Cold in July

While I’d have been more than happy with Matthew C. Hall in a mullet, Sam Shephard being a lethal but loveable old dog, and Don Johnson reliving Vice-era novelties with a car phone the size of an attaché case and a red convertible the size of a tugboat, there’s a lot more to Cold in July than that.

Set in 1989 Texas, this Jim Mickle picture nimbly skirts a number of lines. It’s ghoulish, funny and, for lack of a better term, literary. For instance, it punctuates the shock of murder with a couch purchase and “I thought we’d agreed on floral patterns.” It buttons a contemplation of impending mass murder with Shephard’s character snapping “Get that gun out of my ear!”

Cold in July is an instance when compound talent has managed to deliver. The direction, screenplay, the stellar trio of actors at work and the noir magic of veteran genre and comics writer Joe R. Lansdale’s original novel all make their mark here. It makes for one of the most self-aware thrillers in a while, and it plain works, continually tussling between light and dark.

The Infinite Man

Remember that time you screwed up that one relationship so very bad? Well, The Infinite Man is the solution to that screw up, if you were an awkward-as-hell dork with the sweetness of a three-legged pup, an urge to overcompensate and control, and a TIME TRAVEL MACHINE.

Set at a deserted hotel in an Australian sand-scape, this impressive little film is both ruthlessly nipped and tucked and a ton of unbridled fun. Between Josh McConville as Hugh, Hannah Marshall as Lana, and Alex Dimitriades as the asshole ex with a javelin, it is overflowing with doubles plotting around each other and trying out a myriad of shoulda/coulda/woulda schemes. And just thinking about keeping the editing together as well as it was cut is enough to make my eyes bleed.

Director Hugh Sullivan makes it look deceptively easy, and delivers one of the smoothest time-travel rides encoutered since Back to the Future. I figure he has control issues, too, and they pay off on the screen.

THE INFINITE MAN Trailer from The Infinite Man on Vimeo.

Predestination

First thing that comes to mind when I think of the Spierig Brothers is how horrible Daybreakers was. All evidence pointed to them being expert stylists and otherwise null and void. But with Predetermination, the Brothers’ third feature, I get a feeling they’re gaining a grasp on, you know, narrative.

Still slick and spiffed as ever, but now way more lyrical than previously imaginable, this Spierig time-travel thriller had just enough variables to keep you engrossed, and enough textual heft to keep you interested once you’d figured it out. Doesn’t quite follow fellow Aussie production The Infinite Man, but as a different, much more action-driven piece, it carries its own slickness rather well and delivers swimmingly on the critical dramatic mass.

I could have done without the predictable action faux-pas, not to mention the transgendered character that didn’t want a sex change (what a way to present an underrepresented community . . . ), but it’s hard to find a deal-breaker with Predetermination. It’s an epic, really, complete with significant lushness and a patient puzzle that will suffice. Even Ethan Hawke doesn’t make himself unbearable, which is a directorial feat in itself. One thumb up!

The Creeping Garden

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This documentary isn’t even on IMDB (yet) and is likely the best you’ll see this year if you manage to see it. Out of post and flown to Montreal less than a week before it world-premiered at Fantasia, Jasper Sharp and Tim Grabham have been working on The Creeping Garden for three years. What starts as a documentary about slime mould ends up a film essay about the assignation of meaning an understudied, fascinating, reductive and mysterious life form has attracted.

Whether they be amateur naturalists, scientists, bio artists, time-lapse historians or computer engineers, everyone in The Creeping Garden has an expansive interpretation of what the life form means, and what it might mean going forward. Punctuated by a Jim O’Rourke score, a gorgeously careful film—this thing is beyond fascinating. A must-see.

Oh ye ole Fantasia Fest. Ye sideburns of geek. Ye vixens of awkward. Ye meowers of dark. Ye forever awesome lineup.

It’s been a few years for me, but I’m right pickled to be back in the Fantasia action, and these first few days have not disappointed. Here are a couple of movies you might want to check out, whether at Fantasia, or in theatres down the road, God willing.

Faults

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Set in an Any Nowhere USA of the late 70s, Riley Stearns’ first feature brings us Orsen Roth: down-and-out cult and mind-control expert, living out of his car, touring regional hotels with his book no one wants, broke, eating ketchup with a fork. Down on his luck, nose continually bleeding, he owes a lot of money and is desperate for any way out of the hole he’s dug himself. A deprogramming job comes along, and it’s a chance at salvation, for better or worse.

Well-written, evenly directed and featuring a great ensemble of character actor weirdos, following likeable but despicable Roth around as he gets beat up, manipulated and teeters on every kind of edge is a good way to spend your evening.

Faults is screening for a second time tomorrow, July 24, at 7:15 p.m. at Theatre J.A. de Sève.

The Mole Song – Undercover Agent Reiji

Full disclosure: Takashi Miike is kind of a god. Supreme stylist among even the most showy directors, this is a man who is equally at home creating feudal ronin tragedies (Hara Kiri), out-Lynching Lynch (Gozu), and crafting manga live-action adaptions so complete they include nose bubbles and head-bump prosthetics (Nina Kids). In The Mole Song (likely his 100th feature), Miike showcases a couple of additional things he does especially well: the yakuza and funny.

Bringing both together into a world of razor-grilled midgets, sing-song DEA agents, butterfly obsessed number-2’s and the usual hoard of Miike perverts, The Mole Song does not disappoint, and is always willing to stoop a bit, if only to button a dumb joke with an even dumber, even funnier button. Though the third act leaves the tremendous energy built up kind of flattened, the sweet jokes keep coming, and it’s well worth a looksee overall.

Suburban Gothic

Ah, the suburbs! Once I got over the momentous shock of seeing Leland Palmer in person (he’s just a cool old white guy, but his head is so BIG, especially from mere FEET AWAY!), Suburban Gothic proved to be the most familiarly hilarious of picket-fence fancy feasts. Complete with mucho macho and anti-Mexican dad, skinny jeans garnering much unwanted attention, and a generalized sense of the cultural wasteland too many of us are overly well-acquainted with, Richard Bates Jr.’s latest was like going home again, only wayyy funnier. Also: JOHN WATERS AND JEFFREY COMBS CAMEOOOS.

The Zero Theorem

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Verging on complete calculated nihilism, both retroactive and deeply insightful about the grandness and cheapness of the future that may be waiting around the corner (or which is already the past, as the director suggested in his hilarious welcome message), The Zero Theorem is as Terry Gilliam as it can get: beautiful, expansive, meandering, dysfunctional, unapologetic, and undeniably singular. An independent release, this one ain’t going wide, so see it, iTunes it, seek it out and share it if you can. As Gilliam mentioned, there’s always a chance this will be his last, especially when presenting the off-kilter, wholly unknown, and big-studio free. Must see, do see, gotta see, even if it holds a few headaches.

The Zero Theorem is screening for a second time Saturday, July 26 at 12:30 p.m. in the Concordia Hall Theatre.

Fantasia is upon us. If you are anything like me and the fans that flock to theatres for this one of a kind experience, your summer can finally begin. The lineup this year is stellar which makes choosing which films to see that much more difficult. Screening decision anxiety and panic is amongst us. Never fear! Take out your colour-coded pens, rulers and notebooks; here are the must-sees of the 2014 lineup!

15.  Metalhead

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Director: Ragnar Bragson

Writer: Ragnar Bragson

Iceland, 2013

Metalhead touches on themes of tragedy, grief, youth, faith and fate. Hera lives in a small town with little to offer her and is haunted by the death of her brother. She rebels against the bourgeois world of her parents and creates a safe haven for herself in the world of heavy metal: a world that she slips further into body and soul.

Screenings: Monday, August 4 at 7:10 p.m. and Tuesday, August 5 at 7:35 p.m at Salle J.A. De Sève (1400 de Maisonneuve w.).

