With the Fantasia Film Festival only a week away, the anticipation amongst genre film fanatics in La Belle Province’s metropole is palpable— unbearable, one might say. Not quite as insufferable as the heatwave taking Canada by storm, but pretty darn close. Thankfully, as of August 5th, moviegoers will be able to cool off either in the comfort of their own homes or inside the gorgeous Imperial Cinema and watch some quality genre fare.
Speaking of anticipation and quality films, it feels like the right time to count down some movies of particular interest playing at this year’s edition just as the clock continues to count down until opening night. Here are, without further ado, the movies that we are most excited about.
A gritty revenge/thriller in a rural English town starring Neil Maskell (Kill List, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) hunting down mobsters who double-crossed him is exactly the kind of film that has me sold immediately. With its World Premiere at Fantasia this year in their Selection category (which already features some of the year’s best genre films like The Feast, Prisoners of the Ghostland, and Strawberry Mansion), Paul Andrew Williams’s Bull is sitting in good company and primed to be a standout.
Where Bull sounds the most promising is its casting of Maskell in the lead role, who has proven time and again to be an incredible actor that carries a measured fury, grief, and care (see Happy New Year, Colin Burstead for such an example). What initially reads as a standard British gangster film hellbent on violence – and the film promises to deliver that – also comes across as a bleak look at a small town and a rumination on its history of violence. While it probably won’t be for everyone, those who can stomach a journey through darkness seem to be getting exactly what they want. (Christopher Cross)
Catch The Fair One
Executive produced by Darren Aronofsky, Catch The Fair One already has a few accolades in its corner from its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. Winning the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature, Josef Kubota Wladyka’s latest film appears to be a dark dive into North American history, and contemporary racism surfaced through a sex-trafficking ring.
With a script worked on by the director and its star, Kali Reis, the film navigates the seedy underworld of sex trafficking to confront an ongoing crisis of Indigenous women disappearing and being murdered. Led by WBA Super lightweight champion Reis, whose physicality will bring an intense presence to the film, Catch the Fair One is setting itself up to be a complete knockout. There’s a feeling that no punches will be pulled, and with subject matter like this, it’s easy to see why Reis and Wladyka took their time to mold the film. (Christopher Cross)
Coming Home In The Dark
From the over-the-top and bombastic to the subdued and focused. An entry from the always impressive national cinema of New Zealand, James Ashcroft’s Coming Home in the Dark promises more of a seething slow burn, the kind of film that gets under the audience’s skin and leaves them rattled and reeling but definitely moved. Drawn from a short story of the same name by Owen Marshall, the film follows a schoolteacher and his family who are taken hostage in their car after a seemingly random encounter with a pair of lunatics. The film draws on classic home invasion thrillers like The Strangers and Funny Games but sets the action in the family car, adding a new(ish) twist to the well-trodden home invasion formula.
But rather than random violence perpetrated on an unlucky family, the film also promises a deeper layer of meaning lurking underneath, one related to both the past of family patriarch Hoaggie and New Zealand’s troubled history of racial disparity. Coming Home in the Dark promises a similar experience to 2019’s 1BR: a tense, draining but a worthwhile thriller that sticks with you long after the lights come up. (Thomas O’Connor)
The Devil’s Deal
Not much is known about the political thriller The Devil’s Deal since it will be making its World Premiere at Fantasia, but if you’ve seen any South Korean films at the fest in the past, you know they very rarely disappoint. Another reason to see this movie is that it’s directed by Lee Won-tae, his first since the Cannes selection The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, and features a talented cast which includes Cho Jin-woong, Kim Moo-yul, and Lee Sung-min— and according to Fantasia, Jin-woong delivers one of the best performances of his career. (Ricky D)
Travis Taute’s feature debut, Indemnity, is making its World Premiere at Fantasia, and so not much is known about the South African thriller other than what is written on the festival website. So why add it to our list of most-anticipated films, especially since they haven’t released a trailer yet? Well, truth be told, I’m choosing it for three simple reasons. First, festival programmer Mitch Davis wrote the capsule review on Fantasia’s website and if you know Mitch, you know he always recommends movies that are well worth seeing. Secondly, Taute was the co-writer of Nosipho Dumisa’s award-winning Number 37, a movie I just so happen to be a big fan of! Finally, the premise sounds like something I’d like: A fireman with a traumatic past, convicted for a crime he has no recollection of is released from prison years later only to discover that he may have been framed and those involved will stop at nothing to avoid him from piecing together the truth. (Ricky D)
Back in 2017, when the world was young and Corona was just a beer, we reviewed an early version Takahide Hori’s stop-motion lovechild Junkhead. Back then, it was the very definition of a diamond in the rough: an absolutely beautiful work that just needed some editing and a proper ending to achieve its full potential. Thankfully for fans of animation and grungy, dystopian sci-fi, work continued on Hori’s vision following that early glimpse, and a new version will be screening in the 2021 lineup. The new version promises to be a tighter cut ready for a wide release, and we, for one, can’t wait to see what changes and refinements have been made.
