Fantasia 2021: Takashi Miike Leads the Final Wave of Films
The Fantasia International Film Festival has announced a massive new assortment of feature films for its 25th edition, along with details on scheduled panels, talks, tributes, and special events. While their streamed events are globally accessible, their virtual slate of films are all geo-locked to Canada. But! You can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be covering the fantastic fun here at iHorror.
Last year’s Fantasia Fest coverage included reviews for For the Sake of Vicious, The Dark and the Wicked, Anything for Jackson, The Oak Room, Lucky, The Mortuary Collection, and Neil Marshall’s The Reckoning.
Fantasia begins August 5th with the World Premiere of Quebec zombie feature BRAIN FREEZE— following the August 4th special event screening of James Gunn’s THE SUICIDE SQUAD in celebration of the festival— and ends on August 25th with newly announced closing film, Takashi Miike’s hotly-anticipated THE GREAT YOKAI WAR – GUARDIANS.
TAKASHI MIIKE CLOSES OUT FANTASIA 2021 WITH THE GREAT YOKAI WAR – GUARDIANS
The honour of Closing Film belongs to the great Takashi Miike (AUDITION, 13 ASSASSINS), a constant yet always surprising presence in the festival’s long history. THE GREAT YOKAI WAR – GUARDIANS, a sequel to THE GREAT YOKAI WAR, which opened Fantasia in 2006, plunges the audience into the fairy-tale world of friendly Japanese demons that overflows with creativity. With its kaiju references, unifying story, festive atmosphere, love for popular culture, and spectacular direction from the festival’s favourite filmmaker, it’s the perfect movie to close out this 25th anniversary. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
WHAT JOSIAH SAW WILL CHILL YOU TO YOUR VERY CORE
In director Vincent Grashaw’s Southern Gothic nightmare WHAT JOSIAH SAW, an estranged family grapples with the sins of the past… yanking the skeletons right out of their closet, kicking and screaming all the way! The superlative cast includes Robert Patrick, Nick Stahl, Kelli Garner, Tony Hale, Scott Haze and Jake Weber. It’s this year’s THE DARK AND THE WICKED. WORLD PREMIERE.
CRIME AND POLITICS COLLIDE IN SOUTH KOREAN NAILBITER THE DEVIL’S DEAL
In his first picture since the Cannes selection THE GANGSTER, THE COP, THE DEVIL, Lee Won-tae returns with the masterfully directed THE DEVIL’S DEAL. What starts as a critical political satire escalates into a white-hot thriller in which corruption, insider trading, and organized crime run the show. Leading a fabulous cast, actor Cho Jin-woong (ME AND ME) delivers one of the best performances of his career, portraying with disarming naturalism the multiple facets of an ambitious and tortured politician, as endearing as he is loathsome, whose life literally depends on his election. With its immersive score, captivating plot, and clever twists, THE DEVIL’S DEAL is a must-see. WORLD PREMIERE.
A FEROCIOUS BRITISH CRIME THRILLER THAT CHARGES LIKE A BULL
A feared gang enforcer (Neil Maskell, KILL LIST), vanished for ten years, returns to hunt the mobsters he once ran with in BULL, the ferocious British revenge thriller from BAFTA-winner Paul Andrew Williams (LONDON TO BRIGHTON). A brutal and subversive work that frequently plays out like a horror film, stunningly executed and grounded by well-scripted characters, with a cast that includes Tamzin Outhwaite (EASTENDERS) and David Hayman (TABOO, SID AND NANCY) in a frightening turn that ranks with the strongest of British mobster portrayals. WORLD PREMIERE.
TOKYO REVENGERS IS AN ALL-OUT STREET FIGHT TO SAVE THE FUTURE
Takemichi may just have a chance to change the future – if he can survive his own past! A jawbreaking, juvenile delinquent street fight royale combined with a high-stakes time travel thriller and dashes of adolescent angst and romantic comedy, TOKYO REVENGERS is the live-action feature adaptation of Ken Wakui’s enormously popular award-winning manga of the same name. Director Tsutomu Hanabusa (KAKEGURUI 1 and 2, also at Fantasia this year) succeeds mightily at adapting this complex science-fiction story; amid a barrage of bloody, brutal hoodlum battles, he still finds room for the sweetness of first love. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
A DYSTOPIAN SOUTH AFRICAN FAIRY TALE: GLASSHOUSE
A memory-shredding neurochemical permeates the atmosphere like airborne dementia, but safe within an airtight glasshouse a family preserves their past through rituals of collective memory. Sensual and savage, GLASSHOUSE weaves aspects of dystopian science fiction with notes of folk horror and perverse, brooding, Gothic melodrama to craft a taught existential tale that ultimately explores the importance of storytelling and memory. It’s a stunning feature debut from South African filmmaker Kelsey Egan, starring Adrienne Pearce, Jessica Alexander, Anja Taljaard, and Hilton Pelser. WORLD PREMIERE.