 

14. The House at the End of Time (La casa del fin de los tiempos)

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Director: Alejandro Hidalgo

Writer: Alejandro Hidalgo

Venezuela, 2013

Dulce receives ghostlike messages warning her of her husband murdering his own children. Panic ensues as do tragic events and Dulce is incarcerated for a crime she didn’t commit. Thirteen years later, on parole, Dulce must stay within the house where all these tragic events happened. Fantasia programmer Mitch Davis hails this tale as both scary and touching: not your typical haunted house story.

Screenings: Saturday, July 26 at 9:30 p.m. at Theatre DB Clarke and Wednesday, July 30 at 5:20 p.m. at Salle J.A. De Sève.

 

13. Feed the Devil

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Director: Max Perrier

Writer: Matthew Altman

Canada, 2014

The world premiere of Feed the Devil is co-presented by the Montreal First Peoples Festival. This film follows Marcus, who is in dire need of some fast cash, as he, his sister and his girlfriend search for a marijuana plantation rumoured to be near a First Nations reserve. According to legend, this plantation is smack in the middle of a hunting ground for the gods, where no human is to enter and no human who has dared to enter has ever returned.

Screening: Monday, August 4 at 8:30 p.m. at Cinémathèque québécoise (335 de Maisonneuve e.).
* Tickets for this film will not be available through Fantasia’s ticket outlets and Fantasia passes are not valid for this film. Visit Montreal First Peoples Festival for more info.

 

12. The Snow White Murder Case

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Director Yoshihhiro Nakamura

Writers: Tamio Hayashi, Kamae Minato

Japan, 2014

When a young office worker’s body is found, social media is quick to make the news viral. A television director soon comes into some juicy intel and realizes that this sensational case might be the perfect way to break through in the industry. He begins to to investigate the case, accounts multiply and cloud the waters: who killed Noriko?

Screening: Tuesday, July 29 at 10 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre.

 

11. Cybernatural

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Director: Leo Gabriadze

Writer: Nelson Greaves

USA, 2014

After a humiliating video is posted online by her friends, a young girl kills herself. On the anniversary of her death, the six cyberbullies meet up on Skype. However, an uninvited seventh user joins the conversation and seems to know everything about the crime. As events unfold in real time, the six cyberbullies get a taste of their own medicine and the body count soon begins to rise.

Screening: Sunday, July 20 at 9:30 p.m. at DB Clarke Theatre.

 

10. The Creeping Garden

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Directors: Tim Grabham, Jasper Sharp

United Kingdom, 2014

This documentary centres on something all around us but almost everyone is unaware of it: plasmodial slime mold. Slime mold is not plant, not fungus, nor animal but a strange hodge-podge of all three. It even exhibits forms of intelligence. The Creeping Garden explores this uncanny organism through interviews and microscopic photography and boasts a score by Jim O’Rourke.

Screenings: Sunday, July 27 at 9:45 p.m. & Monday, July 28 at 3 p.m. at Salle J.A. De Sève.

 

9. Life After Beth

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Director: Jeff Baena

Writer: Jeff Baena

USA, 2014

This comedy follows Zack who falls to pieces after the death of Beth, his longtime sweetheart. Zack grows closer to Beth’s parents in the wake of her death until they suddenly shut him out. For, you see, Beth has come back from the grave and doesn’t realize she’s died. Zack is overjoyed… but for how long?

Screening: Saturday, July 19 at 7:15 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre.

 

8. At The Devil’s Door 

Director: Nick McCarthy

Screenplay: Nick McCarthy

USA, 2014

From the writer of The Pact, a film that left audiences with an unshakeable chill, comes this tale of a real estate agent (Catalina Sandino Moreno) who faces the task of trying to sell a house with a sordid past. The film stars names you will recognize such as Naya Ricera (Glee) and Ashley Rockwards (Awkward). I can’t wait to see them in something out of high school and into a more dark and dangerous setting.

Screenings: Saturday, July 26 at 7 p.m. at DB Clarke Theatre & Tuesday, July 29 at 5:10 p.m. at Salle J.A. De Sève.

 

7. Honeymoon

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Director:  Leigh Janiak

Screenplay: Leigh Janiak , Phil Graziadei

USA, 2014

Honeymoon is a cabin-set flick that refuses to rely on traditional scares. Paul and Bea are on their honeymoon but things aren’t quite the bliss that you’d expect. The central questions in this film are “who did I marry?” and “am I enough?”

Screenings: Tuesday, July 22 at 7 p.m. at DB Clarke Theatre.

 

6. Jellyfish Eyes (Mememe no Kurage)

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Director: Takashi Murakami

Screenplay: Takashi Murakami, Jun Tsugita

Japan, 2013

There is a lot of excitement brewing around the sci-fi/fantasy epic Jellyfish Eyes sponsored by The Japanese Foundation at this year’s Fantasia. Masashi’s father was lost in the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 resulting in his mother relocating them to a small town, near a university research center. Masashi finds a little flying creature and soon discovers that all the others kids at school have secret creature buddies who — unlike his pink bud, Jellyfish Boy — are controlled by their smartphones. But all isn’t honky dory in this town and something dark is brewing…

Screenings: Sunday, July 20 at 12 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre.

 

5. Housebound

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Director: Gerard Johnstone

Screenplay: Gerard Johnstone

New Zealand, 2014

Kylie is on house arrest in the home where she grew up where she is forced to live with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. Like Kylie, an angry spirit is also displeased with the new living arrangement. But like it or not, Kylie is gonna have to do the time — even if it’s in a haunted house.

Screening: Sunday, August 3 at 9:45 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre.

 

4. The Harvest

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Director: John McNaughton

Screenplay: Stephen Lancelloti

USA, 2013

When Andy gets sick, his pediatric heart surgeon mother, Katherine, has to start working from home. When a neighbourhood girl begins to befriend Andy, his parents — whose universes have centred around him and his illness — react in a strange way. According to Mitch Davis, “The Harvest exists in a disquieting median space between sinister fairy tale and shattering human horror.” And if that’s not enough, The Harvest promises what looks like a kick-ass performance by Samantha Morton.

Screening: Monday, July 21 at 9:30 p.m. at Theatre DB Clarke.

 

3. The Midnight Swim

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Director: Sarah Adina Smith

Screenplay: Sarah Adina Smith

USA, 2014

The Midnight Swim is one of the most intriguing films of this year’s program. Dr. Amelia Brooks studied the mysteries of bottomless Spirit Lake, which became the site of her death when she didn’t resurface after a dive. Her three daughters head to Spirit Lake to reflect on their relationships with their mother and return to their family home. The sisters begin to believe that something supernatural is at hand after they jokingly summon the spirits of women who have drowned in the lake.

Screening: Sunday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. at DB Clarke Theatre.

 

2. Suburban Gothic

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Director: Richard Bates, Jr.

Screenplay: Mark Linehan Bruner, Richard Bates Jr.

USA, 2014

Suburban Gothic is the second feature by Richard Bates Jr., director of the bloody and breathtaking Excision. The film follows Raymond (Matthew Gray Grubler) who, like many of us in Montreal, can’t find a job with his college degree and has to move back in with his parents. Raymond has had visions for most of his life and joining with local bartender Becca (played by the amazing Kat Dennings) things go in unexpected ways. According to Ted Geoghegan, “Suburban Gothic is popcorn cinema at its most endearing — a saccharine ghost story featuring a faultless mix of honest scares and well-played humour.”

Screening: Saturday, July 19 at 9:45 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre.

1. Frank 

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Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Screenplay: Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan

United Kingdom, 2014

Official selection at Sundance 2014, Frank stars Michael Fassbender as Frank, the frontman of a band who swears by a giant plaster cartoon head that he never takes off. The film follows Jon who meets Frank and his strange lineup of bandmates and follows them down a strange musical odyssey to the SXSW festival in Texas.

