FANTASIA 2006 SNEAK PREVIEW Image

What do a Koala accused of murdering his human wife, a mock documentary about a man who wants to literally be the next supernatural masked slasher like Jason or Freddy, and an authentic looking silent film version of a Lovecraft story have in common?

Well… nothing. Except that they are all movies playing at the Fantasia film festival this year and that they are all unlike anything you’re likely to see anywhere else. This sort of filmmaking is organic and alive. It pulses and breathes under the strength of its passion. It worms its way into your mind and clutches at your dream center and whispers “Come to me. Come to me.” Not only that; but these qualities I mention cannot be bought. No amount of money thrown at a production by a big studio can recreate the pure joy of creation that these filmmakers feel. They throw themselves into their work like a cross between the Algonquin Round Table of yore and the inmates of an insane asylum.

We give a lot of well deserved flack to Hollywood for making crappy films, but the sad truth is that most indie and foreign films suck orbs as well. What the people behind Fantasia do is navigate through these treacherous cinematic waters and find the treasure there, saving us a lot of nasty surprises. Even the films I didn’t like, I could appreciate.

Also, what plays here tends to have a wider impact eventually. Two/three years after the films are shown at the festival, you’ll see some of them in your video store being vaunted as the cool “must see” movie of the minute, like “Three Extremes” was. A handful will be remade with Hollywood money and an American cast; reborn as beautiful looking but flawed doppelgangers.

But enough rambling, let’s take a look at what on the program caught my attention this year:

Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006) – World Premiere

Showing Time: July 24th @ 8:00pm

Canada – 120 minutes – 35mm/Color

French w/ English Subtitles

Trailer

Director: Érik Canuel

Screenplay: Patrick Huard, Leila Basen, Kevin Tierney, Alex Epstein

Cast: Patrick Huard, Colm Feore, Patrice Bélanger, Sylvain Marcel, Lucie Laurier, Sarain Boylan, Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse, Erik Knudsen, Hugolin Chevrette, Rick Howland, André Robitaille.

Producers: Kevin Tierney

Distributor: Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm

The problem with a lot of English Canadian movies is that they’re too careful and reserved; so afraid of offending someone’s pwecious wittle feelings that they don’t really leave any impression on you or please any kind of audience. The end result is like a polite but foul smelling fart. Nobody heard anything, but everyone goes “Ewwwwwwwwww…” This is why I’ve always preferred French Canadian cinema to English. On average, they’ve never been afraid to raise the upright middle finger of distinctiveness to the rest of the world. You gotta dig it.

“Bon Cop, Bad Cop” tackles the issue of Quebec VS Canada under the guise of a buddy cop movie. Two policemen from opposing sides of Canada’s great language rift are forced to work together when hockey players are being targeted by a murderer. One’s an uptight Anglo, the other’s a smooth Quebecker. The only way for this film to be more Canadian would be to include scenes of naked girls in toques force feeding maple syrup to moose. If director Erik Canual can pull this off, it could be one of the most entertaining and funny/nasty French Canadian comedies of all time.

Call of The Cthulhu (2005)Canadian Premiere

Showing Time: July 8th @ 12:30pm

USA – 47 Minutes – B&W

Silent w/ English Subtitles

Trailer

Director: Andrew Leman

Screenplay: Andrew Leman

Based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft

Cast: Matt Foyer, David Mersault, Noah Wagner, Patrick O’Day

Producers: Sean Branney, Andrew Leman

Distributor: HPLHS Historical Society

What an amazing idea! To create a Lovecraft movie that looks as if it was shot in 1925, at the time that Lovecraft was writing his most famous short story. It’s not 100% accurate. Cameras today are just too good at capturing light to have that oversaturated/washed out 1925 “look”, but if the trailer’s any indication this comes close enough to satisfy all but the most miserly of souls.

Appropriately this plays as a double feature with the following:

Monarch of The Moon (2006) – Canadian Premiere

Showing Time: July 8th @ 12:30; July 12th @ 9:45pm

USA – 99 minutes – 35mm/Color

English

Trailer

Director: Richard Lowry

Screenplay: Richard Lowry, Chris Patton

Cast: Blane Wheatley, Kimberly Page, Monica Himmelheber

Producers: Jeff Hardwick

Distributor: Image Entertainment

Another loving recreation of a style of film that’s long passed on, this time it’s of a 1940’s era serial adventure about the great hero Yellow Jacket’s tireless fight against the evil Axis powers and moonmen. It doesn’t look quite as good as Cthulhu, but then again I’m prejudiced because of the Lovecraft angle.

