Fantasia Fest

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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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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
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