Due to the pandemic, last year international genre film festival Fantasia went virtual. Thanks to that, people who might not have been otherwise able to make the trek to Montreal were able to lay their eyes on some of the finest new and repertory cinema that the world has to offer. That’s happening again this year, and like our 2020 coverage, we hope to be able to help you sort through the slew of films on offer. To start with, Bryan, Liam, and I are going to run through some films which we think are must-sees as part of Fantasia 2021, which runs virtually from August 5-25. Much like last year, I’m kind of staggered by the sheer diversity of entertainment on array, and feel like I could just fixate on one subgenre for the entire fest and get a really solid schooling. What about you guys?
I’m thrilled to be back for Fantasia this year. While I know a virtual festival wasn’t what they had in mind for their 25th anniversary, it looks like Mitch Davis and company have again rolled with the punches and put together a very exciting slate of films. I’m particularly intrigued by some of the films coming from Japan (and a Japanese story coming from Brazil). Here are the ones to which I’m most looking forward:
Alien on Stage
A group of bus drivers in a small England town put on an adaption of Alien. Do I really need to say more? I love stories about DIY productions and this one looks like it’s going to be very sweet. I can’t wait to see how they pull off the chestburster scene!
All the Moons
The synopsis for this French/Spanish coproduction set in the late 19th century tells the story of a girl who “is rescued by a woman whom she perceives to be an angel, and who heals her wounds, while telling the girl she must now avoid the daylight.” And this apparently only addresses the first act. Yes. Please.
In this action comedy film from Japan, office in-fighting takes on a whole new meaning as we’re introduced to a business where cliques literally do battle with one another. This looks like a fun blend of Battle Royale and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I can’t wait to see how this one comes together.
The title alone for this one would be enough to make me want to check it out, but I’m even more intrigued to learn from the synopsis that the film’s setting, Sao Paulo, Brazil, is home to the largest Japanese diaspora in the world. I’ve already been digging some of the films I’ve seen from South America earlier this year, so I’m really excited how Brazilian and Japanese cultures blend in what should be a pretty intense action film.
Under the Open Sky
This movie looks like it’s going to be a much more subdued look at life in the yakuza, or I suppose more accurately life after the yakuza as we follow a former driver just released after over a decade in prison. I like the melancholic vibe I’m getting from what I’ve seen so far, and I’m very interested to see where it goes.
Despite being the Editor in Chief of this site since its inception, I have NEVER covered Fantasia for it (at least in writing). I have always done my Fantasia coverage for our friends over at Cinapse.co and so this opportunity to finally be one of our correspondents for what is undoubtedly one of the largest genre film fests in the world is super exciting. I will say though, I have a huge list of films I would like to cover, and not nearly enough time to do it all. Here is hoping I can even get these five done, let alone the 50 or so at this fest that look amazing.
Baby, Don’t Cry
“Baby, a withdrawn and sensitive 17-year-old Chinese immigrant from a troubled home, is living in the outskirts of Seattle. One day, she meets a 20-year-old delinquent named Fox. Together they embark on a twisted journey to escape their hopeless fate.” This is the first full length from director Jesse Dvorak but having caught a couple of his shorts at other festivals, I was very curious what he would do with this romantic drama. The star of this also wrote the script, but I will be honest, the immigrant specific setting of this troubled teen movie was a huge draw to me.
I could lie and say I was attracted to this Occult Horror film because first time feature director Mark O’Brien was so good in Ready or Not, as well as a variety of other memorable roles, but come on. Have you seen the poster for this thing? Any film bold enough to use that image to sell this is probably filled with the kind of bold and decisive film making to get under my skin. I am hoping for something here moreso unsettling than scary, and I think I am gonna win on it.
If you can watch the trailer below and not feel incurably intrigued, then you are wasting time reading any of my recommendations. This is my most anticipated of the fest.
When I Consume You
You know what movie I watched with almost no expectations that really fucked me up? They Look Like People, that film just caught me unaware, and really made mince meat of me emotionally. I am hoping for more of the same from Perry Blackshear here.
Mickey Reece is a director known for his romantic maximalism, a term that means basically nothing to me. I know these things though, one is that I watched his other film Climate of the Hunter twice in a row trying to figure it out, and while I was intrigued I dunno that I ever did. Second, I know the trailer for this film made me laugh and feel deeply uncomfortable, a combination i find very interesting. Looking forward to the weirdness of this one.
I’m aware that two of my five selections are repertory, but there’s something about the ability to see older films in a new context which makes me giddily excited. Additionally, I’m once again leaning into films for which the one-sentence premise is enough to make my eyebrows raise in curiosity and bring a smile to my face with their sheer audacity. A couple of these are just bonkers enough to have me bouncing in my seat with anticipation.
Tombs of the Blind Dead
Amando de Ossorio’s 1972 Porugeuse-Spanish horror film about zombie knights Templar is a longtime favorite of mine, and the premiere of Synapse Films’ new 4K restoration looks to bring an already visually stunning film some new fans. The creature design for the titular Blind Dead is perhaps the most terrifying zombie makeup ever put on screen, and the build toward the final terror is something for which you’re unprepared, no matter how many times you see it.
The live-action adaptation of the Junji Ito horror manga has long been something I’ve wanted to see, but never gotten around to. Now I’m glad that I’ve waited to see how the artist’s Lovecraftian madness was translated with yet another 4K restoration. The book’s a stone-cold classic, and the film itself has seem some reevaluation ahead of the impending Adult Swim anime adaptation, so Uzumaki is poised to have its swirling madness return once more.
The Deep House
You had me at “underwater haunted house.” Sure, there have been some undersea horrors over the years, with haunted submarines or a myriad of deep-sea threats, but this is literally about a “perfectly preserved mansion” at the bottom of lake. With found footage elements, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect, but the appeal of trying a new spin on two popular genre tropes at once has me eagerly awaiting what unspools onscreen.
Visual FX artist Phil Tippett has been working on this film off and on since he finished work on Robocop 2 in 1990. The trailer looks like absolute madness, with stop-motion which seems as though it stepped off of a metal album cover. The creator’s bonafides are 100%, but the sheer audacity and will required to make this happen are just as impressive as the visuals. I can easily see this as becoming the breakout feature of Fantasia.
A masked Mexican wrestler goes undercover to fight Nazi spies. And it’s a mockumentary. I should think that this speaks for itself, but it’s also in French and one of the stills sees the hero doing a Batman ’66 style rope climb up the side of a building, so I can only assume director Alain Vézina took this straight from my subconscious. The childlike anticipation I have for the absurdity of this one is impossible to put into words.