Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 Offers Resurrected Fright Flicks and Cutting-Edge New Genre Films
By: Joseph Perry (@JosephWPerryJWP)
Fantasia International Film Festival has released its full lineup for its 2019 edition, proving once again why it is considered one of the absolute preeminent genre film gatherings in the world. Fantasia 2019 features more than 130 incredible features from across the globe, along with a bevy of outstanding short films, as well. With new boundary-pushing efforts, modern spins on classic genre film fare, and a jaw-dropping selection of new prints and revivals of horror and action films from the 1970s and 1980s, Fantasia truly has something for everybody.
Fans of classic Asian horror, take note: Twenty years ago, Fantasia celebrated the North American Premiere of Hideo Nakata’s RINGU (AKA The Ring) and its sequel, which led to Dreamworks acquiring the franchise and is largely seen as having been the birth of Japanese horror in the West. This summer, the festival is proud to open its 23rd edition with the North American premiere of the series’ latest sequel, SADAKO. This entry also marks the return of director Nakata to his beloved franchise. One of cinema’s scariest characters is back on the big screen, and you’d better prepare yourself in case she and her young acolyte decide to crawl out of it. SADAKO cleverly respects all of the elements that made Koji Suzuki’s novels so successful, but brings in a host of new elements that will revive J-horror for an all-new generation of terrified moviegoers.
Fantasia Retro: Old-School Horror Lives Again!
Of great interest to When It Was Cool readers is the festival’s new Fantasia Retro section, which is dedicated to special screenings of major genre film restorations, in addition to showings of rare 35mm and 16mm prints. Restoration premieres include the following features.
DECODER (Germany, 1984) – Dir: Muscha
This German oddity features author William S. Burroughs and members of 1980s bands including Soft Cell, The The, Einstürzende Neubauten, and Psychic TV in the cast. The plot includes a burger shop employee who learns that he can ignite riots against the government by changing background music to industrial noise music.
New 2K Restoration from Vinegar Syndrome. World premiere.
DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN (USA, 1971) – Dir: Al Adamson
This low, low-budget movie, a former television and drive-in staple, features Lon Chaney Jr. in his final horror film role. Count Dracula encourages the last in the line of the Frankenstein doctors to resurrect the original Frankenstein monster. Madcap wackiness ensues! “And all those who would meddle in the destinies of Frankenstein and Dracula will see an infernal bloodbath the likes of which has not swept the Earth before!” New Restoration by Severin Films. World premiere.
THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE (Spain, 1974) – Dir: Jorge Grau
Also known as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, this Spanish/Italian co-production sees two hippies mistaken as murderers. The real killers are zombies reanimated by chemical pesticides! New 4K Restoration by Synapse Films. World premiere.
SATAN’S SLAVE (Indonesia, 1982) – Dir: Sisworo Gautama Putra
This occult shocker features a uniquely Indonesian take on black magic and religious horror. New 2K Restoration by Severin Films. International premiere.
LOOK WHAT’S HAPPENED TO ROSEMARY’S BABY (USA, 1976), hosted by actor Stephen McHattie.
Patty Duke stars as Rosemary in this television movie sequel to the fear fare classic Rosemary’s Baby (1968), with Ruth Gordon aboard as the only cast member from the original. Genre movie legend Stephen McHattie stars as the now-adult Adrian, son of Satan. The Montreal Film Society presents this special 16mm screening of director Sam O’Steen’s film.
The other Fantasia Retro offerings are:
SON OF THE WHITE MARE (Hungary, 1981) – Dir: Marcell Jankovics
New 4K Restoration by Arbelos Films. World premiere.
LEGEND OF THE STARDUST BROTHERS (Japan, 1981) – Dir. Makoto Tezuka
New 2K Restoration from Third Window Films. Canadian premiere.
A 35mm showing of the Shaw Bros classic THE BOXER’S OMEN (Hong Kong, 1983) – Dir. Kuei Chih-Hung.
Further, the Action! Lineup will be showing a rare 35mm print of Ringo Lam’s FULL CONTACT (Hong Kong, 1992) and StudioCanal’s recent restoration of Ted Kotcheff’s legendary, dramatic first chapter in the Rambo franchise, FIRST BLOOD (USA, 1982).
Five Films I Highly Recommend
I have been fortunate enough to catch the following five movies when I covered other film festivals, and would like to suggest them as can’t miss offerings at this year’s Fantasia. My thoughts follow the official Fantasia descriptions.