WHEN A BEAUTIFUL COMING OF AGE STORY MEETS SCIENCE-FICTION, JUST FOLLOW THE LIGHT
Freshly arrived from Tokyo to a fading village in the Japanese countryside, Akira becomes fascinated with an isolated girl who is obsessed with a crop circle in her grandfather’s fields. This multi-layered, sci-fi coming-of-age story by first-time director Yoichi Narita is a true gem with a dazzling narrative. The majestic, rich cinematography, which highlights the magnificent rural landscapes, and judicious use of music recall Shunji Iwai’s masterpiece ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU. FOLLOW THE LIGHT will leave a lasting impression with its soft visual splendour and sensitive storytelling. WORLD PREMIERE.
BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER IN THE CRIME FAMILY SAGA IDA RED
Midwest filmmaker John Swab (LET ME MAKE YOU A MARTYR) returns to Fantasia with IDA RED, a propulsive, gripping, crime thriller that escalates his career to the big leagues. Cast-as-criminals Josh Hartnett, Frank Grillo, and Melissa Leo (as a modern Ma Barker) have never been better. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
THE TRANSGRESSIVE HORROR EXPERIENCE OF THE DECADE: THE SADNESS
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. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
ALL HAIL PRODUCTION I.G’S ANIME FANTASY EPIC THE DEER KING!
Following its world premiere at Annecy, and ahead of theatrical release in Japan, comes the highly anticipated THE DEER KING, co-directed by anime veterans Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji. Based on the books by bestselling Japanese fantasy author Nahoko Uehashi, the epic saga of the legendary warrior Broken Antler Van comes to life with the peerless standards of quality we expect from the studios of Production I.G (GHOST IN THE SHELL, NEON GENESIS EVANGELION). Elegant and exacting design and animation seamlessly pair with Uehashi’s sturdy world-building and compelling conflicts to create a transporting animated otherworldly tale. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
DON’T SAY ITS NAME IS A SNOW-SET, INDIGENOUS HORROR FOR OUR TIMES
When an environmental activist is called back to the world of the living after a suspicious accident takes her life, an ancient spirit is reborn outside a small northern town. With a wealth of Indigenous talent both in front of and behind the camera, DON’T SAY ITS NAME, the eerie feature debut from director/co-writer Rueben Martell, builds its chills with compellingly real characters and strong performances from Madison Walsh (SOMETHING UNDONE), Sera-Lys McArthur (OUTLANDER), Samuel Marty (GODLESS), Carla Fox, and Julian Black-Antelope (HOLD THE DARK). WORLD PREMIERE.
HAVING FUN IS ALL THAT MATTERS IN GRAND BLUE DREAMING
Stuck in a surreal, nudist loop somewhere between GROUNDHOG DAY and MEMENTO, two young men end up trapped in a scuba diving club full of muscular party animals and pretty girls with a temper. Based on a popular manga series, GRAND BLUE DREAMING, by Tsutomu Hanabusa (TOKYO REVENGERS), is as weird as it is hilarious. Astonishingly fast-paced and loaded with politically incorrect humour, this wild comedy also finds moments of calmness with beautiful and relaxing underwater shots. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
CROSS INTO THE DEEP HOUSE FOR IMMERSIVE UNDERWATER HAUNTS
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. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
BREATHTAKING SOUTH KOREAN THRILLER MIDNIGHT WILL LEAVE YOU SPEECHLESS
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. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
A HAUNTING NEW CREATION FROM PERRY BLACKSHEAR
A brother and sister face off against a mysterious force responsible for years of devastating misfortunes in WHEN I CONSUME YOU, a haunting new work from award-winning indie filmmaker Perry Blackshear. Reuniting with Evan Dumouchel, MacLeod Andrews, and Margaret Ying Drake, the core acting trio of his previous films THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE and THE SIREN, Blackshear and his team dole out powerful blows of tragedy, devastation, and personal struggle while a demonic figure looms just out of focus, yellow eyes burning in the background. WORLD PREMIERE.
