#FANTASIA: FANTASIA FESTIVAL 2021 PREVIEW
By Justin Waldman & Amanda Gilmore
Fantasia Festival 2021 officially kicks-off on Thursday August 5, 2021 through Wednesday, August 25, 2021, now in its 25th year, with an incredible line up of films and features!
Our Team’s Justin Waldman and Amanda Gilmore had an opportunity to preview some of the amazing films to premiere at the Montreal-based Festival, celebrating genre Film! See some of their recommendations. Throughout the Festival, we will be sharing their reviews on what to see as well. Be sure to check back! Note, most films are available virtually through the duration of the Festival unless otherwise stated.
Fantasia 20201 comes at us with some of the craziest, most outrageous movies I’ve seen this year! These movies range from Supernatural Thrillers to Puppet Zombie masterpieces of truly epic proportions and outlandish house parties gone wrong and zombie madness. There are definitely some movies that deserve a memorable shoutout like Sion Sono’s new film, Prisoners of the Ghostland starring the incomparable Nicolas Cage, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break which won over audiences at SXSW, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror, a Documentary on Horror films. There is so much to see at Fantasia 2021 and here are five of the movies that I’ve seen thus far that have been some of the best! More to come!
Zombie Comedy-Horror films, few and far between get the movie and genre bending films right. Brain Freeze absolutely hits the nail on the head, it is a genuinely brilliant Zombie film with an interesting way explaining the spread of the disease, with fantastic gore and zombie action. There is so much fun that audiences will be smiling ear to ear, with their jaws falling off from laughter and pure joy from the zombies.
A small rich gated community wants to make sure their golf course stays green longer and uses a new fertilizer, however that fertilizer unfortunately is infected with a mutated gene that manages to turn people into Zombies. Everyone has been infected, the government doesn’t want the spread to get any further out of hand, and one lonely child Andre (Iani Bedard) must find his way out of the community, after all exits have been cut off or bombed. It’s a fight for survival, that is a bloody good time.
Brain Freeze is for fans of the Zombie genre, filled with blood, guts, and tons of laughter. This zombie comedy will entertain audiences. The cast encapsules the embodiment of zombies without landing on usual tropes, while providing some scares and silliness at the same time. Brain Freeze is not to be missed at Fantasia!
FRANK AND ZED
Frank and Zed, there is so much to say about this insanely bonkers film that one cannot simply describe! One must absolutely gush about the ingenuity and sheer joy that is brought by six years of labour into this masterful puppetry of brilliance that is Frank and Zed. Jesse Blanchard, dedicated six years of his life to make this wonderful insane masterpiece of blood, guts, and puppets. Frank and Zed is such a delight, it must be consumed to truly be believed.
Frank and Zed are two re-animated corpses who are dependent on each other to survive, one being a Frankenstein-esque monster and one being a Zombie, the two appear to be great friends and truly inseparable. Everything is fine in their lives, until one of the villagers discovers that they are living on the outskirts of the city and threatens their way of life. The reason the villagers are so terrified of them is because of an old prophecy: the orgy of blood! Everything about Frank and Zed is truly spectacular and cannot be missed. It will leave you in stitches!
Jesse Blanchard is truly someone to watch out for moving forward, his ability to tell and direct a story is simply sublime. Frank and Zed is some of the most fun, most gory, most insane feature I’ve seen all year. There is something so delightful and bloody fun about Frank and Zed that needs to be seen to be believed!
Office Royale is part-Scott Pilgrim, part-Battle Royale and part Tarantino if that does not get audiences excited, then there is something wrong. The Movie focuses on different Office Lady’s who are all part of different cliques who battle for office supremacy. In this wild ride, audiences get to see some masterful fights that are pure entertainment and filled with some excellent choreography and blood.
Naoko Tanaka (Mei Nagano) is one of the very few office lady’s who decides to sit outside of the cliques and just go about her day, not affiliating herself with any of the cliques and fights that we can notice. This changes when she meets who is deemed the ultimate office lady, Ran (Alice Hirose) who seems to be able to take down all the cliques and make one ultimate clique for the office itself. Things take a turn though when others learn of Ran and the Office Royale truly becomes a battle for supremacy.
While the Movie focuses on tropes, with taking comedic takes on them, it feels very meta. The performances throughout Office Royale are great as they take on all the tropes, while packing a punch both figuratively and literally for the audience. The fast pace action sequences are top notch, and Office Royale is a blast from start to finish.
SWEETIE YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT
Sweetie You Won’t Believe It, is one of the most brutally-insane films I’ve ever seen. It is everything you could expect from a day trip gone wrong comedy one could expect, it is insane. Three friends who cannot figure out what they’re actually doing, getting stalked by some of the most inept hitmen the worlds ever seen being hunted by a mute person who emerges from the forest.
