I tried to find the words to sum up this year’s Fantasia experience but come up short. My love of film and festival endurance were tested this festival season by the desire to also volunteer for Montreal’s Rock Camp for Girls, trying in vain to keep up with the Fantasia post-screening parties and, most of all, be a more than usual critical and demanding eye for innovative films.
So far, I’ve reported on those films that struck me the most. Below are four more of the films that have made this 17th edition of Fantasia a memorable one indeed.
Across the River (Oltre Il Guado) (Italy, 2013)
In anticipation of what was rumoured to be one of the most efficient atmospheric horror films, I could barely wait for the world premiere of Lorenzo Bianchini’s Across the River. In this movie, a wildlife biologist is tracking the patterns of predator and prey while staying in a small RV.
Following the travels of a fox, he ventures further down the river and deeper into the forest where he discovers an abandoned village. While he ventures into the dark of the night, an old man hearing the sounds of the forest remembers a nightmare that is far too real.
Across the River is an extremely atmospheric film where the set is alive with horrific possibilities. Intriguing camera choices, including the use of the wildlife biologist’s own infrared cameras, provide the meat of a slow build towards a horrific conclusion. The soundtrack of rain, critters, and the deafening unnatural silence that occurs in the forest right before the strike of a predator joins forces with the camerawork to create a bone chilling atmosphere.
Indeed, Across the River is a slow paced but tense film which will evoke in small town viewers the horrors of local history and those places marked by them. As for city folk, the dark and strangeness of the wild will surely contribute to nail biting mounting stress.
Love Eternal (Ireland, 2013)
I hesitated to see Love Eternal because the premise sent off alarm bells about the perpetuation of violence against women. Furthermore, it echos Vampire (Iwai, 2011), a film I unfortunately saw a couple years ago that left me enraged and caused more than seven women to walk out during the screening.
Based on the Japanese novel In Love with the Dead by Kei Oishi, Brendan Muldowney’s Love Eternal isn’t like the disturbing bullshit that is Vampire.
Love Eternal is the story of Ian who, as a teenager, stumbles upon the dead body of a young girl, a sight that leaves him traumatized. An extremely introverted man, Ian locks himself up until a second tragic event forces him out.
As he debates whether he can be part of the world of the living or join others in death, he finds himself in the woods again, in the company of yet another dead woman. Thus begins Ian’s odd and somewhat macabre emergence from a world of solitude and stunted growth towards various forms of human connection.
There’s no way to shy around the fact that Love Eternal is weird and the premise kinda fucked up. The performances are strong (especially that of Pollyanna McIntosh as the grieving Naomi), the humour deadpan and the cinematography is well mastered.
It is a film about walking, or rather freezing, between life and death. Ultimately about loss and companionship, this film is redeemed by Ian’s transformation and moves past the troubling fetishizing of dead women.
Vessel (Australia, 2013)
Cianco’s microbudget debut film Vessel, is one of the films I was most looking forward to this season. Before I had the chance to see it, I caught wind of a few negative reviews and began to have doubts. No need for worry. Vessel delivered exactly what I had expected, in the best of ways.
This is the story of Ash who feels himself drained slowly of what he deems are the markers of his humanity. We follow him as he juggles with a gift that feels more and more like a curse.
In Ash’s world, a special group of people named interfacers have been part of a secret government operation acting as informants through their ability communicate with extraterrestrials. The secrecy of this program and Ash’s crumbling pysche bring into question whether this covert world stems from a mental health affliction and/or a side effect of his drug use.
Vessel is one of those fresh ambitious small films that makes Fantasia a cathartic experience in terms of the contemplation of human emotions and relationships. It looks at what brings people to the brink and the choices that need to be made when on the edge of one’s cohesive sense of self.
The cinematography by Aaoron Farrugia is compelling and successful in creating a city of desolate forgotten spaces where the fringe goes to rest, eat, or take a hit of some strange unknown substance. The acting by Mark Diaco is engrossing and compelling and is, along with the cinematography, the key to making this film work as a whole.
You’re Next ( U.S.A., 2011)
Last but not least, Adam Wingard’s You’re Next has been making waves ’round the festival circuit for a couple years. Finally, it’s broken through it’s shackles and hit the Fantasia screen.
There was a ton of hype surrounding this film, however, I’m not big on home invasion movies. Since Funny Games (and the remake), I just wonder when I see this type of film hitting big screens – is this just torture porn meant to make people feel unsafe in their own homes?
Thankfully, Wingard’s You’re Next isn’t a redundant film trying to ride the curtails of Funny Games. In fact, it hits a home run when it comes to refreshing the home invasion flick.
You’re Next is shocking, hilarious and adrenaline pumping throughout. The less said, the better. Go Watch This. Bring Friends.