A SEPTET OF LEGENDARY FILMMAKERS PAYS TRIBUTE TO HONG KONG
A sifu hardens his students with “Exercise” in Sammo Hung’s evocation of childhood. Ann Hui stages a stirring tribute to Hong Kong educators in “Headmaster.” Patrick Tam Kar-Ming depicts the emigration of Hong Kongers by way of an impressionistic love story, “Tender is the Night.” Master action choreographer and director Yuen Woo-ping addresses generational divides in the 90s with “Homecoming.” Johnnie To details the city’s capitalistic hustle in “Bonanza.” The expanding harbour opens the floodgates of memory in Ringo Lam’s posthumous film “Astray,” and the decade to come is evoked by Tsui Hark’s futuristic, tongue-in-cheek closer “Conversation in Depth.” An exceptional omnibus comes to us at a crucial time in Hong Kong history, SEPTET: THE STORY OF HONG KONG reunites seven legendary Hong Kong directors for a heartfelt project composed of personal, resonant stories. QUEBEC PREMIERE.
CATCH THE FAIR ONE FOR A BRUTAL REVENGE THRILLER THAT SCARS WITH PURPOSE
A mixed Indigenous ex-boxer infiltrates the sex trafficking world in search of her missing sister in this ferocious thriller propelled by a commanding performance from WBA Super Lightweight Champion Kali “K.O. Mequinonoag” Reis. Pulverizing with fury and grief, CATCH THE FAIR ONE is the culmination of a four-year collaboration with director Josef Kubota Wladyka (MANOS SUCIAS), who co-wrote with his star. As much a hard-hitting revenge thriller as it is a personal interpretation of true crimes, the film addresses North America’s horrific crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women with urgency. Co-produced by Darren Aronofsky and 2021 Oscar-winner Mollye Asher (NOMADLAND) and winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
FROM ARGENTINA, HORROR AND MYSTERY CONVERGE ON THE 3RD DAY
The latest from Argentinean director Daniel de la Vega (WHITE COFFIN) and production house Del Toro Films (South America’s answer to Hammer Studios), ON THE 3RD DAY follows an anguished mother (Mariana Anghileri) trying to find her missing son, and the missing memory of what happened on the night of a terrible car accident. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
MEET A WOMAN ON THE (SUPERNATURAL) EDGE IN, THE NIGHT HOUSE
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). CANADIAN PREMIERE.
DON’T GET CAUGHT OUTSIDE AT… MIDNIGHT IN A PERFECT WORLD — FINAL FEATURE OF THIS YEAR’S CAMERA LUCIDA SLATE
Near-future Manila is now a “perfect” world; the powerful forces keep it so, thoroughly hidden from view yet pressing down subconsciously and oppressively on the citizens. With rumoured blackouts happening around the city past midnight, the only refuge becomes government-sanctioned “safe houses” scattered around Manila. While many believe them to be a hoax, the truth of what they cover up may be something far worse. Taking its title from a DJ Shadow cut, and unfolding with an air of Philip K. Dickian strangeness, Dodo Dayao’s (VIOLATOR) long-awaited sophomore effort MIDNIGHT IN A PERFECT WORLD is, like his previous film, a uniquely savvy and nightmarish trip befitting the world’s ongoing dystopian situation, and one that cements Dayao’s unique voice in independent Filipino cinema. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
The Camera Lucida section adds this final title to its competition, along with the following selection of short and medium-length films: AQUATIC BIRD (China – Dir. Zhang Nan); BORN PISCES (Japan – Dir. Yoko Yamanaka); DEATH VALLEY (United States – Dir. Grace Sloan); DOUBLE HELIX (China – Dir. Qiu Sheng); NOSES ON THE RUN (South Korea – Dir. Kim Boram) and TAIPEI SUICIDE STORY (Taiwan – Dir. KEFF)
For the full slate of Fantasia Fest’s 2021 films, click here!
‘Scream VII’ Greenlit, But Should the Franchise Take a Decade-Long Rest Instead?
Bam! Bam! Bam! No that’s not a shotgun inside the bodega in Scream VI, it’s the sound of producer’s fists rapidly hitting the green light button to further franchise favorites (i.e. Scream VII).
With Scream VI barely out of the gate, and a sequel reportedly filming this year, it seems horror fans are the ultimate target audience to get ticket sales back at the box office and away from “press play” streaming culture. But maybe it’s too much too soon.
