Well, it’s Fantasia time again. My wife has the stomach pump at the ready in case of alcohol poisoning and I also bought a keg of red bull to stay awake. It’s important to be prepared you know?

Every year I like to kick off the festival by writing a compilation of all the movies I think I’d like and will try to watch when I go. Sometimes I don’t get a chance to see all of them, usually for alcohol related reasons, but I try to catch as many as I can.

Before I hop into it, I want to make sure people understand that these are not reviews of the films themselves, but of their trailers and general premise. (In most cases I haven’t even seen the movie yet.) Basically, I’m sharing with you how big of a woody the idea of each movie gives me. So it’s entirely possible that you may see a “preview review” that contradicts a later review.

A Lonely Place to Die
After confined places, heights are my next biggest phobia. So mountain climbing has never been “high” on my list of hobbies. In fact it’s right behind home dentistry, split penis body modification and self-trepanation. So a movie taking place on a mountain and using the fear of heights as a theme perks my interest. Hey, if I want to be scared watching a horror movie it’s sort of important that the things in the movie, you know, scare me. I’m a little worried at the similarities to “Cliffhanger,” but you never know. I have a good feeling about it.

It’s got to be hard to declare someone dead. Someone that you loved and who has disappeared for so long that there’s no hope left. There’s no corpse to bury, nothing to say goodbye to. The funeral feels like a sham because in the back of your mind you wonder if the person is really gone. All these scenarios play in your head and you wonder if maybe… In the end, no matter where you go, the ghost of the departed is there to haunt you, to accuse you of giving up. So what if there really were ghosts waiting for you? It’s a good idea for a movie and the trailer makes it look even better.

Another Earth
I prefer my science-fiction to be light on the science, the less of it the better. The problem isn’t that I hate sciencey stuff, it’s that writers tend to rely on robots and rockets like it’s a goddamn storytelling crutch. So when I watched the trailer for “Another Earth” I was cheered up to see that it could probably ditch every single bit of science-fiction in its plot and still be a fine yarn. I hope so.

Quebec is a pretty darn liberal and open minded place where it comes to art. “Amelie” which got an R-rating in the United-States, got a G-rating here, we used to have soft-core porn playing on Late Night TV, and nudity was pretty standard on hour long dramas. Violence tends to be a bit more frowned upon, especially realistic violence, but not much more so than in the United-States.

I’d heard of the story of Remy Couture, a special effects artist who was charged with obscenity because his website showed gruesome erotic fake photos, but figured that the Canadian legal system would let it drop just like everything else it prosecutes. I mean Jesus Christ, while you guys were getting all upset about Casey whatsherface we had our own sensationalistic bullshit crime where a renowned heart surgeon called Guy Turcotte stabbed both his toddlers like he was trying to recreate the shower scene in “Psycho,” and was then found not guilty on the basis that he was not criminally responsible for his actions. Unlike your thing where there was a teeney measure of doubt about the mother’s guilt, here the courts KNEW the guy did it. Hell, his lawyers didn’t even contest the fact he was a murderer. It’s just that they more or less decided he had a really good reason to murder his kids.

So with that in mind I find it hard to believe that they’d give a guy more jail time for taking creepy pictures of naked chicks covered in red corn syrup than a guy who butchered his pre-school kids while they begged for their lives. Yet, you never know with this f*****g province. We can be some of the most wonderfully liberal people on Earth and then act completely insane over some fake blood and latex. I love living here more than I could ever put into words, but sometimes I want to kick my politicians in the balls.

In any case, this is a travesty. What’s next? Are we going to send Francis Ford Coppola to The Hague to be tried for war crimes because he made “Apocalypse Now”? Are we getting ready to arrest John Carpenter as a serial killer? I know! Perhaps we’re going to send a Seal Team after Michael Bay because he’s destroyed more cities and killed more people than Hitler, Bin Laden and Genghis Khan combined! Oh wait… those were all movies right? They didn’t really happen. Of course, how silly of me! I was using my f*****g head there for a second, something the law here sometimes forgets to do. God help Couture.

Attack the Block
I have a soft spot for Britain. Everything that happens there is always funnier by 15%. The British also have a gallows humour that fits well with disaster scenarios, be it zombies or alien invasion. “Attack the Block” isn’t the final chapter of the “Shaun/Fuzz” trilogy, but it almost is. It looks the part anyway, and it’ll tide me over until the real one comes along. I’m not rushing to judgement and saying this is great before I watch one frame, and trailers can be notoriously unhelpful in deciding what a film is really like, but I’m betting that I won’t have too many negatives to toss out after I see the thing.

