After tearing the roof off Fantasia with crowd-pleasers like Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim, Edgar Wright is prettymuch Fantasia royalty, which explains why the Imperial Theatre practically exploded in a torrent of hot, sweaty nerd-love when he took the stage Tuesday to present his new film, The World’s End, as the official closing film for the 2013 festival.

The long awaited finale to the “Blood and Icecream Trilogy” that started with Shaun and middled with Hot Fuzz, the story this time around is that five friends, in their highschool years, attempted a twelve pub crawl in their sleepy English hometown, but ended up facedown in vomit and failure. Now, many years later, they’ve all grown up and gotten real jobs and bank accounts and ex-wives and probably a few prostate problems if the statistics are to be believed. That is, except for Simon Pegg’s Gary King, who’s stuck in arrested development like a tick in a dog’s arse, and gets the gang back together to try the “golden mile” once again, even though most of them, especially Nick Frost’s Andy, think Gary can go straight to hell.

Of course, things take an odd turn when the gang discovers that their home town is now populated by robot dopplegangers, and decide the best course of action is….to keep getting wasted. Makes sense to me.

the_worlds_end_posterThe film gets off to a slow start, and I kept thinking to myself that it’ll probably get really funny once the robot shenanigans start, and while I wasn’t wrong, the first little bit of the movie is a tad dead, laugh-wise. Of course, once things start to get weird and the heads start flying, the writing starts getting sharper and it feels like Pegg and co. are back in a familiar groove. The dialogue is fast and punchy, with a gag of some sort virtually every minute. The writing is full of those little quirks and in-jokes we’ve come to expect, like how the names of all the pubs on the Golden Mile give you some hint of how things will go.

There’s an incredible sharpness and wit to the writing that you just don’t see in most American comedies, one that gives the impression someone, or perhaps multiple someones, gave some actual thought to the writing, as opposed to just writing some poop jokes and calling it a day. The characters are also remarkably well-rounded, especially Pegg and Frost. Towards the end, there are a few fairly dark character revelations about Pegg’s character Gary that most American comedies would probably shy away from, in favor of more stoner humor and tedious improv sessions.

All that being said, this is probably the weakest of the “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy”. While Shaun and Hot Fuzz were rife with in-jokes and references to horror and action movie staples, The World’s End feels a tad less reference-heavy. For some, this could be a good thing, but it definitely makes The World’s End feel like the odd film out. Or maybe there were tons of references and I just missed them, Wright and Pegg are usually subtle enough writers.

But even if The World’s End is the least of the trilogy, that still puts it head and shoulders above most, if not all other comedies you’re likely to find in theaters, and it’ll probably wind up on my list of best films of the year.

And that, my children, is that. Fantasia 2013 has come to a close and is receding into the night like a vampire at dawn, or Ryan Reynolds’ agent after seeing the latest Turbo and RIPD numbers, although with less of an air of manic terror than the latter.

All in all this has probably been the best iteration of the festival I’ve attended thus far, with only a couple of films driving me into a blind rage and more than a couple leaving embarrassing stains theatre seats. I’m already looking forward to coming again next year (you heard me) and for now….I need a damn nap.

Things are getting hazier now. Am I watching the films, or are the films watching me? Or…am I the films? Enrique is telling me not to worry…but he’s just a bass. What does he know. I think I’m going to watch some movies now. I hope I make it back.


This has been a banner year for depressing, transgressive genre films about lonely people whose bodies are falling apart hasn’t it? Ok, well, there’ve been two, first The Weight and now Halley, a Spanish language film about Beto, a security guard at an all-night gym who died long ago, but keeps on living. The festival write-up describes him as a zombie, which isn’t quite right. He doesn’t crave flesh or brains, in brazen defiance of zombie tradition, and his vocabulary, while rarely used, goes well beyond moans and groans. So no, I wouldn’t call this a zombie movie, or at the very least, a very VERY different kind of zombie movie.

At its core, what this really is is a movie about depression, something the film captures with alarming accuracy. There’s a crushing, numbing stillness to being depressed, a quietness that permeates almost every moment of your life, and Halley has bottled it and spends its entire run time dumping it over your head like you just won the Stanley Cup. There are these completely quiet, intensely clinical scenes of Beto painstakingly maintaining his body, with no music or narration or anything, just incredibly uncomfortable sound effects and an atmosphere of pure loneliness. It’s like Jeanne Dielman, if Jeanne had to routinely sew a massive hole in her torso shut.

I -was- ready to call it one of the best movies of the fest….until the ending, which strays a bit too far into body-horror territory, and prompted somewhat understandable giggles from the audience. Then there’s this weird, Antarctic epilogue thing that mostly just feels like an excuse for the director to practice his landscape photography.

Iffy ending aside, Halley is still a really good movie though, if only because it captures the state of depression with such alarming accuracy, and star Alberto Trujillo (Who I can be seen photobombing both here and here) does an amazing job.


