Gearing up for Fantasia Fest 2021, there are a ton of fantastic film offerings for any film lover’s palette. I’ll be covering this year’s fest, and — while we’ve outlined the three full waves of films — I thought I’d do a quick lil breakdown of the 5 films I’m super excited for. With reasons why!
Description: In an alternate version of Taiwan, a rapidly spreading pandemic suddenly mutates into a rabies-like affliction, and the infected find themselves unable to control their id. A nightmare vision steeped in unspeakably upsetting moments of violence, Rob Jabbaz’s The Sadness plays like a return to the no-holds-barred shock sensibilities of ’90s Hong Kong Category III films. Electrified with an existential fear that punches spikes of panic energy straight into your nervous system, and told with incredible style, The Sadness is a force to be reckoned with. Fantasia is proud to be bringing this extreme horror rollercoaster to North American shores, hot off its bow at Locarno.
Why I’m excited: It’s no secret that I love extreme horror, so this film has certainly piqued my interest. So is it a zombie film? Not exactly. It’s a rage virus film, where every infected individual goes on the attack. Their id goes into overdrive, and every brutal impulse is met with enthusiasm. These folks are fast, focused, and full of violence. As someone who is always looking for the next film to really test my reactionary reflexes, this kind of horror really appeals to me!
Description: Two daredevil Youtubers with a passion for abandoned urban edifices film themselves as they take a deep dive into the bottom of a lake where there lies a mysterious house with a sinister past. Award-winning French genre maestros Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (Inside, Kandisha) display numerous filmic skills with this intelligent found footage style feature. The immersive darkness, the floating strangeness, The Deep House takes us down and further down, from mere unfamiliar discomfort to absolute and unfathomable terror.
Why I’m excited: A few reasons. 1) This is coming from the directors of Inside, an incredible New French Extremity film that I absolutely love. 2) It’s found footage, which is something I’m always genuinely excited to see (when done well) as it can really enhance the realism of the storytelling. 3) Deep underwater anything scares the bejesus out of me. There’s something so unpredictable and — ultimately — extremely dangerous about submerging yourself into an unknown underwater realm. 4) It’s a haunted house film… underwater. The novelty of that alone is enough to have me hooked!
Description: A wave of murders hits the city and, lurking in the shadows, a killer has just identified his new prey – a deaf woman. South Korea has become the go-to source for fans of dark, intense, unpredictable thrillers that deliver cutthroat tension, and Kwon Oh-seung’s debut feature Midnight follows in this tradition. A breathless tale boasting hallucinatory sound design that relishes in testing the nerves of even the most seasoned viewers.
Why I’m excited: First off, this comes from the producers of I Saw the Devil, aka my favorite movie of all time. Additionally, I love Korean horror, and 2019’s Door Lock was a personal standout from Fantasia’s lineup. The sound design of Midnight promises to be excellent, which is always something I appreciate (Sound of Metal, by the way… wow). Furthermore, serial killer-based horror-thrillers are one of my go-to subgenres, so… bring it on.
The Night House
Description: From director David Bruckner (The Ritual, The Signal) comes The Night House. Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. She tries as best she can to keep it together – but then nightmares come. Disturbing visions of a presence in the house calling to her, beckoning her with a ghostly allure. Against the advice of her friends, she begins digging into her husband’s belongings, yearning for answers. What she finds are secrets both strange and disturbing – a mystery she’s determined to unravel. The Night House stars Rebecca Hall (Godzilla vs. Kong), Sarah Goldberg (Barry, Elementary), Vondie Curtis Hall (Die Hard 2, Eve’s Bayou), Evan Jonigkeit (Togetherish, Sweetbitter), and Stacy Martin (Vox Lux, Nymphomaniac).
Why I’m excited: I’m a fan of both The Ritual and The Signal, and Bruckner’s Amateur Night segment in V/H/S is by far the strongest. According to Fantasia, “you won’t find a stronger performance – or a scarier movie – at Fantasia this year!”, which is a big claim, and a challenge I gladly accept. Apparently the film sold to distributor Searchlight Pictures for “an astonishing $12 million” after its successful run at Sundance.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Description: “Casey here. Today I’m going to take the World’s Fair Challenge.” A lonely teen (Anna Cobb) stares at her computer screen, partaking in a viral game that soon takes hold of her increasingly dissociating mind. A disquieting take on the coming-of-age film, Jane Schoenbrun’s breakout Sundance hit We’re All Going to the World’s Fair harnesses the potent aesthetics of found-footage horror and YouTube culture to craft a quietly devastating look at loneliness and despondency in the Internet age.
Why I’m excited: A found-footage Creepypasta coming-of-age film sounds intriguing as hell, and I’ve heard nothing but good buzz about this film. This is the narrative feature film debut for non-binary director Jane Schoenbrun, and given the to-the-point description of their first film, a documentary called A Self-Induced Hallucination (“It’s about the internet, and it’s quite strange.”), I’m pretty curious to see what they’ve come up with.
Stay tuned for more Fantasia Festival coverage!