Every summer The Fantasia International Film Festival brings a dizzying array of fascinating films to Montreal. Last year, its line-up boasted the zombie-stuffed holiday musical Anna and the Apocalypse, the polarizing LA noir Under The Silver Lake, the self-explanatory The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot, and a wild rom-com musical called LOUDER! Can’t Hear What You’re Singin,’ Wimp!. Which means, it’s hard to predict what is coming to Fantasia, beyond something deliciously out there!
For the festival’s 23rd anniversary, Fantasia will boast a line-up of 130 feature films. And while the full schedule will be unveiled in July, we’ve got the first wave right now. All synopses courtesy of the Fantasia press team.
Let’s kick things off with the spotlighted titles:
KILLERMAN - Dir. Malik Bader
A full-throttle knockout crime thriller about dirty cops and dirtier mobsters starring Liam Hemsworth (THE HUNGER GAMES series), Emory Cohen (LORDS OF CHAOS), Diane Guerrero (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK), Nickola Shreli (CASH ONLY), and the great Zlatco Buric (Refn’s PUSHER trilogy), produced by Myles Nestel (WHEELMAN), KILLERMAN is an absorbing, gripping, and exciting look at the underworld, standing as further proof that Bader is one of modern crime cinema’s most ferocious rising talents.
ASTRONAUT - Dir. Shelagh McLeod
Lonely widower Angus (a phenomenal Richard Dreyfuss) battles his family, ill health, and time to win a competition for a golden ticket to space. The debut feature of actor Shelagh McLeod (PEAK PRACTICE), ASTRONAUT (North American Premiere) is a rarity in movies these days: a fairy tale with both feet in reality. Featuring a supporting cast that includes Colm Feore (THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY), Graham Greene (WIND RIVER), Krista Bridges (NARC), and Art Hindle (THE BROOD), ASTRONAUT is a work of genuine hope and inspiration for dreamers of all ages. Fantasia is proud to be presenting the film’s first screening on the continent, following its launch at the 2019 Edinburgh Film Festival.
IDOL - Dir. Lee Su-jin
After winning an Audience Award at Fantasia 2014 and earning praise on the festival circuit with his debut feature HAN GONG-JU, writer-director Lee Su-jin returns with a complex and fascinating psychological thriller recalling the very best Korean revenge movies. He teams up with the sublime Chun Woo-hee (THE WAILING), masterfully portraying a Chinese immigrant sought by a popular politician and a humble worker after a tragic accident, of which she is the only witness. An official selection at this year’s Berlinale, IDOL (North American Premiere) is a bold, bloody and engaging work that captivates with both narrative and visual prowess.
PHANTOM OF WINNIPEG - Dir. Malcolm Ingram and Sean Stanley
Just about everyone adores Brian De Palma’s 1974 glam rock comedy horror musical classic PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. That wasn’t always so. Upon release, the film landed with a thud and quickly disappeared from screens everywhere - except for in the small and frigid Canadian city of Winnipeg, where local kids (shockingly between the ages of 9-13) turned the film into an enduring phenomenon with local box office grosses larger than JAWS! PHANTOM OF WINNIPEG (World Premiere) tells the story of the unique outsider fan community that sprung up around the film. It’s an exploration of the very DNA of fan culture itself told via the true-life stories of those fateful Winnipeg kids who just got it and the cast and creative team behind the original film who saw it all go down first-hand. Filmmakers Malcolm Ingram and Sean Stanley have spent years making this affectionate and wonderful doc, and Fantasia’s proud-as-Phoenix to be showcasing its long-coming World Premiere.
CRITTERS ATTACK! - Dir. Bobby Miller
The first feature-length CRITTERS film in 27 years will be landing in Montreal for its inaugural appearance on Earth, unleashing waves of adorably grotesque monsters and mayhem. Directed by Fantasia favorite Bobby Miller (THE CLEANSE), written by Scott Lobdell (HAPPY DEATH DAY) and featuring a cast that includes Tashiana Washington (SKATE KITCHEN), Ava Preston (RUSTY RIVERS), Jack Fulton, and Jaeden Noel (ODD SQUAD), along with the adored Dee Wallace (E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL) making a welcome return to the franchise, the world premiere of CRITTERS ATTACK! shoots to thrill with old school prosthetic creatures and a whole lot of rambunctious chaos.
