The Fantasia International Film Festival is a three-week long celebration of international genre cinema centered in the heart of Montreal. Celebrating its 22nd year, it started the festivities on Thursday, July 12 with the two opening films Just a Breath Away (Dans la brume) and horror anthology Nightmare Cinema, as well as a rousing Lifetime Achievement Award for director Joe Dante.
While the festival is three weeks long, it’s packed with an insane amount of films, special programming, master classes taught by the likes of Timur Bekmambetov, live conversations with Michael Ironside, VR experiences, and special screenings like 1911’s L’Inferno with a live score performance by Maurizio Guarini of Goblin. It’s a festival of skillfully curated content that genre film lovers will go crazy for, yet with a quirky, laid-back personality. Seriously. It’s the only festival I’ve ever attended where the audience meows as the lights go down in the theater.
The festival is just heating up, with its second weekend boasting an amazing lineup. More coverage is on the way, but here are some of the highlights from the opening weekend.
The opening film Just a Breath Away was paired with a short horror film; the Montreal premiere of Milk. Written and directed by Santiago Menghini, Milk is one creepy little short that sees a teen encounter his sleepless mother when going into the kitchen for a glass of milk one stormy night. There’s something very, very wrong with his mother.
The Night Eats the World
This French horror film directed by Dominique Rocher takes a clever approach to the zombie outbreak conceit by dialing it back to a small, intimate story. For Sam, after passing out in the back room of a party thrown by his ex-girlfriend, he wakes to find that Paris has been taken over by zombies. Akin to Jeremy Gardner’s The Battery, this is more an introspection on what it means to be human in a time of apocalyptic terror and is confined mostly to a small space (this time an apartment). It’s a well done, emotionally effective film, but its slower pace won’t be for everyone. The best part is that this is one festival film you won’t have to wait for; it’s out now in limited release.
Unfriended: Dark Web
Full confession here: I was not a fan of the first film. The teen angst melodrama that culminated in a supernatural cyber bully ghost wasn’t for me. However, writer/director Stephen Susco takes the general concept of the first and applies a much more grim, brutal story steeped in realism. A game night among friends over Skype goes awry when Matias finds horrific secrets hidden within his new laptop, secrets that the previous owner will kill to retrieve. This sequel lives up to its title and gets really, really dark. If you weren’t a fan of the first one this might be more your style. Unfriended: Dark Web is out this Friday.
Summer of ‘84
Filmmaking trio François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell, also known as RKSS, follow up beloved cult hit Turbo Kid with an ‘80s set thriller centered around young conspiracy theorist Davey (Graham Verchere) who believes his neighbor might be responsible for the murders of other children in the area. A sweet, nostalgic coming of age story until RKSS pulls the rug out from under you in a twisted, brutal fashion, Stranger Things this is not. A tonally lighthearted film that spends a long time with Davey and his friends until the third act gets downright bleak, this one is likely to upset many viewers.
The latest by director Xavier Gens (Frontier(s), The Divide) is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Albert Sánchez Piñol. It follows a young man, Friend (David Oakes), that arrives to a remote island to assume meteorologist duties and quickly finds his home under siege every night by aquatic humanoids. He’s forced to flee to the island’s lighthouse and forms a tumultuous alliance with the island’s only other human, Gruner (Ray Stevenson) and Gruner’s female creature Aneris (Aura Garrido), as they fight off the nightly attacks. It becomes clear that these two men have very opposing ideologies on the creatures, and it leads to devastating consequences. With a nearly two hour run time, Cold Skin is far too long for its basic story. It’s well shot with stunning visuals, however. This one is far more philosophical than horror/sci-fi.