The three weeks that make up the Fantasia International Film Festival are always my favorite of the year, twenty-one heady days of filmic delights and unwise dietary choices broken up only by manic writing sessions and bleary-eyed journeys home on the night bus. This will be my fifth year covering the fest, my third for FTB, and already I can feel the pure Dionysian joy that awaits me.
The main release of the 2015 schedule has yet to happen, but the fine folks at Fantasia have already released more than enough of what’s to come to get me and every other film nerd salivating with anticipation, and this week on FFR we’ll be looking at some of the highlights of this year’s Fantasia line-up.
It wouldn’t be Fantasia without something delectably weird and inimitably Japanese, something that by all sanity shouldn’t be a live-action film, but somehow is. I’m sure we’ll get several such films at Fantasia this year, but the one that’s caught my eye so far is Assassination Classroom.
Based off the hit manga and anime, the film centers on an all-powerful alien lifeform that comes to Earth, partially destroys the moon, and…..becomes a homeroom teacher. Naturally, the Japanese government places a reward of 10 billion yen to any student who can manage to kill the alien before it destroys the planet, meaning every student has come to class armed for war.
So it’s basically Great Teacher Onikuza meets Battle Royale with a grinning, yellow, be-tentacled monstrosity at its center. Yep, that’s a Fantasia movie all right. And I’m DOWN.
What’s that now? Practical monster effects? Congratulations, with those three words you’ve piqued the interest of every old-school horror buff worth his or her salt, myself included.
The Hallow looks like a classic creature feature, playing on well-worn but still rich themes of nature and old world monsters and myths wreaking havoc on the lives of us ignorant city folk. In this case, a married couple move to a remote village in Ireland, only to be warned by the local Scary Older Gentleman to stay out of the woods, lest they disturb something best left to itself. Naturally, they don’t, and much screaming ensues.
The Hallow is already garnering great reviews from its run at Sundance, and should be drawing additional attention for its director, Corin Hardy, who will sit in the director’s chair on the long-gestating remake/reboot of The Crow.
Want something that’ll get a Fantasia crowd pumped? Get something loud as a piledriver, gory as a weekend internship at a slaughterhouse, metal as Optimus Prime’s ass and involving at least one chainsaw.
Deathgasm looks to be all those things. Coming out of New Zealand, home of such favorites as Brain Dead and Housebound, Deathgasm looks like the quintessential “Hall Theatre Midnight Screening” experience. This is the movie you go to see with a raucous audience of devoted gorehounds and metalheads, the movie Mitch Davis spends five minutes gushing over before the screening, God bless his heart.
The director, Jason Lei Howden, already has an impressive resume working on big Hollywood features in the digital effects department, and with such experience under his belt I think we may be looking at a festival favorite with this one.
Past readers will recall me being a bit cynical about Korean films in the past, harumphing at the gray and blue action thrillers and raising an eyebrow at the period dramas. Korean film is something that I have a hard time connecting with, for one reason or another, but Big Match looks more up my alley and may just be the film to turn me around.
Zombie, an MMA fighter, is thrown in the clink on suspicion of kidnapping his coach and older brother. But just as quick, Zombie is released and finds himself a pawn in a city-wide board game masterminded by a mysterious genius.
Big Match looks, above all else, fun. Bright and colorful, not-too-serious, and with plenty of well-choreographed stunt work and fight scenes. I’m sure there will be more than enough dead-serious political action thrillers out of South Korea at Fantasia this year, but Big Match looks more my speed.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Fantasia without anime, and this year’s fest will be opening up to the tune of Miss Hokusai, the story of Oei Hokusai, daughter of famed Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, who produced woodblock prints during the Edo Period.
What draws me to this film most is the director, Keiicha Hara, a relatively recent talent who got his start on the Shin-Chan movies. Miss Hokusai also comes from Production IG, a studio whose watermark is usually a stamp of quality, and who have previously wowed me with efforts like Giovanni’s Island and A Letter To Momo at previous Fantasia Fests.