Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Greetings from Fantasia 2014: Deirdre’s Reviews, Part One

For the fifth year in a row I am attending Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival! While picking a favorite genre film fest would be like choosing a favorite slasher, I will say that Fantasia has always been very dear to my heart. I will be up here for a full week, and Mike will be joining in on the Canadian fun this year too. Here is the first bundle of quick reviews of films screened at Fantasia that you should look out for. Check it out!

Life After Beth (dir. Jeff Baena)
LIFE AFTER BETH begins with Beth’s death. She is young and it is unexpected, and try as he might, director Baena makes every effort to establish her wake as a somber occasion. But with a cast that includes comedic legends like John C. Reilly, Cheryl Hines, Molly Shannon, and Paul Reiser as the mourners there is no chance that laughs can be held out for too long. As Beth’s boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan, who was memorable in 2012’s underrated CHRONICLE) does his best to deal with his loss her parents’ unusual behavior makes it difficult for him to move on. After some backyard snooping Zach discovers that Beth has returned to life… sort of. More a comedy with a dose of horror than a funny horror film, LIFE AFTER BETH succeeds in creating a new version of zombie conventions. As titular star Aubrey Plaza pointed out during Fantasia’s sold out Q&A, zombies are not actually real, so you can play them however you want. She clearly has fun with her undead role, and Baena has fun rewriting the zombie apocalypse. 

Suburban Gothic (dir. Richard Bates)
Had you shown me SUBURBAN GOTHIC with no context, I would have thought it is a hilarious and quirky film from some new voice in filmmaking. The fact that it comes from Richard Bates just blows me away. Bates is the mammoth force behind 2012’s EXCISION, which is one of the most terrifying films in the past five years. After EXCISION I could not wait to see what Bates would create next. SUBURBAN GOTHIC is a complete departure from EXCISION in nearly every aspect: Tone, visual style, music, and plot structure. Yet it is consistent with Bates’s first film in that it is a completely cohesive film experience, with each of these elements creating an insular and authentic world. The film itself follows Raymond (Matthew Gray Gubler) as a smart mouthed weird kid who has grown up and become an unemployed loser who has to move back in with his parents after business school. Upon returning to his parent’s house Raymond’s long lost paranormal abilities return and he must team up with a local bartender (Kat Dennings) to set things right. For this type of film, however, the plot is incidental. The real joy of the film is the sharp dialogue and huge personalities in this satire of a suburban hell. 

The Zero Theorem (dir. Terry Gilliam)
While Terry Gilliam has a way of creating biting satire of our modern world, THE ZERO THEOREM is by no means a horror film. It is a send up of the direction that our society is headed with technology and obsession. Christoph Waltz gives an immersive performance as Qohen, a man who is haunted by the idea that he is waiting for a phone call to steer him towards happiness. In the typical Gilliam fashion the version of the future that he lives in is bright, loud and overwhelming for Qohen. He retreats to his home, a burned out monastery in the middle of the city, and tries his best to shut out the world and get his call. When not-so-chance encounter with a vibrant young woman (Mélanie Thierry) distracts Qohen from his focus on getting that call his world begins to crack at the seams. Gilliam presents up with a peculiar protagonist here. While the world he lives in is detestable to him, and seems tiring to me, Qohen is the only one who seems unhappy there. Nearly everyone else seems pretty happy. Showing a man whose major defect is his resistance to his entire environment is an interesting thought to ponder while watching him wait, and wait, for his call. 

Low budget speculative fiction films are becoming more common. With PRIMER and COHERENCE showing directors that the best science fiction films this decade can be filmed practically in their own homes many more are attempting to tell big stories with limited resources. THE RECONSTRUCTION OF WILLIAM ZERO has some good ideas, but with weak writing and limited performances it never quite tells the story it wants to. The film is about clones. Which clone created which and in what order are lead up to in the film as if they are the big plot twists, but most of these are easily guessed by the audience. The film also wastes AJ Bowen as an inconsequential henchman in a trench coat investigating one of the clones and his genetics work. Conal Byrne does a decent job of carrying all of the various parts, but his performance does not give nuance to each person as an individual character. In all honesty, the clone’s hair style is the major identifier between one clone and another. The story itself does have some solid ideas, but it is unfortunate that they are not executed in such a way that would earn them a place with the current new wave of speculative fiction masterpieces. 

Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (dir. Josephine Decker)
Despite my constant insistence that films be fun and exciting, I do have a strong love for quiet, reflective art-house films. It is rare that these slow films veer into horror territory, but when they do it can be a great combination. Like watching exceedingly slow train wreck, the small touches of horror are amplified. In THOU WAST MILD AND LOVELY the film is just like this slow motion wreckage. The film takes place on a small farm. The farmer (Robert Longstreet) and his naturally beautiful daughter (Sophie Traub) take on a farmhand (Joe Swanberg) for the summer to keep up with their work. The farmhand hides that he is married, and the father and daughter hide that not everything is as it seems with them. Make no mistake, this film is as slow of a burn as you will find, but the lovely pastoral setting and director Decker’s clearly controlling hand never leave the audience bored. The end of the film first takes a direction that is not surprising, but does not stop there and instead continues toward deeper fears.