THE GANGSTER, THE COP, THE DEVIL - Dir. Lee Won-tae
A mob boss who is the victim of a random attempted murder and a detective determined to collar him by any means necessary must team up to stop a far-too-prolific serial killer. Acclaimed at Cannes 2019 and screening as part of Fantasia’s Action! section lineup, THE GANGSTER, THE COP, THE DEVIL is an electrifying action thriller that roars full-throttle until its very last frame! With chases of all kinds, brutal fights, incisive dialogue tinged with black humour, and pitch-perfect performances by a seasoned cast, led by the charismatic Don Lee (TRAIN TO BUSAN), writer-director Lee Won-tae (MAN OF WILL) has created nothing less than the ultimate Summer blockbuster.
8 - Dir. Harold Holscher
As South African cinema continues its inspired wave of genre creations following the brilliant NUMBER 37 (jury award winner for Best Director at last summer’s festival) and FIVE FINGERS FOR MARSEILLES, the time has come for a work of full-fledged folkloric horror. Steeped in themes of death and transfiguration - and evocative in ways of Richard Stanley’s Namibian occult classic DUST DEVIL - Harold Holscher’s 8 (World Premiere) drips with dreamy atmosphere and a vivid sense of iconography that will cast a spell on you from its chilling opening frames. The mysticism at the film’s core is made frighteningly tangible through the strength of its compelling screenplay and performances, giving heightened uncanny flight through inspired aesthetics.
Door Lock - Dir. Lee Kwon
Actress Kong Hyo-Jin (CRUSH AND BLUSH) returns to the Fantasia screen in this nail-biting thriller deeply rooted in the female experience, deftly portraying a woman accustomed to hostility and dismissal who must rise up to defend herself. Directed by Lee Kwon, this South Korean remake of Jaume Balageuro’s SLEEP TIGHT (a 2012 jury award winner at Fantasia) recently won the Thriller Prize at the 2019 Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival and will be coming to Montreal for its North American bow.
Wretched - Dirs. Brett and Drew Pierce
L.A.-based filmmaking brothers Brett and Drew Pierce (DEADHEADS) have taken things to the proverbial next level with the grisly occult thrill ride THE WRETCHED (World Premiere), the story of a teenager who realizes that he’s living next door to an ageless, undying horror that threatens all he holds dear. The film is a dead serious new spin on witchcraft cinema, with a fresh set of rules, likeable and developed teen characters, a ton of surprising scares, and a cauldron of imaginatively gruesome special makeup effects. THE WRETCHED stars John-Paul Howard (Hell or High Water), Piper Curda (I DIDN’T DO IT), Azie Tesfai (Supergirl), and Kevin Bigley (Netflix’s Upload).
CHIWAWA - Dir. Ken Ninomiya
When the dismembered body of Chiwawa is found in Tokyo Bay, her friends try to solve the living riddle she became by remembering the relentless and self-destructive quest for love and attention that led her to such a tragic demise. With sincere performances by its young cast and international stars Chiaki Kuriyama (KILL BILL VOL. 1) and Tadanobu Asano (Marvel’s THOR), the supercharged music-video style of writer-director Ken Ninomiya’s CHIWAWA (North American Premiere) is an unforgettable feast for the senses that, like its title character, will surely fascinate and seduce. Adapted from Kyoko Okazaki’s cult manga.
RIOT GIRLS - Dir. Jovanka Vuckovic
Scratch (BATES MOTEL’s Paloma Kwiatkowski) and her girlfriend Nat (JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE’s Madison Iseman) fend for themselves with a band of friends and family in an alternative, mid-’90s, post-apocalyptic world in which the adult population has been decimated by a deadly plague. The hotly-anticipated debut feature from genre iconoclast Jovanka Vuckovic (XX, THE CAPTURED BIRD, Rue Morgue Magazine), co-starring Munro Chambers (Degrassi, TURBO KID) and scripted by Catherine Collins (Netflix’s Lost in Space), RIOT GIRLS (North American Premiere) is a triumphant love letter to teenage misfits everywhere.
HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD - Dir. Kim Bora
Acclaimed by critics and audiences at the prestigious Berlin, Tribeca, and Busan film festivals, award-winning HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD (Canadian Premiere) offers a potent coming-of-age story in which each tiny detail enriches the narrative and its characters. With this phenomenal first work, Kim Bora immerse the audience in the stormy daily life of a teenager - excellently portrayed by Park Ji-hu (THE WITNESS) - who learns how stay standing in a post-dictatorial Korea still rooted in traditional patriarchal values. Thanks to a skillfully reconstructed socio-historic context, majestic photography, and direction bordering on perfect, HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD is truly one of the best films of the year.
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WKND - Dir. Jon Mikel Caballero
Having previously set afire to Fantasia’s screens with the shorts HIBERNATION (2012) and CENIZO (2016), which together went on to win no less than 55 awards on the festival circuit, Spanish writer/director Jon Mikel Caballero returns to Montreal with his feature debut: THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WKND (North American Premiere) - a moving and unique genre work in which a woman falls into a timeloop that forces her to repeatedly relive the day of a sudden break-up, with each repetition running shorter than the last. She’s experiencing a countdown… and time is running out. Winner for Best Director and Best Screenplay at the 2019 Fant Bilbao Film Festival and praised by none other than J.A. Bayona (THE ORPHANAGE, JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM).
WE ARE LITTLE ZOMBIES! - Dir. Makoto Nagahisa
Thirteen-year-olds Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi, and Takemura meet by chance at a crematorium. All four have lost their parents in absurd circumstances and suffer from the same startling problem: the inability to feel any emotion. Faced with uncertain futures, the group soon mutates into a surrogate family: a viral J-pop band which might just challenge their deadening malaise! The debut feature by Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winner Makoto Nagahisa amazes with its utterly delirious, maximalist pop sensibility - located somewhere between the live-action cinema of Hideaki Anno, Wes Anderson, and stylings of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, as filtered through 8-bit videogame culture. Following knockout screenings at this year’s Sundance and Berlinale, WE ARE LITTLE ZOMBIES (which co-stars Rinko Kikuchi and Sosuke Ikematsu) will celebrate its Canadian Premiere at Fantasia.
BRUCE MCDONALD’S DREAMLAND - Dir. Bruce McDonald
On the night of the strangest wedding in cinema history, a grotesque gang boss (the inimitable Henry Rollins) hires a stone-cold killer (the equally inimitable Stephen McHattie) to bring him the finger of a fading, drug-addicted jazz legend (also played by McHattie). Did we mention the vampire? BRUCE MCDONALD’S DREAMLAND reunites the Canadian indie filmmaker hero with much of his PONTYPOOL team, bringing Juliette Lewis and Tómas Lemarquis along for the ride. Fantasia is proud to be presenting this jazzy, darkly comic, and utterly offbeat film’s North American Premiere after a riotous launch at the Brussels Fantastic Film Festival.
In the CAMERA LUCIDA section, which is dedicated to “boundary-pushing, auteur-driven works of genre, and genre-adjacent cinema”:
JESUS SHOWS YOU THE WAY TO THE HIGHWAY - Dir. Miguel Llanso
His highly anticipated follow-up to CRUMBS (Camera Lucida 2015) - CIA agents Palmer and Gagano are tasked with the perilous mission of destroying “The Soviet Union”! As they enter the system using a VR simulation, their mission quickly turns into a delirious trap far more complex than expected, as the fabric of reality starts unraveling around them. A cornucopia of stylistic influences, virtuosic cinematic techniques, and set design (ranging from stop-motion animation to stylized live-action), Llanso’s latest blends inter-dimensional intrigue, spy-fi, kung-fu, and Philip K. Dick-esque mind-melting weirdness to achieve truly unclassifiable results. North American Premiere.
