The 20th anniversary of Montreal’s Fantasia Festival took over Concordia for three weeks last month, and what a glorious three weeks of cinematic goodness that was. A lot of these films should be hitting theatres, Blu Ray, or VOD in the near future, so keep an eye out for the amazing stuff you missed. I managed to see over 40 flicks this year, and here’s yet another small sampling of some of my faves…

As The Gods Will

Director: Takashi Miike
Screenplay: Hiroyuki Yatsu, Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Akeji Fujimura
Cast: Sota Fukushi, Hirona Yamazaki, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Shota Sometani, Mio Yuki
Country: Japan

What’s it about?

Takashi Miike directs this wonderfully bizarre and violently surreal film about a group of high school students attempting to survive a series of weird and macabre death traps given by Gods that resemble traditional Japanese toys and games. Based on the popular Manga, one Fantasia attendee best described it as Battle Royale on LSD.

Why should you watch it?

Takashi Miike is one of the most prolific directors working in Japan today, and possibly ever. Everyone of his films is very different and sometimes very weird, and none are weirder than this one right here.

This is definitely one of the oddest films you’ll ever see. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a giant Good Luck Cat attempting to eat a bunch of kids dressed like mice… and then ask to have his back rubbed. Or weird wooden toys spewing nursery rhymes before exploding people into red gooey mush. It’s one of those “you have to see it to believe it” films, and even then you possibly still won’t believe it. I could go on about things like the stopmotion Polar Bear… but you really need to see that one for yourself.

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Miike was in attendance at Fantasia this year, receiving an honorary award for his contribution to film, and he was utterly delighted that the crowd started clapping along to said eerie nursery rhymes. It’s that kind of a film. You root for some of the characters… and you don’t for some others. It’s gleeful deranged fun. It’s so exaggerated in it’s violence that it’s more comical than disturbing.

It’s like a big, gory cartoon full of Alice in Wonderland-esque WTF. Or a cute version of the SAW films laced in DMT. It’s such a visual treat full of strange and weird. There’s a nice mix of different FX methods and styles for each god, such as the aforementioned Polar Bear or the giant Daruma Doll, and each one having a different feel really helps flesh out these Gods as characters. It gives them their own personality. It’s a clever technique that just adds to the madness.

As the God’s Will is a solid fun ride that you should definitely see with some friends… provided they are into the same equally messed up stuff that you’re into. Heck, I’m not even fully sure I got what was going on.. but I’m definitely glad I saw it, and I definitely can’t unsee it. I don’t think I want to unsee it. Regardless of that, you definitely should see it.

 

The Eyes of my Mother

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Director: Nicolas Pesce
Screenplay: Nicolas Pesce
Cast: Kika Magalhães, Will Brill, Paul Nazak, Flora Diaz, Clara Wong
Country: U.S.A.

What’s it about?

This dark and moody film follows a young girl as she deals with the aftermath of a home invasion, and how she copes with it later in life through very bizarre, violent, and creepy means.

Why should you watch it?

This film had huge buzz at Sundance this year, and I can totally see why. It’s one of the most gorgeous looking and seriously fucked up things I’ve ever seen. It’s part of that new wave of arthouse horror that keeps on raising the bar in terms of story and quality. It’s the kind of thing you like looking at, but feel uncomfortable for doing so.

Calling it creepy is an understatement. Shot in stark black and white, this film is a masterclass in mood and tone. It’s very unnerving, and that’s only amplified by the perfect cinematography. The composition and framing is something more genre filmmakers should strive for. It’s absolutely beautiful to look at… yet the subject matter is utterly horrifying.

What starts off as a home invasion tale quick turns into one of the most unsettling depictions of revenge seen on the screen. It stays with you. It haunts you. The story becomes something more than revenge. It becomes a story about need. The role of victim and victor feels blurred and reversed. It’s a clever spin on typical home invasion fare, albeit a very dark one.

Again, it’s not just a simple home invasion or revenge tale. That’s only a very tiny portion of a much larger story. It’s also a deeper film about isolation and loneliness, and those themes couldn’t be conveyed right without the brilliant portrayal by lead actress, Kika Magalhaes. When the main character, Francisca, gets the upper-hand, there’s a triumphant feel… yet the tragicness of the whole situation shines through, and that’s also where Kika shines. You really feel her isolation. You feel her loneliness. You feel her loss and desperation. She’s clearly damaged, yet the exact extent is only made clearer as the film progresses.

I really hope this film gets a wider release. There’s nothing quite like it out there and it needs a larger audience. Arthouse Horror done right in the best possible way.

 

White Coffin

Director: Daniel de la Vega
Screenplay: Ramiro García Bogliano, Adrian García Bogliano
Cast: Julieta Cardinali, Rafa Ferro, Fiorela Duranda, Damian Dreizik, Veronica Intile
Country: Argentina

What’s it about?

A mother goes on the road with her daughter to start a new life, but when her child goes missing, she must do whatever it takes to get her back. White Coffin is a spooky, action-horror road movie about missing children and the lengths a parent will go to get them back… lengths that involve high speed chases, crazed occultists, bizarre characters, and supernatural forces.

Why should you watch it?

If you like creepy and tense, this film delivers. At it’s core, it’s a great throwback to an older feel of action-horror classics of the 80s, but still maintaining a modern feel and still feeling very South American. This is as un-North American as you get, and by that I mean it clearly isn’t afraid to takes chances.

Ultimately this film is driven by a heavy theme of love, specifically the love a mother has for her child. There are several missing kids in this film and several mothers looking for said kids. And they are determined to find them no matter what. And that’s a big emphasis on “no matter what”.

One of the other strengths of this film, aside from the level of action, is how it keeps building and building in terms of tension. Every time a new character is thrown into the mix, it just amps up how tense and bizarre things could possibly get. The odd preacher. The coffin maker. The town people. At times it feels almost Lynchian in terms of the weird.

The film is also a looming puzzle… things don’t really make sense to the characters, but as soon as there’s clarity there’s another layer of mystery. And as more layers are revealed, the creepy factor goes up to 11.  The imagery evokes some really memorable scenes, some gory, some more subtle, yet still shocking… but none of which I shall spoil. Everything is carefully set up, and saying any more would ruin it.

Striving to survive, racing the clock, and fighting to get to the one you love, this film has very powerful moments. At times it channels some other classics in horror. There’s a definite Wickerman and Twilight Zone feel to it. There were times I felt absolutely gutted. This film will definitely hit you hard. The filmmakers make sure of that.

Even after sufficient time, I still get chills thinking about this film. It’s very clever. It’s the kind of film you suspect will be adapted for the inevitable American remake. Seek it out before that happens. There are very few films out there like this one.

About The Author

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Mobster Blogger

When Theo isn't drawing weirdo art he's watching Films. Theo likes films. Theo likes all kinds of films. Sometimes we even get a coherent review out of him. Sometimes. Read his yearly coverage of the Fantasia Festival and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

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