The Harvest (dir. John McNaughton)
For all of the genre offerings Fantasia programs, there are only a handful of traditional horror films. McNaughton (HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and WILD THINGS) brings us THE HARVEST as one of the more disturbing horror films at this year’s fest. The center of the film is a relationship between a young boy and girl. Maryann (Natasha Calis, THE POSESSION) has just moved in with her grandparents after both of her parents die. Feeling alone she wanders and finds another house abutting her grandparents’ backyard. Peering through the windows she sees a boy about her age who is wheelchair bound. Andy (Natasha Calis) is a sick kid who is homeschooled and never leaves his house. His over protective mother (Samantha Morton) and doting father (Michael Shannon) keep him on a short leash that was never a problem before Maryann started visiting. Morton’s performance as the possessive mother is at a level beyond the ordinary. She is haunting and all-encompassing as a mother who is doing everything not to just protect her son, but to maintain complete control over her family. Emasculating her husband and denying her child any joy become regular behavior for her, as her character swings into mania. As the story develops and shows that there is much more going on than just a bedridden kid, the stakes are raised and the tension becomes suffocating. Though Morton is fun to hate and the plot does take a dark turn, the tone of the film is almost family friendly. The score, the child actors, and the flinching camera spare us of any possible gore or far-reaching terror. Instead you get to sit back and watch a mother become a monster, and enjoy the ride!

Friday, July 18, 2014

In The Future There In No Justice Except FUTURE JUSTICE!!!!

I think I finally know why it is the films of Richard Marr-Griffin appeal so much to me. Many filmmakers wax rhapsodic about getting bit by the directing bug in their youth, talking at length about the halcyon days of shooting movies in their backyard with their friends on hand-me-down Super 8 cameras. While most directors leave that carefree, anything goes sense of playfulness behind, or spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to recreate those times (hey there JJ Abrams) the Providence based filmmaker seems to have never let go of that anarchic spirit. The only thing that has changed is Griffin's continued evolution as a filmmaker and storyteller with each film.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Griffin's latest work, Future Justice. The film mashes genres together, pulling from post apocalyptic science-fiction, 80's action movies and the classic nonsensical comedy of Mel Brooks. Future Justice is a wonderful skewering of the low-budget movies that would run on heavy rotation during the early days of cable television.

The plot of Future Justice is a familiar staple of the post-apocalyptic science fiction cannon. A military team is charged with transporting a war criminal, the wonderfully named Python Diamond* back to Earth for sentencing. Unknown to them, the whole world has been decimated by nuclear war, wiping out billions of people and leaving the few remaining survivors sterile and scavenging for food and shelter. The team come across two different factions: a peaceful group that has hunkered down to research ways to improve life and a gang of violent marauders willing to steal and kill in order to keep themselves well stocked. Of course, that's not all that's going on, as both groups find they may have to put their own differences aside to deal with the menace of a mutated sewer dwelling slime monster.

What Future Justice lacks in terms of a multimillion dollar budget and state of the art special effects, it more than makes up for in absurdest humor and spot on performances. Nathaniel Sylvia's script is loaded with the kind of nonsensical humor that might not be for those who enjoy the feeling of sticks up their rectums, but leaves me in stitches. Lines where hard-ass military personnel follow up barking instructions by recommending the best place for fettuccine alfredo are par for the course. On the subject of barking, a two word utterance from a “human dog” (Kevin Killavey)brought down the house at the end of the film. As always, Griffin plays to his ensembles strengths. The film is an amalgamation of classic dystopias like Mad Max, Escape From New York and Assault on Precinct 13 and this cast is more than up to the challenge of playing to the broad type of character you would come to expect. Sylvia wrote himself a juicy leading role as Python Diamond**-the criminal on the side of justice, and the film is filled with standout performances such as the Aaron Andrade as a hard ass sergeant, Steven O'Broin as “Gazebo”-the leader of the murderous gang and Tobias Wilson &Christian Masters as “Rag” & “Tag”-the comedic relief for the gang. The always welcome Michael Thurber lends the film the gravitas it needs and he deserves special mention for the most challenging role of his career. To say any more is to spoil one of my all time favorite entrances in any film, hands down.

More than anything, Future Justice is a damn fun night at the movies. Anyone that grew up on Swartzeneggar and Stallone and still enjoys those films for the heaping helpings of cheese they offer will get a kick out of the film. Definitely put this on your “must see” list when it gets its official VOD and DVD release in 2015.

*I'm half tempted to knock my wife up again just so I can give this name to my offspring. I feel like Costanza when he thought of “Seven.”

**Best name since “Clubber Lang”

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Is This New Kevin Smith Horror Movie For Real?