Battle Royale
For many fanboys, “Battle Royale” was their first exposure to Japanese movies. It’s not my favourite example of great Japanese cinema, that would be “Gozu” by Takashi Miike, but it’s a very decent film and certainly worth watching on the big screen if you have the chance. Hell, for Beat Takeshi alone it’s worth watching.

I know people exactly like the main characters of “Bellflower”. Hell, until recently I was kind of like that myself. Living in crappy apartments in bad parts of town or in crumbling farmhouses in abandoned parts of the county, lawn furniture in the living room, half the stuff I owned scavenged from trash in the good parts of town, driving cars that looked as if the junkyard would refuse them, never having a steady job or income. The upside of this lifestyle is that you have a lot of time on your hands and can indulge in hobbies. Sometimes that means collecting stamps, sometimes it means preparing for the end of the world.

So a movie about two buddies preparing for one apocalypse or another by building “Mad Max” cars and flamethrowers feels like a biopic to me. Go look in my garage if you don’t believe me. I still have old Turbochargers and an engine block or two lying around among other things.

Bobby Yeah
Robert Morgan’s new film can be nothing but amazing. Morgan is like the deformed bastard clone/child of David Lynch, if you dropped his gestation beaker out of a UFO and it landed somewhere in the Hammer version of England where it would be raised by Donald Pleasance… and some werewolves.

“Bobby Yeah” is the story of a… um, thing that does… uh, other things. Look, I don’t care and it doesn’t matter. It’s Robert Morgan and he’s amazing. That’s all you need to know. I have said time and again that you cannot call yourself a true film buff unless you have watched at least one of his movies.

Fantasia is hosting the world premiere of “Bobby Yeah” attached to a showing of “The Saint” So you’d best be there. I’m sure “Saint” will be great, but “Bobby Yeah” will be better.

Burke and Hare
I can’t tell if this is John Landis’ comeback film, the trailer is too slick, too Hollywood, but it very well could be. The story of “Burke and Hare” lends itself to all out comedy and it’s pretty much what the man’s been doing for the last twenty years. Simon Pegg and Andy Sirkis as Burke and Hare don’t hurt either. Maybe it’ll be too much and maybe it won’t work, but I can’t say until I’ve seen it. It looks interesting, that’s for sure.

Cold Fish
Sion Sono is a madman. I cannot stress this enough. He is one of the very few filmmakers, in the entire world, whose films I cannot tell you if I like or not. I don’t dislike them, far from it, but I watch them with my mouth agape wondering what the hell I’ve just seen. He is a cinematic lunatic that seems driven by purpose. All of his movies have a very specific feel to them, a very Sion Sono pattern to their insanity.

So what do I think of the “Cold Fish” trailer? Well, it looks like a very cool thriller, but I can tell you, without having watched it yet, that there’ll be that Sono goodness to it. The trailer doesn’t show it, but it’ll be there.

The first year I came to Fantasia I watched, and reviewed, a film called “Battlefield Baseball.” This film’s premise looks so similar that it might as well be a remake or sequel. So I’ll try to catch it for old time’s sake.

Death Week-End
The trailer for this film is such a 1970’s relic that it should be enshrined in a museum. I think I might have watched this film in 1984-85, but I can’t be sure. Back in the seventies Canada was cranking out quite a few very effective horror films. David Cronenberg’s were the best known of these, but they were not the only ones by far. “Death Week-end” (AKA: House by the Lake) was produced by Ivan Reitman and directed by William Fruet.

Dharma Guns
I have no friggin’ idea what this is about. All I know is that the trailer is hypnotic. I could look online or in the press pack next to me, but do I really want to ruin the spell? Naw, If I catch it, I’ll watch it, if I don’t I can at least say that this is a damn fine trailer.

Don’t be Afraid of the Dark
ABC used to be a really daring network in a weird way. In the seventies they released a bunch of great made-for-TV horror stuff on the “ABC Movie of the Week”. Notable titles included: “Duel,” “Killdozer,” and “The Night Stalker.” Another title, notable for the fact that it literally traumatized a generation of viewers, was “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark.” It came out when I was four months old, so I never saw it personally, but I hear it’s quite the effective terror yarn. In the end though, no matter how ahead of it’s time, it was still a TV movie made in 1973, so it couldn’t pull out all the stops. From what I hear, this is the whole idea behind the remake, to do the original justice and achieve what it couldn’t. Sounds good to me.

I love this film’s trailer. It’s the perfect mix of cryptic and enthralling. I love it so much, in fact, that I refuse to read anything more about it. When it comes to film trailers or teasers or previews I try to keep myself as much in the dark as possible. Some people love to look up as much as they can about movies, but I think it ruins the experience.

