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Fantasia 2017 Dispatch #1: ‘Dead Shack,’ ‘Brigsby Bear,’ and ‘Tokyo Ghoul’

Possibly no film festival suits our Sordid Cinema section better than Fantasia. Held every year in Montreal, this four-week showcase for imaginative indie genre films is like a wonderland for those who love their cinema of the late-night variety. What can we say? This festival just gets us, and this year we’re happy to be once again in attendance, seeing some of the craziest, most unique films from around the world – and the three films below certainly qualify.

Dead Shack

In Dead Shack, a family rents out a cabin for a weekend of fun, but their getaway becomes a life-and-death struggle with their sinister neighbour and her flock of zombies. With a logline like that nobody expects a French New Wave-caliber film, but unfortunately Dead Shack underwhelms, even by horror cinema’s lax standards.

With its synth-heavy score and wisecracking teenage leads, Dead Shack wants to create the feel of an R-rated Amblin film (picture the Stranger Things kids dropping F-bombs). The problem is that its characters don’t share the same camaraderie as Netflix’s beloved misfits. In Stranger Things, the heroes play D&D and enjoy each other’s company; in Dead Shack, they antagonize each other from beginning to end with snark. It’s not only that this crew barely get along – they’re flat-out unlikable, with behaviour ranging from irritating to obnoxious.

Dead Shack aims to be a foul-mouthed Stranger Things, but the film’s ambition exceeds its execution. Add in a few more scares and a lot less groan-worthy dad jokes, and Dead Shack could have been the best kind of B-movie kitsch. (Victor Stiff)

Brigsby Bear

There are some movies that can only be described with the word “offbeat,” and Brigsby Bear is undoubtedly one of those films. A strange but oddly endearing story about a man raised in captivity attempting to re-integrate into normal society and replicate the TV series made to keep him educated and entertained by his captors, Dave McCary’s first film certainly exists off the beaten track. It shares DNA with Napoleon Dynamite and Be Kind, Rewind, but still manages to be singular, and if any film has “cult following” written all over it, it’s this one. All of which is to say that you’ll either fall in love with it or just not get the joke. Either its brand of awkward, stammer-y humor is your jam, or it isn’t – sort of like how the poster will either have you curious and intrigued, or baffled and uncomfortable. If it’s the former, congrats: you have a new film to show to people as a litmus test to see if they share your comic sensibilities. (Thomas O’Connor)

Tokyo Ghoul

Bad adaptations have their earmarks, their identifiers; sometimes the only way to really recognize them is to watch something that manages to avoid them, as is the case with Tokyo Ghoul. Set in a present-day Tokyo where normal humans are preyed upon by cannibalistic, super-powered “ghouls,” the film centers on an awkward college student who finds new purpose when he becomes a half-ghoul. With a simple and straightforward narrative, well-defined stakes and characters, and a definitive beginning, middle, and end (which still leaves the door open for sequels), Tokyo Ghoul feels infinitely more coherent than many other live-action manga/anime adaptations. That the film only resorts to CGI when it absolutely has to – using wires, practical effects, and stuntwork wherever possible – also makes it a cracker of an action film, with interesting fight scenes full of character. The world the film inhabits may still feel like an overly morose dark fantasy edgefest, but it does enough right to endear itself despite its inherent silliness. (Thomas O’Connor)

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Our coverage will be continuing all throughout July, so be sure to get your genre kicks with even more Fantasia 2017 features and reviews right here!

FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL • JULY 13 – AUGUST 2, 2017
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