I'm not one of those people that hate on everything Kevin Smith does as a matter of principle. I still love his early films or all their crude, ragtag charm, I thought his open Q&A performances are often hysterical, and I was surprised by just how damn good certain moments were in his previous foray into horror was with RED STATE.

That said, he's earned a reputation of having a bit of a thin skin when it comes to criticism these past few years, and his bizarre anti-blogger rants seem out of place for a guy that has both built his audience on word of mouth and has readily embraced podcasting as a form of communication.


Can someone give the dudes and ladies from THE BATTERY, RESOLUTION, SOULMATE, EVANGELINE and DYS- all the monies so we can start getting GOOD indie horror movies on the regular? Thanks.

Rant over.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Maude Michaud's DYS Debuts Its Trailer Ahead Of Its World Premiere

There's no denying how excited I am for the pending release of Maude Michaud's feature debut DYS. The rest of the world is soon going to find out what we at All Things Horror have known for a few years now-that Ms. Michaud is one of the emerging talents in independent genre cinema with a terrific knack for blending the erotic and the terrible. It doesn't hurt that she's tapped Shannon Lark as her leading lady. I know this is cliche, but not only would I watch Ms. Lark read the phone book, I'd also pay for the privilege.

While the trailer holds of on any big reveals, its almost wordless tone, and subperb choice of music give DYS an ominous vibe, not unlike what you might expect from early Romero.

DYS makes its world premiere in Michaud's home city of Montreal August 1st, as part of the renowned FANTASIA Film Festival on Friday August 1st. Stay tuned for more festival and screening announcements in the coming weeks!

Monday, July 7, 2014


If pressed, I would likely answer that the first BIOSHOCK is my all time gaming experience. I found myself engulfed by the underwater world of Rapture. The visuals were stunning and the game play was unlike any other FPS of the time. Most importantly, Bioshock the story unfolded unlike any other game I had ever played. Instead of cut scenes that slowed the action to a crawl, players picked up aural and visual in game cues that made everything fresh and exciting. After sending the followup to another studio for a slightly disappointing more of the same experience, Irrational Studios took back the reigns for BIOSHOCK INFINITE.

The most noticeable change is that of location. For the first time, Bioshock goes above, ground-in fact they go WAY above ground-with the floating city of Columbia. The games exists in an alternate time line, where eccentric genius and prophet “Father” Zachary Comstock has created a city that floats in the clouds. Columbia was created as a safe haven for “racial purity” and if there was any doubt about the alternate reality settings, those will be laid to rest when you come across a monument hailing the heroic John Wilkes Booth. As the game's protagonist, you're tagged with finding and rescuing Elizabeth, a teenage girl who possesses incredible powers.

The world of Columbia may be one of the most gorgeous and intricately detailed environments in gaming history. Bioshock Infinite pushes the boundaries of what the PS3 is capable of displaying, and its beauty will make you question why you need a next generation console system.

It's too bad you have to spend so much time blowing everything up.

For all Bioshock Infinite gets right-from the easy controls, the welcome lack of loading screens, engaging story and challenging but not punishing level of game play-it’s too bad that after the first hour of peaceful exploration you have to spend so much time reigning gunfire and hellfire on everyone you encounter. I found myself wanting to avoid conflict in order to explore every room, every corner, every barrel. I wanted to spend more time simply gazing out at the breathtaking skyline views. The game re-imagines American History, with Columbia celebrating the Founding Fathers through a controversial racial prism that makes shocking statements regarding the Irish and blacks. Exploring these themes was 100 times more interesting that shooting another nameless soldier. For all the innovations of the game, it falls prey to standard FPS syndrome where you spend too much time running and gunning. If anyone could break this mold it's the team at Irrational.

I rarely have opportunity to fire up the PS3 any longer due to a lack of any free time. This game sat on my “must play one day” list for almost two years, until I came across a copy for a great bargain. I wish I had bought it sooner, as it has managed to soak up any time I have had. As much respect as I have for the late, great Roger Ebert, I would venture if he had the change to explore the floating city of Columbia he would find a game he could appreciate as a masterful work of art.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A "Nothing Bad Can Happen" Spoiler Alert, MANY Bad Things Can Happen

When we receive DVDs or screening links for review, we often get promotional snippets touting the virtues of the film. It's rare we get a warning before we watch a movie. Such was the case when we received our link to the German drama NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN, when we were told that it was “really heavy, brutal stuff”. I can attest to the fact that this is one time the advertising does not lie, as director Katrin Gebbe's feature debut is a series of repeated punches to the solar plexus that leaves the viewer trying to catch their breath. The latest Drafthouse Films release travels more in the horrific than straight forward horror.

