Fantasia 2021: ‘The Suicide Squad’ Leads Fantasia Film Fest’s Second Wave of Films
The Fantasia International Film Festival will launch its 25th edition this summer as an exciting virtual event composed of scheduled screenings, on-demand library, panels, and workshops, taking place from August 5th to August 25th. The festival will be accessible across Canada, geo-locked to the country, and will maintain unique film admittance quantities in line with the cinema experience.
After sharing its first wave of film titles back in May, Fantasia is thrilled to reveal a second wave of programming and will return in late July with a third and final line-up announcement, including features, virtual events, and juries.
In celebration of Fantasia’s 25th anniversary, the international film festival will be hosting a special event screening of the eagerly awaited Warner Bros. Pictures James Gunn-directed superhero action adventure THE SUICIDE SQUAD. The in-person screening will be held on August 4 at Montreal’s historic Imperial Theater (birthplace of the fest) and tickets will be available to the public. The film releases in theaters on August 6.
THE SUICIDE SQUAD is written and directed by long-time Fantasia friend James Gunn, who first attended the fest in 1997 and whose previous comic book blockbuster GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY made its Canadian Premiere at Fantasia in 2014. Gunn’s no-holds-barred take on the DC team-up finds Super-Villains Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker and a collection of cons incarcerated at Belle Reve prison joining the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X as they are dropped off at the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese.
On August 5, Fantasia will officially open with the world premiere of the previously announced Québec production, Julien Knafo’s BRAIN FREEZE.
The rest of the films announced in this second wave can be found below. Be sure to stay tuned for reviews, interviews, and more coming from this fantastic film fest!
LOSE YOURSELF IN CATCHY SONGS AND PLENTY OF GOLDFISH
Makoto Kashiba, a dramatically introverted Tokyo elite bank clerk gets transferred to the middle of nowhere after impulsively insulting his boss in Yukinori Makabe’s (I AM MONK) heartwarming and colorful J-pop musical manga adaption LOVE, LIFE AND GOLDFISH. The film follows as Makoto must learn to express himself in other ways to prevent future outbursts, and becomes a beautiful reminder of the importance of freeing ourselves from self-imposed barriers. This feature will surely leave an uncontrollable smile on your face. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
CRIES IN THE NIGHT ECHO THROUGH MARTYRS LANE
In this haunting and poignant ghost story from British writer/director Ruth Platt (THE LESSON, THE BLACK FOREST), ten-year-old Leah (Kiera Thompson) lives in a large vicarage, full of lost souls and the needy. In the day the house is bustling with people; at night it is dark, empty, a space for Leah’s nightmares to creep into. A small, nightly visitor (Sienna Sayer) brings her comfort, but soon she will realise that her little visitor offers knowledge that might be very, very dangerous. Tragic and unsettling with phenomenal performances and bottomless otherworldly atmosphere, MARTYRS LANE is a stunning, eerie triumph of a film. Co-starring Denise Gough (MONDAY) and Steven Cree (OUTLANDER). WORLD PREMIERE.
A DOUBLE DOSE OF JAPAN’S STUDIO4ºC, WITH POUPELLE OF CHIMNEY TOWN AND FORTUNE FAVORS LADY NIKUKO!