Frankenstein 2000 (1986)
I saw this in 1986, when it was released on home video under the title “The Vindicator”. It wasn’t that great if memory serves, but it had some promise, and was loads of fun to watch. In a weird way, I’m not even sure why I’m so excited that this is playing on the big screen, I just know that I am. They just don’t make stuff like this anymore.

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
Remember when movies could be cheerfully sexist and not only would people not complain, they’d hardly notice. “Frankenstein Created Woman”’s trailer gives the impression that Frankenstein’s greatest monster is an icky stupid girl. Nor does the trailer do her any favour. She either looks as dumb as a bag of rocks or hypnotized into committing heinous acts.

H***y House of Horror
Did you really think I wouldn’t do a preview of a movie with this title? It’s all I can do not to put a big neon sign in front of the place I live with that on it. The storyline is that guys go to a sex parlour for a good time and wind up getting their penis cut off. Not only is this not a spoiler, it’s one of the taglines from the trailer. The filmmakers felt the literal need to explain this to us. This rather amuses the hell out of me.

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS
Here’s a film that inspired countless BDSM fantasies in insecure males. Not to mention the rather morbid, hopeless horror subgenre where the main character is evil and we follow this repugnant creature around until they get their comeuppance. I dunno, not my favourite thing to watch, but at the same time I can’t ignore the film’s place in the canon of horror cinema. “Ilsa” does what it does well and if you’re even remotely interested in watching a genuine exploitation movie from the bad old days of the 1970’s, you could do worse than this historical artifact.

Last Days Here
If you want to be depressed, go wikipedia and do a search for “Pentagram (band)”, then go to youtube or something and listen to some of their songs. If you don’t feel like crying when you’re done, you have a stronger heart than I, Sir. Pentagram essentially was, as far as I can tell from listening to their stuff, as good as any of the great metal bands of the seventies but their lead singer Bobby Liebling was such a flake that even though they formed at the birth of Metal it still took them sixteen years just to get one album out in 1985. Then they puttered around until the next inevitable break up or breakdown in 1987. The common problem in all of these setbacks is always Liebling, who seems to have a nasty habit of snatching failure from the jaws of success. “Last Days Here” looks like a tragedy worthy of The Book of Job.

Another sci-fi film whose trailer look as if it could be taking place in the present. It seems to care not a whit about science, which works in its favour if you ask me. Personally, I think the sci-fi genre, as it’s existed for the last century, is more or less dead. It’s been undone by present day technology which evolves so fast that your cutting edge ideas often look dated in the space of five years because writers are notoriously bad at figuring out anything about the future. Arthur C. Clarke, surely one of the most science minded of all sci-fi writers, wrote a book outlining his guesses for the far away year of 2019 and got almost every single thing wrong. If he got it wrong, who the hell can get it right?

Science-Fiction should, in my opinion, use futurism sparingly. Love, as far as I have read about it, uses the idea of one man alone in space to propel the story. The science seems incidental. This is a good thing.

Monster Brawl
The trailer looks cool, but at the same time there’s a part of me that’s very very tired of this sort of film. Yes it’s cool. Yes it’s fun. But it’s childish and silly to a point where I sort of tune out. I’d hate myself if I didn’t mention the movie because I know that a lot of Film Threat readers will love this and I’ve never been one to self-indulgently believe that my tastes are the be-all, end-all. Hey, I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a good time, nor am I showing it any disrespect, but it’s one of those things you have be in the mood for.

Ninja Kids!!!
Takashi Miike is a strange beast. I don’t think he ever does anything except make movies. Hell, he probably yells “Action” in his sleep every time a new dream starts and probably yells “Cut” when he orgasms during sex with his wife. I’m not even trying to be funny here. The man has a work ethic that makes people who die of exhaustion on the subway ride home look lazy.

Normally, I wouldn’t be all that interested in a kid’s film he’s made, but watching the trailer it suddenly occurred to me that it’s like a live action version of Shin-Chan. So now I want to watch it.

One Hundred Years of Evil
As a lark, I watched all the Fantasia trailers with my mom, to gauge her reaction and be amused by her horrified reaction at some of them. This was her favourite one. I don’t know if should be amused or concerned. Then again, the idea that Hitler never died in 1945 and hid out in plain sight for the rest of his life makes for an enthralling idea and the trailer is encouraging, with a good mix of menace and humour.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
“Phantom of the Opera” is one of many grandfathers to the modern horror movie. You can find older examples of the genre, like “Nosferatu” or “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”, but not many. What’s special about this particular showing at the Fantasia festival is that it’s going to be with a proper 30 piece orchestra. In fact, watch it here and you’ll probably see a better presentation of the film than anyone has in the last 86 years.