Alongside “Guy kills people” and “Oh shit, monster!”, “Technology is scary” is one of the most well-worn tropes in the horror genre’s arsenal, to the point that there’s some kind of Whoopi Goldberg, throwing a hotdog down a hallway joke to be made about it.

The idea’s dirt simple, really. Take some ubiquitous, still kinda scary to some people form of technology and have scary shit come out of it. Radioactive energy, TVs, cassette tapes, cell phones, computers, prettymuch every important technological development that isn’t something only scientists or doctors care about has had a space monster or a scary japanese girl crawl out of it at some point, and now social media sites are getting their turn with Antisocial, a film in which a rage virus spreads through a subliminal message embedded in a popular not-Facebook site.

But what sorta kills the movie, besides the insanely atrocious acting, is just how damn clever it seems to think it is. After the big reveal, a reveal which anyone who’s been paying any attention figured out ages ago, the movie just sorta crosses its arms and says “Well, that’s what I got. Ain’t I clever?” and doesn’t bloody DO anything with it. Ok, you’ve got your hook, now take me somewhere interesting with it, besides the usual body-horror fare.

And really, is it all that clever? As we covered, having scary shit come out of technology isn’t a new idea, and updating the mold to include social media isn’t really anything new or innovative, it’s just taking an old formula and switching out the technological element to whatever’s current. Somebody was BOUND to do this eventually, it’s not like this is some unexpected turn.

Add to that the fact that the movie blithely jumps through every horror/infection movie hoop imaginable, including that good ole scene where someone’s clearly infected, but some inept monkey keeps shouting “We don’t know he’s infected!!” in the face of reason and original scriptwriting, and that fucking horrendous acting, and this is one of the few movies I’ve seen this year that’s better off skipped all together.

go down deathGo Down Death

Experimental Film. Ya either get it, or ya don’t get it. It’s either some transcendent moment of understanding and interpretation, or you just sit there with a dumb look on your face. And while I’m sure Go Down Death will probably make sense to some people, for my part it feels more masturbatory than revelatory.

The film is a series of vignettes and disjointed scenes, seemingly taking place in some southern town during the Civil War (?) and focusing on the myriad strange characters who live there. The whole thing is steeped in the kind of jug-band, livestock-fornicating “Americana” that means that the director probably thinks suspenders and buck teeth are just hunkey-dorey. And David Lynch. Clearly a Lynch fan here.

Scenes will ramble on without a point and end abruptly, characters will talk at each other but not really interact, the whole thing’s shot on artsy black and white 16mm, and the end is this weird, modern dress scene of attractive white late 20-somethings having a dinner party and being generally awful.

So there’s a lot to be cynical about, but Go Down Death isn’t totally without merit. Some of the scenes have a decent atmosphere and are held aloft mostly by some good performances. It is rather well-shot, and even if he didn’t quite get it across, the director was clearly trying to go for….something, and I’d take a failed attempt at auteurism over a cookie-cutter, shallow assembly line film, even if it means the end product is an hour and a half of oblique wankery.

“When it comes to found footage horror films, I always wonder: who is this person who edited this film? If you think about it, that would be the creepiest person ever!” Bobcat Goldthwait said as he presented the Canadian premiere of his latest directorial project

As part of Fantasia, I had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary Bobcat Goldthwait about his newest film, one of the most anticipated in this year’s line up. Willow Creek, although it had to overcome the public’s blasé attitude towards the overly done found footage genre, did not disappoint in the least.

In the film, Jim, a handsome goof, and Kelly, an aspiring actress, are going on a road trip that will bring them deeper and deeper into the heart of the mountains. But this isn’t any old camping trip – they are on a search for the ever elusive Bigfoot.

Jim is a Bigfoot enthusiast and has set out to document their search for the mountain cryptid as they meet friendly and not so friendly locals. Kelly is not a believer but entertains the idea to spend quality time with her beau. Quality time that quickly turns into something unexpected.

I walked in to the interview, the fifth one Bobcat gave that morning, and offered: “I hope this isn’t going to be overly redundant for you.” To which he answered laughingly, “So long as we don’t talk about Police Academy you are in the clear.” For those who can’t place the name to the face, Bobcat played Zed in the Police Academy movies back in the 80s. He is known for his stand up comedy, dark humor and films such as Sleeping Dog’s Lie, World’s Greatest Dad (one of my favorites) and God Bless America.

“I really had a lot of fun making this movie, there weren’t really many obstacles. It was pretty easy because it was getting together with my friends and going off into the woods and making a movie,” Bobcat explained, “The obstacles for me, were the obstacles that most viewers have with found footage movies. I was trying to figure out why they keep the camera going and how we were going to do a fresh take on this. My concern was making these people really realistic and hopefully have people engage with them.” Bobcat was definitely successful.

Willow Creek boasts a 19 minute take that had me covering my eyes, squirming in my seat and jumping a foot in the air when the person in front of me let out a shrill shriek. During our interview, Bobcat admitted to also jumping at certain scenes during the screening, despite knowing the mechanics behind them – which included Bobcat hurling boulders at the unsuspecting actors.

