Tomorrow marks the start of the 22nd Fantasia International Film Festival, Montreal’s genre fest that runs from July 12-August 2. In the past years, I’ve been following the coverage of Fantasia by the likes of Brian Tallerico, Justine Smith and Noel Murray. But as of tomorrow, it’s my turn. Yours truly will be covering the films of opening weekend and beyond, while inhaling as much poutine as possible in the process.
From my perspective as an onlooker, there is a heavy “midnight movie” vibe to Fantasia that I’ve gathered when seeing films that have gone through the fest, whether it’s the super fun Ugandan action movie “Who Killed Captain Alex?”, the Tarantino-heavy thriller “Lowlife,” the horror-comedy “Juan of the Dead,” the Polish mermaid musical “The Lure,” the horror omnibus “Tales of Halloween” and more. It's the freaky, the funny, the geeky, the all-out odd. The festival also has a history of dedication to Asian films and genre-bending material, so I’m very eager to see what kind of feast that creates for attendees in 2018.
In anticipation of what will be playing during the entire festival, let’s start at the end: Fantasia very possibly could be saving its best for last, “Mandy,” starring Nicolas Cage. It's been months since I first saw the latest from Panos Cosmatos, a heaven-sent midnight movie masterpiece, and I’m just as hungry to see it again. If you’re not familiar with it, the movie stars Nicolas Cage at the center of a horror-action nightmare, as a mountain man who battles psychedelic Jesus freaks, while going full-throttle into the Cage-mode that viewers love him for. It’s destined to be a cult classic, if it isn't already, and looks like it will be just one thrilling gem within Fantasia's line-up.
There are a few other major titles playing the festival that I’d like to recommend: the tech-thriller nail biter “Searching,” from debut director Aneesh Chaganty, who takes a Spielbergian sensibility for family adventure and crowd-thrilling, in a story about a father (John Cho) trying to find his high school-age daughter after she goes missing. It was one of the slickest, most fun movies I saw at Sundance, along with two other big titles that will soon stir up their own followings: Crystal Moselle’s “Skate Kitchen,” about a group of young women skateboarders in New York City doing what they do and kicking ass at it, and Josephine Decker’s abrasive, incredible narrative about the intense craft of acting, “Madeline’s Madeline.” An early glimpse at newcomer Helena Howard’s performance feels worth the price of a Fantasia badge alone (no adjust for inflation necessary).
Outside of Sundance, I can recommend on behalf of Nelson Carvajal the new horror movie from Issa Lopez, “Tigers Are Not Afraid,” which played at the Chicago Latino Film Festival. Carvajal said the movie “defies categorization” and even better, that it’s the “children’s version of Annihilation.” Sold. (Read Nelson’s capsule review of the film here.)
I also recommend people catch up with Joseph Kahn’s stunning “Bodied,” which takes on politically correct culture through the arena of rap battling. The movie is set to be released on YouTube, but it works best with an audience given how hilarious and offensive it becomes while showing the unlikely ascent of one battle rapper. I imagine that the Fantasia crowd would be an excellent audience to see it with.
And by chance, I happened to see Park Hoon-Jung’s gruesome political thriller “V.I.P.” while abroad recently, and I highly recommend it. It’s a nasty epic about the current tensions between North Korean and South Korea, as centered around the bureaucratic handling of a nightmarish, smirking serial killer who’s so high up in society that he has a twisted sense of immunity. A movie that doesn’t skimp on its gruesomeness or on its political outrage, it recalls the post-Watergate thrillers that showed the unsettling nature of corruption on a massive and intimate scale, where a full sense of justice seemed only like a dream, and not a resolution.
Now, let’s look at some of the dozens and dozens films playing Fantasia that myself and others at RogerEbert.com haven’t seen, especially the world premieres. Here are just a few titles that we’re excited to check out in the coming days, with plenty of surprises in store:
The 22nd Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 12 through August 2. For more information regarding showtimes and selected titles, click here.