10 films you should see before the end of Fantasia Festival
What other offbeat film event promises copious amounts of unruly Japanese humour, sickening gore, a serious sit-down with X-Men director Bryan Singer, a number of highly questionable sequels and revenge narratives that’ll permanently scar festival newbies? You guessed it, Fantasia! This balls-out, pastiche celebration of genre cinema, now in its 17th edition and boasting over 120 features, has crossed the halfway mark. If you haven’t yet indulged in a few Thai melodramas, slapsticky police thrillers, martial arts musicals or movies with self-explanatory titles such as Big Ass Spider! and Hello, My Dolly Girlfriend, you’ve got until August 7 to do so. We’ve compiled a list of 10 compelling titles screening before the festival wraps next Wednesday.
1. I Am Divine
What is it? A celebratory portrait of the late Harris Glen Milstead, otherwise known as Divine, the outrageous (and outrageously funny) drag performer who became the muse of cult film transgressor John Waters.
When is it playing? July 30 at 7:30 p.m. (J.A. De Sève)
Why should you care? Because whether or not you’ve seen the indelible footage of Divine giving her son a blowjob, eating dog shit or getting raped by a lobster in a number of classic Waters films, Jeffrey Schwarz’s endearing tribute to this larger-than-life persona reminds us that Divine shook up silly drag conventions, ushered in an era of camp and let her freak flag fly.
2. Vegetarian Cannibal
What is it? The moral decline of Dr. Danko Babic, a ruthless gynecologist-to-the-mob who’s logged a few too many hours at the Patrick Bateman school for self-gratifying psychopaths.
When is it playing? July 30 at 10:30 p.m. (Imperial Theatre)
Why should you care? Because although the filmmaker has assured us that “no dogs were harmed in the making of this movie,” we’re left wondering if the same could be said about the cast. Croatia's very disturbing entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars explores institutionalized corruption via a depraved, drug-addicted, abortion doctor douchebag who likes to beat off some of that tension on his electric drum kit.
3. Un zoo la nuit
What is it? The great, late Quebec director Jean-Claude Lauzon’s bold 1987 feature film debut, the story of a dying father and his ex-con son who try to mend their broken relationship.
When is it playing? July 31 at 6:30 p.m. (Imperial Theatre)
Why should you care? Over time, it’s become abundantly clear that Lauzon’s gritty, moody film noir – which opened the coveted Director’s Fortnight at Cannes – set the tone for a whole generation of Quebec filmmakers who would explore family dysfunction. It’s wild, violent, honest, ambitious and ahead of its time.
4. Curse of Chucky
What is it? The raunchy killer doll whose demonic cackling either irked you to no end or kept you up at night in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s is back. This time, Chucky’s choice target is a wheelchair-bound young woman (played by the real-life daughter of Brad Dourif, a.k.a. the doll’s voice) who’s just coming to terms with her mother’s suicide.
When is it playing? August 2 at 6:30 p.m. (Imperial Theatre)
Why should you care? Because this sixth installment in the Child’s Play franchise (which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year) apparently finds Chucky returning to his deep-seated murderous antics, instead of trying so hard to be a homicidal puppet-comedian.
5. Rewind This!
What is it? A love letter to the bygone VHS era, with insightful commentary culled from enthused tape collectors, film bloggers, store owners and all those willing to wax nostalgic about the home video revolution.
When is it playing? August 3 at 12 p.m. (J.A. De Sève)
Why should you care? Given the recent news that two more Montreal temples of tape (Cinéma Beaubien and La Boîte Noire) were closing or on the brink of bankruptcy, it's a timely exploration of an archaic but long-cherished format that got its big break thanks to the adult film industry.
What is it? A retro-slasher flick set in ‘70s Montreal about an otherwise undistinguished young man whose homicidal impulses come to the fore whenever his eardrums are assaulted by pulsating disco rhythms.
When is it playing? August 3 at 2:20 p.m. (Imperial Theatre)
Why should you care? Because comedian Renaud Gauthier sold his own home to finance this bilingual, disco-soaked directorial debut. Because beloved goremeister Rémy Couture signs off on the film’s special effects. And because the very idea that the music of Donna Summer and Village People could open the floodgates of homicidal desires is kind of brilliant.
7. HK/Forbidden Super Hero
What is it? A kinky, lowbrow, based-on-a-manga superhero farce about a high school student who discovers his secret powers…when he puts a pair of dirty panties over his head. This “Masked Pervert” (that’s roughly what HK or "Hentai Kamen" means in Japanese) wards off criminals sporting the season’s hottest spandex mankini and fishnet stockings.
When is it playing? August 3 at 7 p.m. (Imperial Theatre)
Why should you care? Imagine if North America’s blockbuster season took a few cues from Japan’s “Masked Pervert,” and dropped a few of those tired alpha-male clichés? Yeah, good luck with that. In the meantime, revel in this unorthodox hero as he defeats baddies by grinding his potent crotch all over their faces.
8. 24 Exposures
What is it? Described by Fantasia programmers as reminiscent of “90s erotic thrillers” (think sultry titles like Basic Instinct or Sliver), it’s the story of a detective who zeroes in on a mysterious fetish photographer as his models begin to drop like flies.
When is it playing? August 4 at 7:15 p.m. (J.A. De Sève)
Why should you care? Because prolific indie director and mumblecore maven Joe Swanberg is on a roll of late with his forthcoming sudsy romance, Drinking Buddies (which we loved at SXSW), and a star turn in the upcoming home-invasion fright fest You’re Next, also screening at Fantasia.
9. When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep
What is it? An inventive, youth-centric, crowd-pleasing Taiwanese rom-com about two broken hearts – teaching assistant Yang and copy store employee Tung – who connect and flirt via sheep and wolf cartoons they doodle on Yang’s student exam sheets. An overload of animated devices and idiosyncratic cuteness (the likes of which only the Asian world can muster) ensues.
When is it playing? August 5 at 5:05 p.m. (Imperial Theatre)
Why should you care? Because Variety recently described it as “a maniacally lightweight romantic comedy [that] often feels like a Taipei-set Amélie.” Festivalgoers with a sweet tooth for cinematic quirkiness will race to this one (even if that oversweet plot leads to a cavity or two).
10. Les 4 Soldats
What is it? The story of the tight-knit bonds forged between four teenage soldiers (including Aliocha Schneider and Antoine Bertrand) who are left to fend for themselves in a post-apocalyptic world.
When is it playing? August 5 at 7 p.m. (Imperial Theatre)
Why should you care? Because director Robert Morin is one of Quebec’s most uncompromising artists, one who’s never afraid to condemn the sheer absurdity of contemporary life, in this case by adapting a book by French author Hubert Mingarelli that’s set in an unidentified civil war. Indie rock fans should also appreciate Patrick Watson’s score.