Screenings: Sunday, August 3 at 4:20 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre & Monday, August 4 at 5:15 p.m. at Salle J.A. De Sève.

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Honourable mentions:

Man in the Orange Jacket, Aux Yeux Des Vivants, Prom Night, Dys-, Wetlands, When Animals Dream, To Be Takei, and Summer of Blood

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The 2014 edition of Fantasia runs from July 17 to August 6.

 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)

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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)

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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.

“When it comes to found footage horror films, I always wonder: who is this person who edited this film? If you think about it, that would be the creepiest person ever!” Bobcat Goldthwait said as he presented the Canadian premiere of his latest directorial project

As part of Fantasia, I had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary Bobcat Goldthwait about his newest film, one of the most anticipated in this year’s line up. Willow Creek, although it had to overcome the public’s blasé attitude towards the overly done found footage genre, did not disappoint in the least.

In the film, Jim, a handsome goof, and Kelly, an aspiring actress, are going on a road trip that will bring them deeper and deeper into the heart of the mountains. But this isn’t any old camping trip – they are on a search for the ever elusive Bigfoot.

Jim is a Bigfoot enthusiast and has set out to document their search for the mountain cryptid as they meet friendly and not so friendly locals. Kelly is not a believer but entertains the idea to spend quality time with her beau. Quality time that quickly turns into something unexpected.

I walked in to the interview, the fifth one Bobcat gave that morning, and offered: “I hope this isn’t going to be overly redundant for you.” To which he answered laughingly, “So long as we don’t talk about Police Academy you are in the clear.” For those who can’t place the name to the face, Bobcat played Zed in the Police Academy movies back in the 80s. He is known for his stand up comedy, dark humor and films such as Sleeping Dog’s Lie, World’s Greatest Dad (one of my favorites) and God Bless America.

“I really had a lot of fun making this movie, there weren’t really many obstacles. It was pretty easy because it was getting together with my friends and going off into the woods and making a movie,” Bobcat explained, “The obstacles for me, were the obstacles that most viewers have with found footage movies. I was trying to figure out why they keep the camera going and how we were going to do a fresh take on this. My concern was making these people really realistic and hopefully have people engage with them.” Bobcat was definitely successful.

Willow Creek boasts a 19 minute take that had me covering my eyes, squirming in my seat and jumping a foot in the air when the person in front of me let out a shrill shriek. During our interview, Bobcat admitted to also jumping at certain scenes during the screening, despite knowing the mechanics behind them – which included Bobcat hurling boulders at the unsuspecting actors.

Willow Creek is a found footage, faux documentary which includes segments that are unscripted chats with actual locals. The film is both light-hearted and funny as well as terrifying. A hard balance to strike.

The leads, Alexie Gilmore (Kelly) and Bryce Johnson (Jim), who is an actual Bigfoot enthusiast, deliver strong performances. They were also directly involved in shooting the film itself, with Bobcat often lying down in the trunk of the car giving them feedback on scenes as they tried to keep on the windy mountain roads.

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Why a Bigfoot movie then? During the Q&A, Bobcat addressed the question of whether or not he believes in Bigfoot. His answer was that he was open to the possibility.

However, Bobcat is a fan of the lore and now a collector of Bigfoot memorabilia. The inspiration for Willow Creek came from Bobcat’s childhood interest in Bigfoot lore, watching films like Boggy Creek, and his trips visiting various areas with reported sightings, also known as Bigfoot country.

“I showed the film to what I call believers,” Bobcat recounted, “and one guy said ‘this is the best Bigfoot movie ever’ and another guy said, ‘after the Patterson-Gimlin film’ and they all nodded in unison.” In fact, the reception has been so positive that Bobcat has been invited to take part in the next Willow Creek parade where he shall be waving from a float next to a Bigfoot mascot.

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Bobcat Goldthwait (left) and Fantasia festival co-director Mitch Davis (Right)

I couldn’t help myself but ask Bobcat a question about his polarizing film God Bless America, a very dark film which tends to be a movie that people either love or hate.

“I think the folks that don’t like it confuse the message of the movie,” he explained, “I like to say it’s a violent movie about kindness. When those characters start rattling off the things they don’t like, I agree with about eighty percent of the things but there are things they don’t like that I actually like. There’s a bonding that happens when people don’t like the same things. So, I wasn’t going to have that couple have sex, but they were going to be very close. I always say that the key to a successful marriage or relationship isn’t liking the same things but hating the same things. That’s why that stuff is in there.”

“Some people get bent out of shape about those things,” Bobcat continued, “but, I really think those kinds of people operate on a very shallow level. They take everything at face value and aren’t interested in the subtext of what’s going on. It’s like ‘How can you say you don’t like Green Day, fuck you I love Green Day’, you know, the kind of dummy who would fight with you at a bar over sports. I actually like Green Day, I just didn’t think that kid would like Green Day.” [I don’t like Green Day’s music, for the record].

For those World’s Greatest Dad fans, like myself, Bobcat mentioned working on a similar kind of script, telling a similar story from a different perspective.

As a filmmaker, Bobcat looks to directors like Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder for inspiration.

“They did all different kinds of movies sometimes they were comedic sometimes they were scary. They weren’t stuck with making the same type of movie over and over again,” Bobcat said.

Certainly Bobcat’s career hasn’t been a one trick pony either. In fact, his next project is a musical based on a Kinks album which he was proposing at Fantasia’s Frontiers market. I am super stoked.

* Photo credit Isabelle Stephen

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The Dirties came very highly recommended by filmmaker friends who’d seen the small indie film at the Slamdance Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize, Best Narrative Feature, and the Spirit of Slamdance Award. I’d originally hesitated to see The Dirties, the synopsis of which describes a school shooting by two bullied teens. Flashbacks to my visceral upchuck reaction when watching Gus Van Sant’s Elephant came to mind and I was in no mood for a repeat experience. School shootings are a subject matter that really gets to me and their treatment on film and by the media is something I am particularly critical of.

Fortunately, Johnson’s The Dirties is a fresh, intelligent, insightful film about the love of films, obsession, and the relationship between two teenage friends.

Two teenage film geeks, Matt (Matt Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams), are excitedly working on a project called The Dirties for their school media class. Their project centers on two renegade cop-like characters getting rid of a gang of bad kids at the school, whom Matt and Owen have nicknamed The Dirties, using a chock-full of filmic references and plastic guns. As production advances, we are privy to the type of abuses and humiliations Matt and Owen are subjected to as well as their changing friendship dynamics. Soon, the lines between film and reality are blurred and plastic guns might be replaced for the real thing.

After seeing the Canadian premiere of The Dirties at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, I was beyond excited to meet Canadian director, writer, and co-star of the film Matt Johnson. I caught up with Johnson right as he arrived in Montreal from screening The Dirties at Comic Con with none other than Kevin Smith, who recently acquired the film for his Kevin Smith Movie Club. After seeing the film post its Slamdance buzz, Smith gave a surprised Johnson a call.

“It was so wicked because that’s exactly the kind of leverage a movie like this needed. To have somebody who is seen as trustworthy and like a cultural maven in a lot of ways. I think it helped a lot of audiences get over the fact that on paper the premise can seem tasteless and offensive,” explained Johnson.

Indeed, the subject matter of the film is a heavy one and yet, the performances and delivery remain engaging and funny. The group of filmmaking friends came to make The Dirties after Johnson’s friend Josh Boles, who’d been watching Man Bites Dog (Belveaux 1992) quite a bit, was looking to make a movie in which Johnson played a psychopath crazy killer. With further discussion they came to decide on situating it within the world of a school shooting. 