If we haven’t learned our lesson already, banging out cheap horror movies in quick succession isn’t exactly a fool-proof strategy to get butts in theater seats. Let’s pause in a moment of silence to remember the recent Halloween reboot/retcon. Although the news of David Gordon Green blowing off the gossamer and resurrecting the franchise in three installments was great news in 2018, his final chapter did nothing but put the tarnish back on the horror classic.
Possibly drunk on the moderate success of his first two films, Green advanced to a third one very quickly but failed to provide fan service. Criticisms of Halloween Ends mainly hinged on the lack of screen time given to both Michael Myers and Laurie Strode and instead on a new character that didn’t have anything to do with the first two films.
“Honestly, we never once considered making a Laurie and Michael movie,” the director told Moviemaker. “The concept that it should be a final showdown-type brawl never even crossed our minds.”
How’s that again?
Although this critic enjoyed the last film, many found it off-course and perhaps a stand-alone that should have never been connected to the redeveloped canon. Remember Halloween came out in 2018 with Kills releasing in 2021 (thanks to COVID) and finally Ends in 2022. As we know, the Blumhouse engine is fueled by brevity from script to screen, and although it can’t be proven, hammering out the last two films so quickly might have been integral to its critical undoing.
Which brings us to the Scream franchise. Will Scream VII get underbaked purely because Paramount wants to reduce its cooking time? Also, too much of a good thing can make you sick. Remember, everything in moderation. The first movie was released in 1996 with the next almost exactly a year later, then the third three years after that. The latter is considered the weaker of the franchise, but still solid.
Then we enter the decade release timeline. Scream 4 released in 2011, Scream (2022) 10 years after that. Some may say, “well hey, the difference in release times between the first two Scream movies was exactly that of the reboot.” And that is correct, but consider that Scream (’96) was a film that changed horror movies forever. It was an original recipe and ripe for back-to-back chapters, but we are now five sequels deep. Thankfully Wes Craven kept things sharp and entertaining even through all the parodies.
Conversely, that same recipe also survived because it took a decade-long hiatus, giving new trends time to develop before Craven attacked the newer tropes in another installment. Remember in Scream 3, they still used fax machines and flip phones. Fan theory, social media and online celebrity were developing fetuses at that time. Those trends would be incorporated into Craven’s fourth movie.
Fast-forward another eleven years and we get Radio Silence’s reboot (?) which made fun of the new terms “requel” and “legacy characters.” Scream was back and fresher than ever. Which leads us to Scream VI and a change of venue. No spoilers here, but this episode seemed oddly reminiscent of re-hashed past storylines, which may have been a satire in and of itself.
Now, it’s been announced that Scream VII is a go, but it leaves us to wonder how such a short hiatus is going to fare with nothing in the horror zeitgeist to channel. In all of this race to get the big bucks, some are saying Scream VII could only top its predecessor by bringing back Stu? Really? That, in my opinion, would be a cheap effort. Some also say, that sequels often bring in a supernatural element, but that would be out of place for Scream.
Could this franchise do with a 5-7 year hiatus before it ruins itself on principle? That break would allow time and new tropes to develop — the franchise’s life’s blood — and mostly the power behind its success. Or is Scream heading into the “thriller” category, where the characters are just going to face another killer(s) in a mask without the irony?
Perhaps that is what the new generation of horror fans want. It could work of course, but the spirit of the canon would be lost. True fans of the series will spot a bad apple if Radio Silence does anything uninspired with Scream VII. That’s a lot of pressure. Green took a chance in Halloween Ends and that didn’t pay off.
All that being said, Scream, if anything, is a masterclass at building hype. But hopefully, these movies don’t turn into the campy iterations they make fun of in Stab. There is still some life left in these films even if Ghostface doesn’t have time to catnap. But as they say, New York never sleeps.
Horror Director Can’t Save ‘Shazam! 2,’ Latest Superhero to Tank at the Box Office
What used to be a sure-fire ticket grab is becoming just another unpopular station stop at the box office. We are talking of course about the MCU and DCEU. In particular, the latest perceived super-flop Shazam! Fury of the Gods.
Some of you may consider Shazam’s opening weekend of $30.5 million nothing to sneeze at, but consider Scream VI’s opening weekend totals of $44.5 million. A Scream movie out box-officing a comic book film? What world do we live in?! A horror one.
Given the dismal returns of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and its recent predecessors, the golden age of capes and superpowers seems to have died with Spiderman: No Way Home (no way home indeed).
