fest. A full review is brewing, but in the meantime, who better to introduce the movie and talk about the inner workings of this fourth installment of the franchise than Johnny Rico himself, Casper Van Dien. Though not lending his voice to the antecedent Rico in ST:I, Van Dien did serve as a producer on the film. His intro was certainly lively and drew raucous reactions from Starship Trooper fans. Would you like to know more? Check out the video below:

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Toad Road - Fantasia

Toad Road is an urban legend; a mythic trail residing in the woods of York, Pennsylvania. It is said to house the seven gates leading to hell, and any unfortunate pedestrian traveling this path at night will travel through each gate individually. Sarah (Sarah Joelle Hildebrand) is fascinated by this myth upon hearing of its existence from her new boyfriend James. Point of fact, Sarah has been experiencing many new things thanks to her new beau; not the least of which being a veritable buffet of hard drugs. She gets it into her head that sucking down a narcotic cocktail and traipsing into these woods after dark will allow her to achieve a higher form of consciousness. Unfortunately, like many ideas one concocts while in an altered state, her plan goes horribly awry. There is a perception in certain circles that films made by those who attend film school are inherently smarter, more artful, and requiring of a more refined palate to appreciate. While there certainly are films that fall under this distinction, the danger of that mentality is that it gives rise to a wave of lackluster fluff masquerading under these intellectual pretenses. Enter Toad Road, which had its world premiere at Fantasia Fest. Toad Road is an empty vessel, a thinly-veiled metaphor explored a hundred times before with nowhere near as much new to bring to the table as it desperately believes it possesses. Oh, really, delving into drug addiction is similar to descending into hell? How novel.

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Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) is as regular a guy. He goes to work everyday, at an office from which he was fired months before and where it rains indoors all day. He has a best friend who is moving away in order to drive to the edge of the world. One morning Dolph wakes up to find his dog is missing. To distract himself from the anxiety, he calls a new pizza place and inquires at length about the metaphoric accuracy of the logo. It’s about this time that his gardener informs him that the tree in his backyard has impishly transformed itself from a palm tree to an evergreen. Soon after that, he meets Master Chang, a spiritual and self-help guru who believes in pet telepathy. Tired old story, right? Wrong! However, anyone who has seen Rubber knows this is par for the course when it comes to Quentin Dupieux. His films are experiments in unbridled absurdity. The man crafted an entire film around the conceit of a sentient tire who kills people via telepathy. As if that weren’t enough weird for one movie, he also created a bizarre Greek chorus that both observed and commented on the actions of said tire; breaking the fourth wall at will and lending a self-aware vibe to the insanity. Obviously, this kind of abandon of traditional narrative, as well as all semblance of logic, is a recipe for a limited fanbase. Understandably, Dupieux is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I loving […]

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What often defines me as a writer, much to the chagrin of certain members of the intellectual old guard, is that I approach bargain basement genre films with the same enthusiasm and critical eye as I would something from Godard, Bergman, or Kurosawa. There is merit to be found in almost any film, and where there is not–even when judged within distinctive criteria–is when a movie has truly failed. This passion for all things celluloid, for a wider palate of films that would have someone more traditionally academic than myself expectorating with disdain, appears to be one of the core principles upon which the Fantasia Film Fest was founded. This year, the Montreal-based festival’s sixteenth in existence, Fantasia opted to construct an event that perfectly encapsulates this love for obscure cinema and packages it in the most artistically adept fashion possible. Dave Alexander, editor-in-chief of Rue Morgue magazine, assembled a bloody handful of some of Canada’s most notable genre filmmakers and paired them with a cadre of the nation’s top illustrators/designers to bring us If They Came From Within. This gallery featured a host of incredible posters, and even a few props, that supposed an entire alternate history of Canadian genre films. It was like walking through an exhibit of awe-inspiring drive-in art from a museum, and more to the point a drive-in, that never existed. The names culled to help conceive of these bloodcurdling and beautiful works of art should be eerily familiar to readers of this site. Names […]

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A Little Bit Zombie

Steve and Tina are about to get married, a prospect that gravely disturbs Steve’s sister who–in addition to being married to Steve’s best friend–thinks Tina is as right for him as an angry hornet’s nest is for a family picnic. Much in that same vein, Steve thinks it wise to take the quartet to the family cabin for the weekend so everyone can learn to play nice. Adding to the incredibly tense proceedings is a mosquito who managed to feed on a walking corpse a few miles over. You see, a pair of expert zombie hunters were just wrapping up the last loose ends of an undead carnival when the pesky insect sneaked a bite and made his way over to the cabin. The mosquito bites Steve several times, and soon he begins showing the classic tell-tale signs of zombism. But can this nice-guy zombie be cured?

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