For the first time I have the opportunity to cover the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. Well, sort of. I’m covering it remotely, which is cool in one regard, because, comprised almost entirely of genre movies, it skews right into my wheelhouse. It’s one of the big film festivals I’ve most wanted to check out in my time on this beat, and while I won’t get to be there, boots on the ground, to hang out with a bunch of fine folks in person, I still have the chance to check out a ton of movies I’m rather jazzed to watch.
Because Fantasia is a film festival, and there tends to be quite a bit of crossover from one fest to the next, I’ve already seen a handful of these movies. (Also, some of these already received a U.S. release but not a Canadian one yet, which is how I’ve been able to catch them.)
To do a proper movies-I-want-to-see-at-Fantasia feature would take way too long—at last count, there were more than 60 titles on my must-see wish list. I can’t imagine I’ll get to them all. So instead, I’m going to revisit some of the movies I’ve already seen that, if you have the chance, I think are worth your time.
Maybe not the first Groundhog Day inspired horror film, but likely the strangest. This Swedish import tracks a pair of grief-stricken parents on a camping trip who have the misfortune to be repeatedly terrorized and murdered by a backwoods sideshow performer, his carney cronies, and their dogs. Twisted and brutal, this one leaves an indelible impression. I hummed the key song for weeks.
Director Lee Won-tae throws his hat into the dark, gritty South Korean crime drama ring with The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil, about a crime boss and police officer who reluctantly team up to catch a serial killer. Twisting, turning, and rife with double crosses, it’s slick and propulsive, and features yet another banger performance from Ma Dong-seok.
I admittedly don’t love Riley Stearns’ The Art of Self-Defense, though I appear to be in the minority with that opinion. The off-kilter black comedy about a milquetoast man (Jesse Eisenberg), who falls under the spell of a mysterious Karate sensei (Alessandro Nivola), does find it groove during the middle portion. While that didn’t save it for me, I’ve been thoroughly admonished for being wrong by numerous others.
FYI for those unaware, Yuen Woo-ping can stage the hell out of an action sequence. More a spin-off of the Ip Man saga than a true sequel, Master Z is a must for martial arts fans. Max Zhang stands out in the lead role, but considering he throws down with the likes of Michelle Yeoh and Dave Bautista, via Yuen’s masterful choreography, it’s all golden.
A long-lost Japanese oddity from the 1980s, The Legend of the Stardust Brothers watches like A Hard Day’s Night as seen through the dystopian lens of The Apple. Tracking a manufactured pop duo, this is banana-pants gonzo insanity of the highest order that nods to everything from Grease to the French New Wave.
Another film I don’t love, but that many others adore, Zhang Yimou’s Shadow watches like a near-black-and-white wuxia epic, with shades of Shakespearean power struggle thrown in for good measure. While it left me a bit cold, there’s no denying the visual acumen in play, and the result is lovely and grand.