Fantasia. Fan-freakin-tasia! To say I’m excited is like saying Adam Carolla is in a little bit of hot water with the ladies right now. See what I did there? Topical humor. How I roll.
For those of you who don’t know, Fantasia is Montreal’s annual genre film festival, nearly four glorious weeks of the insanest, weirdest, most creative movies from all over the globe. Basically it’s Christmas for people like me.
And that time is coming again, my friends. Fantasia has just announced their “first wave” of movies for this year’s festival and there’s some awesome stuff on the lineup, and you can be sure I’ll be down there covering it all. But what to do in the mean time? It’s still over a month away, and that’s a long wait.
Well, I figured what better way to get into the Fantasia spirit than to revisit some of my favorites from that magical summer of bliss last year, so this week I’m presenting four awesome movies from Fantasia 2011 to help get you ready for the upcoming madness.
In this post-apocalyptic future story, cutthroat gangs hold sway over the remaining survivors in the small town of Frazier Park. When the courageous BTRO dies challenging the local gang leader, his brother JTRO must train to take up his place and enter the ultimate contest, where all is decided: the dancing based videogame Beat Beat Revalation.
Tell me you saw THAT coming.
The FP is the brainchild of the Trost Brothers, and definitely bears the earmarks of a low-budget labor of love. The film is held together essentially with scotch tape and love, but what it lacks in visual fidelity (this post-apocalyptic future has a lot of pleasant public parks) it makes up for in originality and charm.
It seems to constantly hover between taking itself seriously and self-parody, dipping its feet into one pool before going back and trying the other. Some might call it indecisive for this, but I definitely enjoyed this one, if only for the sheer absurdity of the premise.
This is one I mentioned way back in my early days here, back when I was a mere guttersnipe filling in for Steph.
It’s a found footage movie, but don’t let that stop you, it’s one of the good found footage movies, one of the ones that uses the format as a stylistic device rather than a cloaking device to hide a budget lower than most movies’ craft services budget.
It begins with a group of Norwegian student journalists doing an expose on bear poaching, following a mysterious man they believe to be a poacher. Of course, the truth is often stranger than fiction and this is certainly the case, as it turns out the man is in fact a troll hunter (get it, like the title!) on the payroll of the Norwegian government.
Norway has, unknown to it’s urban populace, a thriving troll population kept in secluded reservations. But when one of them breaks loose, it’s up to our hero Hans to track them down.
Besides the effects, creativity and pitch-black humor, the real draw of this is the titular troll hunter, played as a cynical, world-weary everyman by comedian Otto Jespersen. He’s set in stark contrast to the mythical, morally unambiguous knights of old.
Hans is no hero, he’s just a guy doing a bad job for worse pay, and this is his story.
As I’m eager to opine, horror movies these days generally suck.
Don’t look at me that way, they do, and you know it.
And one of the worst ways they can suck is the whole “self aware” thing. It seemed for a long while, horror movies just couldn’t be straight-faced anymore, they couldn’t take themselves seriously. It all had to be tongue-in-cheek humor, self-parody, and visual gimmickery.
The Inkeepers, to me anyway, seems to present a single upraised middle finger to that whole notion, presenting a no-nonsense haunted house movie, and telling all those self-aware asshats to go make fun of themselves in the corner, cause there’s work to be done, dammit.
Sara Paxton stars as one of two inkeepers (get it, like the title!) on her last night on the job in a big old spooky hotel she believes is plagued by ghosts. Unfortunately it seems this is the one night those ghosts have chosen to kick subtlety to the curb and really start messing with her head. So she and her awkward co-worker must try and survive the night, not to mention keep their sanity intact.
It’s a very back-to-basics approach, one that won huge points with me right out of the gate. Some may be dissatisfied with the pacing or ending, but this one delivered some good scares for me, not to mention a great cast and good direction.
It wouldn’t be Fantasia without a good-sized helping of Asian cinema, and who better to cap off this jaunt down memory lane than Takashi Miike, the insanely prolific madman who brought us Ichi the Killer and Zebraman (which is exactly what it sounds like).
13 Assassins is probably the most “grounded” of his movies I’ve seen, which isn’t to say it doesn’t have a fair share of weirdness and black humor. Set in 1840s Japan, the film sees a young lord who has become a homicidal monster come up against the blades of 13 samurai (get it, like the- oh wait, never mind) who have taken it upon themselves to end his reign of terror. At the center of all this is Shinzaemon (who only sounds like a Digimon), a battle-hardened old warrior who must face off against his oldest friend to get to his target.
The last hour or so of this movie is basically an all-out orgy of swords, explosions and mayhem, with some truly epic swordfights and a dusting of Miike’s trademark humor for good measure. Which is different from the kind of orgies you would normally see in a Miike movie, those are probably just…well, orgies. He’s one of -those- directors.
If you see just one samurai movie this year, make it this one. Though why you would only watch one samurai movie all year is beyond me.