Willow Creek is a found footage, faux documentary which includes segments that are unscripted chats with actual locals. The film is both light-hearted and funny as well as terrifying. A hard balance to strike.

The leads, Alexie Gilmore (Kelly) and Bryce Johnson (Jim), who is an actual Bigfoot enthusiast, deliver strong performances. They were also directly involved in shooting the film itself, with Bobcat often lying down in the trunk of the car giving them feedback on scenes as they tried to keep on the windy mountain roads.


Why a Bigfoot movie then? During the Q&A, Bobcat addressed the question of whether or not he believes in Bigfoot. His answer was that he was open to the possibility.

However, Bobcat is a fan of the lore and now a collector of Bigfoot memorabilia. The inspiration for Willow Creek came from Bobcat’s childhood interest in Bigfoot lore, watching films like Boggy Creek, and his trips visiting various areas with reported sightings, also known as Bigfoot country.

“I showed the film to what I call believers,” Bobcat recounted, “and one guy said ‘this is the best Bigfoot movie ever’ and another guy said, ‘after the Patterson-Gimlin film’ and they all nodded in unison.” In fact, the reception has been so positive that Bobcat has been invited to take part in the next Willow Creek parade where he shall be waving from a float next to a Bigfoot mascot.

Bobcat Goldthwait (left) and Fantasia festival co-director Mitch Davis (Right)

I couldn’t help myself but ask Bobcat a question about his polarizing film God Bless America, a very dark film which tends to be a movie that people either love or hate.

“I think the folks that don’t like it confuse the message of the movie,” he explained, “I like to say it’s a violent movie about kindness. When those characters start rattling off the things they don’t like, I agree with about eighty percent of the things but there are things they don’t like that I actually like. There’s a bonding that happens when people don’t like the same things. So, I wasn’t going to have that couple have sex, but they were going to be very close. I always say that the key to a successful marriage or relationship isn’t liking the same things but hating the same things. That’s why that stuff is in there.”

“Some people get bent out of shape about those things,” Bobcat continued, “but, I really think those kinds of people operate on a very shallow level. They take everything at face value and aren’t interested in the subtext of what’s going on. It’s like ‘How can you say you don’t like Green Day, fuck you I love Green Day’, you know, the kind of dummy who would fight with you at a bar over sports. I actually like Green Day, I just didn’t think that kid would like Green Day.” [I don’t like Green Day’s music, for the record].

For those World’s Greatest Dad fans, like myself, Bobcat mentioned working on a similar kind of script, telling a similar story from a different perspective.

As a filmmaker, Bobcat looks to directors like Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder for inspiration.

“They did all different kinds of movies sometimes they were comedic sometimes they were scary. They weren’t stuck with making the same type of movie over and over again,” Bobcat said.

Certainly Bobcat’s career hasn’t been a one trick pony either. In fact, his next project is a musical based on a Kinks album which he was proposing at Fantasia’s Frontiers market. I am super stoked.

* Photo credit Isabelle Stephen

Y’know, watching as many movies as I have lately and finding amusing ways to blab about them on the internet isn’t as easy as I make it look, Olympian god of internet writing that I am. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like maybe my sense of reality is starting to crumble. But Enrique, the largemouth bass I met at the Copacabana last night tells me not to worry, so for now let’s get on with the show.

2013-03-14-rewind_this_poster_artRewind This!

While Fantasia’s policy towards Asian genre movies usually tends toward quantity, they usually go for quality when it comes to quirky documentaries about stuff you didn’t even know was a thing. Last year it was Toy Masters, the one about the history and ongoing legal dispute over the creation of He-Man. This year, the doc to see is Rewind This!, which takes a look at the oft-forgotten world of VHS collecting, the history of the medium, and pretty much anything else VHS-related the film makers could throw in.

In a world where a lot of kids these days (with their new-fangled eye-phones and Netflicks) don’t even know what a VHS tape is, there’s still a passionate and committed community dedicated to collecting and preserving the things, and the first step in the right direction Rewind This! takes is to put that passion front and centre. A good documentary hinges on just how much of a shit the people involved give about the subject, and you’ll be hard pressed to find someone in Rewind This! who doesn’t thoroughly give numerous shits, and their passion is one of the many things that makes the film such a delight to watch.

One of the other things is the surprising number of appearances by the likes of b-movie legends Lloyd Kaufman, Frank Henenlotter (I squee’d, I admit. Scoff if you want, Basket Case was amazing), even Anime demigod Mamoru Oshii and Hobo with a Shotgun director Jason Eisner.

I could really rave about this film. There’s a real love and (I keep using this word, I know) passion on display. It’s evident the film makers put a lot of blood, sweat and toil into the film, which all comes together with the kind of intensity and drive that puts it easily in the top three films I’ve seen at the fest this year.