Behind The Mask: The Leslie Vernon Story (2006) – Canadian Premiere/Hosted by Director

Showing Time: July 8th @ 9:30pm; July 10th @ 3:00pm

USA – 92 Minutes – 35mm/Color

English

Trailer

Director: Scott Glosserman

Screenplay: Scott Glosserman, David J. Stieve

Cast: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englund, Scott Wilson, Kate Lang Johnson

Producers: Al Corley, Scott Glosserman, Michael D. Jones, Andrew Lewis, Eugene Musso, Bart Rosenblatt , David J. Stieve

Distributor: Glen Echo Entertainment

This movie has been described as Spinal Tap meets Friday the 13th. It tells the “true” story of Leslie Vernon, documentary style, as he explains his dream to become the next great supernatural murderer like Freddy or Jason or Michael Myers. If the filmmakers can pull off the transition from comedy to straight horror like the trailer promises they can, this has a chance of being pretty damn good. I’m a huge fan of slasher films and own about 3000$ worth of masks from all the major psycho killers, so you know I’m going to this showing no matter what.

Who knows? If I end up really liking this I might have to add one more mask to my collection.

The Descent (2005) – Canadian Premiere

Showing Time: July 6th @ 7:00pm; July 7th @ 5:15pm

USA – 99 minutes – 35mm/Color

English

Trailer

Director: Neil Marshall

Screenplay: Neil Marshall

Cast: Alex Reid, MyAnna Buring, Natalie Mendoza, Nora-Jane Noone, Saskia Mulder, Shauna Macdonald

Producers: Christian Colson

Distributor: Lions Gate

After a rockslide seals their exit, a bunch of cave explorers are forced to try and find an alternate way out in a nightmarish set of caverns that only seem to get narrower and narrower as they traverse it. Worse still, they’re not alone and their light is dying. Story-wise, this is fairly standard stuff; but the trailer promises an above average example of the genre. Also, I’m deathly terrified of confined cramped spaces and this just sends my phobia into overdrive.

Tokyo Zombie (2005) – Canadian Premiere

Showing Time: July 7th @ 7:20pm; July 12th @ 3:00pm

Japan – 103 minutes – 35mm/Color

Japanese w/ English Subtitles

Trailer

Director: Sakichi Sato

Screenplay: Sakichi Sato (from Yusaku Hanakuma)

Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Sho Aikawa, Arata Furuta, Erika Okuda, Harumi Sone, Kazuo Umezu, Maria Takagi, Masaki Miura, Mitsuki Tanimura, Satoshi Hashimoto, Yasuhi Nakamura, Yoshiyuki Morishita

Producers: Yuusaku Toyoshima, Haruo Umekawa

Distributor: Toshiba Entertainment

You know your country has made it when you have zombies. Haiti invented them. The US appropriated them. England and Australia finally got them. Italy’s had them for years. China had some… I think. Now Japan has them and Tadanobu Asano is going to kick their a*s! The trailer makes this look like a parody along the lines of Shaun of The Dead with a little Naked Gun thrown in for good measure. It was written by Sakichi Sato who wrote Ichi the Killer and Gozu. Let’s hope he can direct as well as he can write. The trailer isn’t all that intriguing but the people behind it are. So, it’s a toss up. But going with my gut, I’d say this could be a lot of fun.

Executive Koala (2006) – Canadian Premiere

Showing Time: July 22nd @ 9:45pm

Japan – 85 minutes – 35mm/Color

Japanese w/ English Subtitles

Director: Minoru Kawasaki

Screenplay: Minoru Kawasaki, Masakazu Migita

Cast: Hironobu Nomura, Arthur Koroda, Hideki Saijo, Eiichi Kikuchi, Lee Ho

Producers: Shuntaro Kanai

Distributor: The Klockworx

I don’t know what to say… An upright walking Koala who works as an executive for a large corporation is accused of killing his wife and now has to prove his innocence before the police close in on him. But is he innocent? There are gaps in his memory. Maybe he has multiple personalities?

Riding pretty high on the “What the f**k?” meter, Executive Koala proves that there’s always a new angle for every story every created, even when said story has been beaten into the ground long ago.

