Regular readers here know that we love film festivals and that one of our favorites is Montreal’s Fantasia Film Fest. The epic festival runs three weeks long each July and delivers copious amounts of genre fun year after year. The ongoing pandemic has thrown a wrench into this year’s plans, but like a couple other festivals before them they’ve paused, reflected, and redirected their efforts so that the fest can go on… by going online.
Fantasia 2020 is going virtual from August 20th to September 2nd, and just as you had to be in Canada to attend the real fest the same apples here — tickets will only be available to people with a Canadian IP address. The first wave of 21 titles has just been announced, and as is always the case it’s already enough to have us excited. It features eight world premieres in addition to new films from the directors of The Descent (2005) and One Cut of the Dead (2017). Keep reading to see everything announced so far!
Dir. Lloyd Kaufman
Nearly 25 years after the release of TROMEO AND JULIET, Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma Team are going “back to the Bard” with an utterly insane interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, set against America’s opioid crisis. Kaufman celebrates Troma’s 45th – and his 50th – year of making movies by taking on Big Pharma, addiction, and an intolerance of social media with all the sex, mutants, musical numbers, and violence that Shakespeare always wanted but never had. #SHAKESPEARESSHITSTORM marks the most ambitious project in Troma’s 45-year history, popping with Kaufman’s uniquely anarchistic style at a time when it couldn’t possibly be more needed!
12 HOUR SHIFT
Dir. Brea Grant
Writer / Director Brea Grant (who also scripted and stars in this year’s LUCKY) has delivered one of our favorite films of the year. A gripping real-time, hospital-set thriller / black comedy taking place in the late ’90s at the onset of the opioid crisis, 12 HOUR SHIFT follows a junkie nurse through an ascension of grisly criminal happenings as she funds her habit through organ harvesting side work on the job. Fronted by a career-best performance from Angela Bettis (MAY), playing a ferociously uncommon kind of anti-hero, and infused with inspired directorial details, the film co-stars Chloe Farnworth, David Arquette, and Mick Foley. Originally slated to launch at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Dir. Anthony Scott Burns
The sophomore feature by Canadian Writer/Director/Cinematographer/Composer Anthony Scott Burns (OUR HOUSE), COME TRUE is a distinctive and compelling work of dark science-fiction that haunts the space between wakefulness and sleep. Plagued by disturbing dreams and unable to go home, rebellious teenager Sarah (THE KILLING’s Julia Sarah Stone) is relieved to find shelter at a university sleep study. Hoping this will finally help her to get rid of her nightmares, she unwittingly becomes the channel to a horrifying new discovery. Co-starring Landon Liboiron (TRUTH OR DARE). Produced by Mark Smith (IN THE TALL GRASS) and Nicholas Bechard (HOLIDAYS) and Canadian genre film luminaries Steve Hoban (GINGER SNAPS) and Vincenzo Natali (CUBE).
A COSTUME FOR NICHOLAS
Dir. Eduardo Rivero
Mexican feature A COSTUME FOR NICHOLAS, directed by Eduardo Rivero, is a wild and colourful fantasy adventure with a special point to make. Nicholas, a ten-year-old with Down Syndrome, has a grand collection of costumes his mother made him, but as he and his resentful and troubled cousin David find out, just because it’s make-believe doesn’t mean it’s not real!
THE CURSE OF AUDREY EARNSHAW
Dir. Thomas Robert Lee
A mother and daughter are suspected of witchcraft by their devout rural community in Canadian filmmaker Thomas Robert Lee’s freakishly nightmarish THE CURSE OF AUDREY EARNSHAW. One of the most unsettling and surprising occult horror films since HEREDITARY, this haunting tale is steeped in folklore and brimming with imagery that will besiege your subconscious. It stars Catherine Walker (A DARK SONG), Jared Abrahamson (HELLO DESTROYER), Hannah Emily Anderson (WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE), Don McKellar (LAST NIGHT), and Sean McGinley (BRAVEHEART), and is co-produced by MY BLOODY VALENTINE director George Mihalka.
Dir. Ryan Kruger
An alien takes over the body of a middle-aged drug addict (Gary Green) and goes on a delirious joyride across Cape Town in Ryan Kruger’s FRIED BARRY, an acid trip of a road movie. Winner of a RapidLion Award for Best South African Film, it’s a tale that’s alternately depraved and oddly sweet – featuring over 100 actors and some seriously bonkers FX. It’s an absolute first in the history of South African cinema – and perhaps in humankind itself!