Tore (Julius Feldmeier) belongs to the crust punk Christian youth group Jesus Freaks. The teen is a true believer, and a chance encounter where he performs a “miracle” puts him in under the wing of Benno (Sascha Alexander Gersak) and his family. For the first few days, Tore seems to fit right in with the family, sitting with them at meals and helping around the yard. Benno and his live-in girlfriend look at the religious fanatic as a sort of interesting sociological experiment. However, the more Tore ingratiates himself with the rest of the family, especially young Sanny (Swantje Kohlhof), the sharper Benno's distaste for the young boy grows. Tore's innate goodness serves as a distorted funhouse mirror of sorts for Benno, throwing all of the man's venal traits, his pettiness, his cruelty and his lack of success back in his face. Benno begins to view all his own failures through his family's positive reaction to Tore. It's not long before Benno subjects Tore to all sorts of psychological and physical torment. The film takes a number of disturbing and gut wrenching turns, reminiscent of Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door. Unlike that work, where a young girl is kept prisoner against her will, Tore is free to go at any time, but he chooses to stay, as he sees his punishment as a test from God. For those familiar with the Gospels, the story draws parallels to Mathew 4:11, where Satan tempts Jesus with all manners of worldly offerings before Christ casts him aside.

To reveal any of the depraved acts Benno and his partner subject Tore to would rob the power of watching them unfold. Nothing Bad Can Happen is often difficult to watch without cringing. Yet the choices that Gebbe make along with the nuanced performance from Feldmeier ensure the film never devolves into exploitation. At Tore's core, setting aside his faith and relationship with God, is the fact that's he's lonely and desperate to find a place to belong. Gebbe hints at this through Tore's choice of clothing depending on whether he's with the Jesus Freaks or Benno's family. Despite the ever escalating cringe worthy moments, Tore is not simply a victim. As the events progress he accepts them stoically in a heroic attempt to demonstrate that Benno cannot break him and to keep him from turning his attention back to Sanny. The film is a powerful mediation on self sacrifice.

The film isn't for everyone. Gore hounds will be disappointed that the film doesn't get explicit enough. Others with a weak constitution will be turned off by the levels Benno sinks too and the torment Tore endures. However, if you can stick with the film, it will reward you by sticking with you right back long after the credits roll. In fact, it may well wind up one of your personal favorite films of the year. 

DELIVER US FROM EVIL: This year's exorcism film misses the mark

Deliver Us From Evil (dir. Scott Derrickson)

In a long line of possession films that claim to be inspired by true events we find this summer’s entry: DELIVER US FROM EVIL. Though not nearly as insufferable as previous films in this category, DELIVER US FROM EVIL is by no means a film to celebrate. 

Before getting to the negative aspects of the film (namely the incoherent plot) I will say that there are some genuinely creepy scenes in the film. It is clear that there were a lot of great, unconnected ideas behind the film, but unfortunately all of these sincere scares got strung together without much context. For example, the film opens with soldiers in Iraq in 2010. After exchanging shots with some locals, the men find the opening an underground tomb of sorts and go exploring. The footage of their descent cuts out just as something goes wrong, and we are plopped into present day New York. Though the film does later reference this incident in flashback, it is not necessary for the plot. These men could have had any association and have been located anywhere, and the plot still would have been unchanged. It is almost as if one of the filmmakers simply wanted to shoot a sketchy scene with soldiers, and worked it into this film arbitrarily. 

Another attempt at terror in the film is the recurrence of music by The Doors. Early on, the main detective in the film, Sarchie (Eric Bana), encounters a possessed woman who is repeating “Break on through” over and over again. Her behavior is absolutely haunting. But from then on Sarchie keeps finding references to both literal “doors” and to other lyrics by The Doors. He also hears songs by that band when other characters do not. You get the impression that any time these songs appear they are supposed to send chills down the audience’s spine, but these moments fall flat. In all honesty, the psychedelic rockers made me think we were gearing up for a bad acid trip. Unlike “Time Is On My Side” in FALLEN and “Mack The Knife” in LESSON OFTHE EVIL, the lack of appropriate context makes the attempt at ominous music ineffective. 

Were this an anthology film featuring various frightening set-pieces it may have had a better chance of overall success, but it does have a plot. When a series of odd occurrences in the Bronx pique the attention of Sarchie and his partner Butler (Joel McHale, not kidding) they begin to reconstruct the relationship between the incidents. Not everything that is going on can be explained by logic, which is why it is timely that the young hot priest Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez) shows up when he does. Together Sarchie and Mendoza discuss each of their relationships with God, their varying degrees in belief of possession, and how to solve the case. 

Sarchie and Mendoza’s relationship is cliché, but it is one of the more coherent elements of the plot. As I already discussed, the initial scene with the soldiers is incorporated within the rest of the film, though its particulars are not essential. There are other scenes that while well done, are put in illogical locations or involve aspects that are not really included anywhere else in the film. The possessed woman who was repeating The Doors lyrics was found at the Bronx Zoo. And yes, it was really cool to have Sarchie in the lion pit, and Butler getting startled by tigers in his night vision goggles, but ultimately there was no reason to have this scene in the zoo other than that. Had the scene incorporated the animals for a ritual, or something dependent to the story it would have made sense, but unfortunately the lack of incorporation into the plot makes this scene and others feel meaningless and hollow. Add to this an exorcism tableau that somehow manages to drag, and all of the creepy-goodness of the decent scenes is no longer enough to keep the momentum of the film going.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL is by no means the worst horror film of the year, or even the worst film of the summer. It is just disappointing that a film with potential eventually falls apart and cannot maintain an atmosphere or incorporate all of its solid ideas. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