Phase 7
Hmm, a bunch of Spanish people trapped in an apartment building while a plague breaks out sounds strangely, one can say almost conveniently, familiar. However, the trailer’s insane kinetic energy is intriguing and I like the Spanish. They’re an awesome bunch, and they certainly know their way around a camera.

Play Dead
God I’m bored of Zombies… You see them in movies, in video games, in books, in comics, in television series. They’ve been painted as horrible monsters, as objects of pity, as comedic foils, and as commentary of the human race. They’re on T-shirts, on posters, they’re used in political graffiti. They’re just goddamn everywhere now and almost every possible idea has been beaten to death, re-animated, then beaten to death again, and finally had its corpse gang raped. I’m sick of them so much that I have no desire to read “World War Z” or watch the inevitable film adaptation. I’m sure the book is really good, I’ve been told as much, but I’m tired, so very weary, of f*****g zombies. Like slashers, vampires, and film noir detectives, it’s all been done and anything new is but homage or cliché.

Yet… I want to see this. Yes, I know I’m contradicting everything I’ve just written, but how can I not want to see this? It’s an eighteen minute short about zombies from the point of view of dogs! It’s like if the “Wonderful World of Disney” adapted “Dawn of the Dead.” I can’t say no, I can’t stay away. In fact, I shall not stay away, nor should you. Woof!

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
There’s a man out there who watches you, spies on you, all year round and then passes judgement on your behaviour. Then one day this may breaks into your house and leaves gifts, but only if he feels you’ve been good. This, like many of the stories we tell our children, does not sound cute or charming. It sounds like the beginning of a movie about a home invasion that goes wrong. (As an aside, I’ve always felt Santa Claus is a way for Christians to air out their doubts about God by telling silly stories they know aren’t true of all powerful men with big white beards who watch over all of us and reward us when we do as we’re told to their kids. – JK)

The trailer looks good, Roger Ebert liked it, and it’s not about Zombies or Vampires, so why the hell not?

Red State
I’ve never been one to stop liking a guy because he’s become famous. Yes Kevin Smith was on Leno. Yes, he’s closer to Hollywood sometimes than to his Joisey roots. Yes he’s not an obscure indie filmmaker anymore. Yes, yes, yes… I don’t f*****g care. I don’t. “Jay and Silent Bob” made me laugh, “Clerks 2” was good, “Jersey Girl” was a smart film. The man has talent. I think he’s made the occasional bad film, but so what? Everyone is allowed to stumble.

“Red State” comes at a time in his life where he’s feeling particularly pissed off, which means that it’s kind of perfect timing that he’s decided to make a horror movie. What I also like is the fact that Smith is a devout Catholic, so he’s not antagonistic towards religion, only towards people who use it as a weapon of mass destruction. I think many movies make the key mistake of thinking that religion in and of itself is a sign of lunacy. I haven’t seen the film, but think (and hope) that Smith will avoid that trap. Also, from what I see of the trailer it’ll be a dialogue heavy film, which is Smith’s forte. Not to mention that it is theoretically impossible for any movie with Michael Parks and John Goodman to be bad. I have high hopes.

I don’t know. The grapevine says it’s good, but Cillian Murphy in another movie about a plague? Maybe it’s the trailer, but it looks like it’s a one-room play version of “28 Days Later.” I’ve been told it isn’t like that at all by people whose opinions I trust more than my own. Yet… that goddamn trailer. I just don’t like it. It’s not that it makes the film look bad. It’s that it makes the film look like one big festival of familiarity.

The Sanatorium (El Sanatorio)
Here we have a movie that’s essentially a sexier Costa Rican version of “Paranormal Activity,” yet I don’t really care. I like jump scenes and musical stings. I know, I know… I’ve bitched about zombies and vampires, but somehow ghosts are still okay. Maybe the reason is that ghosts are not that popular for the moment, so I don’t feel like I’ve been oversaturated. So if the Costa Ricans want to give it a try, I’m ready to give them a chance.

Shivers! (1975)
David Cronenberg’s first film. Personally I’m a much bigger fan of “Rabid” because I think he found his voice with that, and it’s a stronger film, but “Shivers” is no slouch. It’s a first try and it’s a bit clumsy here and there but it’s also the work of a man who would make brilliant films one day.

On the strength of the trailer this looks awesome. On the strength of my patience with people trapped and/or having to band together against a once human, now bloodthirsty, foe I’d say I’m going to need half a bottle of scotch to get through this. Still, it is a damn good trailer and I’m not against being entertained. So I’ll give it a chance.