“Politically, we weren’t interested in making the definitive answer to what a school shooting movie should be or why school shootings happen,” Johnson offered, “But we wanted to explore it in a way that we hadn’t seen before. The more we talked about it, the more we realized that it was a real nexus of a lot of our childhood experiences. This idea of what a school shooting is, what the celebrity of it means, and what it means in terms of changing the dynamics of how a school works, and also, what bullying is really like. That’s what led us to the subject matter.”

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In terms of researching for the film, Johnson explained that they mostly did video research.

“What I think is really funny is stealing behaviors,” he said. “I like inside jokes a lot. I really love them. Josh and I watched tons and tons of documentaries about Columbine, about other crazy young people, and about youth out of control and we tried to steal as many mannerisms and things as we could. A big thing we watched were the home videos of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. There are hours and hours of them making goofy movies. Kind of like what The Dirties is inside The Dirties; making movies where they play cops, do ridiculous things and making each other laugh. We drew a lot out of that mostly because the reality of it so much more interesting than what we could have thought of. Also, because we wanted to make it as realistic as possible.”

“The movie formally came out of the web series [Nirvana The Band The Show] that I did beforehand. They are basically the same in terms of how they are developed. So I don’t know. Movies that inspired ideas for The Dirties are like Gimme Shelter, the Maysles brothers documentary, a lot of 60s era docs and self-reflexive docs. Because this style of filmmaking is so new, not many people are doing it yet,” Johnson explained in terms of the inspiration behind his filmmaking approach. Along with the above, films like Werner Herzhog’s Grizzly Man, where he uses tricks and lies as well as French movies like La Haine and Man Bites Dog have inspired Johnson.

One of the most compelling elements of The Dirties is in the way in which it was made. This type of filmmaking is novel, blending elements of found footage, documentary film, and unscripted dynamism. Johnson explained that with such a small crew and the use of wireless microphones, they were able to capture unexpected events every day that enriched the movie as exemplified in the opening scene. Over the course of five months, the team of about four shot about five or six weeks.

Often, extras were unawares that Johnson was anything other than a teenager in the film. Indeed, some of the people in The Dirties didn’t even realize they were in a film. With no script and no plan, Johnson explained that this method was frustrating at times for his co-star Owen Williams, whom Johnson described as “so handsome” and looking “like Isabelle Rossilini” (we agree on both counts). Williams’ actual frustration with the process fueled some of the more tense scenes between the two.

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Much of the directing with this kind approach, Johnson revealed, is in the editing.

“Directing a movie like this, or anything that I’ve ever done, there isn’t really a whole ton of on-set direction because I know what I want to behave like,” he said. “It’s really just my job to make sure that my acting partner – Owen, in this case – and I are constantly engaged and that’s it. I try to put myself in environments or situations where the crew and everybody acting doesn’t know what’s going to happen. That’s all I have to do. At no point do I say ‘ok guys we are going to do this like this.’ Everyone knows that the rules are keep shooting, keep following us, and don’t stop shooting.”

We’d like to thank Matt Johnson for the entertaining interview and his appreciation of John Saul books and 90s film Disturbing Behaviour.

Fantasia Montreal is coming up on its third week, but even though the end is in sight, and it’ll soon be time for the amusing nerd-culture t-shirt wearing hordes to slink back into the darkness from whence they came, this train ain’t slowing down. This week saw some of the Fantasia Montreal’s most anticipated events and films, so let’s take a gander.

Machi Action (2013) - Hong Kong Movie Poster 1Machi Action

Frequenters of this column will know that Japanese Superheroes are one of my nerdier interests, given how I occasionally endeavor to lower FTB’s cool cred to take a look at some of them.

Well, for once I have a legit excuse, because this weekend saw the screening of Machi Action, a loving parody of all things tokusatsu out of Taiwan. Our hero is Tie Nan, who for ten years has been playing the hero in Spacehero Fly, a superhero tv show that seems to mix the premise of Ultraman and the aesthetics of Kamen Rider. But after the network is taken over by the boss’s cutthroat daughter, Spacehero Fly is replaced by the newer, cooler Spacehero Face, and Tie Nan finds himself out of a job.

Machi Action is definitely a flick that’s tailored for a very specific audience, one I happen to fall right right in the middle of, so the overriding sense that the movie was made with weirdos like me who go in for this shit won points with me right off the bat. But after I got over the novelty of it, Machi Action still proved to be a funny, heartwarming film.

Despite still looking like a male model under his tussled hair and patchy beard, actor Chen Bo Lin pulls of the sad sack routine pretty well, and co-star Qiu Yanxiang, as Tie Nan’s co-star Monster (guess what he plays?) is a good comedic foil.

Some audiences may find some scenes a tad off-putting, like Tie Nan’s ill advised attempt at making some dough by starring in a Spacehero Fly porno parody (it’s all implied, don’t worry), but even if you aren’t part of the whole spandex and justice crowd, Machi Action is worth a watch.

Commando: One Man Armycommando-1b

Last year, Fantasia got a taste of over-the-top Bollywood action with Singham and everything was looking hunky-dory…..until the last scene of the movie, in which things suddenly go from goofy and fun to borderline fascistic, in a way that would probably be some kind of ironic statement if Bollywood had any sense of irony. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I sat down to Commando, this year’s Bollywood action-fest.

Thankfully, Commando didn’t have me leaving the theater vaguely unsettled, and in fact I’m pretty sure it might be the best action movie I’ve seen this year…which is a weird thing considering it has no less than four lavish musical numbers.

Rather than a magnificently mustachioed cop, the protagonist this time is Karan, a commando abandoned by his government after a mission gone bad. By sheer coincidence, after escaping Chinese captors and returning to India, Karan runs afoul of some local goons chasing after a beautiful woman, and after saving her finds himself and the girl being hunted through the jungle by a white-eyed crime boss.

Unlike Singham, which often felt a tad sparse on the action side, Commando is all action, and pretty good action at that. Star Vidyut Jamwal brings a lot of seriously impressive Kalaripayattu martial arts moves to the table, even if he may have stolen a maneuver or two from Tony Jaa.

Where it may fall a tad flat for some viewers is the tone, which is considerably less cartoony and over-the-top than Singham, which either cuts down on or increases the camp value, depending who you ask. Now, that’s not to say that it isn’t cartoony at all, this is still Bollywood, but those expecting to see Singham‘s level of cartoony exaggeration may be left wanting.

All the same, Commando is a ton of fun, and without the unsettling ending of its predecessor.

2012 - The Weight (Poster)The Weight

Of course, Fantasia isn’t just about campy fun and superheroes. Also premiering this year is The Weight, out of South Korea. The story of a hunchbacked morgue worker named Jung (heh…), an introverted man trying to live in a body rapidly crumbling at the hands of Tuberculosis and various other ailments. Not helping this is his unhealthy relationship with his pre-op transsexual sister.

The Weight is already being hailed as a new chapter in the Cinema of Transgression, and it isn’t hard to see why. The film features everything from necrophilia, implied incest and sexual abuse, countless unpleasant sex scenes and a healthy amount of really unpleasant things being done to corpses. So yeah, this isn’t a movie for the squeamish.

So while the movie certainly has a lot for fans of transgression and taboo, it’s honestly hard to say if it’s actually any good. It’s certainly moody, with a lot of silent scenes of Jung watching on blankly as someone does something messed up and weird to a fellow human being, or ex-human being in some cases.

By the end, it succeeds more in numbing the audience than anything else, who’ll probably all go “Huh….” by the end, like in that one Clone High episode. Does any of this really mean anything? Is it a statement about the random and ultimately pointless struggle that is human existence, or is it just a bunch of Asian people breaking taboos for the sake of it?

The Weight doesn’t offer any easy answers, and it should be commended for that if nothing else.

Right on cue, summer storms descended on Montreal just as Fantasia rolled in. Coincidence? I think not.