Adapted from the picturebook by popular Japanese comedian Akihiro Nishino, POUPELLE OF CHIMNEY TOWN, the official closing film at IFFR this year, is a heartfelt rollercoaster ride through a nonstop cavalcade of eye-popping animated visual delights. Nishino’s tale – the celestial quest of a boy and his friend, a man made of garbage – is brought to life by veteran CG animator Yusuke Hirota and the cutting-edge talent at STUDIO4ºC (TEKKON KINKREET, MIND GAME, CHILDREN OF THE SEA). NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
Following the wondrous, well-received CHILDREN OF THE SEA (2019), director Ayumu Watanabe returns with a quirky, candid, colourful anime comedy-drama. Based on a book by author Kanako Nishi, an astute observer of the human condition, FORTUNE FAVORS LADY NIKUKO demonstrates with precision and panache how the most ordinary people and places can be quite extraordinary! NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
ANNA ZAYTSEVA’S TENSE SCREENLIFE THRILLER #BLUE_WHALE SHINES LIGHT ON A HORRIFIC TEEN SUICIDE CHALLENGE
Spiraling paranoia and gut-wrenching dread tear through #BLUE_WHALE, the feature debut from Russian writer/director Anna Zaytseva, whose shorts have won no less than 16 awards on the festival circuit. A provincial town is shaken by a wave of mysterious teen suicides. Researching the death of her younger sister, schoolgirl Dana (Anna Potebnya) comes across a sickening social media game that encourages youths to take horrific self-harm challenges. Aiming to hunt down those responsible for her sister’s death, she registers for the game, opening a doorway into the cruelest of hidden online worlds. Co-produced by Timur Bekmambetov and shot in the Screenlife storytelling format that he pioneered, #BLUE_WHALE taps into something insightfully disturbing about the ways that teens can find themselves manipulated online.
Fantasia’s launch of the film continues the festival’s history by showcasing Screenlife works, having World Premiered the format’s inaugural bow, UNFRIENDED (under its early title CYBERNATURAL). The festival has also hosted the International Premiere of UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB, the North American bow of PROFILE, and the Canadian Premiere of SEARCHING. WORLD PREMIERE.
A BLOODTHIRSTY CRIMINAL SHOWDOWN DETONATES IN BRAZIL WITH YAKUZA PRINCESS
Few are left standing in YAKUZA PRINCESS, a stylish and violent action thriller starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers (VIKINGS) and Japanese American singer Masumi (POSSE). Directed by Vicente Amorim (MOTORRAD, GOOD) and adapted from Danilo Beyruth’s graphic novel Shiro, the film unfolds in the expansive Japanese community of Sao Paulo in Brazil and follows Akemi (Masumi), an orphan who discovers she is the heiress to half of the Yakuza crime syndicate. After forging an uneasy alliance with an amnesiac stranger (Meyers) the two must unleash war against the other half of the gang who wants her dead. Co-starring Tsuyoshi Ihara (LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA), Toshiji Takeshima (S.W.A.T.), and Eijiro Ozaki (THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE). WORLD PREMIERE.
TRUST US WHEN WE SAY “IT’S A SUMMER FILM!”
Barefoot (Marika Ito) is a consummate cinephile who dreams of making her own movies. When her high school club proves uninterested in samurai films, she pushes through the saccharine consensus, sword in hand, for a shoot far stranger than she bargained for. Soushi Matsumoto’s joyful debut IT’S A SUMMER FILM is, as the name suggests, the film of the summer– a pitcher-sized blend of high-spirited, high-school idealism with a sprinkling of genre delights: from the luminous tropes of the high school coming-of-age, to the nostalgic throwback of chambara, to the more unexpected detours into the realm of science-fiction. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
GHOSTING GLORIA BRINGS SPIRITUAL GROWTH THROUGH OTHERWORLDLY ORGASMS
Gloria (Stefania Tortorella) needs an orgasm. When was the last time she had one? She doesn’t know if she’s ever had one. So begins Marcela Matta and Mauro Sarser’s sophomore feature, following 2016’s LOS MODERNOS, GHOSTING GLORIA, a charming and surprising genre-bender that switches between horror, fantasy, and offbeat comedy — all wrapped up in a whimsical and subversive romance. Gloria’s orgasm issue is easily solved when she finds the right man. There is just one issue: he’s a ghost. What brings real spark is the film’s sex-positive spin on the theme of finding Mr. Right, its boisterous moments of mindblowing (sometimes wholly inappropriate) erotic comedy, and Gloria’s rich, wider world. If you ever wanted to know what something like TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! would look like if it was crossed with THE ENTITY, here is the place to find out. WORLD PREMIERE.