SNOWPIERCER is the most fun you will have trapped on a train this summer

Snowpiercer (dir. Joon-ho Bong)

The premise of SNOWPIERCER is one of the most absurd settings for a film. Ever.  In the world that the film inhabits all of Earth is frozen over after a botched attempt at reversing global warming. On the planet the only surviving creatures and plants are aboard a speeding train that endlessly loops around the planet.  To add to this absurdity even further this train is divided by classes and the lowest class in the last car is ready to revolt.  Good thing Chris Pine is there to lead the uprising!

In all seriousness, SNOWPIERCER is exactly the sort of quick, violent, exciting film with little substance that you hope comes out at the beginning of the summer.  Like last summer’s PACIFIC RIM and the recent GODZILLA this film explains the post-apocalyptic circumstances over the prologue and then drops you in the middle of the action. Director Bong Joon-ho proved his skill for directing action with THE HOST and ups the ante in SNOWPIERCER. Bong also reunites the father and daughter team from THE HOST (Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung) and their chemistry and devotion to one another is worth revisiting. 

The reason to see this film is to be immersed in an inconceivable world and forget your own reality for a little while. The visuals in the film are absolutely stunning.  Though limited to the confines of the locomotive, the visual spectacles of each individual car are larger than life.  Each compartment is drenched in the theme of its contents and no detail is spared.  The grittiness of the back car, the decadence of the higher class cars, and the long string of different worlds contained between the two realms are the finest examples of escapist cinema.  This world can be tough to live in for some, but it is above all exciting and engaging for the audience who gets to visit it for the running time of the film. 

Visual beauty aside, SNOWPIERCER is also actually quite violent. The foot soldiers of the train’s conductor-overlord Wilford (Ed Harris) are unleashed upon the rebelling underlings and the clashes are all inventive, bloody, and have surprising results.  Blood flows quite freely considering the generously sized cast of well-known actors and named characters.  Unlike Star Trek red shirts, everyone on the train is expendable.

I do feel a bit guilty for thinking of SNOWPIERCER as a “fun” film.  Its politics are quite heavy handed, and it never flinches in its criticism of class structure. Even with these harsh inequalities in mind, the film has a great time being a spectacle. It has masked henchmen, ax fights, Tilda Swinton with giant false teeth, Octavia Spencer kicking some serous ass, all aboard a speeding train that cannot stop.  How could that not be a recipe for fun?  

I will freely admit that all of these flourishes push the film dangerously close to the line between flamboyantly fantastical and (pardon the pun) a train wreck.  The film drags a bit at the very end, and in this period of contemplation you realize that the only major merit of the film is the show it is putting on.  Like the Wizard behind the curtain, there is not much behind this film other than the fun of it all. But, oh what fun we have!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fantasia Film Fest Announces Second Wave Of Programming, Thumbs Nose At Lesser Fests

My bags are packed and I'm ready to head up to the Great White North for Fantasia this July. The second wave of programming has been announced and it's a veritable doozy.  From the press release:

Official Closing Film - Abel Ferrara’s WELCOME TO NEW YORK
Fantasia will close its 2014 edition with the North American Premiere of Abel Ferrara’s WELCOME TO NEW YORK, the controversial latest from the legendary filmmaker behind such landmarks as BAD LIEUTENANT, KING OF NEW YORK, NEW ROSE HOTEL and the recently re-released MS 45.

WELCOME TO NEW YORK is loosely based on the DSK scandal and stars the iconic Gérard Depardieu in one of the bravest performances of his career. Co-starring is the equally sensational Jacqueline Bisset.

Abel Ferrara will be on hand to host this special evening, unveiling his audacious and bold new classic for its first appearance on this continent after explosive bows at Cannes (out of official selection) and Edinburgh.

JU-ON: THE BEGINNING OF THE END to launch its Western haunt in Montreal
Fans of classic J-Horror, rejoice! The curse of Kayoko and Toshio is back!  Fantasia will be the site of the International Premiere of JU-ON: THE BEGINNING OF THE END, the anticipated new Japanese production that reboots one of the most successful and terrifying horror franchises of the 21st century in a very wise way: by remaining faithful to the original material.

Director/Co-Writer Masayuki Ochiai (HYPNOSIS) brings us back to the haunted house and reinstates, slowly but surely, its oppressive atmosphere through a refined and efficient use of mise-en-scene. Co-scripted by none other than Taka Ichise.

A Lifetime Achievement Award For Fear Pioneer Tobe Hooper
In 1974, Austin-based former professor and documentary cameraman Tobe Hooper assembled a team comprised mostly of fellow faculty members and recent students and essentially gave birth to the modern horror film. Viscerally frightening, bursting with dark social commentary and an even darker sense of humour that would become one of Hooper’s staples, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remains a seminal work in American cinema. The influence it had on the genre landscape was transformative.