After School Midnightersafterschoolmidnighters_poster

Unlike here in the west, cell-animated films and TV shows are still very much the top dog in Japan, where fully CGI animation is still something of an oddity, a word that describes After School Midnighters with alarming accuracy.

As I’ve been wont to mention before, Japanese films and TV have a tendency toward the surreal (the same way I have a tendency toward massive understatements) but even I was taken aback by the plot of this one. After drawing all over an anatomy dummy (a dummy which walks around and talks by night and has jet engines in its armpits), three – let’s call them “precocious” – little girls are shanghaied into completing a series of challenges to recover three medals, the uniting of which grant them a single wish. On the way they encounter everything from gun-toting, half-skinned rabbits named after the Corleone brothers, a demonic housefly, a time machine, talking posters of classical composers, digital witches and a bunch of other weirdness that come across like it was written with a bunch of random crap written on cards taped to a dart board.

I mean Jesus wept guys, there’s being a little wacky and then there’s writing your movie like a mad-lib.

But what really comes across as off-putting is that the film feels like it’s aping North American animated films, particularly something like The Nightmare Before Christmas. The character designs, writing, the bombastic chase scene at the end, all feel like someone made an effort to make the film feel like a North American production. But it still has this distinctly Japanese feeling to it, leading to it inhabiting this strange liminal nether-realm, neither anime nor American cartoon.

It’s almost like someone in Japan is trying to get back at North Americans for all those awful early 2000s cartoons like Totally Spies or Teen Titans, like a nerd who went on the Atlas workout and is now kicking sand into the faces of his enemies, weeping openly and screaming “See how it feels now?!?!”

Saving-General-Yang-poster-2Saving General Yang

The story of the Generals of the Yang family is one of the more beloved myths of Chinese folklore, with the Knights of the Round Table probably being the closest English counterpart, and every few years someone drags it out, dusts the old gal off and puts it to film to stir up feelings of patriotism and  hopefully make some cash.

The one doing the dusting this time around is Ronny Yu, celebrated Hong Kong action director, and still trying desperately to get us to forget Warriors of Virtue.

For those uninitiated, the story involves the seven sons of Song Dynasty general Yang Ye, who set out to rescue their father after he’s betrayed and left for dead by a scheming rival, in a series of pitched martial arts battles and dramatic death scenes.

Like most Hong Kong action movies these days, the movie tends toward melodrama the same way I tend towards a bottle of Tums after two or three barbeque chicken sandwiches. Given that the story’s a few hundred years old, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when let slip that not everyone makes it back alive from the rescue mission, and it seems like each death scene is more prolonged and heroic than the last, which does get grating after a while.

The movie does deliver pretty well on the action front though. Each brother has some unique weapon or skill to show off, and while the movie is playing the action fairly realistically (meaning we don’t get tons of super over-the-top kung-fu awesomeness like in some of the Shaw Brothers versions of the story), there are some pretty awesome fight scenes. The best is probably the archer brother’s last stand, although 2011’s War of the Arrows still managed to do more cool stuff with archery.

While Saving General Yang is fairly fun, it isn’t the best martial arts movie you’ll see at Fantasia this year (that honor is seemingly going to Bushido Man) and probably won’t end up being one of the standouts.

Right on cue, summer storms descended on Montreal just as Fantasia rolled in. Coincidence? I think not.

Thus, mid lightning storm, drenched from head to toe, feeling like a video game character acquiring a coveted magic item I darted over to the Concordia campus to claim my press pass. This is how my Fantasia quest began: heart pounding, soaked with rain and sweat, nerves dancing perilously close to being shot. All of this as I tried to dodge what I suspected might be the next spots to attract Zeus’ wrath. Spoiler: I didn’t get hit by lightning…this time.

Animals (Spain, 2013)


Animals is the award winning first feature by Marçal Forés. This Spanish film centers around teenager Pol (Oriol Pla) and his best friend Deerhoof, a walking talking drumstick wielding teddy bear.

Pol and Deerhoof do what best friends do: play rock music and talk about comic books. However, Pol begins to feel the pressure to keep his friendship with the plush a secret.

At school, Pol has a friend in Laia (Roser Tapias), who very clearly has a crush on him, and in the eccentric Mark (Dimitri Leonidas). As Pol struggles with coming of age questions of his own, something strange seems to be happening at his school and a new mysterious student (Augustus Prew) could be involved.

Although the film wasn’t the crescendo-esque bloody nightmare I had expected it to develop into, Animals was probably better than I could have imagined. It hits a very different kind of spot.

Animals is hands down visually stunning, unconventional and at times reads like a poem. Forés crafts imagery and surrealism using sound and locations brilliantly to create a dreamlike world in which beauty can quickly turn deadly.

Animals boasts an incredibly kick-ass soundtrack including songs by postpunk band A Frames and underground punk rock band The Bananas. Animals is definitely a slow-paced film but if you let yourself enter into its world, the rewards are plenty in terms of the emotional and bewildering experience. Fans of Donnie Darko should find something to love in Animals, which echoes similar filmic notes.