Das (Daniar Alshinov) is tired of all the issues he is running into at home so he plans a day out with his two equally tired friends, Arman (Azamat Markenlov) and Merat (Erlan Primbetov) as they go on a fishing expedition which starts off as a three stooges skit. From there they stumble across the world’s dumbest hitmen and notice them disposing of the body and they now become the hunted. However, to no one’s knowledge there is now a one-eyed man who is hunting them all down at this remote location. With screwball comedy and some blood and guts, Sweetie You Won’t Believe It delivers on all fronts of absolute insanity.
Audiences will be delighted to see the madness and hilarity that is going to delight crowds at Fantasia that is Sweetie You Won’t Believe It. The Movie is such a blast from start to finish, making you laugh or cringe at the Slapstick Comedy and immense violence. Sweetie You Won’t Believe It, is a must see for anyone who enjoys comedy and violence, a must see during this year’s Testival.
In Wonderful Paradise, the Sasayas are down on their luck and must move out of their house due to a foreclosure. There is a miscommunication that leads to some truly baffling events, some supernatural occurrences, and some drug dealing mishaps, it may be far from a wonderful paradise, but it is a wonderful time.
Akiko (Kaho Minami) misunderstands her dad’s request to make memories and posts on twitter a party at her house, before they must leave, for all to come and enjoy. A mishap cast of a homeless man, a couple, some drug dealers, and some random family all come and make this a night to remember. There is death, there is children disappearing in supernatural ways, and a talking cat, this is truly a Wonderful Paradise of chaos. Wonderful Paradise is sheer madness and a pure delightful film with absolute joy. With everything that is going on, and a magical coffee bean that comes to life, there is something for all fans of genre films in Wonderful Paradise.
Sometimes movies just need to be a mix match of genre bending weirdness to become their own identity, and Wonderful Paradise blends supernatural, comedy, horror, and kaiju madness to become this wonderful melting pot of glorious proportions. This Film is an absolute joy from start to finish, bringing laughter and genuine shock at what is going on. Wonderful Paradise is a love letter to genre cinema, and such a joyful watch.
THE SUICIDE SQUAD
James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is an outrageous, fun action-packed thrill-ride loaded with humour from beginning to end. It’s hard to remember the last time this much fun could happen in the cinema.
This time around, the Squad sees many new additions. Most notably Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher (Daniela Melchoir) King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and more. But don’t fret, the fantabulous Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) are still hanging with this unholy bunch. The new group is sent by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to the island of Corto Maltese to destroy what their government is hiding inside the Jotunheim building.
For those familiar with Gunn’s work — and you should be — his particular style of filmmaking is perfectly suited for this band of quirky supervillains. His new and improved The Suicide Squad is gruesome, violent, witty and a non-stop joyride. Even in the bleakest moments a line of dialogue or a character’s reaction slices the tension and causes laughs. Gunn’s always comes with a killer Soundtrack and once again, he delivers. It amplifies the characters inner turmoil, setting, themes and more.
Gunn has crafted a group of brilliant Actors who understand his delightful cocktail of action, gore and humour. It’s remarkable to think about the makeovers which Harley has had in her handful of films. Robbie shines every single time by building off of Harley’s previous endeavours and still making her new. Elba is the perfect fit as a ‘deadbeat dad’ trying possibly a little too late to become a good father. Cena’s comedic flair gets put to good use and he has a great rapport with Elba. Kinnaman brings the Rick Flag we’ve seen before but gives him a deeper desire to be the good guy. The rest of the ensemble, including the supporting members, are perfectly cast.
Overall, The Suicide Squad never disappoints and most impressively it’s entirely unpredictable. It’ll leave you laughing, cheering, gasping and it just might bring a tear to your eye.
The Suicide Squad screens at Fantasia in-person only, August 4, 2021 at Imperial Cinema at 7 PM. Warner Bros. Canada release THE SUICIDE SQUAD on August 6, 2021. Check out our full review then!
This South Korean Thriller from Writer-Director Kwon Oseung, follows Kyung-mi (Jin Ki-joo), who is hearing-impaired, after trying to save a stabbed woman, becomes prey to psychopathic killer Do-shik (Wi Ha-joon). For the rest of the night, Kyung-mi is caught in a hide-and-seek scenario with the killer.
By making the lead deaf it has opened up an array of different ways of telling this particular genre story. Oseung never uses it as a disability but as a tool to show the arrogance of the hearing population. Kyung-mi searches for help from citizens and also the police, but to no avail. This is due to them becoming irritated or impatient with her. This leaves her to rely on herself and become her own saviour. It’s a refreshing take on this killer hunting female storyline.