In the years that followed, Tobe Hooper reshaped what televised horror could be with his terrifying mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT, and was an architect of the trend of blockbuster supernatural horrors with which to traumatize entire families with POLTERGEIST. His ensuing list of individualistic genre film accomplishments is considerable and today, at the age of 71, he continues to explore the fantastic with vigour.

From his bold themes and Grand Guignol sensibilities to his brilliant use of close-ups, cutting and sound, Tobe Hooper’s approach to storytelling is daring, singular and ferociously cinematic. It’s impossible to imagine what the genre might be like today had this imaginative professor simply stayed on campus.

We are proud to be presenting Tobe Hooper with a Lifetime Achievement Award on the40th anniversary of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, in front of the Canadian premiere of the film’s stunning new 4K restoration.

A Subterranean New Section in our Programming 
Fantasia is proud to announce the creation of a new section in our programming: Fantasia Underground, dedicated to showcasing outrageous indie outsider visions created in the counter-cultural spirit that we associate with classic underground film works. For its inaugural edition, Fantasia Underground will sport four features, from Canada, Japan, and the USA, three of them World Premieres.

USA Dir: Andres Torres
A return to the kind of classic New York Underground filmmaking that the city no longer produces, oozing with unusual characters, seedy situations and subversive sleaze as we follow a borderline autistic hot dog vendor’s journey into photography and criminality. A blackly funny social grenade evocative of early Paul Morrissey, Andy Milligan and Richard Kern. World Premiere.

Canada Dir: Matt O’Mahoney
An underground comic artist mocks the wrong mobster and loses his drawing hand in retribution. The artist may be silenced, but the severed appendage returns, to continue drawing comics on its own - and commit some seriously bloody acts of vengeance! A splatter horror comedy about freedom of expression that’s as touching as it is profane. World Premiere.

Japan Dir: Hisayasu Sato
A seemingly mundane high-school bullying drama builds into a cathartic and absurd farce of excessive, bloody, colourful revenge and retribution, care of underground cinema legend Hisayasu Sato (NAKED BLOOD, LOVE & LOATHING LULU & AYANO), co-scripted by Shinji Imaoka (of the demented pinku musical UNDERWATER LOVE). A poignant and strange social critique of girl-on-girl violence and institutional abuse at large. North American Premiere.

USA Dir: Bennet Jones
An international Europop star is holed up with his manager at a secret Los Angeles location after a fatwa has been taken out on his head. Hysterically funny lines are deadpanned into instant immortality, rough animation, lo-fi psychedelia, catchy electropop and the odd burst of eccentric action collide to make this a microbudget work truly unlike anything else on the planet. World Premiere.
Additional 2nd Wave Highlights
AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR (formerly titled HOME)
USA  Dir: Nicholas McCarthy
The maker of THE PACT returns with a nightmarish work that jumps decades and narrative paths, brilliantly juggling mood-drenched atmospheric dread and visceral bursts of horror, telling the tale of a young real estate agent (Catalina Sandino Moreno) asked to sell a house with uniquely diabolical history. Official Selection: SXSW, New Zealand International Film Festival. Canadian Premiere.

Spain-USA  Dir: Nacho Vigalondo
Offered a chance to spy on his it-girl fixation (Sasha Grey), fan-site webmaster Nick (Elijah Wood) is drawn into in a sinister, voyeuristic plot. An ever-surprising, Hitchcock-inspired mind-bender from genius trickster-director Nacho Vigalondo that breaks all kinds of storytelling ground in exciting ways.Canadian Premiere.

USA  Dir: Bill Plympton
Tipping his fedora a touch to film noir and romantic revenge thrillers, Bill Plympton, the Oscar-nominated one-man army of American indie animation, delivers a screwball sex-farce cartoon for more-or-less-grown-ups. Adored at Slamdance, awarded jury prizes at Annecy and Gijún, CHEATIN’ is yet another gem in Plympton’s brilliant filmography. Canadian Premiere.

USA  Dir: Billy Senese
The first successful cloning of a human pulls a brilliant genetic scientist into the center of volatile battle between science and religion in this unique reinterpretation of the Frankenstein story that’s equal parts philosophical science-fiction/horror and paranoid thriller. Hypnotically cinematic and evocative of early Cronenberg, this is a fiercely intelligent knockout of a feature debut from award-winning short filmmaker Billy Senese (THE SUICIDE TAPES). International Premiere.

USA  Dir: Patrick Brice
This collaboration between director Patrick Brice, producer Jason Blum (INSIDIOUS, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY) and the ubiquitous co-writer/co-producer, co-star Mark Duplass (BAGHEAD, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED) is unlike any horror work you’ll see this year, a major film event on the tiniest of budgets and a shockingly effective genre hybrid, riding on two excellent performances. Official Selection: SXSW, Tribeca. Canadian Premiere.