I can barely pay attention to the trailer every time I watch it because when I see Ellen Page all I can think of is “Jesus, that girl has no tits at all…” She’s gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but she makes Keira Knightley look like Jennifer Tilly. I’ve also become, perhaps irrationally, antagonistic towards superhero movies. I’m tired of seeing the human condition explored by guys in homoerotic costumes who answer complicated existential questions with witty catchphrases. It’s one step up from using goddamn puppets. I don’t want Spiderman to explain the meaning of life to me. I want to be a grown a*s man and have stimulating conversations about the subject.

That said… it does feature Ellen Page, and lots of violence. I still like those things. I also like James Gunn. Good guy. Oh, what the hell…

Note: You Yanks got a proper theatrical release for Super, but here in Canuckia we did not, hence it’s presence at a film festival months after it’s run in your neck of the woods.

The Theatre Bizarre
What do we have here? A horror anthology directed by Richard Stanley, Doug Buck, Tom Savini, Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory and Karim Hussain where all the stories are inspired by the Grand Guignol? Oh my goodness…

You remember the Grand Guignol don’t you? I’ll spare you the history lesson, but it was kind of like if Cirque du Soleil had been done by Dario Argento. Less whimsy and magic, lots more torture, mutilation and blood. Read all the gooey parts of Titus Andronicus if you’re curious as to how it went.

You can’t go wrong with an anthology. One story doesn’t work for you? Just wait until the next story. It’s that simple. I’m a huge fan of anthologies, have always championed them, and any time a new one comes out I’m there.

The Troll Hunter
I’m just happy someone’s using a new monster. Trolls, if you read the legends, are a pretty scary foe to humankind. I’m sure this movie has not much to do with historicity so it doesn’t matter, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. The trailer makes it seem like a fun ride and I’ve heard good things.

The Whisperer in Darkness
Note to the HP Lovecraft Historical Society: The next adaptation you make has to be a 1970’s exploitation film. You’ve done a 1920’s silent film with “Call of The Cthulhu” and now a 1940’s/50’s B&W film of “Whisperer.” So it’s stands to reason that the next genre film should be another two decades in the future.

The trailer(s) for this film look good and if I can catch it during my time at the fest I will. The movie has certainly been made with lots of affection for the source material, and that’s always a plus.

The Wicker Man
When I first saw the “Wicker Man,” it didn’t occur to me how subversive it was. Later though, when I grew up a bit, I realized that it was meant to be seen through the eyes of 1960’s era flower children, not someone who was born the year the film came out. The original theatrical viewers (AKA: Hippies) would have seen the Celtic villagers as kindred spirits and the religious Police Sergeant Howie as a symbol of “The Man” yet the film yanks the rug out from under that opinion quite handily. Howie is not the most tolerant or pleasant person, but deep down he is a decent guy who genuinely wants to help the child he’s searching for. The Celts, in comparison, are free spirits and would make for great drinking buddies, but they’re also monstrous bastards. Just because their backwards a*s beliefs are more fun than the Howie’s backwards a*s beliefs doesn’t make them the heroes. Yet the film never judges, it simply documents a man who is way out of his league in dealing with people who are so alien to him that he can’t see what’s coming.

The Wicker Tree
Originally called “Cowboys for Christ”, which I think should be this film’s tagline at least, this is the official sequel to “The Wicker Man.” It’s even written and directed by the same guy who did the first one. Will it recapture the original’s magic? I can’t say, but the trailer looks promising, and any time Christopher Lee is in something you know that any scene he’s in will be good.

Un Génie, Deux Associés, Une Cloche (1975)
Back in the 1980’s there was this afternoon series on one of the French channels in Quebec called “Cine-Quiz,” often they’d play old dubbed Italian or Japanese movies. Often genre “flicks.” Wacked out stuff like “Eyes Beyond The Stars,” which would be a terrifying alien abduction film if it wasn’t so damn goofy. I also remember a movie about the Bermuda Triangle and another one about a guy hunting a werewolf (Note: It wasn’t “The Beast must Die” I checked. – JK) “Un Genie” was co-directed by Sergio Leone, scored by Ennio Morricone and stars Terrence Hill. You can’t really get more spaghetti than that without going to an Italian restaurant.

So there you have it folks. The highlights of a strong line-up for a strong festival. This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of Fantasia and they have gone all out. There are many more films than what I’ve listed playing. So do yourselves a favour and look them up. If you’re in the area come check it out. You will enjoy it, I promise.

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