Thus, mid lightning storm, drenched from head to toe, feeling like a video game character acquiring a coveted magic item I darted over to the Concordia campus to claim my press pass. This is how my Fantasia quest began: heart pounding, soaked with rain and sweat, nerves dancing perilously close to being shot. All of this as I tried to dodge what I suspected might be the next spots to attract Zeus’ wrath. Spoiler: I didn’t get hit by lightning…this time.

Animals (Spain, 2013)

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Animals is the award winning first feature by Marçal Forés. This Spanish film centers around teenager Pol (Oriol Pla) and his best friend Deerhoof, a walking talking drumstick wielding teddy bear.

Pol and Deerhoof do what best friends do: play rock music and talk about comic books. However, Pol begins to feel the pressure to keep his friendship with the plush a secret.

At school, Pol has a friend in Laia (Roser Tapias), who very clearly has a crush on him, and in the eccentric Mark (Dimitri Leonidas). As Pol struggles with coming of age questions of his own, something strange seems to be happening at his school and a new mysterious student (Augustus Prew) could be involved.

Although the film wasn’t the crescendo-esque bloody nightmare I had expected it to develop into, Animals was probably better than I could have imagined. It hits a very different kind of spot.

Animals is hands down visually stunning, unconventional and at times reads like a poem. Forés crafts imagery and surrealism using sound and locations brilliantly to create a dreamlike world in which beauty can quickly turn deadly.

Animals boasts an incredibly kick-ass soundtrack including songs by postpunk band A Frames and underground punk rock band The Bananas. Animals is definitely a slow-paced film but if you let yourself enter into its world, the rewards are plenty in terms of the emotional and bewildering experience. Fans of Donnie Darko should find something to love in Animals, which echoes similar filmic notes.

This debut film is definitely a candidate for Best First Feature for this year’s Fantasia awards and I’ll be adding it to my film collection as soon as this becomes a possibility. I’ll also be tracking down the soundtrack and recommend you do the same.

The Broken Circle Breakdown  (Belgium/The Netherlands, 2012)

the broken circle breakdownThe Broken Circle Breakdown (directed by Carl Joos) is the story of a couple whose daughter is diagnosed with cancer. The film presents the story in a non-linear fashion recounting how Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) met, fell in love,  how she came to join his Bluegrass band and how their daughter’s illness affects their loving relationship and each of them as individuals.

I had very high hopes for The Broken Circle Breakdown. Unfortunately, it felt like the film was trying too hard at times to elicit emotions.

I personally was unable to connect with the character of Elise, who makes up half of the film’s emotional meat. It’s the characterization itself that I have a problem with. I’d cite a case of manic pixie dream girl but that’s not quite it.

I found myself increasingly aware of how much Elise’s character is made to be looked at and not so much to be understood. Elise is naked quite a bit in the film and I started feeling like her tattoos were more important to the film than who she is as a person.

Her back story is barely alluded to (except that she’s had a series of shitty boyfriends and works at a tattoo parlour). She enters Didier’s world and it is his world the film and Elise inhabit: all the important actors in the film are his friends, his family, his house, his horse, his band, etc. All of this compounded to making me a bit pissed off.003-1

On the plus side, I definitely felt like Dider’s character was relatable. Like I said, the film offers more in terms of fleshing him out as a subject. His political and existential monologues are highly entertaining and his emotional breakdowns are heart wrenching.

Indeed, most audience members walked out of the theatre in tears and my film critic peers seemed to love The Broken Circle Breakdown. Thus, take what my jaded heart is saying with a grain of salt and give this film a try.

Cottage Country  (Canada, 2013)

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Peter Wellington’s Cottage Country had its North American premiere at Fantasia to a packed audience.

The film stars Tyler Labine as Todd and Malin Akerman as Cammie –  a young couple with an unnerving amount of matching outfits heading to the Todd’s family cottage for a special couple’s weekend. Their peaceful weekend is interrupted by Todd’s asshole brother Salinger (Dan Petronijevic) and his brother’s trashy girlfriend (Lucy Punch).

Feeling the pressures of needing quiet time after a 60+ hour work week and Cammie’s insistence that he get rid of this interruption, Todd ends up accidently getting rid of Salinger in a rather permanent way. As Cammie and Todd cling to the hopes of salvaging their cottage retreat misadventures and unforeseen complications ensue.

Originally, I wasn’t going to go see Cottage Country. The premise hadn’t inspired me and neither had the trailer. I’m extremely glad that I changed my mind. If there was an audience award for Best Surprisingly Golden Film of the Fest, Cottage Country would take it.

Humour is very hit or miss and I don’t often enjoy comedies BUT Cottage Country had me laughing and even snorting throughout. The dynamic between “Toodles” Todd, who is a hardworking insecure who can’t seem to catch a break, and “Cuddlebum” Cammie, who is determined to do anything she has to to keep their relationship on track to the altar, is stellar.

The careful play of knowing just how far to push jokes utilizing restraint and subtlety with the quality of the cast result in a surprisingly hilarious dark comedy.

Fantasia 2013 is chugging along like a freight train powered by celluloid and methamphetamines, and even though it’s only a week and change in, there’s already been some great cinema on display. And some kinda ish cinema. Some very ish cinema. Like, for example….

20889f221e9fe4fb6460a907d754868dPin Up Dolls on Ice

With a title like this, you pretty much know you’re in for a good ole fashioned grindhouse/exploitation throwback, to the point that you don’t even need to look at the plot. For the record, the plot in question is that a group of tough, take no prisoners burlesque performers go to a secluded trailer park to put on a show, only to find themselves menaced by an ax wielding, fridge humping crazy who goes around making noises like Christian Bale’s Batman getting repeatedly kicked in the bat-junk.

Not that any question of plot matters, because the film seems determined to present the most generic, by the numbers 80s slasher “tribute” imaginable. Up until maybe the last five minutes, almost everything that happens can be seen a mile off by anyone who’s watched more than one slasher movie in their entire lives.

Women in underwear run around screaming and being totally ineffectual (despite an early scene that seemed to promise that the female protagonists this time around were tough and feisty and knew how to take care of themselves), the killer materializes at will, just in time to kill the plucky sheriff (that’s not a spoiler, seriously) mere seconds after he spends five solid minutes pointing the exposition hose straight at our faces, blasting us with the most generic slasher villain origin ever, it’s all about as choreographed as a Russian ballet dance, to the point that you can practically hear the dancers’ domineering mother/coaches shouting at them from the sidelines. “Scream louder, push your tits out, or you vill have no borscht tonight!!”

Now all of this isn’t to say it’s bad, per se, just generic. Startlingly, maddeningly generic. For all the film makers’ love of the genre, they don’t take it anywhere new or interesting, don’t show us anything we haven’t seen before. Just tits and violence (the gore effects aren’t that amazing either) and a lot of really annoying post-production digital zooms. So if tits and violence is what you’re after….just watch a real 80s slasher flick.

Doomsdaysddays poster 26.5x40 final

This one hit the fest with a lot of hype and fanfare, with festival bigwig and hair care enthusiast Mitch Davis coming out beforehand to sing its praises in his typical exuberant fashion. Normally, when a movie gets this much hype my “Well, I know better than them!” circuits go into overdrive and I immediately become more inclined to hate the film to satisfy my smug sense of superiority….but Mitch was right, this movie’s gooooood.

Billed as a pre-apocalypse comedy, our protagonists are Bruho and Fred, a pair of shiftless 20-somethings wandering around isolated cottage country, breaking into peoples’ homes and living there as long as possible, in anticipation of an apocalypse brought about by the oil crisis.

Or at least, that seems to be Bruho’s reasoning, and also his motivation for slashing tires and going all Street Fighter 2 on any car that he finds, and generally being sullen and moody. Fred just seems to be along for the ride, with free booze and the opportunity to be detached and snarky as a bonus.