This debut film is definitely a candidate for Best First Feature for this year’s Fantasia awards and I’ll be adding it to my film collection as soon as this becomes a possibility. I’ll also be tracking down the soundtrack and recommend you do the same.

The Broken Circle Breakdown  (Belgium/The Netherlands, 2012)

the broken circle breakdownThe Broken Circle Breakdown (directed by Carl Joos) is the story of a couple whose daughter is diagnosed with cancer. The film presents the story in a non-linear fashion recounting how Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) met, fell in love,  how she came to join his Bluegrass band and how their daughter’s illness affects their loving relationship and each of them as individuals.

I had very high hopes for The Broken Circle Breakdown. Unfortunately, it felt like the film was trying too hard at times to elicit emotions.

I personally was unable to connect with the character of Elise, who makes up half of the film’s emotional meat. It’s the characterization itself that I have a problem with. I’d cite a case of manic pixie dream girl but that’s not quite it.

I found myself increasingly aware of how much Elise’s character is made to be looked at and not so much to be understood. Elise is naked quite a bit in the film and I started feeling like her tattoos were more important to the film than who she is as a person.

Her back story is barely alluded to (except that she’s had a series of shitty boyfriends and works at a tattoo parlour). She enters Didier’s world and it is his world the film and Elise inhabit: all the important actors in the film are his friends, his family, his house, his horse, his band, etc. All of this compounded to making me a bit pissed off.003-1

On the plus side, I definitely felt like Dider’s character was relatable. Like I said, the film offers more in terms of fleshing him out as a subject. His political and existential monologues are highly entertaining and his emotional breakdowns are heart wrenching.

Indeed, most audience members walked out of the theatre in tears and my film critic peers seemed to love The Broken Circle Breakdown. Thus, take what my jaded heart is saying with a grain of salt and give this film a try.

Cottage Country  (Canada, 2013)


Peter Wellington’s Cottage Country had its North American premiere at Fantasia to a packed audience.

The film stars Tyler Labine as Todd and Malin Akerman as Cammie –  a young couple with an unnerving amount of matching outfits heading to the Todd’s family cottage for a special couple’s weekend. Their peaceful weekend is interrupted by Todd’s asshole brother Salinger (Dan Petronijevic) and his brother’s trashy girlfriend (Lucy Punch).

Feeling the pressures of needing quiet time after a 60+ hour work week and Cammie’s insistence that he get rid of this interruption, Todd ends up accidently getting rid of Salinger in a rather permanent way. As Cammie and Todd cling to the hopes of salvaging their cottage retreat misadventures and unforeseen complications ensue.

Originally, I wasn’t going to go see Cottage Country. The premise hadn’t inspired me and neither had the trailer. I’m extremely glad that I changed my mind. If there was an audience award for Best Surprisingly Golden Film of the Fest, Cottage Country would take it.

Humour is very hit or miss and I don’t often enjoy comedies BUT Cottage Country had me laughing and even snorting throughout. The dynamic between “Toodles” Todd, who is a hardworking insecure who can’t seem to catch a break, and “Cuddlebum” Cammie, who is determined to do anything she has to to keep their relationship on track to the altar, is stellar.

The careful play of knowing just how far to push jokes utilizing restraint and subtlety with the quality of the cast result in a surprisingly hilarious dark comedy.

Fantasia 2013 is chugging along like a freight train powered by celluloid and methamphetamines, and even though it’s only a week and change in, there’s already been some great cinema on display. And some kinda ish cinema. Some very ish cinema. Like, for example….

20889f221e9fe4fb6460a907d754868dPin Up Dolls on Ice

With a title like this, you pretty much know you’re in for a good ole fashioned grindhouse/exploitation throwback, to the point that you don’t even need to look at the plot. For the record, the plot in question is that a group of tough, take no prisoners burlesque performers go to a secluded trailer park to put on a show, only to find themselves menaced by an ax wielding, fridge humping crazy who goes around making noises like Christian Bale’s Batman getting repeatedly kicked in the bat-junk.

Not that any question of plot matters, because the film seems determined to present the most generic, by the numbers 80s slasher “tribute” imaginable. Up until maybe the last five minutes, almost everything that happens can be seen a mile off by anyone who’s watched more than one slasher movie in their entire lives.

Women in underwear run around screaming and being totally ineffectual (despite an early scene that seemed to promise that the female protagonists this time around were tough and feisty and knew how to take care of themselves), the killer materializes at will, just in time to kill the plucky sheriff (that’s not a spoiler, seriously) mere seconds after he spends five solid minutes pointing the exposition hose straight at our faces, blasting us with the most generic slasher villain origin ever, it’s all about as choreographed as a Russian ballet dance, to the point that you can practically hear the dancers’ domineering mother/coaches shouting at them from the sidelines. “Scream louder, push your tits out, or you vill have no borscht tonight!!”