ODE TO NOTHING - Dir. Dwein Baltazar
Sonya - an old maid stuck in a town that long ceased to recognize her existence - sees a dead body arrive at the footsteps of her family-owned funeral shop. Bringing forth strange luck and fortune, she instantly gets drawn to the corpse’s mystique… NEKROMANTIK by way of A GHOST STORY, Dwein Baltazar’s powerful meditation on loneliness, small-town alienation, and the soothing ineluctability and omnipresence of death is one of the strangest, boldest and most captivating films to emerge from the Philippines this year - and a Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay winner at QCinema. North American Premiere.
MAGGIE - Dir. Yi Okseop
When a scandal erupts around two people having sex in the X-ray room of her hospital, nurse Yoon-young’s (2018’s Busan Actress of the Year winner Lee Joo-young) world is turned upside down. Meanwhile, strange sinkholes start appearing all over the city, her relationship with her slacker boyfriend falls apart, and what’s with the chatty pet catfish one patient left behind? Yi Okseop’s infinitely charming and unpredictable MAGGIE (Canadian Premiere) unfolds as a series of quirky interconnected vignettes pushing the possibilities of screenwriting forward, and interrogating the mysteries of the universe, the nature of trust, and the (inevitable?) wearing-down of relationships.
KNIVES AND SKIN - Dir. Jennifer Reeder
This hypnotic festival sensation (an official selection at this year’s Berlinale and Tribeca, among others), follows the investigation of a young girl’s disappearance in a stylized version of a rural Midwest town that hovers just above and beyond reality: a TWIN PEAKS riff by way Reeder’s inimitably dreamy style, aiming to deconstruct the oppressive sheen of the All-American teen movie, and experience. In this psychedelic quasi-noir, the backdrop of shared trauma colors quintessential teenage rituals (choir rehearsals, end-of-year dances, adolescent courtships, and other football games), opening as many unknowable portals and opportunities for the loss of innocence. Quebec Premiere.
Fantasia’s Action! section will include:
NO MERCY - Dir. Lim Kyoung-tack
Former martial arts champion Inae takes things into her own hands when her little sister goes missing. By way of rough, tough interrogation, she discovers that the group of schoolgirls who bullied her sister have forced her into an awful situation involving petty criminals, pawnbrokers, pimps, and more. South Korean cinema has certainly cornered the market in visceral revenge thrillers loaded with action - and filmmaker’s Lim Kyoung-tack’s (KILLER TOONS) latest is firmly set in this tradition, led by a world-class action-movie heroine in the vein of 2017’s THE VILLAINESS. North American Premiere
THE FABLE - Dir. Kan Eguchi
This is equal parts slam-bang action thriller, lurid Yakuza melodrama, and off-kilter dark comedy filled with JOHN WICK-esque gun fu. And like its antihero, the whole thing is a bit confounding, but totally cool with it. Based on Katsuhisa Minami’s award-winning manga series, Kan Eguchi’s live-action adaptation gives center stage to Junichi Okada (LIBRARY WARS, IT COMES), whose knack for deadpan comedy, packed with wit and pathos, comes in handy when otherwise preoccupied charting a death-dealing sociopath’s uncertain stumble toward normalcy. Quebec Premiere.
THE PREY - Dir. Jimmy Henderson
Prisoners become human prey for rich hunters looking for thrills in the Cambodian jungle. Thrown in with a mix of crooks and killers out to survive in any way possible, Chinese cop Xin (newcomer Gu Shangwei) must outrun his hunters before he becomes a human trophy. Tough, trained, he’s ready to fight, and he just needs to find his way out of this before they find him. Inspired by Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, Jimmy Henderson and the team behind the 2017 Fantasia hit JAILBREAK continue their winning streak of rock-solid, high-quality action on a modest budget. Canadian Premiere.
Fantasia’s Axis section is dedicated to envelope-pushing animation. This year, it honors:
AWAY - Dir. Gints Zilbalodis
The closing credits of the thoughtful, fascinating Latvian fantasy-adventure AWAY (North American Premiere) are only the words “A Film by Gints Zilbalodis.” For his first feature, the 25-year-old handled literally every aspect: screenplay, design, CG animation, even the effective musical score. The result is sparse, archetypal tale-for-all-ages, imbued with a mesmerizing yet unsettling energy and frequent moments of wonder.
