Sunday, July 1, 2018

Fantasia 2018--The Schedule is Up!

So many exciting films, so little time
The schedule is up for the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival, and now it's time for some difficult decisions, as choices must be made.  Here I'm adding to my list of films about which I'm excited, updating the films upon which I touched on in the last couple of Fantasia posts.

A bunch of winged demons poking at a pit (of humans?) in Francesco Bertolini's 1911 film L'Inferno
Fantasia often programs some unique events, and a screening of Francesco Bertolini's 1911 film based on Dante's Inferno, with a live performance by Goblin composer Maurizio Gaurini doing the score?!  Wow!!  Italian prog rock group Goblin, famous for composing for Argento classics such as Suspiria and Deep Red, are really what makes those two films utterly terrifying, so to have Guarini accompanying one of the earliest silent horror films is truly a catch.  Cannot be missed.

Stylish murders in a Fashion House never looked so beautiful as in Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace
Speaking of genius works of Italian horror cinema, Fantasia is screening the 4K remastered version of Mario Bava's landmark giallo Blood and Black Lace (1964) at this year's festival.  Last year's screening of Dario Argento's 4K remaster of Suspiria was one of the cinematic high points of my lifetime.  I couldn't even write about it, because...there are no words.  So to see one of my favorite giallos restored is a real gift, and the trailer is so damn cool.  Bava's use of mise-en-scene is entrancing, and the score is Italian jazzy goodness.

On the day before the Apocalypse, four people get a surprise birthday gift in Seung-bin Baek's latest film
While the poster for Seung-bin Baek's I Have a Date with Spring suggests just the right touch of creepy, the film's title (translated) implies a slightly upbeat approach to Doomsday.  A screenwriter is visited by four beings, and this narrative provides the link to the stories of three characters whose birthdays happen to fall the day before the end of the world.  Screen Anarchy's review of the film implies that the film's narrative is a little "lightweight," but the visuals are suitably gorgeous.  Sounds good to me, but I am a lover of the visual over narrative heft any day--My three favorite films are Last Year at Marienbad, Suspiria, and The Double Life of Veronique, respectively.  I also hail from a country that is so unceasingly ugly right now, that the end of the world seems right around the corner, and by our own doing.  Living somewhere devoid of compassion, empathy, and respect for other people, I could use a dose of beauty with my Armageddon.  The director's statement, “The world is doomed anyway, so let’s all go nicely. And if possible, let’s go beautifully,” seems all too appropriate these days--even when it seems impossible to feel more outrage then one can possibly feel.  Check out the trailer.

Lisa Bruhlmann's debut feature Blue My Mind (2017) is a perfect companion piece to Julia Ducournau's Raw (2016)
As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a champion of women directors, especially in the horror film genre. So Lisa Bruhlmann's coming-of-age tale Blue My Mind (2017) hits my sweet spot, and will appeal to lovers of Raw (2016), or The Lure (2015).  I don't want to give anything away, but once you watch the trailer, you'll see what I mean.  This type of film is exactly why I treasure Fantasia--I (sadly) would not likely see this film anywhere else. If it gets released quickly, I can show the film in my Women Directors class this fall.  I'm still waiting for Animals to be available for home viewing, so I'm not holding my breath.

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017) is the Zombie Christmas Musical Horror Comedy I never knew I wanted
I'm not a fan of musicals.  People spontaneously bursting into song seems stupid to me (that's why The Lure is so exceptional).  I'm also not a fan of horror comedies, except for Housebound (2014) and maybe Game of Death (2017).  Some moments in Tales of Halloween (2015) were kind of funny.  Horror films set during Christmas tend to leave me cold, too.  Yeah, I sound like a killjoy, but horror comedies rarely mix horror and comedy in the right proportions for me.  So why in the world am I interested in John McPhail's Anna and the Apocalypse, a zombie Christmas musical horror comedy??  Well, watch the trailer, and then tell me you don't want to see it a wee bit.  As Rob Hunter from Film School Rejects suggests, “If you’re not smiling during this one, you’re probably an a**hole."  Exactly.

Gigi Saul Guerrero's 7 episode web series, La Quinceanera (2017), is screening at Fantasia this years
A girl's Quinceanera is an important moment, celebrated as a milestone on the journey to womanhood.  Therefore, when a drug cartel shows up at Alejandra's party, things are bound to get bloody.  Gigi Saul Guerrero has been nourished by the Frontieres industry section of Fantasia, so it's great to see the product of so much of her hard work.  I'm excited to get a taste of her burgeoning talents!  Check out the trailer.