Now all of this isn’t to say it’s bad, per se, just generic. Startlingly, maddeningly generic. For all the film makers’ love of the genre, they don’t take it anywhere new or interesting, don’t show us anything we haven’t seen before. Just tits and violence (the gore effects aren’t that amazing either) and a lot of really annoying post-production digital zooms. So if tits and violence is what you’re after….just watch a real 80s slasher flick.

Doomsdaysddays poster 26.5x40 final

This one hit the fest with a lot of hype and fanfare, with festival bigwig and hair care enthusiast Mitch Davis coming out beforehand to sing its praises in his typical exuberant fashion. Normally, when a movie gets this much hype my “Well, I know better than them!” circuits go into overdrive and I immediately become more inclined to hate the film to satisfy my smug sense of superiority….but Mitch was right, this movie’s gooooood.

Billed as a pre-apocalypse comedy, our protagonists are Bruho and Fred, a pair of shiftless 20-somethings wandering around isolated cottage country, breaking into peoples’ homes and living there as long as possible, in anticipation of an apocalypse brought about by the oil crisis.

Or at least, that seems to be Bruho’s reasoning, and also his motivation for slashing tires and going all Street Fighter 2 on any car that he finds, and generally being sullen and moody. Fred just seems to be along for the ride, with free booze and the opportunity to be detached and snarky as a bonus.

The film, the first offering by critic turned film maker Eddie Mullins, wears its influences on its sleeve, evoking early Jarmusch, Wes Anderson and even shades of early Kevin Smith at every turn with painstakingly framed, extended static shots, little scene-to-scene continuity, and characters seemingly destined to become cultural icons, probably by design.

Of course, all the cynical influence-spotting doesn’t change the fact that Doomsdays is still a damn fine bit of film making, funny and heartfelt and creative. Yeah, it might be a bit too obvious in its attempts to be this generation’s Clerks, but I’d rather it try too hard to be memorable than fling itself into mediocrity like Pin Up Dolls on Ice did.

KRp4l9rThe Garden of Words

Last year, you’ll remember I lamented that Makoto Shinkai’s 2011 offering Children who Chase Lost Voices suffered mostly from feeling distinctly NOT like a Makoto Shinkai movie, but more like Makoto Shinkai after someone told him to be more like Miyazaki.

Well, while I highly doubt anyone in Japan reads this, his new film The Garden of Words feels like someone, possibly Shinkai himself, read my words and took them to heart, because Garden of Words is about as Shinkai and Shinkai can get.

Clocking in at a mere 45 minutes long, Garden is a concise, moving tale of two individuals, a student named Takao and an older woman named Yukino who, after a chance encounter, meet every rainy day in a secluded bench in a park to escape their lives. Takao, a driven, hardworking student harboring dreams of becoming a shoemaker, and Yukino, a scatterbrained, immature woman not quite comfortable with her adulthood, strike up a friendship, with each providing something the other needs.

To Takao, the older Yukino seems like the only adult in the world to treat him as an equal and encourage him in his dreams. To Yukino, Takao represents the kind of drive and maturity she feels is missing in herself. The film, often pausing to focus on the most minute details and putting emotion, character and relationship in the forefront, unfolds like a poem, which is to say you’ll probably be weeping like a child by the end.

Unlike Children, which seemed to put too much focus on the fantastical world it was creating and the adventure and hijinks therein, Garden gets back to what made Shinkai….well, Shinkai. Character-driven stories where emotion and relationships are the main focus.

It should also be said, this is probably the most beautiful animated film you will see all year, if only based on the visuals. The meager running time meant the animators could punch up the details and make every raindrop and facial expression as beautiful and lush as possible, and when the movie doesn’t have you bawling like an XboxOne investor after spending five minutes on the internet, you’ll probably be struck dumb by the sheer beauty the film can conjure out of a cityscape or sunlight shining through leaves.

Some may find its frank emotion a tad schmaltzy or Hallmark card-y, but this is not one to miss.

“If this story is worth telling it’s because it’s about being human. The Devil’s tale is the tale of our own confusion, ego and inability to live without hope for Heaven.” – Clive Barker

Fantasia Film Festival is best known for its quirky program of genre and horror films. However, each year, Fantasia hand picks special events to highlight alongside and to complement their film selection. This year, Fantasia presents an encore run of Title 66’s production of The History of the Devil, a play by filmmaker and novelist Clive Barker.

The History of the Devil asks the audience to bear witness to the trial of the Devil where he must prove that it is humanity that is guilty of the crimes he has been charged with. If he can do so convincingly, he the gates of heaven will be open to him once more.

Spanning millennia, this satiric tale blends darkness, philosophy and humour as characters travel through time. The play asks us to consider whether the Devil deserves paradise and if anyone actually does.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Title 66 company co-Director and director of The History of the Devil, Jeremy Michael Segal, alongside Set and Costume Designer and company co-director Logan Williams. We discussed how Title 66 began, its mission, the choice of Barker’s play and local theatre.

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Both Williams and Segal are Montreal-based theatre artists who graduated from the Dawson College Profession Theatre Program. The roots of Title 66 are based on their position as young artists in the city.