SHE - Dir. Zhou Shengwei
This startling stop-motion fairy-tale is a scissor-sharp indictment of the patriarchal-industrial complex, constructed entirely out of clothing and common objects. Composed of almost 60,000 photographs and over a half-decade in the making, SHE is an inspired, one-of-a-kind creation, its bravado art direction, eruptive color scheme, and unsettling, onomatopoeic sound design certain to stain the memory of anyone daring enough to dive in. Canadian Premiere.
SON OF THE WHITE MARE - Dir. Marcell Jankovics
A liberated pastiche of epic poem and ancient tales, informed by folk-art motifs, pop psychedelia, and an abundance of profound symbolism, SON OF THE WHITE MARE (1981) is the most admired work of award-winning, pioneering Hungarian animator Marcell Jankovics. Now that the dedicated crew at Arbelos Films have restored its glory directly from camera negatives, Fantasia is thrilled to re-introduce this marvel from a living legend of the craft. WORLD PREMIERE OF RESTORATION
Other First Wave Titles:
21st CENTURY GIRL. Japan - Dir. Various
This joyful omnibus film from emerging female filmmakers brings together 15 shorts on the theme of gender and intimacy, and includes new work by Yoko Yamanaka (AMIKO), Aya Igashi (A CRIMSON STAR), and Ū-ki Yamato (DROWNING LOVE). Official Selection: Tokyo International Film Festival 2018. North American Premiere.
COME TO DADDY. Canada/New Zealand/Ireland/USA - Dir. Ant Timpson
Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, and Martin Donovan star in this inventively genre-bending thrill ride that begins as a quirky comedy about an estranged family attempting a reconnection and soon shifts onto freakier and far, far bloodier sideroads than you’ll ever see coming. The feature directorial debut of producer/curator/superhero Ant Timpson (TURBO KID, DEATHGASM). Official Selection: Tribeca Film Festival 2019, Overlook Film Festival 2019, Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival 2019. Canadian Premiere.
DACHRA. Tunisia - Dir. Abdelhamid Bouchnak
A group of journalism students discover a hidden tribal society that has cultivated a way of life brimming with ancient practices and beliefs, rituals and blood. Tunisia’s first genre film is a nerve-shredding bear trap of horror cinema. Official Selection: Venice Film Festival (Critics’ Week) 2018, Fantastic Fest 2018, Göteborg Film Festival 2019, Imagine Film Festival 2019. Canadian Premiere.
DARLIN’. USA - Dir. Pollyanna McIntosh
A wild child slowly adjusts to “civilized” society, where the human monsters lurk under cover of church vestments. The sequel to OFFSPRING and THE WOMAN, actor Pollyanna McIntosh herself takes on the writing/directing reins, and adds an extra vivid flavour to this series’ cannibal-horror stew. Official Selection: SXSW 2019, What The Fest?! 2019. Canadian Premiere.
DEPRAVED. USA - Dir. Larry Fessenden
Celebrated New York auteur Larry Fessenden’s first film NO TELLING was subtitled THE FRANKENSTEIN COMPLEX, and now he tackles a more direct modern adaptation of Mary Shelley’s timeless tale. As always, Fessenden finds a distinctly personal way to shape classic themes, this time by telling the story from the point of view of the “monster.” Official selection: What The Fest?! 2019, Overlook Film Festival 2019. Sydney Film Festival 2019. Canadian Premiere.
EXTRA ORDINARY. Ireland/Belgium - Dir. Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman
Maeve Higgins and Will Forte star in this exhilaratingly funny and inventive instant classic about a driving instructor with paranormal sensitivities matching wits against a fizzled rock star looking to renew a Satanic pact. The festival is very proud that EXTRA ORDINARY came out of its own Frontières market. Official Selection: SXSW 2019, Melbourne International Film Festival 2019, Overlook 2019. Winner of the Silver Raven at the 2019 Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. Canadian Premiere.
FLY ME TO THE SAITAMA. Japan - Dir. Hideki Takeuchi
A young man from Tokyo and a Saitama-born American exchange student develop a fierce rivalry based on caricatural suburban feuds, which turns into uncontrollable attraction. Hideki Takeuchi (THERMAE ROMAE) returns to zany, anachronistic fantasy with this Monty Python-esque adaptation of a classic manga from 1982. Official Selection: Udine Far East Film Festival 2019. Quebec Premiere.