UK  Dir: Tim Grabham, Jasper Sharp
A fascinating, hallucinatory documentary on plasmodial slime mold - a unique and bizarre organism, worthy of the weirdest science fiction, inviting profound reflections on intelligence, engineering, social dynamics, and the intersection of art and science. Enriching the otherworldly atmosphere is an appropriately subtle yet unsettling score by post-rock icon Jim O’Rourke (Tortoise, Sonic Youth, UNITED RED ARMY). One of the most astonishing films you’ll see anywhere this year, co-directed by polyvalent artist Tim Grabham and Midnight Eye co-creator Jasper Sharp. World Premiere. 

Japan  Dir: Tsukasa Kishimoto
Jaw-dropping dance numbers, a flood of jokes amongst the funniest you’ll see all year and eye-popping action scenes are all part of DANCING KARATE KID, an off-the-chain action-comedy blending martial arts and musical moves. Official Selection: Hawaii International Film Festival. Canadian Premiere.

Canada  Dir: Joseph O'Brien
“The road will never let you go…” A trio of criminals transporting two captives through the desert takes a wrong turn onto a stretch of blacktop traversing into supernatural territory. A fully committed combination of road/crime saga and supernatural terror that marks the feature debut of longtime Rue Morgue Magazine contributor O’Brien. World Premiere.

Canada  Dir: Chad Archibald
A washing machine, the bathroom sink, even a puddle on the floor - only a few drops and the hideous Drownsman can pull you down into his watery hell! A new twist on the classic horror-movie stalker scenario, from the Canadian genre genies that brought you ANTISOCIAL and NEVERLOST. World Premiere.

USA  Dir: Daniel Junge, Bryan Storkle
A multitude of “fight ministries” combine Christianity and mixed martial arts. By turns shocking, touching, and even inspirational, FIGHT CHURCH is unlike any sports-oriented documentary you’ve ever seen. Directors Daniel Junge (Academy Award-winner SAVING FACE) and Bryan Storkle (HOLY ROLLERS: THE TRUE STORY OF CARD COUNTING CHRISTIANS), keep the film even-handed and compelling. WINNER: Grand Jury Prize, Boston Independent Film Festival. International Premiere.

UK  Dir: Lenny Abrahamson
An aspiring musician falls in with a band of art-rock weirdos whose enigmatic frontman (Michael Fassbender) never removes his giant plaster head. Co-starring Domhnall Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal,FRANK hits all the right notes as it examines the fine arts of fame and failure. A major hit at this year’s Sundance, SXSW and Calgary Underground Film Festivals. Quebec Premiere.

Hong Kong  Dir: Wong Jin
The King of Cool, Chow Yun-Fat, is back in a signature role he made famous in the classic GOD OF GAMBLERS (seen way back at Fantasia Year One!). A royal flush of comical action madness in Wong Jing’s trademark Hong Kong style, co-starring Nicholas Tse and Chapman To. Canadian Premiere.

Japan  Dir: Yosuke Fujita
One part quirky slapstick absurdity and two parts poignant character study, FUKU-CHAN is the feelgood, laugh-out-loud indie comedy hit of this year’s fest, mixing humour and pathos in the way only fan-favourite Yosuke Fujita (FINE, TOTALLY FINE) can. Official Selection: Frankfurt Nippon Connection Festival, New York Asian Film Festival. Canadian Premiere

New Zealand  Dir: Gerard Johnstone
Fresh, fun and frightening, this wonderfully inventive comedy/horror from New Zealand launched at SXSW and emerged on many critics’ lists as one of the top discoveries of the festival. It deconstructs conventional formulas of haunted house narratives and surprises with left-field twists that will leave you joyously slack-jawed, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Stars Morgana O'Reilly and Rima Te Wiata.Canadian Premiere.

Sweden  Dir: Felix Herngren
A pitch-perfect picaresque adventure laced with loads of decidedly Scandinavian black humour, Jonas Jonasson’s 2009 novel quickly became a Swedish bestseller, and has since sold over three million copies worldwide. Felix Herngren has struck gold with his brisk, witty, wisely assembled big-screen adaptation starring comedian/actor Robert Gustafsson, who captures Karlsson’s character through so many stages of his tumultuous existence. Official Selection: Seattle International Film Festival. Canadian Premiere.

SOUTH KOREA  Dir: Um Tae-hwa
“Koolkidneyz” and “Manboobs” take their online feud into the real world. INGTOOGI is a deep dive into the national geek consciousness of South Korea, an upbeat outsider comedy that evolves into a truly heartfelt story of alienation and loss. Writer/Director Um Tae-hwa shed a dark light on the social media generation in a very promising first feature. International Premiere

Norway-Sweden-Denmark  Dir: Hans Petter Moland
“A father must avenge his son.” These words, spoken often on film, have yet to be answered with more darkly comic consequences than in this violent pitch-black comedy from director Hans Petter Moland (A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN), reteaming the filmmaker with the great Stellan Skarsgard. A key standout at the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals, this is the must-see European action thriller of the year. Canadian Premiere. 