Worlds of Wounded Clay: The Films of Robert Morgan (1997-2005) – Hosted by Robert Morgan

Showing Time: July 22nd @ 5:15pm

England – 75 minutes – 35mm/Color

English

I have seen the shorts of Robert Morgan and they are genius. You get me? Genius! Nothing less. Think of Tim Burton at his best making claymation Far Side Cartoons designed by Clive Barker and you only begin to scratch at the surface of what kind of dark magic Robert Morgan conjures with his camera. But my description does him no justice, I make him sound like an imitator and he is not. Morgan’s work is fresh and thrilling to watch. You never know what you’re going to see, only that it’s going to amaze you.

The presentation consists of four shorts by Morgan and one by Vaclav Svankmajer.

The Man in The Lower-Left Hand Corner of the Photograph (1997)

The Cat with Hands (2001)

The Separation (2003)

Monsters (2004)

The Torchbearer (2005) by Svankmajer.

If you’re within a 4 hour drive of Montreal, you MUST go see this. One day, when Morgan is finally recognized worldwide as the incredible artist he is, you’ll be able to say you were there and that you saw the man in person before anyone else knew about him. I’m telling you, this is your chance. Don’t waste it.

Pusher 3 (2005) – Hosted by Director Nicolas Winding Refn

Showing Time: July 19th @ 10:00pm

Denmark – 107 minutes – 35mm/Color

Danish/Serbian/Albanian w/ English Subtitles

Trailer

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Screenplay: Nicolas Winding Refn

Cast: Zlatko Buric, Ilyas Agac, Marinela Dekic, Kujtim Loki, Ramadan Huseini, Slavko Labovic

Producers: Henrik Danstrup, Kenneth D. Plummer, Kim Magnusson, Rupert Preston, Mikkel Berg

Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

The Danish “Pusher” series has been an interesting experiment in loose narrative, with each “sequel” taking place in the same seedy universe and populated with the same seedy characters, but not directly connected beyond that. Just think if “Pulp Fiction” had fleshed each of its three stories into separate movies and you’re in the ballpark.

Feed (2005)

Showing Time: July 7th @ 9:30pm; July 9th @ 3:10pm

Australia – 109 minutes – 35mm/Color

English

Trailer

Director: Brett Leonard

Screenplay: Kieran Galvin

Cast: Alex O’Loughlin, David No, Gabby Millgate, Jack Thompson, Patrick Thompson

Producers: Melissa Beauford

Distributor: VVS Films

You know, I can’t remember the last time I was grossed out by a trailer. Watching it was like looking at someone slowly pulling off their fingernail. You don’t want to look, but yet can’t look away. I guess that’s the only way I can feel about a film where a woman is willingly letting herself be fed to death by a sexual psychopath. If you think that’s far fetched; go do a web search on feeders and gainers (bring a barf bag). Hopefully the movie won’t just be a freak show, and will include some sort of plot to go along with the weird sexual deviancy.

But I’m just pussyfooting around. As much as I can pretend that I’m not sure I wanna see it, deep down… I wanna see it. Sometimes, you have to stare into the Abyss to make sure your face isn’t among the lost souls down there.

Hell (2005)

Showing Time: July 15th @ 4:30pm; July 16th @ 5:30pm

Thailand – 90 minutes – 35mm/Color

Thai w/ English Subtitles

Director: Teekhayu Thammanittayakul, Sathit Pratitsahn

Screenplay: Marisa Mullikamarl

Cast: Arkom Predakul, Boruonrith Chatasakda, Nattawan Worvit, Panyapol Dechsong, Sittichai Laungesalee

Producers: Tanit Jitnukul

Distributor: Golden Network Asia Limited

From what I can tell, “Hell” is a very loose fourth remake of the Japanese movie “Jigoku” where several people die and are sent to hell. There they realize that not all of them are meant to be in the inferno, and so they must try to escape. But can they?

You know, this gives me a great idea. Let’s remake this film a 5th time for the red state Christian conservatives. We’d end up richer than Mel Gibson! Anyway, this does look good, but I’m afraid that it might be a one note production where the visuals are far more prominent than something like plot. Sure they seem gorgeous, but scene after scene of people boiled in oil and skewered is going to get boring after 45 minutes yanno?