Assembled almost entirely by one man, the film follows a cyborg sent into the underground tunnels of the post-apocalyptic future in search of a cure for a deadly disease. There he meets the denizens of the underground, who range from mad scientists to hideous mutants. While the narrative is certainly captivating, the film’s fantastic visuals steal the show, with each and every set and stop motion miniature lovingly rendered in a gritty but refreshingly simplified style. Fantasia’s animation section for 2021 looks to be packed with must-see movies, and this is definitely one to check out. (Thomas O’Connor)
After 2019’s Bacurau exposed many to Brazil’s unique genre cinema, King Car looks like another interesting, arresting vision. Uno can talk to cars. He’s always been able to, and being in a family of car junkies; it’s hard not to notice. However, after his mother is killed by a car, he lives a carless existence, until his father’s business is put at risk, forcing him back to help the business get back on its feet.
While the premise may seem only slightly subversive at first, Renata Pinheiro’s filmography suggests that a wild ride is guaranteed to be had as King Car aims to explore man’s obsession with machine and the “self-fulfilling tragedy” that our fetishism creates. Pinheiro’s junkyard adventure will undoubtedly prove to have much more under the hood thanks to its setting and timeliness as environmental concerns over heavy vehicle usage continue to threaten our world. (Christopher Cross)
And speaking of stop-motion labors of love, any Star Wars fan needs to be in attendance for the premiere of Mad God, a decades-in-the-making feature debut by special effects legend Phil Tippett. Tippett was one of the many brilliant animators and model makers who worked on the original trilogy and went on to create effects for everything from Robocop to Dragonslayer. In 1990, Tippett conceived of a film made entirely using the skills and techniques he had been refining in the industry. After many setbacks and a successful Kickstarter campaign, that film is finally ready to be unleashed.
Far from the adventure and excitement of a galaxy far, far away, Tippett’s Mad God promises to be something much darker and stranger, a strange and upsetting journey that’s been compared to the works of Hieronymus Bosch. If the behind the scenes footage and Tippett’s 2011 short Mutantland are anything to go by, Mad God won’t be for the faint of heart, but those looking for something twisted, offbeat and singular should seek it out. (Thomas O’Connor)
The Night House
I’ve wanted to see David Bruckner’s psychological horror film, The Night House, ever since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and received extremely positive reviews from critics, including our very own Brian Marks, who wrote, “The Night House evolves from a simple haunted house story to a chilling examination of grief, with plenty of spooky noises along the way.” If you are in the mood to watch a haunted house film, look no further— the trailer alone makes this a must-see for fans of the genre! (Ricky D)
Prisoners Of The Ghostland
The pairing of Sion Sono and Nicolas Cage should probably conjure a very specific image in the mind of anyone familiar with Sono’s work and Cage’s recent output; an image of wild stylistic excess, balls to the wall performances and just overall insanity at every turn. Based on the hype, that’s exactly what Prisoners of the Ghostland delivers, and it sounds like a perfect fit for Fantasia. This is the kind of movie you probably don’t want to know too much about going in, but the plot follows Cage as a typically unhinged bank robber employed to retrieve the wayward daughter of the local governor. The movie looks to be painted exclusively in broad, most likely wild strokes, with a wild visual style and probably lots of shouting, gunplay and possibly an explosion or two if we’re lucky. And really, what more could you expect from a movie with this director, this star and at this festival? (Thomas O’Connor)
Making his feature directorial debut as part of Fantasia’s juried Cheval Noir section, Mark O’Brien’s The Righteous has the makings of an unsettling horror film. O’Brien is best known for his role as the husband who “forgot” to let his wife know about his family’s secret initiation ceremony in Ready or Not, but The Righteous sees him writing, directing and starring in the film as a stranger who turns a family’s life upside down. When a former priest (Henry Czerny, also another Ready or Not alum) and his wife (Mimi Kuzyk) suffer the loss of their child, the stranger arrives at their home and evokes the fear of God in the former priest.
Shot in black-and-white and set in beautiful Newfoundland, Canada, there’s so much potential for The Righteous to be one of the most gorgeous films at the festival. Focused on a small cast of characters, O’Brien’s film looks to channel a sinister occult energy through a slow burn and a creeping uneasiness. (Christopher Cross)
I’ve watched many crazy films at the Fantasia Film Festival over the years, including Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film and I Spit On Your Grave, but I don’t recall a movie ever having a trigger warning. Well, according to the festival’s website, The Sadness not only warrants one, but the festival is warning anyone thinking about watching the film to proceed with caution. Needless to say, this Taiwanese science-fiction horror film about a deadly virus that causes human beings to mutate into zombies is not for the faint-hearted. The violence is ruthless and graphic and is present almost throughout the entire film. Don’t believe me, watch the trailer.
So why is it on this list? Well, for starters, every review I’ve read thus far has said nothing but good things, including reviews from critics who claim they are not fans of grindhouse films. But really, I’m just curious as fuck to watch what everyone is calling the most depraved and craziest film of the year. (Ricky D)