A Rough Draft/Chernovik has Kirill becoming the gatekeeper for a multidimensional portal
Okay, the trailer for Sergey Mokritskiy's 2018 film A Rough Draft looks like the perfect combination of silly and cool.  Killer Russian nesting dolls.  Awesome.  As the Fantasia staff explains, "every frame is an eyeful – witness the magnificent succession of alternate-Muscovite panoramas. Step through the door these two talented storytellers have opened up – but beware the flying matryoshka-doll combat drones!"  Cool.

Gripping Argentinian paranormal horror in Demian Rugna's Terrified (2017)
One of the first people I met when I started coming to Fantasia was film critic Andrew Mack, who writes for Screen Anarchy (formerly Twitch) and regularly writes reviews on the Morbido Film Festival.  He's funny and wicked smart, and I trust his taste.  He highly recommends Demian Rugna's Terrified, claiming that it scared him, twice.  The trailer also suggests that paranormal investigations are not just a young person's game, and like Spoor, takes advantage of some slightly older talent (as I continue to get older myself, I appreciate such things).  My last foray into Argentinian horror was The House at the End of Time (2013), which was terrific, so I'm ready to be "Terrified."

Nicolas Pesce steps into SM horror fantasy in his 2018 film Piercing
In 2016, I was simply stunned by Nicolas Pesce's dread-filled masterpiece, Eyes of My Mother (which I saw at Fantasia, of course). Filmed in black and white, it was full of sick, twisted, and some rather sad surprises, and heralded a unique filmmaking vision.  Two years later, Pesce is back with Piercing, where family man Reed (Christopher Abbott) tells his wife and "cute little girl" that he's leaving on business, but instead hires a prostitute, Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), whom he plans to murder in his hotel room.  Typically, things do not go according to plan, and as the Fantasia staff describe it, "Pesce makes a stylistic 180 with PIERCING, adding a streak of bizarre humour from the opening scene, shooting in vivid colour on hyper-designed sets, using miniatures and visual effects to create a sense of heightened reality, and drenching it all with a soundtrack of music selections that Euro-horror fans will find very familiar."  Sounds like much of the movie takes place in Reed's hotel room, and I like Mia Wasikowska in everything (even those lame Alice in Wonderland films), so I'm looking forward to Pesce's sophomore film.  Fun fact:  he's remaking a version of The Grudge!

Another brilliant female director takes on adolescence and drug cartels in Issa Lopez's Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)
The trailer for Issa Lopez's Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017) is quite magical--it's no wonder that Guillermo del Toro wants to make a film with her.  This film seems to be a dark fairy tale on par with Pan's Labyrinth.  Of course, Fantasia's Mitch Davis says it best: "In crime-ravaged cities where dozens vanish by the day, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID uses fantastical devices to explore what happens to the many children whose parents suddenly disappear. You will be shaken to tears. Winner of 23 awards (and counting!) on the international festival circuit, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID ranks among the great genre works of our time."  Yeah!!  And look at these badass kids!

Don't underestimate the kid holding the water bottle--he looks innocent, but...
So, here's the dilemma.  Closing night at the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival, August 1st, my last night in Canada, and I have to choose between two incredibly attractive films.
Out crazy-ing the craziest Nicolas Cage films is Panos Cosmatos's Mandy
The film I lean toward is Panos Cosmatos's Mandy (2018), a psychedelic fever dream cum religious cult blood orgy revenge thriller that, after watching its stunning trailer with a really eerie score, looks like nothing I ever have, or will ever, see.  Yet, it's coming out in mid-September in the U.S.  That doesn't mean I'll actually see it then, but I have a chance of seeing it, albeit not on a gigantic screen surrounding by pumped Canadians cheering Cage's every gory moment on full volume.  I know, sounds good, right?  He's hunting "crazy evil" with a hand-forged blade from hell!  A chainsaw duel! Yeah!!
Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) seems to be reveling in blood spatter in Colin Minihan's What Keeps You Alive (2018)
Then there's Colin Minihan's 2018 queer betrayal horror film What Keeps You Alive, which screened at SXSW.  Every review/teaser, including Fantasia's, raves about the film, but then refuses to divulge the plot in order to not ruin the film with unnecessary spoilers.  Everyone insists that I should be kept in the dark before seeing it, and the trailer is suitably ambiguous.  This film also may offer up more political and thoughtful representations than Cage avenging his WOMAN in Mandy, even though I've seen some pretty disappointing "queer monster" films (I'm looking at you, Replace).

What is a film critic to do with these choices, and why, why are they playing at times that overlap each other (alas, I'm leaving on August 2nd, when What Keeps You Alive plays again)?  Boo.  I'm still sitting on the fence, but this years Fantasia has much about which to be excited.