Dir. Sidharth Srinivasan
In New Delhi filmmaker Sidharth Srinivasan’s first horror work – and first narrative feature in a decade, following SOUL OF SAND – a DJ encounters a beautiful woman at a club, goes back to her home, and finds himself thrust into a nightmare odyssey of ritual magic, patriarchal death customs, and family conflict most unusual. Transgressive, darkly humorous, and mystically atmospheric, KRIYA is a fever dream of fear starring Navjot Randhawa (MEHSAMPUR), Noble Luke, and Avantika Akerkar (THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL), is co-produced by Andy Starke (IN FABRIC) and Pete Tombs (FREE FIRE), and features an unforgettable score by Jim Williams (POSSESSOR).
LABYRINTH OF CINEMA
Dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi
On its closing night, a cinema is struck by lightning and a trio of young men are thrust beyond the screen, into the dying days of Japan’s feudal era, the Boshin War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Battle of Okinawa, and the eve of the Hiroshima bombing. With the passing of director Nobuhiko Obayashi in April of 2020, cinema lost a titan. His final film, LABYRINTH OF CINEMA (2019) is deeply humanist text: an endlessly delirious career coda and a voyage through Japan’s wartime and cinematic history. It stands as a timely reminder of the power of movies to inspire in the face of hopeless barbarism.
Dir. Noah Hutton
In LAPSIS, a delivery man struggles to support himself and his ailing brother. After a series of dead-end hustles, he takes a job in a strange new realm of the gig economy: trekking deep into the forest and pulling miles of cable over treacherous terrain to connect a new quantum trading market. A chillingly pertinent tale, Noah Hutton follows activist documentaries DEEP TIME and CRUDE INDEPENDENCE with this brilliant skewering of the absurdity of contemporary work environments, leaving no stone unturned: from the sharing economy to healthcare profiteering and the increasing game-ification of labor. This is speculative fiction at its most relevant. Originally slated to launch at this year’s SXSW.
Dir. Natasha Kermani
The sophomore feature from Natasha Kermani (IMITATION GIRL), LUCKY tells the tale of May (Brea Grant, who also scripted), a self-help author who suddenly finds herself stalked by a threatening but elusive masked man that mysteriously reappears every night. Struggling to get help from the people around her as she fights to stay alive, May is forced to ask if this is just paranoia, or if she’s doomed to accept her new reality? A visceral and smart exploration of gaslighting through the prism of horror storytelling, LUCKY was originally slated to launch at this year’s SXSW.
THE OLD MAN MOVIE
Dir. Oskar Lehemaa
North American Premiere
In the Estonian country-bumpkin shock-comedy THE OLD MAN MOVIE, a couple of city kids are dropped off for the summer at the grandfather’s farm for a taste of country living, but when his precious cow escapes, a hair-raising hellride of back-country horrors, gross-out gags, and rural surrealism breaks loose. With the help of director Oskar Lehemaa, Peeter Ritso and Mikk Mägi’s hugely successful YouTube series has become a high-water mark for stop-motion animation, and a glorious new low in lowbrow laughs!
Dir. Neil Marshall
Fantasia’s 24th edition will open with a special screening of Neil Marshall’s recently completed cinematic powerhouse THE RECKONING. A poignant and horrific period thriller set in 1665 against the backdrop of the Great Plague and the subsequent witch hunts in England, THE RECKONING stars Charlotte Kirk (OCEAN’S 8, NO PANIC WITH A HINT OF HYSTERIA), Sean Pertwee (DOG SOLDIERS, DOOMSDAY), Joe Anderson (THE GREY, THE CRAZIES), Steven Waddington (THE IMITATION GAME, LAST OF THE MOHICANS), and Emma Campbell-Jones (DOCTOR WHO). A vivid, compelling and confrontational film whose themes are frighteningly pertinent to today’s concerns, it will knock the wind out of you. This will mark the second time that a work from the esteemed British filmmaker has opened Fantasia, THE DESCENT having been the festival’s official Opening Film in 2005. The sole other filmmaker Fantasia has done this with to date is Takashi Miike.
Dir. Michael Venus
North American Premiere
Tormented by vivid nightmares and the belief they are real, Marlene suffers a nervous breakdown in a remote German village. As her 19-year-old daughter heads there to join her, she encounters a well-kept family secret and an old curse that will make her life a never-ending nightmare. Michael Venus’ SLEEP (Schlaf), co-starring Gro Swantje Kohlhof (NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN) and Sandra Hüller (TONI ERDMANN), is a supremely confident debut – smartly examining the continuing roots of totalitarianism through the prism of a dreamy haunted hotel film and the horror of our current, waking moment. A standout at this year’s Berlinale.