Ils (2006)

Showing Time: July 12th @ 9:50pm

France – 76 minutes – 35mm/Color

French w/ English Subtitles

Trailer

Director: David Moreau, Xavier Palud

Screenplay: David Moreau, Xavier Palud

Cast: Olivia Bonamy, Michael Cohen

Producers: Richard Grandpierre

Distributor: Equinoxe Films

Ils (Or “Them” for you non-frenchies) is the story about a couple in a huge remote house who are on the wrong end of a home invasion. Think of “High Tension” mixed “The Panic Room” and you’re in the ballpark of what the trailer seems to promise.

I think it looks pretty good. As long as they can humanize the main characters and keep the anxiety cranked up, this has a chance of being one hell of a roller coaster ride. You don’t really need an original story in a movie as long as you have a decent plot and a great narrative. And since the French have cornered the market on narrative strength I think this will kick a*s.

The Woods (2006) – North American Premiere – Hosted by Director Lucky McKee

Showing Time: July 9th, 2006 @ 9:55pm

USA – 92 minutes – 35mm/Color

English

Trailer

Director: Lucky McKee

Screenplay: David Ross

Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Agnes Bruckner, Bruce Campbell, Lauren Birkell

Producers: Bryan Furst, Shawn Furst

Distributor: Sony Screen Gems

If I get a chance to meet Sir Lucky McKee I’m gonna shake his hand and thank him for making sure that M. Night Shyamalan couldn’t use this title on his mess of a movie “The Village”. It saved us all from associating a cool name like “The Woods” with something as lame as crazy rich people hiding from the real world in a badly recreated 19th century setting.

Woods takes place in 1965, at an all-girls boarding school whose religious administrative staff don’t exactly seem to be worshipping Jesus. Heather Fasulo (Agnes Brockner) is the new kid in school who finds out that it’s not an accident that she’s been accepted here.

Done badly this could degenerate into Satan’s School for Girls. Done well this could be extremely creepy and effective. The trailer makes it look like the latter, so my hopes are high that this is going to be something unique like “May” was.

Re-Cycle (2006) – North American Premiere

Showing Time: July 23rd @ 7:00pm; July 24th @ 9:30pm

Hong Kong – 109 minutes – 35mm/Color

Cantonese w/ English Subtitles

Trailer

Director: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang

Screenplay: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang

Cast: Angelica Lee, Ekin Cheng, Rain Li

Producers: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang

Distributor: Image Entertainment

No one will ever be able to accuse the Pang Brothers of riding on the wave of past successes. Every new film I’ve seen from the duo looks completely different than the last. “Re-Cycle” takes the premise that nothing is ever lost to its most frightening conclusion. A struggling writer discovers that all her discarded ideas are being sucked into a hellish alternate universe that seems to function as the sewers of the subconscious.

I’ve always been a fan of the Pangs, I’m sure they won’t disappoint.

A Bittersweet Life (2005) – Montreal Premiere

Showing Time: July 7th @ 9:25pm; July 8th @ 9:20pm

Korea – 120 minutes – 35mm/Color

Korean w/ English Subtitles

Trailer

Director: Kim Ji-Woon

Screenplay: Kim Ji-Woon

Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Kim Young-chul, Shin Min-ah

Producers: Lee Yo-jin, Oh Jeong-wan

Distributor: CJ Entertainment

The Asian Noir genre is something we don’t see every day and “Bittersweet Life” intends to milk it for all it can. A high ranking Lieutenant in a crime family is told to tail the Boss’ young lover. If she is unfaithful, he must kill her. When he catches her and can’t find it in himself to pull the trigger goons are sent to kill him for this “mistake”. As we all know from other Asian crime movies, this is gonna get bloody.

It looks a little melodramatic, but then again all Korean movies are. The visuals are gorgeous, and if the story is paced right and doesn’t dawdle this could be very fun to watch indeed.

*snip*

Well, that it’s. I guess we’ll see if I’m right about the above films. Usually I’ve got a good nose for these things and I can pick out stuff that fits my tastes just by seeing a trailer and having some idea about the plot. I hope I can. As I’m writing this the festival hasn’t yet started so I haven’t had my cherry popped. “Descent” will be the first film on the schedule, then “Tokyo Zombie” and “A Bittersweet Life,” and then who knows? I’m not thinking that far ahead. I can barely remember where I put my socks each night; much less keep a complex schedule in my head. Still, I’ll try to see everything on this list and see if my anticipation matches the reality of watching it.

See you at the festival!

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