Williams explained that “upon graduation, we knew of the stigma that to work in the world of acting in Montreal that you would have to do your time and not get paid. So we thought why not pursue passion projects and not get paid and try to get exposure that way as a company and as artists.”

“We grabbed that by the horns and we remounted a show we had done in school The Seagull by Chekhov and kind of adapted it […] We are really strongly behind the mandate of bringing forth really true performances. Focusing on the acting, on opening up the actors but also at the same time providing a really stunning visual. A lot of the time in theatre there is one or the other, especially in the case of young companies with young people. We try to focus on that and bring art forth that way.”

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The name of their company stems from a combination of the title used for their first production Working Title, which was unfortunately already taken, and from a theatre artist who inspired many of the members of the company.

“Robert Wilson did a production of some of the Shakespeare sonnets in Berlin which he directed and designed and for which Rufus Wainwright wrote the music,” Segal divulged, “we were shown these in one of our classes. For me, at least, it really opened up an entire new world of theatre. I had certainly never seen anything like that before in terms of contemporary art and now he is one of my biggest inspirations. The first sonnet we were shown, which seemed to inspire most of us, was Sonnet 66. Within the Sonnet, there is the line that says ‘and art made tongue-tied by authority’, which although not a political thing for us, it’s the idea of breaking through boundaries of art in exciting ways. So, we combined Working Title with Sonnet 66 to get Title 66.”

Title 66 came to mount The History of the Devil when Segal, who’d always been a fan of Clive Barker, happened to discover a book of Barker’s plays in a second hand book store, simultaneously discovering that his favorite author was also a playwright. After reading Incarnations, a book of three plays in which The History of the Devil is the third, Segal fell in love with the Devil’s saga and brought Barker’s piece to the rest of the team.

In their interpretation of Barker’s tale, Title 66 has eight actors playing thirty four characters with most of the cast younger than twenty seven years old. If that isn’t impressive enough, judging by stills of the production and Fantasia co-director Mitch Davis’ praise, Title 66 promises an exhilarating and visually stunning interpretation of Barker’s play. Evocative high production value which is fashion forward can be expected.

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“The design is definitely unique. Overall the key is that as a company we look at the text, the theme of the play, the relationship of the characters, the story and use that as a bouncing board to develop interesting creative ways of telling the story through the design, set costumes, movements. It’s all rooted back to the story of the play,” noted Segal.

Williams added: “Being young and not having the plethoras of experiences that other people have is that when you are young you have no barriers: you don’t know what’s wrong what’s right; you don’t know who is going to judge what; you haven’t been all around; and haven’t had a chance to be jaded. So you see things in different ways that open themselves up to being more experimental. More of the ‘why not?’ factor and just trying things out and seeing if they works. A quote I really love from Tony Soprano, in The Sopranos, is ‘more if lost by indecision than wrong decisions.’ I think that in terms of our interpretation we are fearless.”

Don’t miss The History of the Devil on Thursday, August 1- Saturday, Augut 3, 2013 at Place des Arts’ Cinquième Salle, 175 St. Catherine Street West starting at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $24.00 and can be purchased at 514-842-2112 or online at  Place des Arts box office

Photos by Julia Milz

Well, the first night of Fantasia has come and gone like a spirited midnight quickie, half remembered and leaving mysterious bruises and strained backs on all involved. Like most Fantasia openings, it was a rousing affair of speeches, cheers, overenthusiastic meows and a party afterward that was probably fun, but I wouldn’t know because screw socializing, I’m here for the cinema.

As has been the case so often, the main attraction for the evening was the new film by Takashi Miike, Fantasia darling and nominee for the most hard-working, utterly bashit insane director of the year award.

POSTER “üeHis new film, Shield of Straw, seems like dyed in the wool action/crime thriller, kind of a Japanese 3:10 to Yuma. After assaulting and murdering a 7-year old girl, an introverted psychopath has a bounty placed on his head by the girl’s billionaire grandfather, leading him to turn himself in. Of course, he has to be transported to Tokyo for trial, which means a small team of (naturally) emotionally unstable cops has to haul the bastard across the country, with everyone and their dog after them to try and kill the guy and collect the reward, including cops, a fact that quickly leads to mistrust and discord among the main cast.

Takashi Miike is one of those directors whose built up such a rep for throwing insane curveballs and going places you wouldn’t expect that the film already has a kind of tension from the get-go, as anyone who knows Miike’s work knows that all bets are off. In one scene when a crazed would be assassin holds a little girl at knife-point, the tension in the audience was palpable. In any other film, you know that kid’s gonna be ok. But this is Miike, we don’t know he wouldn’t have that kid get stabbed in the throat and bleed out right in front of us. It could totally happen. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Miike wasn’t deliberately playing with those expectations. It might as well have been him holding that knife to the kid, screaming “What am I gonna do?! You don’t know!! I own you!!”.

