Every year, Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival serves up North America’s largest selection of genre-film goodness, and this year’s 25th edition running August 5–25 is no exception. Along with science fiction, thriller, dark comedy, action, animation, and other exciting genres, horror has always been a big part of Fantasia. Here are six of Fantasia’s exciting fear-fare feature offerings on tap this year, with descriptions from official press materials and the fest’s website, along with comments in italics from yours truly.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
“Casey here. Today I’m going to take the World’s Fair Challenge.” A lonely teen (Anna Cobb) stares at her computer screen, partaking in a viral game that soon takes hold of her increasingly dissociating mind. A disquieting take on the coming-of-age film, Jane Schoenbrun’s breakout Sundance hit WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR harnesses the potent aesthetics of found-footage horror and YouTube culture to craft a quietly devastating look at loneliness and despondency in the Internet age. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
This one has gotten all kinds of buzz since its Sundance premiere in January. Anna Cobb has received high praise for her performance, and coming-of-age horror done right has a strong tradition in modern fright-fare cinema.
RICHARD BATES JR. INVITES YOU ON A GONZO SPIRITUAL QUEST
Richard Bates Jr. has been a longstanding member of the Fantasia Family with fest favourites EXCISION, TRASH FIRE, TONE-DEAF, and SUBURBAN GOTHIC. We’re thrilled to announce his return with the outlandish KING KNIGHT, an outsider’s outsider comedy starring Matthew Gray Gublerand Angela Sarafyan asThorn and Willow, husband-and-wife high priest and priestess of a coven of witches in a small California community. When Willow unearths a secret from Thorn’s past, their lives are thrown into turmoil in this kooky, clever treat, decked with a wild cast that includes Nelson Franklin, Johnny Pemberton, Barbara Crampton, Ray Wise, Andy Milonakis, and the voices of Aubrey Plaza and AnnaLynne McCord. WORLD PREMIERE.
This film had me at its cast, as well as its director, and I’m a sucker for a good supernatural comedy.
MASASHI YAMAMOTO THROWS THE PARTY OF THE SUMMER IN WONDERFUL PARADISE
Punk iconoclast Masashi Yamamoto is back with WONDERFUL PARADISE, a demented spin on the unwanted-guest scenario that builds and builds until all notions of cinematic realism are thrown out the window and social constructs – of family, class, and Japanese decorum – are skewered by mayhem. Moving out of their house in the wealthy suburbs of Tokyo, the Sasayas find the transition made all the more complicated after their daughter posts an open party invite online for anyone to join, inviting a parade of estranged family, jilted lovers, and supernatural surprises into their lives. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
I love a good, insane Japanese horror offering, and this one sounds like it will tick all of my boxes in that department.
CRIES IN THE NIGHT ECHO THROUGH MARTYRS LANE
In this haunting and poignant ghost story from British writer/director Ruth Platt (THE LESSON, THE BLACK FOREST), ten-year-old Leah (Kiera Thompson) lives in a large vicarage, full of lost souls and the needy. In the day the house is bustling with people; at night it is dark, empty, a space for Leah’s nightmares to creep into. A small, nightly visitor (Sienna Sayer) brings her comfort, but soon she will realise that her little visitor offers knowledge that might be very, very dangerous. Tragic and unsettling with phenomenal performances and bottomless otherworldly atmosphere, MARTYRS LANE is a stunning, eerie triumph of a film. Co-starring Denise Gough (MONDAY) and Steven Cree (OUTLANDER). WORLD PREMIERE.
Well-done ghost stories are one of the main reasons I love horror films, especially when they boast equal parts classiness and creepiness, and this one seems to offer just that.
Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It
In this USA/Russia coproduction, “Three buddies on a fishing trip are pursued by inept gangsters – and they’re all the prey of a crazed killer.”
From what I have heard about this film, I should be in for a wild ride!
Fantasia is proud to be opening its upcoming edition with the World Premiere of a major Québécois genre feature – Julien Knafo’s BRAIN FREEZE. First pitched at Frontières, the festival’s world-renowned international co-production market, the film is a smart and stylish zombie comedy that slyly comments on social concerns both domestic and universal, telling the tale of an environmental disaster that leads to a fast-spreading virus ravaging a wealthy gated community off the island of Montreal. BRAIN FREEZE joins the ranks of recently-released cinema that holds an eerie mirror up to our collective experience even though scripted and shot pre-pandemic. While production on the winter-set chiller was abruptly halted four days before completion following Quebec’s lockdown, shooting was miraculously able to wrap the following summer. There could not be a more perfect film for Fantasia 2021 to kick off with! Following the World Premiere on August 5th, BRAIN FREEZE will see theatrical release throughout Canada on August 13th from Filmoption International.
Produced by Barbara Shrier (THE YEAR DOLLY PARTON WAS MY MOM, MÉMOIRES AFFECTIVES), the film stars Roy Dupuis (LA FEMME NIKITA, THE ROCKET), one of Quebec’s leading actors for the past three decades who celebrates his 50th feature with this role, alongside Iani Bédard (MON AMI WALID). The impressive cast is rounded out by an array of acclaimed figures in Québec cinema, including Marianne Fortier (AURORE), Anne-Élisabeth Bossé (LAURENCE ANYWAYS), Mylène Mackay (NELLY), Simon-Oliver Fecteau (BLUFF), Stéphane Crête (DANS UNE GALAXIE PRÈS DE CHEZ VOUS), Mahée Paiment (LES BOYS), Louis-Georges Girard (MAFIA INC), Claudia Ferri (BAD BLOOD), and Jean-Pierre Bergeron (SUR LE SEUIL).
Equally gorgeous as it is bloody, BRAIN FREEZE presents a clever take on corporate greed, the growing rift between the haves and have-nots and a government in crisis that uses a zombie outbreak to express its truth and succeeds at being both a charming horror comedy, coming-of-age tale, and a story of unexpected friendship in hazardous times.
Every time I state that I am bored and finished with zombie movies, along comes another unique offering with a different take on the subgenre. Sounds like this film could make me eat my words about the current state of living-dead cinema once again.