Dir. Shinichiro Ueda
Kazuto is not your typical amateur thespian. His dreams have been spoiled by a special nervous condition that makes him faint at the slightest sign of stress! One day, upon his brother’s serendipitous invitation, he joins a most peculiar agency, employing everyday actors to stage real-life situations! Being a stand-in at a wedding or a funeral is one thing… but soon enough, Kazuto must infiltrate a cult… and all hell breaks loose! Shinichiro Ueda (ONE CUT OF THE DEAD) is back with his highly anticipated sophomore film SPECIAL ACTORS! A delirious meta-comedy, doubling down on the performative antics of his previous making-of/zom-com hybrid, Ueda now turns the entire world into a stage – to our utmost delight!
Dir. Macoto Tezuka
North American Premiere
One night, a famous novelist encounters a young, seemingly homeless woman in an overpass tunnel. He brings her home, which sets him on a path of increasingly bizarre encounters. TEZUKA’S BARBARA is the abrasively jazzy adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s adult manga of the same name. Directed by Makoto Tezuka (LEGEND OF THE STARDUST BROTHERS) and lensed by Christopher Doyle (IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, HERO), this film – released as part of Tezuka’s 90th anniversary celebration – mixes pinku-style erotica with an examination of the creative impulse and a dash of the occult, thus unveiling the lesser-known dark side of the ASTRO BOY creator and anime maestro.
TIME OF MOULTING
Dir. Sabrina Mertens
North American Premiere
Germany, the 1970s. Sabrina is a lively child. She leads an isolated life alongside a mentally unstable mother, an absent father, and their cat. Her days there turn into weeks, and the weeks into months, then years… bringing aging and rot, but no future in sight. And so Stephanie retreats into a dark world of barbaric fantasies… An entrancing debut, TIME OF MOULTING unfolds as a series of meticulous domestic tableaus, slowly morphing into a disturbing descent into a young girl’s inner turmoil. Crushing, and not for the faint of heart.
TINY TIM: KING FOR A DAY
Dir. Henrik Von Sydow
The story of Tiny Tim’s improbable rise to stardom is the ultimate fairytale – and so is that of his downfall. For a brief time, the shy and truly unusual outsider artist was the biggest star in the world. Swedish filmmaker Johan Von Sydow’s eight-years-in-the-making TINY TIM: KING FOR A DAY, like its subject, is unlike anything else out there. Through Tiny´s intense diaries (read by “Weird Al” Yankovic performing Tim’s inner voice with genuinely dramatic results), archival footage, and interviews with family, friends, and contemporaries like Wavy Gravy, Tommy James, and the late Jonas Mekas and D.A. Pennabaker, the film paints an intimate portrait of one of the oddest careers in showbiz. It is a story that will have you in stitches and in tears.
Dir. Chino Moya
An otherworldly journey through a Europe in decline, Chino Moya’s UNDERGODS is a collection of aesthetically astonishing, darkly humorous fantasy tales about a series of men whose worlds fall apart through a visit from an unexpected stranger. This singular visual feast is a co-production between the UK, Belgium, Estonia, Serbia, and Sweden with a cast that includes Geza Rohrig (SON OF SAUL), Johann Meyers (SNATCH), Hayley Carmichael (LES MISERABLES), Eric Godon (IN BRUGES), Kate Dickie (THE WITCH), Adrian Rawlins (CHERNOBYL), Ned Dennehy (MANDY), and an especially crazed Jan Bijvoet (BORGMAN).
THE UNDERTAKER’S HOME (La Funeraria)
Dir. Mauro Iván Ojeda
Bernardo is an undertaker. He runs his mortuary business in the same house where he resides. In the front, he has his clients. And in the back, his dysfunctional family lives amongst coffins, wreaths, and the mischievous but nonviolent ghosts that visit on a daily basis. But when a malevolent entity enters the scene, it wreaks havoc on the already fractured household in Argentinean writer/director Mauro Iván Ojeda’s chilling first feature. THE UNDERTAKER’S HOME (La Funeraria) stars Luís Machín (MONTECRISTO), Celeste Gerez (DESTINO ANUNCIADO), and Camila Vaccarini (PAISAJE).
Dirs. John C. Lyons and Dorota Swies
A film by John C. Lyons and Dorota Swies, UNEARTH is a fracking horror story that follows two neighboring farm families whose relationships are strained when one of them chooses to lease their land to a gas company. In the midst of growing tension, the land is drilled, and something – long dormant and terrifying, deep beneath the earth’s surface – is released. Adrienne Barbeau (THE FOG), Marc Blucas (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), and Allison McAtee (WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS) star.
Dir. Lars Damoiseaux
Believe the hype. With YUMMY, Belgian filmmaker Lars Damoiseaux has made one of the craziest, funniest, most inventive, and surprising zombie gorefests to assault screens in recent years. You won’t believe your eyes!