The film, the first offering by critic turned film maker Eddie Mullins, wears its influences on its sleeve, evoking early Jarmusch, Wes Anderson and even shades of early Kevin Smith at every turn with painstakingly framed, extended static shots, little scene-to-scene continuity, and characters seemingly destined to become cultural icons, probably by design.

Of course, all the cynical influence-spotting doesn’t change the fact that Doomsdays is still a damn fine bit of film making, funny and heartfelt and creative. Yeah, it might be a bit too obvious in its attempts to be this generation’s Clerks, but I’d rather it try too hard to be memorable than fling itself into mediocrity like Pin Up Dolls on Ice did.

KRp4l9rThe Garden of Words

Last year, you’ll remember I lamented that Makoto Shinkai’s 2011 offering Children who Chase Lost Voices suffered mostly from feeling distinctly NOT like a Makoto Shinkai movie, but more like Makoto Shinkai after someone told him to be more like Miyazaki.

Well, while I highly doubt anyone in Japan reads this, his new film The Garden of Words feels like someone, possibly Shinkai himself, read my words and took them to heart, because Garden of Words is about as Shinkai and Shinkai can get.

Clocking in at a mere 45 minutes long, Garden is a concise, moving tale of two individuals, a student named Takao and an older woman named Yukino who, after a chance encounter, meet every rainy day in a secluded bench in a park to escape their lives. Takao, a driven, hardworking student harboring dreams of becoming a shoemaker, and Yukino, a scatterbrained, immature woman not quite comfortable with her adulthood, strike up a friendship, with each providing something the other needs.

To Takao, the older Yukino seems like the only adult in the world to treat him as an equal and encourage him in his dreams. To Yukino, Takao represents the kind of drive and maturity she feels is missing in herself. The film, often pausing to focus on the most minute details and putting emotion, character and relationship in the forefront, unfolds like a poem, which is to say you’ll probably be weeping like a child by the end.

Unlike Children, which seemed to put too much focus on the fantastical world it was creating and the adventure and hijinks therein, Garden gets back to what made Shinkai….well, Shinkai. Character-driven stories where emotion and relationships are the main focus.

It should also be said, this is probably the most beautiful animated film you will see all year, if only based on the visuals. The meager running time meant the animators could punch up the details and make every raindrop and facial expression as beautiful and lush as possible, and when the movie doesn’t have you bawling like an XboxOne investor after spending five minutes on the internet, you’ll probably be struck dumb by the sheer beauty the film can conjure out of a cityscape or sunlight shining through leaves.

Some may find its frank emotion a tad schmaltzy or Hallmark card-y, but this is not one to miss.

“If this story is worth telling it’s because it’s about being human. The Devil’s tale is the tale of our own confusion, ego and inability to live without hope for Heaven.” – Clive Barker

Fantasia Film Festival is best known for its quirky program of genre and horror films. However, each year, Fantasia hand picks special events to highlight alongside and to complement their film selection. This year, Fantasia presents an encore run of Title 66’s production of The History of the Devil, a play by filmmaker and novelist Clive Barker.

The History of the Devil asks the audience to bear witness to the trial of the Devil where he must prove that it is humanity that is guilty of the crimes he has been charged with. If he can do so convincingly, he the gates of heaven will be open to him once more.

Spanning millennia, this satiric tale blends darkness, philosophy and humour as characters travel through time. The play asks us to consider whether the Devil deserves paradise and if anyone actually does.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Title 66 company co-Director and director of The History of the Devil, Jeremy Michael Segal, alongside Set and Costume Designer and company co-director Logan Williams. We discussed how Title 66 began, its mission, the choice of Barker’s play and local theatre.

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Both Williams and Segal are Montreal-based theatre artists who graduated from the Dawson College Profession Theatre Program. The roots of Title 66 are based on their position as young artists in the city.

Williams explained that “upon graduation, we knew of the stigma that to work in the world of acting in Montreal that you would have to do your time and not get paid. So we thought why not pursue passion projects and not get paid and try to get exposure that way as a company and as artists.”

“We grabbed that by the horns and we remounted a show we had done in school The Seagull by Chekhov and kind of adapted it […] We are really strongly behind the mandate of bringing forth really true performances. Focusing on the acting, on opening up the actors but also at the same time providing a really stunning visual. A lot of the time in theatre there is one or the other, especially in the case of young companies with young people. We try to focus on that and bring art forth that way.”

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The name of their company stems from a combination of the title used for their first production Working Title, which was unfortunately already taken, and from a theatre artist who inspired many of the members of the company.

“Robert Wilson did a production of some of the Shakespeare sonnets in Berlin which he directed and designed and for which Rufus Wainwright wrote the music,” Segal divulged, “we were shown these in one of our classes. For me, at least, it really opened up an entire new world of theatre. I had certainly never seen anything like that before in terms of contemporary art and now he is one of my biggest inspirations. The first sonnet we were shown, which seemed to inspire most of us, was Sonnet 66. Within the Sonnet, there is the line that says ‘and art made tongue-tied by authority’, which although not a political thing for us, it’s the idea of breaking through boundaries of art in exciting ways. So, we combined Working Title with Sonnet 66 to get Title 66.”

Title 66 came to mount The History of the Devil when Segal, who’d always been a fan of Clive Barker, happened to discover a book of Barker’s plays in a second hand book store, simultaneously discovering that his favorite author was also a playwright. After reading Incarnations, a book of three plays in which The History of the Devil is the third, Segal fell in love with the Devil’s saga and brought Barker’s piece to the rest of the team.

In their interpretation of Barker’s tale, Title 66 has eight actors playing thirty four characters with most of the cast younger than twenty seven years old. If that isn’t impressive enough, judging by stills of the production and Fantasia co-director Mitch Davis’ praise, Title 66 promises an exhilarating and visually stunning interpretation of Barker’s play. Evocative high production value which is fashion forward can be expected.

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“The design is definitely unique. Overall the key is that as a company we look at the text, the theme of the play, the relationship of the characters, the story and use that as a bouncing board to develop interesting creative ways of telling the story through the design, set costumes, movements. It’s all rooted back to the story of the play,” noted Segal.

Williams added: “Being young and not having the plethoras of experiences that other people have is that when you are young you have no barriers: you don’t know what’s wrong what’s right; you don’t know who is going to judge what; you haven’t been all around; and haven’t had a chance to be jaded. So you see things in different ways that open themselves up to being more experimental. More of the ‘why not?’ factor and just trying things out and seeing if they works. A quote I really love from Tony Soprano, in The Sopranos, is ‘more if lost by indecision than wrong decisions.’ I think that in terms of our interpretation we are fearless.”

Don’t miss The History of the Devil on Thursday, August 1- Saturday, Augut 3, 2013 at Place des Arts’ Cinquième Salle, 175 St. Catherine Street West starting at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $24.00 and can be purchased at 514-842-2112 or online at  Place des Arts box office

Photos by Julia Milz

Like an elephant hurtling towards the surface of Jupiter, Fantasia Film Fest is bearing down on the city of Montreal with the kind of severity that normally sets off air-raid sirens. Every year for a few weeks, all the best, weirdest and most generally fucked up films the world has to offer can be found playing on Montreal screens, invoking awe and the occasional seizure in the audience.

This year’s fest, which will screen over 120 films, is shaping up to be a good one, one I look forward to spending my every waking hour at, to the detriment of my family and frontal lobe. But in case you’re not like me and mark this on your calender every year like some people mark this year’s estimated Rapture date, you may still be on the fence. As always, I’m here for you, with a look at some of the most interesting looking stuff we’re in for this year.

Shield of Straw (Dir Takashi Miike)

It wouldn’t be Fantasia without Takashi Miike, the Japanese cult filmmaker who churns out films with the same tireless gusto with which Stephen King turns out forgettable novels. His new film, Shield of Straw, looks to open this year’s fest with his usual amounts of violence and shouting, as an elite police unit in modern day Japan transports a violent prisoner across the country.