G AFFAIRS. Hong Kong - Dir. Lee Cheuk-Pan
Heads will roll in this twisty, sordid thriller: a highly stylized portrait of contemporary Hong Kong where criminality, real estate crises, corruption, and conspiracy intertwine via words starting with “G” - the key to it all. Co-starring Chapman To. Official Selection: Hong Kong International Film Festival 2019. Canadian Premiere.
THE ISLAND OF CATS. Japan - Dir. Mitsuaki Iwago
The only constant in life is change, even for elderly Daikichi and his friends — human and otherwise — on a small, idyllic island far from Tokyo. A pure moment of calm and beauty, this light-hearted, sweet-natured slice-of-life dramedy is loaded with loveable characters — human and otherwise. Quebec Premiere
LITTLE MONSTERS. Australia/UK/USA - Dir. Abe Forsythe
A washed-up musician teams up with a teacher and a kid’s show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies in this hilarious crowd-pleaser starring Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad, and Stephen Peacocke and from the director of DOWN UNDER. Official Selection: Sundance 2019, SXSW 2019, Calgary Underground Film Festival 2019. Quebec Premiere.
THE MOON IN THE HIDDEN WOODS. South Korea - Dir. Takahiro Umehara
A princess and a musician confront marvels and monsters as fate shakes the world… and the heavens above! This is an exquisite animated blend of steampunk, Korean folk styles, and otherworldy fantasy peppered with innovative ideas and dazzling visual delights. Quebec Premiere.
SATANIC PANIC. USA - Dir: Chelsea Stardust
Get ready for a blood-splattered throwback to the days when cultists devoted to the horned one were all over theater screens, updated with a knowing sense of humor by Fangoria and screenwriter/best-selling author Grady Hendrix (MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM), from a story he wrote with Ted Geoghegan (WE ARE STILL HERE). Starring Hayley Griffith, Rebecca Romijn, Jordan Ladd, Jerry O’Connell, and AJ Bowen. Official Selection: Overlook Film Festival 2019, Cinepocalypse 2019. International Premiere.
SONS OF DENMARK. Denmark - Dir. Ulaa Salim
A radicalized teenage Muslim in Copenhagen trains to assassinate a hate-mongering, far-right leader. Loaded, provocative, and disturbing, this first feature written and directed by Ulaa Salim depicts a vicious circle of violence from which no one escapes unscathed. Official Selection: Rotterdam International Film Festival 2019, Seattle International Film Festival 2019. Canadian Premiere.
SUPER DELUXE. India - Dir. Thiagarajan Kumararaja
During a single day in Chennai, four destinies become forever entwined in this crazy, ambitious, and deliberately overloaded slice of stylized contemporary Indian cinema, painting a cosmic fresco of absurd connections, coincidences, and delicious digressions! Special Screening.
TONE-DEAF. USA - Dir. Richard Bates Jr
The magic of Airbnb connects fed-up-with-everything millennial Olive (Amanda Crew) with angry-with-everything MAGA widower Henry (Robert Patrick). Sparks fly, along with a whole lot of witticisms — and blood — in this venomous black comedy from the director of EXCISION and TRASH FIRE, a different kind of “home invasion” film that functions as an eccentric snapshot of modern America’s cultural/political divides. Official Selection: SXSW 2019, Boston Underground Film festival 2019. International Premiere.
WHITE SNAKE. China - Dir. Amp Wong and Zhao Ji
The thousand-year-old folktale of the shape-shifting serpent sisters hatches anew in a gorgeous fantasy adventure that takes Chinese popular animation to unprecedented heights. Dazzling, thrilling, funny, romantic, even a bit spicy, WHITE SNAKE is guaranteed to charm! Canadian Premiere.
The 23rd Fantasia International Film Festival will be held in Montreal from July 11 to August 1.
What would you like to see Pajiba cover out of this Fantasia year’s line-up?
Image sources (in order of posting): Fantasia, Neon