For me, one filmmaker sums up what is so great about the Fantasia International Film Festival, and that would be Perry Blackshear. The festival screened his debut feature, THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE, to audience and critical acclaim. For those who haven’t seen it yet (and you should remedy that right away), it’s a huge film with a tiny budget that showcases a skilled filmmaker with a talent for creating both compelling, in this case terrifying, films and for working on so many philosophical levels that it can, and will, make your head spin.
And that’s Fantasia, a genre festival where talented filmmakers are discovered by an audience eager to find them, and where those same filmmakers can return, as Blackshear and his cinema repertory group did last year with WHEN I CONSUME YOU. Last year was also the year that actor Mark O’Brien made his equally impressive feature film directorial debut with THE RIGHTEOUS.
It’s also a festival where genre masters are celebrated for their genius. This year promises to continue in that fine tradition. Here are six films to particularly seek out.
Dutch filmmaker Nico van den Brink whose debut feature film, MOLOCH, will be making its international debut. A bog, a cadaver, and a team of relentless archeologists bring forth something that might have been better left untroubled in this film that took The Netherlands by storm. Already acclaimed for his short films, the filmmaker hopes that his folk horror tale “will break open the genre in the Netherlands”.
SISSY is another directorial debut from Australian co-writers/directors Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes takes the remote cabin-in-the-woods horror trope and uses it to skewer influencer culture and take a serious, ahem, stab, at getting even with a high-school bully.
Andy Mitton’s THE HARBINGER posits a world where nightmares are contagious and can last for days. Told against the backdrop of the very real COVID pandemic, it is a prime example of an emerging sub-genre that uses metaphor to help us all process the last two years while also enchanting us (in a deeply terrifying manner) with its focus on trauma as well as the occult.
Make time for the nostalgia of South Korea’s oldest surviving, long lost, and barely seen, kaiju flick, Gwon Hyeok-jinn’s SPACE MONSTER WANGMAGWI (1967). Refined it’s not, but for the joy of pure, unfettered imagination that often outstrips the special-effects budget to bring them to life, there is nothing better. Plus, when those sequences effects do come together, it makes them even more satisfying. Best of all, it gives me the chance to use the phrase “Seoul crushing” when describing the action.
If you’ve ever wondered what happens >after< those kaiju battles, you know, the part where the landscape is littered with the dead monsters, well so has Satoshi Miki. The result is WHAT TO DO WITH A DEAD KAIJU, a puckish story about whether or not the monsters will have the last laugh as the humans discover that this kind of waste disposal is a life-or-death proposition.
Quentin Dupieux fans rejoice! The man who brought us a homicidal tire in love (RUBBER), a reality-fluid policier (KEEP AN EYE OUT) a scathing deconstruction of filmmaking (DEERSKIN), and a giant fly that wormed its way into the hearts of two losers (MANDIBLES) is back with INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE. Will true love find a way as a troubled couple buy a house and the secret in the basement that they have been warned to avoid? Will we laugh through our tears? Will reality once again be parsed into oblivion by a filmmaker aiming for something far more profound?
This year also hearkens back to the festival’s first year (1996), when it devoted itself to showcasing Asian films, with a tribute to John Woo. Would there be a Fantasia Festival without John Woo? The organizers think not, and the 2022 Fantasia Career Achievement Award festivities will include screenings of HARD BOILED (and its sublime baby-saving sequence) and FACE/OFF (reflecting the Hollywood-Hong Kong arc of his career) and an artist’s talk with the director himself.
For more information about the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival running now through August 1, check out the website at https://fantasiafestival.com/.