In terms of content, it looks to be one of Miike’s more “normal” efforts of late, with nary a Samurai or dance number or spikey-haired lawyer in sight. All the same, those familiar with Miike’s work probably should be prepared to anything to happen.

gatchaman_movie_poster_1Gatchaman (Dir Toya Sato)

Gatchaman, a property about a team of bird-themed superheroes strangely referred to as a “science ninja team” (which just puts me in the mind of someone running a particle accelerator veeery quietly) has been on the cusp of its own big-time movie for some time now.

Before it sadly went out of business, American animation studio Imagi was all set to produce an English language CGI Gatchaman movie, teasers for which can still be seen

Now Toya Sato, a mostly unknown director, is posed to bring a sexy, teched-up version of Gatchaman to the big screen, with tons of effects and explosions and broody attractive people to back it up. Most Japanese superhero films, spinoffs of TV franchises like Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, are usually killed by feeling too low-budget and tv-ish, but from the trailers Gatchaman doesn’t have seem to have this problem, so this one’s definitely high on my priorities list.

The Conjuring (Dir James Wan)

There’s a lot of huff and noise around The Conjuring, the new haunted house movie from Saw director James Wan.

Based on a true story, the film focuses on a pair of Paranormal Investigators, an interesting twist admittedly, called to help out a family with a ghost problem. So basically it’s like Poltergeist from the perspective of the little woman with the ludicrous accent.

Of course, The Conjuring, and James Wan himself, both have one mark against them already: the fact that contrary to popular opinion, Insidious was about as scary as stale toast and so monstrously overrated I sometimes wonder if I’m the butt of some practical joke. All the same, I’ll probably give it a shot, if only because I’m always open to being proved wrong, even though most of the time I’m still right.

Drug War (Dir. Johnnie To)Drug War 2013 1080p Blu-ray ACV DTS-HD MA TrueHD 7.1-HDWinG - 2.jpg

Hong Kong director Johnnie To has built a pretty impressive name for himself in the world of crime thrillers and shoot-em-ups, boasting such flicks as The Mission, PTU, Exiled, Vengeance and Breaking News on his resume.

This is a man who KNOWS how to direct a gunfight, and if you want evidence, just look at the tense mall shoot-out in The Mission or the single-take opening of Breaking News.

After dabbling in romantic comedies of all damn things, To seems to have returned to his roots of finding new and creative ways to show people shooting the crap out of each other, and Drug War looks like the film to see for Hong Kong action fans.

Vegetarian Cannibal (Dir. Branko Schmidt)

The title alone, and the description “The story of a corrupt gynecologist’s exploits within a toxic medical system” makes this one sound like a screwball farce, but director Branko Schmidt has by all accounts turned out a tense, psychological horror flick aimed at unnerving the audience as much as possible.

Given that this is Fantasia, the fest that purportedly cheered at scenes of shocking brutality in T.F Mou’s Men Behind the Sun, Vegetarian Cannibal has a pretty high order to fill if it wants to get under the skin of this audience.

By all accounts though, if any flick will succeed it’s this one, and gore hounds and fans of transgressive cinema will want to watch it.

worlds-end-posterThe World’s End (Dir. Edgar Wright)

A few years back, Shaun of the Dead had its North American premier at Fantasia, blowing the socks off horror fans and ensuring that director Edgar Wright would never be short of fans lining up to give him blowjobs and script ideas.

Now just shy of ten years later, the last film in the unoffical “Cornetto Trilogy” that began with Shaun and its follow-up Hot Fuzz, is ready to hit screens, and bring Fantasia 2013 to a close.

Reuniting stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the focus seems to be sci-fi this time, as Pegg and newcomers Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine play a gang of friends brought together after 20 years apart to make one last go at the epic pub crawl they never finished in their misspent youth, while discovering their childhood haunt is infested with Body Snatchers style alien doubles.

To say fans have been waiting for this one for a while is a wee bit of an understatement, and this will probably be one of the first films of the fest to sell out, so I’d advise buying your tickets now. Like NOW.

MY AMITYVILLE HORROR

This documentary was one of my most anticipated films at Fantasia Fest, having grown up with the Amityville Hauntings as horrific entertainment mostly understood through B Horror film retellings. I was extremely excited to see the world premiere and was very impressed by the film, it’s amazing character study and personal nature.

MY AMITYVILLE HORROR

For the uninitiated, the Amityville Hauntings occurred in 1977 at 112 Ocean Avenue, when a newly moved in family experienced all kinds of paranormal activity effectively forcing them to flee the house. Not long prior to their moving into the home, in 1974, Ronald DeFeo murdered his entire family in the very same home. A crazy media circus began then and 112 Ocean Avenue became one of the most famous hauntings in America.

During the Q & A, Eric Walters, the very young director of the film, explained that he had been researching the Amityville Haunting for almost ten years, creating a website containing records and archives when Daniel Lutz contacted Walters because Lutz wanted to tell his side of the story. A lot of the film has the style of an old school detective’s interrogation/narration, with Daniel Lutz speaking to the camera. It is an interesting piece in terms of how it plays with the art of the documentary film. My Amityville Horror asks bold questions, shows difficult consequences to the effect of such phenomena on children, and ultimately makes the viewer question their own beliefs. I will definitely watch this film a few more times.

Excision

In one of my previous reviews I called Toad Road the best of the fest, meet its rival: the ever bloody, ever hormonal, and ever so fucked up: Excision! (Directed by: Richard Bates Jr.)

Just to set the mood, right before the start of the film, the director and his colleagues gave the audience members necklaces made with bloody tampons (fake blood of course). I considered leaving the theatre for fear of how troubling the film would be but I’m really glad I didn’t.

Pauline’s kinda sorta (a helluva lot) different. She doesn’t fit in, doesn’t seem to take care of her personal hygiene very much and has a really bitchy mother played by none other than Tracy Lords. Pauline has a thing for blood, a dream of becoming a surgeon, hormones, and a sick sister.

ExcisionThis first feature by Richard Bates Jr. is based on the very similar and darker short film of the same name. It is a stylistically stunning piece with it’s disturbingly engrossing fantasy sequences and a stark dark realistic film in its portrayal of the life of a high school outcast with shitty family dynamics. John Waters as the priest, whom Pauline is brought to instead of an actual psychiatrist, is, as always, quirky and strange with little effort. Annalyne McCord’s performance as Pauline is fucking breathtaking. I literally couldn’t move by the last scene of the film and needed half an hour to come down from that freaky high.

TURN ME ON GODDAMMIT!

I’m a sucker for a quirky coming of age story and Turn Me On Goddamit! (Directed by: Jannicke Systad Jacobsen) is a good one at that. Set in a small Norway town (Skoddeheimen) where young girls dream of escape, giving the finger to the town sign every time they re-enter its limits, Turn Me On Goddamit! is about a young girl named Alma who is really horny. At the town recreational center, Alma has an interesting encounter with her longtime crush, Artur, and is faced with social ridicule when she recounts it to her lipgloss obsessed friend. For, you see, Artur poked her with his dick. Thus, Alma becomes “Pik (Dick) Alma” and things only gets worse when her mother becomes increasingly aware of Alma’s hormonal needs, in the shape of a very high sex telephone bill.

TURN ME ON GODDAMMIT!