SILENCE SAYS WAY MORE THAN WORDS IN HONG EUI-JEONG’S MASTERFUL DEBUT FILM
Two anonymous crime-scene cleaners working for different gangs are assigned an unprecedented task that thrusts them both on a descent into hell: they must kidnap a child. With VOICE OF SILENCE, director and screenwriter Hong Eui-jeong delivers a hard-hitting, masterful, debut feature that has garnered critical and audience acclaim, including prestigious awards in her homeland. This is a daring thriller with a compelling story starring Yoo Ah-in (#ALIVE), one of South Korea’s biggest stars, who delivers one of his best performances in a silent role. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
OFFICE LADIES LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN – FIGHTING AND IN YOUR FACE!
Workplace drama goes too far in Kazuaki Seki’s JIGOKU-NO-HANAZONO ~ OFFICE ROYALE ~! where brutal gang wars are waged right next to the photocopier and on their lunch breaks. Screenwriter Bakarhythm delivers an engaging and smart story with hilarious meta narration that winks to manga conventions as comic-book battles roll out one after another. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
BOOK AT HOTEL POSEIDON FOR AN EXPERIENCE UNLIKE ANYTHING YOU’VE SEEN IN FILM
A keen absurdist sense of humour meets a wonderfully inventive production design in HOTEL POSEIDON, a Belgian feature debut from future cult favourite Stefan Lernous. The film unfolds in a giant rotting hotel as a series of tableaus and vignettes, its unique production design bolstered by an incredible soundscape and otherworldly camera movements. Deliciously nauseating and singular in tone and artistry, HOTEL POSEIDON stands among titans as a debut that seemingly emerged straight from the gooey mercurial swamplands where life on earth first appeared. With hints of David Lynch (especially his work as a painter) and flourishes reminiscent of the Brothers Quay, this is the kind of remarkable and iconoclastic vision that only arrives once in a blue moon. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
MULTILAYERED MELODRAMA SAKURA IS A DOG-GONE DELIGHT
Adapted from Kanako Nishi’s novel of the same name, SAKURA is a charming family chronicle with a nostalgic flavour, where the current narrative is regularly punctuated by flashbacks illustrating the childhood and adolescence of its characters. Directed with great tenderness and sensitivity by Hitoshi Yazaki (SWEET LITTLE LIES), it includes touches of humour, powerful melodramatic moments, and an adorable dog who keeps this dysfunctional family unit together. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
ENTER THE CONTEST TO ACHIEVE “AUTHENTIC PERSONAL TRANSCENDENCE” IN MAXWELL MCCABE-LOKOS’ DEBUT FEATURE WHERE EXISTENTIAL MYSTERY IS AWARDED LIKE A PRIZE
Congratulations! You have been chosen from hundreds of millions of candidates to be the very first spectators to witness the debut feature from Canadian filmmaker Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, following his acclaimed shorts APE SODOM (2016) and MIDNIGHT CONFESSION (2017). In STANLEYVILLE, disillusioned office drone Maria Barbizan (Susanne Wuest, GOODNIGHT MOMMY) decides one day to do what we all dream of; she throws her purse and life away and joins an enigmatic contest to win a… car. A ‘competition to probe the very essence of mind-body articulation” lead by a curious host (Julian Richings, CUBE) in a mesmerizing puzzle à la Satre’s No Exit that will keep you guessing until the very end. WORLD PREMIERE.
SAY HELLO TO THE BENEVOLENT BEAST
It has the body of a pig, the trunk of an elephant, the ears of a horse, and the feet of a rhinoceros, and at night it passes through sleeping villages and gobbles up people’s nightmares. When his family’s fishing boat is towed back into the village harbour without his father on it, eight-year-old Ah Keat seeks out the benevolent beast for help. Kethsvin Chee’s luminous, kind-hearted fantasy drama HELLO! TAPIR examines the realities of loss and grief through a lens tinted with magic and wonder. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
LI XIAOFENG GOES BACK TO THE SCENE OF THE CRIME
After 15 years away, Song has returned home. Once the best student with his whole life radiantly ahead of him, he’s forced to leave town after accidentally killing a man in a fit of rage. Time passes, until his best friend, now a successful yet shady real-estate developer, becomes determined to upset the status quo. In BACK TO THE WHARF, festival favourite Li Xiaofeng (ASH) elevates the film noir with a superior script, tragic characters, and a sharp reflection on how China’s modernization can transform a family. CANADIAN PREMIERE.
‘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?