DANIEL ISN’T REAL. USA – Dir: Adam Egypt Mortimer
A childhood friend reappearing after a decade seems like it should be cause for celebration . . . but what happens if it's a troublemaking - and possibly deadly - imaginary friend? This is the conundrum in Adam Egypt Mortimer's clever, violent thriller, whose title isn't as cut and dry as one might first think. Official Selection: South by Southwest 2019, Sydney International Film Festival 2019, Overlook Film Festival 2019. Canadian premiere.
I caught this film yesterday at South Korea’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, and was blown away by the captivating performances of its two leads, Miles Robbins and Patrick Schwarzenegger, along with director Mortimer’s stunning visuals and the clever screenplay.
FREAKS. Canada – Dirs: Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein
Bruce Dern, Emile Hirsch, and Amanda Crew headline this mind-bending mystery box of a thriller about a young girl (newcomer Lexy Kolker) whose father has convinced her that leaving their suburban home will spell her doom... and when she finally does step outside, she discovers a world unlike anything she - or this film's viewers - would ever believe. Official Selection: Toronto International Film Festival 2018. WINNER: Prix Public, Best Feature, Les Utopiales 2018, Audience Award, Best Film, What the Fest…?! 2019. Quebec premiere.
I reviewed this film for its FrightFest Glasgow run last March, calling it “a stripped-down approach to superhero origin stories, focusing on character development and drama rather than big-budget special effects, and [delivering] a winning, engaging effort” in my Gruesome Magazine review.
What if SpongeBob had been directed by Canadian experimental master Guy Maddin? The answer lies with director Ryland Brickson Cole Tews and his microbudget creature feature, LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER (International Premiere). Made with great inventiveness and a love for ’50s B-movies and monster flicks, this is everything indie cinema should be and more. With gritty black-and-white photography, special effects galore, hand-crafted sets and costumes, and jaw-dropping hallucinatory sequences, this charmer won awards for Best Cinematography, Best Ensemble in a Feature, and the Audience Award for Best Feature at 2019’s Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Festival.
It was for the Twisted Dreams screening that I reviewed this film, again for Gruesome Magazine, saying, “Tews keeps the humor coming hard and fast in a spray-and-pray approach to see what sticks, and the styles run from vaudevillian corny to laugh-out-loud hilarious . . .The performances are spirited, the cinematography is solid, and the special effects and creature design are a joy to behold.”
THE LODGE. UK/USA – Dirs: Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala
Hailed at Sundance as “the next great horror film,” this nerve-shredding story of inexplicable, terrifying things happening to a snowed-in family stars Riley Keough, Richard Armitage, and Alicia Silverstone. This is a film whose horrors are both intellectual and deeply visceral, with imagery that will have your heart in your throat. From the makers of GOODNIGHT MOMMY. Official Selection: Sundance 2019, Karlovy Vary 2019, Overlook Film Festival 2019. Canadian premiere.
I saw this two nights ago at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. This is a truly bone-chilling, dark horror film that viewers should go into as blindly as possible. Expect, however, one of the most harrowing cinematic experiences of this year.
WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! Russia – Dir: Kirill Sokolov
All holy household hell breaks loose in a single, ever-more-battle-scarred Moscow apartment. Kirill Sokolov’s attention-grabbing debut feature is a sure-footed synthesis of suspense, dark comedy, and deranged, detail-oriented ultraviolence. Sokolov is ruthlessly deliberate in his decisions, be it the pressure-cooker dialogue, the cunning camera work, or the piquant colour scheme. Official Selection: Tallinn Black Nights 2018, What the Fest . . . ?! 2019, Cinepocalypse 2019. Canadian premiere.
In my What the Fest . . .?! review for Ghastly Grinning, I called this film “the darkest, most brutal, and bloodiest comedy that I have seen so far this year,” and it still holds that honor. “The plot thickens with double-crosses, red herrings, and even a healthy dollop of pathos, and Sokolov holds it all together from nail-biting beginning to satisfying climax,” I also wrote.
For more information about Fantasia 2019, including scheduling and ticket sales, visit https://fantasiafestival.com/en/
Joseph Perry is one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast (whenitwascool.com/up-hill-both-ways-podcast/) and Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast (decadesofhorror.com/category/classicera/). He also writes for the retro pop culture website That’s Not Current (thatsnotcurrent.com), and film websites Diabolique Magazine (diaboliquemagazine.com), Gruesome Magazine (gruesomemagazine.com), The Scariest Things (scariesthings.com), Ghastly Grinning (ghastlygrinning.com), and film magazines Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope (videoscopemag.com) and Drive-In Asylum (etsy.com/shop/GroovyDoom).
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