The Cast is strong with its two main players giving powerful performances. Ki-joo is dynamite at evoking fear through one look and then getting more into the physicality of her performance. The Film plays with sound often cutting it all together when we are experiences life through Kyung-mi’s eyes. In these moments, Ki-joo’s physical performance is even more impactful. And Ha-joon understands that the most iconic psychotic characters have charisma. He plays this up with precision, often changing within seconds from charismatic to sinister.
Sometimes fear comes from knowing why someone did something. But sometimes it comes from there is no reason at all. What makes Midnight scary is that there is no reason as to why Do-shik is killing innocent women.
Midnight screens at Fantasia on Virtual Projection August 22 at 9 PM and August 24 at 9 AM.
THE NIGHT HOUSE
This Psychological Thriller will constantly keep you on your toes.
It follows Beth (a fantastic Rebecca Hall) in the aftermath of her husband’s, Owen (Evan Jonigkeit), unexpected suicide. Beth now resides in the empty house her late-husband built for them. However, when she begins searching for an explanation for her husband’s decision, she discovers some disturbing and spiritual secrets.
Director David Bruckner has found an effective way to use jump-scares that force even the most seasoned horror fan to be on edge. This happens right from the beginning, at times in daylight and with no cues (such as cutting the sound). In doing so, Bruckner forces his audience to expect anything at any time. Thus, creating a continuous atmosphere of fear that is rare in this genre today. Bruckner, along with the production design, film in a home that is simple and modern. There are no cobwebs, dust and creaking old floors. That’s because Bruckner and the Production Design team have effectively used camera angles and framing to play tricks on our eyes. Making us see spirits where there may —or may not— be any.
At the core of the Film, is the powerful performance from Hall. The majority of the nights, Beth is searching her house. In another’s hands, this could easily become aimless wandering. Yet, Hall puts immense intension behind each of Beth’s movements. Additionally, the grief-stricken Beth doesn’t shy away from death and the afterlife, instead she refreshingly runs toward it. And Hall exposes the curiosity, fear and at times relief that pass through Beth’s thoughts with mastery.
The Night House screens at Fantasia in-person August 12 at Imperial Cinema at 7 PM. Searchlight Pictures release The Night House August 20, 2021. Check out our full review and chat with Hall then!
PAUL DOOD’S DEADLY LUNCH BREAK
Charity-shop worker, Paul Dood (Tom Meeten) is set on winning the big national talent show. But when the actions of five selfish people cause him to miss his audition, he sets out to seek deathly revenge. It’s one lunch break, five spectacular murders.
This is quintessential British Dark-Comedy at its finest. At its core is the story of a middle-aged man who really wants to attain his dream. It appears to be a standard run-of-the-mill underdog story but it’s got a hilarious twist. A want hiding deeper within Paul than winning the national talent show is that he wants to be famous. It’s this desire for fame that Meeten latches onto and delivers one of the funniest performances of the Festival. His natural wit and charm make us root for Paul even when we know what he’s doing is wrong.
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break could easily just be a darkly-comedic film, but it’s more than that. Co-writer and Director Nick Gillespie introduces the impact of social media on Paul’s insatiable need for fame. In order to become a star, Paul videos his journey to the audition. However, he doesn’t turn it off as he follows out his deathly revenge. And somehow, society tunes in and Paul believes he’s becoming a star. This is a Comedy with a powerful message on our current society’s obsession with likes and fame.
In a future where the government records dreams and taxes them, a dream auditor James (Kentucker Audley who also co-writes and directs) gets caught up in ageing eccentric Arabella‘s (Penny Fuller) dreams. Thus, making him question the extent of control the government and corporations have over their dreamscape.
This Sundance 2021 hit is sure to spark conversation from the Fantasia audience. Co-Writers and Directors Audley and Albert Birney have created a futuristic world where capitalism has managed to expand and now invades every aspect of our lives — even if we aren’t aware of it. The inventive decision to show this through an eccentric’s dreams, lets this filmmaking pair take us on a journey to some surreal places. Impressively, no matter how surreal this Film gets the message is never lost.
Along this fun, magical ride is some great comedic moments. These primarily come from James’ recurring pink room dream where a man only known as Buddy (a hilarious Linas Phillips) brings him the same bucket of fried chicken from the same fast-food chain. These scenes, along with the rest of this film, are visually stunning. The dazzling Cinematography from Tyler Davis gives off a hazy, dreamy look to the Film overall. If that wasn’t enough to impress, the entire cast gives strong performances that are anchored in the want to have our dreams be our own.
More on the Festival here.
(Photo credit: Fantasia Festival)