On one hot summer night, during the mid-1990’s, the cinephiles of Montreal gathered at the Imperial cinema, where the inaugural Fantasia Film Festival commenced with a prominent focus on East-Asian cinema. Ranging from anime features to high-brow domestic dramas, the Fantasia Film Festival would later become a prominent staple within the Canadian film scene. Largely considered as one of the most welcoming genre festivals located in the northern hemisphere, Fantasia is also largely known to be one of the most important festivals for platforming newcomer talent. With the introduction of their Frontières Market, Fantasia has been a home for financial aid for artists seeking additional budgetary ease. After 25 years of pure bloody excellence, we’ve finally reached the final night of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. So let us once again sit back, relax, and make furious cat noises together in the historic imperial theatre — or from the comfort of your shift 72 platform at home.
The 12 Day Tale of the Monster that Died in 8
Shunji Iwai is no stranger to the Fantasia Film Festival. Being a prominent auteur already pre-established with the festival and its various retrospective programs, his latest venture is by far one of his most beguiling films to date. The 12 Day Tale of the Monster that Died in 8 is essentially one long elongated comedy bit; implementing Kaiju lore, dry humour, zoom calls and interpretative dance sequences to questionable degrees of success. It’s a playfully experimental film that handles lockdown culture with a great amount of absurdity and honesty within the aesthetic confines of a chronological video diary.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
Yet another film shot and produced during lockdown (by this point it’s a recurring trend in independent filmmaking), Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes goes above and quite literally beyond its pandemic confines with an innovative take on the time-travel sub-genre. It’s a comedy infused with witty writing, consistent continuity, and a mind-bending finale that will leave Fantasia-fanatics gushing with unadulterated glee.
Where most action blockbusters in recent memory tend to excavate their material with A-List stars and weak MacGuffin-heavy screenwriting, Collectors offers a refreshing amount of commitment towards its familiar action-based material. It’s a heist film with a great amount of heart found in its ludicrously over-the-top set-pieces; self-contained with a rather dynamic take on the standard vengeance narrative at its core. Did I also mention that the film manages to pull-off four intense art heists in one movie, while also setting up a sequel; without diminishing any of its grandiose appeal? A pretty impressive achievement, indeed!
The latest animated feature from French comic-artist Joann Sfar is a ghoulishly delightful Halloween treat for all ages. After producing and directing The Rabbi’s Cat, his latest film arguably reaches the same level of technical proficiency and innovative character design as his previous feature endeavours. Little Vampire is a stunning visual achievement; even with the inclusion of a slightly familiar narrative. But then again, a kids flick starring vampire children, an incel ghost-pirate, and casual kino-related name-dropping will always be somewhat destined for success, whether you like it or not.
A gripping companion piece to Mike Flanagan’s Hush, the directorial debut from South Korean director Kown Oh-seung admittedly does share a significant amount of thematic DNA to the aforementioned American title. But where it lacks in originality, Oh-seung’s electrifying and pulse pounding direction provides ample execution to its familiar narrative. It’s a simple cat-and-mouse thriller, where language and perspective is the most dangerous weapon found within the film’s eclectic tool kit of literal knives, guns, and tasers. Handling a dense social critique on the ineptitude of militarism and present-day policing, there’s a staggering amount of observant and exhausting action found within Midnight‘s various low-budget set-pieces. Regardless of the over-the-top composition — to the extent of gratuitous editing and a plethora of artificial crash zooms — the unnerving sound design and proficient visual storytelling steadily lulls the viewer into a frenzy of serial-killing anarchy.
There’s no place like home. In the great vein of the infamous Judy Garland-coined phrase and demented acid trips, Masashi Yamamoto’s unforgettable and original depiction of neighbourly communion simultaneously handles commentary on gentrification with maddening imagery— all set during a spontaneous farewell party gone rogue. Squeamish coffee-bean creatures, impromptu weddings and funerals, cocaine-dealing buffoons, casual cucking (and fucking for that matter), and the appearance of two loving spirits form Yamamoto’s patchwork of backyard celebrations.