What drew me to the film initially was the idea that this would be a film depicting a teenage girl’s sexual desires and I was intrigued to see how this would be done without being some sort of weird male sexual fantasy. I was quickly reassured within minutes of the opening scene that indeed this film would have depth and that the sexual desires of Alma were not simply there for male fantasy but rather a realistic portrayal of what a young woman can go through growing up in a world where female sexual desire is unfairly meant to be kept under the sheets.

http://youtu.be/dbrha4P65yk

The young actress who plays Alma delivers a compelling performance especially in the scenes where Alma and her mother are faced with the discomfort of Alma’s sexual appetite. One of my favourite parts to this film was the small asides focusing on Alma’s best-friend Saralou who wants to differentiate herself from all things small-town. As well, the turnip plant imagery in the film is intriguing and even more so when the two drunk girls, Alma and Saralou, throw turnips and yell “fuck society”. That’s the spirit girls!

WARPED FOREST

I went to see Warped Forest (by Shunichiro Miki) because a fellow reviewer suggested the film and hyped the shit out of it. Normally, this sort of film is off my radar. Even in my open-minded box-breaking film tastes, I am unfortunately still conservative in some regards. Films that approach the absurd or surrealism just don’t get me going and leave me puzzled. Warped forest is one of these films. Given the aforementioned, I shall try to review the film anyhow.

Nine characters, some of which are actually different in scale and proportion, intermingle and live their lives in a bizarre setting that looks like something that came out of an intense drug induced vision: Pornographic fruits, nipple twisting creatures, super cum guns, obsessions with gaoza, and weird inverted floating pyramids. This isn’t surprising since most characters in the film are under the influence of one drug or another at almost all times in the film. Three teenagers, three sisters, and three best buds get tangled up in webs of dealing with wanting more: love, money, and happiness. Dreams and escapism are themes throughout.

WARPED FOREST

Overall, the imagery was extremely interesting and the coveted fruit bearing trees are most probably the most interesting aspect of this twisted forest although they are not nearly explored enough. The scene where the three buds try to dream tinker without having to pay any pocos (the currency in the film, which consists of nuts stored in ones bellybutton) is very silly and quite memorable. The standout performance is that of the youngest sister, who is on a strange quest in the wild, wielding the cum gun and constantly thinking about gaoza (dumplings).

In the end, the film left me with two things: an aversion to avocados and a dire need to eat some dumplings.

Nipple-twisting fuzzy creatures, sex hotlines, ghosts and personal demons, serial killers, and blood (a lot of blood). The amazing Fantasia team delivered another impressive line up of titles with interesting guests and of course, lots of popcorn. Now that it’s all said and done, that I’m back at my office job, here are five out of the 50 or so titles me and my fellow FTB writer Thomas O’Connor saw that I will remember a long time from now. Fantasia 2012 was on helluva Fest and altho it ended a week ago, it never really ends for some of us: It’s only over when we say it’s over.

Warped Forest

I went to see Warped Forest (by Shunichiro Miki) because a fellow reviewer suggested the film and hyped the shit out of it. Normally, this sort of film is off my radar. Even in my open-minded box-breaking film tastes, I am unfortunately still conservative in some regards. Films that approach the absurd or surrealism just don’t get me going and leave me puzzled. Warped forest is one of these films. Given the aforementioned, I shall try to review the film anyhow.

Nine characters, some of which are actually different in scale and proportion, intermingle and live their lives in a bizarre setting that looks like something that came out of an intense drug induced vision: Pornographic fruits, nipple twisting creatures, super cum guns, obsessions with gaoza, and weird inverted floating pyramids. This isn’t surprising since most characters in the film are under the influence of one drug or another at almost all times in the film. Three teenagers, three sisters, and three best buds get tangled up in webs of dealing with wanting more: love, money, and happiness. Dreams and escapism are themes throughout.

Overall, the imagery was extremely interesting and the coveted fruit bearing trees are most probably the most interesting aspect of this twisted forest although they are not nearly explored enough. The scene where the three buds try to dream tinker without having to pay any pocos (the currency in the film, which consists of nuts stored in ones bellybutton) is very silly and quite memorable. The standout performance is that of the youngest sister, who is on a strange quest in the wild, wielding the cum gun and constantly thinking about gaoza (dumplings). In the end, the film left me with two things: an aversion to avocados and a dire need to eat some dumplings.

Turn Me On Goddamit!

I’m a sucker for a quirky coming of age story and Turn Me On Goddamit! is a good one at that.  Set in a small Norway town where young girls dream of escape, giving the finger to the town sign every time they re-enter its limits, Turn Me On Goddamit! is about a young girl named Alma who is really horny. At the town recreational center, Alma has an interesting encounter with her longtime crush, Artur, and is faced with social ridicule when she recounts it to her lipgloss obsessed friend. For, you see, Artur poked her with his dick. Thus, Alma becomes “Pik (Dick) Alma” and things only gets worse when her mother becomes increasingly aware of Alma’s hormonal needs, in the shape of a very high sex telephone bill.

What drew me to the film initially was the idea that this would be a film depicting a teenage girl’s sexual desires and I was intrigued to see how this would be done without being some sort of weird male sexual fantasy. I was quickly reassured within minutes of the opening scene that indeed this film would have depth and that the sexual desires of Alma were not simply there for male fantasy but rather a realistic portrayal of what a young woman can go through growing up in a world where female sexual desire is unfairly meant to be kept under the sheets.

The young actress who plays Alma delivers a compelling performance especially in the scenes where Alma and her mother are faced with the discomfort of Alma’s sexual appetite. One of my favourite parts to this film was the small asides focusing on Alma’s best-friend Saralou who wants to differentiate herself from all things small-town. As well, the turnip plant imagery in the film is intriguing and even more so when the two drunk girls, Alma and Saralou, throw turnips and yell “fuck society”. That’s the spirit girls!

 

Excision

In one of my previous reviews I called Toad Road the best of the fest, meet its rival: the ever bloody, ever hormonal, and ever so fucked up: Excision! Just to set the mood, right before the start of the film, the director and his colleagues gave the audience members necklaces made with bloody tampons (fake blood of course). I considered leaving the theatre for fear of how troubling the film would be but I’m sure glad I didn’t.

Pauline’s kinda sorta (a helluva lot) different. She doesn’t fit in, doesn’t seem to take care of her personal hygiene very much and has a really bitchy mother played by none other than Tracy Lords. Pauline has a thing for blood, a dream of becoming a surgeon, hormones, and a sick sister.

This first feature by Richard Bates Jr. is based on the very similar and darker short film of the same name. It is a stylistically stunning piece with it’s disturbingly engrossing fantasy sequences and a stark dark realistic film in its portrayal of the life of a high school outcast with shitty family dynamics. John Waters as the priest, whom Pauline is brought to instead of an actual psychiatrist, is, as always, quirky and strange with little effort. Annalyne McCord’s performance as Pauline is fucking breathtaking. I literally couldn’t move by the last scene of the film and needed half an hour to come down from that freaky high.

My Amityville Horror

This documentary was one of my most anticipated films at the Fest, having grown up with the Amityville Hauntings as horrific entertainment mostly understood through B Horror film retellings. I was extremely excited to see the world premiere and was very impressed by the film, it’s amazing character study and personal nature.

For the uninitiated, the Amityville Hauntings occurred in 1977 at 112 Ocean Avenue, when a newly moved in family experienced all kinds of paranormal activity effectively forcing them to flee the house. Not long prior to their moving into the home, in 1974, Ronald DeFeo murdered his entire family in the very same home. A crazy media circus began then and 112 Ocean Avenue became one of the most famous hauntings in America.

During the Q & A, Eric Walters, the very young director of the film, explained that he had been researching the Amityville Haunting for almost ten years, creating a website containing records and archives when Daniel Lutz contacted Walters because Lutz wanted to tell his side of the story. A lot of the film has the style of an old school detective’s interrogation/narration, with Daniel Lutz speaking to the camera. It is an interesting piece in terms of how it plays with the art of the documentary film. My Amityville Horror asks bold questions, shows difficult consequences to the effect of such phenomena on children, and ultimately makes the viewer question their own beliefs. I will definitely watch this film a few more times.