There are many factors that could have contributed to its low ticket take. Critics weren’t really impressed with Shazam! and his friend’s latest adventure and its CinemaScore rests at a B+. Also, star Zachary Levi has been given some unpopular opinions on social media which may have led to him being soft-canceled.
Further, the whole DCEU is in the middle of a very public and tumultuous overhaul and a lot of these franchise characters are edging toward the chopping block. So viewers might be watching trailers, and muttering, “What’s the point?”
Still, Shazam’s weak opening may not be indicative of what it will do digitally. Home screens seem to be the catchall of failing franchises with subscribers squeezing out every penny of their hefty monthly membership prices instead of having to pay more for a “premium” theater seat.
But let’s talk about Shazam’s horror ties. Both the first movie and now its sequel was directed by someone who normally gets his money from jump scares. David F. Sandberg (Light’s Out, Annabell Creation). He gives the Shazam movies a slight horror feel with an emphasis on the supernatural, there is definitely some crossover.
But that doesn’t mean fans are likely to follow (remember The New Mutants?). In fact, legendary horror director Sam Raimi has some box office skin in the game this week with the diminishing sci-fi adventure 65, which he produced, starring Adam Driver. Not even an A-list star could pull this film out of the primordial muck as it sits sinking faster than a Tyrannosaurus in the La Brea tar pits. Raimi’s hand is also planted in the MCU with last year’s very successful Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness with a $185 million opening weekend.
Another horror director, James Wan, is hoping to raise the sinking DCEU ship with his sequel to Aquaman called Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom set to be released by this Christmas (we’ll see).
The bottom line is that Shazam! Fury of the Gods isn’t really a bad movie. In fact, it might outshine the original as far as VFX and story. But seats are sitting empty in the cineplex nowadays for men and women in super suits which may or may not be because of behind-the-scenes drama. It may also be because avid fans aren’t finding anything fresh to consume and pushing the product to the back of the fridge in lieu of something, like Scream, which respects its base and delivers on its promises while still being aware of its expiry date.
Shudder Gives Us Something to Scream about in April 2023
The first quarter of 2023 is over, but Shudder is just picking up steam with a brand new slate of films coming to their already impressive catalogue! From obscurities to fan favorites, there’s something here for everyone. Check out the full calendar of relase below, and let us know what you’ll be watching when April rolls around.
Shudder Calendar 2023
The Slumber Party Massacre: A female high school student’s slumber party turns into a bloodbath, as a newly escaped psychotic serial killer wielding a power drill prowls her neighborhood.
Magic: A ventriloquist is at the mercy of his vicious dummy while he tries to renew a romance with his high school sweetheart.
Don’t Panic: On his 17th birthday, a boy named Michael has a surprise party thrown by his friends, where a session with a Ouija board accidentally unleashes a demon named Virgil, who possesses one of them to go on a killing spree. Michael, now plagued by violent nightmares and premonitions, sets out to try and stop the killings.
Slasher: Ripper: The new series on Shudder takes the franchise back in time to the late 19th century and follows Basil Garvey (McCormack), a charismatic tycoon whose success is only rivaled by his ruthlessness, as he oversees a city on the cusp of a new century, and a social upheaval that will see its streets run red with blood. There’s a killer stalking the mean streets, but instead of targeting the poor and downtrodden like Jack the Ripper, The Widow is meting out justice against the rich and powerful. The only person standing in the way of this killer is the newly promoted detective, Kenneth Rijkers, whose ironclad belief in justice may wind up being yet another victim of The Widow.
Bog: Dynamite fishing in a rural swamp revives a prehistoric gill monster that must have the blood of human females in order to survive.
Kids vs. Aliens: All Gary wants is to make awesome home movies with his best buds. All his older sister Samantha wants is to hang with the cool kids. When their parents head out of town one Halloween weekend, an alltime rager of a teen house party turns to terror when aliens attack, forcing the siblings to band together to survive the night.
Final Exam: In a small college in North Carolina, only a select few students are left to take mid terms. But, when a killer strikes, it could be everyone’s final exam.
Primal Rage: A baboon escapes from a Florida campus lab and starts spreading something bad with a bite.
Darklands: A reporter investigates ritual profanations and finds himself involved with a Druidic cult.
From Black: A young mother, crushed by guilt after the disappearance of her young son 5 years previously, is presented with a bizarre offer to learn the truth and set things right. But how far is she willing to go, and is she willing to pay the terrifying price for a chance to hold her boy again?