The 16th annual Fantasia Film Festival is underway in Montreal, Canada. The festival is so packed this year that it’s overwhelming to even begin looking at the film schedule. The horror lineup spans across subgenres and budgets and this is precisely what makes Fantasia so special. Giving equal attention to major productions and low budget indie films, Fantasia has something for everyone.
In its 16th year, there are over 160 screenings during the three-week festival, and it would be insane to even attempt reviewing them all. I’ve been running to the various theaters to catch each flick, and I still can’t watch them all. Although it would be ideal to write full reviews, it would take way too many days, and way too many cups of coffee. What follows are mini-reviews on what I’ve seen so far at Fantasia 2012 including The Pact, Citadel, and Toad Road.
The Pact is Nicholas McCarthy’s debut feature film and it is an expansion of his short of the same name. The film follows Annie, who returns to her hometown after her abusive mother passes away. Unfortunately for Annie, her sister vanishes the night she arrives, and a malicious spirit is haunting her mother’s house. While the film has its merits and some decent scares, it is not enough to save the film from the dull drama that is interspersed throughout. It feels as though McCarthy struggled to expand his short into a full feature film, ultimately adding one more to the collection of ghost films inspired by The Ring.
The Pact offers several good scare scenes, that are genuinely creepy, which is tough feat to overcome in modern haunting movies. The issue is that the novelty it offers is still ultimately encased in the same ghost story we’ve all seen a thousand times. There’s a spooky ghost haunting a house, what could it want? I’m willing to bet that most Bloody-disgusting readers could guess the answer. Although the acting is decent, the characters are one-dimensional making them difficult to care for. Watching characters chat over ice cream is not my idea of a thrilling story.
The ultimate downfall of The Pact is the device the creative team uses in an attempt to bring ghosts into the modern world. Ghosts have a special relationship with electricity in the film. They make lights flicker, they eat battery-powered devices, and apparently they know how to use iPhones. Bringing modern technology into a ghost film is always risky, and it really draws attention to how silly ghosts can be in The Pact.
I read a few reviews after watching Citadel to get a feel for what other sites were saying. This is something I don’t normally do and now I know why. The majority of people who don’t watch horror movies on the regular don’t get them. Irish born director, Ciaran Foy, tells an intense and incredibly personal story about a man who suffers from severe agoraphobia. The movie begins with a disturbing scene of Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) helplessly watching as his pregnant wife is stabbed in the belly with a dirty syringe. Foy kicks off Citadel with a vivid, penetrating image and it doesn’t let up from there.
What I love most about Citadel is how Foy is able to employ so many tropes that horror fans love, while managing to keep things so fresh. Barnard’s performance is the driving factor of the film; it is captivating, empathic, and chilling. Even when Tommy is being a huge coward, you can still understand his internal strife. The climactic scene in a dark and dirty room full of rattling cages is heart wrenchingly good, and you can’t help but clench your jaw in anticipation. Does the film offer something we’ve never seen before? Not necessarily. But, true horror fans will see this film for what it is: everything a good horror movie should be. I have not doubt that Citadel will find itself in the loving embrace of horror fans.
Resolution is the debut feature film from the hot pair of directors, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. This is the kind of movie that is as funny as it is disturbing, without venturing into the realm of campy horror comedy. Resolution delivers a dashingly intelligent commentary on the horror genre, the nature of cinema, and the relationship viewers have to on-screen victims.
The film centers on Michael who travels to the middle of nowhere in an attempt to help his junkie best friend, Chris, to get off the dope. Michael chains Chris to a wall inside the decrepit shack, which brings along on a slew of problems for the two to deal with. Chris’ drug dealers want their money, and the real house owner wants them out by the week’s end. However, the real trouble comes when Michael discovers creepy videotapes, projector slides, and photographs inside the cabin.
The acting is superb. You can feel the chemistry between the two leads from the very start, and because Resolution is a drama-oriented film, it brings you right into their world. The films biggest flaw is its length. While the scenes of the two friends bickering add to their depth, the same conversation seems to happen several times.
Resolution is a slow burn that manages to offer plenty of scares, laughs, paranoia, and it will stay with you long after watching. The best part is that there are absolutely no jump scares. No cheap tactics to get a reaction, just plain old fashion creepiness as two friends in the middle of nowhere find out that someone, or something is following them. By the time you figure out what’s going on, it’s already too late and you realize it was inevitable from the start. Resolution is an intelligent indie flick that explores new areas of horror with stunning execution. These are two guys to watch out for.
Toad Road is about drug culture, drug use, and gateways to paranormal worlds. It explores a York, PA urban legend about The Seven Gates Of Hell which can be found in a nearby forest. While any film that explores an urban legend is bound to be interesting, Toad Road never reaches a satisfying breaking point, and it leaves the story a bit too open ended.
The loose plot follows a gang of friends who are into all kinds of psychedelic drugs. These are the type of kids who like to get “fucked up” every night of the week and do stupid shit like snort condoms through their nose. Enter Sarah, an innocent city girl who joins the group of friends in an effort to discover herself. After experimenting with a few drugs, Sarah’s boyfriend, James, tells her about the Toad Road legend. Toad Road is path in the forest that is marked with the Seven Gates of Hell. Each gate you pass is said to twist your mind a little bit more, ultimately leading to time-warping and nothingness.
The lack of narrative and the open-ended nature of the film make Toad Road feel more like a comedown than a trip. There film was shot with a very rough script, and a lot of improvisation, which really means the editors, did a great job of creating something watchable. The droning soundtrack is largely responsible for the eerie mood as the film progresses toward the climax. However, not much really happens on Toad Road, leaving a lot to be desired.
A NIGHT OF NIGHTMARES
Buddy Giovinazzo’s segment of Theatre Bizarre won over the Fantasia crowd last year, and now he’s back with A Night Of Nightmares. This is Giovinazzo’s first outright horror film, and it is a disappointing, lackluster, unintentionally comedic mess. From the acting, to the framing, to the script, there are few redeeming qualities to A Night Of Nightmares.
It has become a cliché in pop culture that horror characters make decisions based on no logic or reasoning, and no film depicts this better than A Night Of Nightmares. The film is confusing to the point of frustration. Although the characters could get away from the haunted house simply by walking out the front door 20 minutes into the film, they choose to stay the night. This rash decision subjects both them and the audience to bland scares and exasperating motives.
While it is far from the worst acting I’ve ever seen, it’s far from the best. It’s evident that the film was originally supposed to be shot found footage style, as the main character is a youtube music video blogger who has his camera about him at all times. Not only does this make you instantly hate him, but you also get a few handheld cam scenes scattered throughout A Night Of Nightmares that add absolutely nothing of substance. There is a possession scene near the end that saves the film from absolute doom, despite not fitting with plot at all. The finale is supposed to be mind-blowing, but as with the rest of the film, it’s a complete nightmare.
I was fortunate enough to catch a screening of V/H/S on Saturday, which I have been dying to see for quite some time now given that I work for Bloody-disgusting. Obviously, it would be poor taste to review the film, and regardless of which way my review went, I would get slack from someone. What I can tell you is the screening sold out fast, the theatre was packed, and the crowed absolutely loved V/H/S. I’m really excited to hear what you all think of it, and I encourage you to write user reviews after you see it.