Japan  Dir: Takashi Murakami
A lively celebration of the Japanese pop-culture tropes that feed the Superflat sensibility of pop-art superstar Takashi Murakami, his JELLYFISH EYES is also a heartfelt critique of Japan’s institutions in the era of Fukushima. This is a gorgeous and enchanting family friendly film with an edge that makes it a must see for film lovers of all ages. Official Selection: Sitges Film Festival. Canadian Premiere

USA  Dir: David Zellner
A lonely Tokyo office worker seeks the Minnesotan loot cache from FARGO in one of this year’s most beautifully unusual films. Quirky and melancholic, funny and haunting with enchanting traces of the surreal, anchored by a mesmerizing lead performance from the extraordinary Rinko Kikuchi, KUMIKO is the latest miracle from award-winning US indie heroes David and Nathan Zellner. Official Selection: Sundance, Berlin. Canadian Premiere.

South Korea  Dir: Yoon Jong-bin
In a time of turmoil and tyranny, a band of outlaws rises against the nobility. From the director of NAMELESS GANGSTER, a rough and ruthless adventure epic with a universal theme - righteous fury in the face of deep injustice with a stellar cast f
eaturing Ha Jung-woo (THE CHASER) and Gang Dong-won (HAUNTERS). Quebec Premiere

Ireland-UK Dir: Brian O’Malley
An isolated, understaffed police station becomes a fortress of horror in this atmospheric and ultra-violent Irish chiller, which unfolds like an especially sinister TWILIGHT ZONE episode crash-landed into hell. Stars Polyanna McIntosh, Liam Cunningham and Douglas Russell. Winner of the Melies D’argent at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. North American Premiere.

USA Dir: Jeff Baena
The assured directorial debut of I HEART HUCKABEES co-screenwriter Jeff Baena is a brilliantly cast, howlingly funny heartbreaker of love and undeath that poignantly utilizes the zombie mythos to explore the difficulties of letting go when relationships change. A standout selection at this year’s Sundance and New Zealand International Film Festival, starring Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser and Matthew Gray Gubler. Canadian Premiere. 

Hong Kong  Dir: Lee Kung Lok
Fresh from the international festival rounds in Hong Kong, New York and Udine, this hairy beast finally comes to country of the beaver with a hardcore vengeance. This stand-alone satire sequel written by Hong Kong’s funniest writers, Chan Hing- Kar (BREAKING NEWS) and Ho Miu-Kei, mercilessly pokes fun at the adult industry, celebrity and Asian culture on all fours while retaining a socially relevant subtext.Canadian Premiere. 

South Korea  Dir: Lee Jeong-beom
In the tradition Luc Besson’s THE PROFESSIONAL and and John Woo’s THE KILLER, a guilt-wracked assassin sides with his target in the hotly anticipated new film from Lee Jeong-beom (THE MAN FROM NOWHERE), a whirlwind of furious action scenes. Quebec Premiere

USA Dir: Dennis Widmyer, Kevin Kolsch
Alexandra Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan and Pat Healy star in this horrific tale of an aspiring actress unhinging herself by plunging headlong into the demeaning depths of Tinseltown. A chilling examination of the grisly fallout when a soul-corrupting industry seizes upon a soul that has already begun to fester from the inside. A hit at the Stanley Film Festival, winner of the Director's Choice Award at the Boston Underground Film Festival. Canadian Premiere.
Germany  Dir: Maximilian Erlenwein 
Eric (Jürgen Vogel) is a gentle giant leading a calm, quiet life, until a dark past he doesn’t remember catches up with him. An intimate dramatic crime thriller that gradually distorts into an absolute monster that plays with assaulting ferocity, this stunningly directed powerhouse co-stars Moritz BleibtreuOfficial Selection: Berlin Film Festival, Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. North American Premiere.

USA Dir: Onur Tukel
Its cup bleeding over with inspired writing, exhilaratingly sharp comedic performances, hyper-unconventional sex scenes and an oddball sense of grunge poetry, this film is an absolute revelation. Writer/director/editor/star Onur Turkel has created one of the most individualistic vampire works we’ve seen in a very long time, and also one of the most blazingly entertaining. An adored breakout at Tribeca, SUMMER OF BLOOD will be the Closing Film of our Camera Lucida sectionCanadian Premiere.

India  Dir: Anurag Kashyap
An actor’s young daughter is kidnapped in this unforgettable, gut-churning thriller from India, the polar opposite of the usual colourful Bollywood fare. A crushing urban noir — the title of which is to be take very literally. An official selection in last year’s Quinzaine des Réalisateurs at Cannes, UGLY is finally going to be shown in Canada. Canadian Premiere.

USA Dir: Gregg Araki
Indie cinema icon Gregg Araki surprises again with his elegant adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s novel, capturing the trials of passage to adulthood with this dark, emotionally authentic suburban mystery, starring Shailene Woodley as a teen whose mother (Eva Green) has vanished. Official Selection: Sundance. Canadian Premiere.