Expectations aside, what we’ve still got is a whip-smart thriller. The tension and suspense of who’s a traitor and whether or not the honest to the point of naivete hero cop will finally snap and put a bullet down the little shit’s ear canal are all played pretty high, and the film relies upon this far more than shooty action and thrills, are though there some pretty damn fun gun fights and this bit with a truck full of nitroglycerin.

Finally, on a totally nerdy technical note, the sound design is fantastic. Gunshots are actually appropriately loud and properly reverberate given the environment, and incidental sound effects like punches and squealing tires have more fidelity and punch (heh) than you see in most flicks.

Moving on to another high-profile debut, the second half of the evening was taken up by The Conjuring, the new horror film by Saw and Insidious director James Wan.

I’ve never been a fan of Wan’s work, which is a nice way of saying I found every time I’ve seen one of his movies I’ve wanted to grab him by the throat and throttle him yelling “You’re killing a genre you bastard!”. My hope was that since this time around it’s all based on a true story he’ll reign in things and go for subtlety through and through, and not have it end with Nite Owl being chased around by Darth Maul after he stole Freddy Krueger’s glove and got a bad haircut. Maybe this time things won’t just become a fireworks display of over the top effects and noise by the end.


By the time I got to the metro afterwards and started muttering angrily to myself about modern horror movies being crap, I realized that really wasn’t the case.

On the surface, it’s your fairly standard “idyllic family moves into new house, scary shit happens” plot. The Perrons, a nauseatingly happy family in the mid-70s, move into a new house, and before long find themselves being attacked by a demonic entity. Enter the Warrens, a husband and wife demonoligist team who set out to save the Perrons and spout exposition.

The film first shoot itself in the foot when, after it reminds us desperately that all of this is apparently true, it goes about depicting everything with this weird, almost cartoonish awkward exaggeration. Part of this is the acting, which ranges from passable to dismal. Almost nobody talks like an actual human being, they almost invariably sound like an actor reciting lines, which makes it a tad hard to believe or invest in the events. Wan’s direction similarly comes across as very deliberate and overt. There’s all these self-consiously precise camera movements, like Wan has some kind of bizarre fetish for dollys and pans, and after a while it’s like “Can you just stop playing with the angles for a minute and let the story play out?”.

The absolute apex of the film’s endeavor to have the audience not take it seriously is Officer Brad, a doofy comic relief cop who shows up in the second half to cut the tension and wander around looking like he did porno before he joined the force.

My hopes that for once a modern horror movie could show some goddamn restraint in the finale were dashed, when the last 20 minutes turns out to be a cavalcade of shrieking and noise and people being flung about on wires and “Oooh look at the scary witch, isn’t the frightening blaaagh blaagh!!!” and for fuck’s sake people, why is it that horror movies these days ALWAYS do this? It was bad enough in Mama where they showed the goddamn monster, well lit, and perfectly visible, but the ending of Conjuring just feels like the film gets tired of slow-burn tension and decides to just yell at us for 20 minutes, and that’s not scary, it’s annoying or downright silly, if not both.

And all this wouldn’t be as annoying if The Conjuring didn’t have some decent scenes and atmosphere, bits where you don’t actually SEE anything and it’s all conveyed through acting and sound and the implication of something scary rather than having shit thrown in our faces. If the movie had stuck with that it probably would have wound up being good, but it didn’t and now I’m just angry.

Stop making me angry James Wan.

Like an elephant hurtling towards the surface of Jupiter, Fantasia Film Fest is bearing down on the city of Montreal with the kind of severity that normally sets off air-raid sirens. Every year for a few weeks, all the best, weirdest and most generally fucked up films the world has to offer can be found playing on Montreal screens, invoking awe and the occasional seizure in the audience.

This year’s fest, which will screen over 120 films, is shaping up to be a good one, one I look forward to spending my every waking hour at, to the detriment of my family and frontal lobe. But in case you’re not like me and mark this on your calender every year like some people mark this year’s estimated Rapture date, you may still be on the fence. As always, I’m here for you, with a look at some of the most interesting looking stuff we’re in for this year.

Shield of Straw (Dir Takashi Miike)

It wouldn’t be Fantasia without Takashi Miike, the Japanese cult filmmaker who churns out films with the same tireless gusto with which Stephen King turns out forgettable novels. His new film, Shield of Straw, looks to open this year’s fest with his usual amounts of violence and shouting, as an elite police unit in modern day Japan transports a violent prisoner across the country.

In terms of content, it looks to be one of Miike’s more “normal” efforts of late, with nary a Samurai or dance number or spikey-haired lawyer in sight. All the same, those familiar with Miike’s work probably should be prepared to anything to happen.

gatchaman_movie_poster_1Gatchaman (Dir Toya Sato)

Gatchaman, a property about a team of bird-themed superheroes strangely referred to as a “science ninja team” (which just puts me in the mind of someone running a particle accelerator veeery quietly) has been on the cusp of its own big-time movie for some time now.

Before it sadly went out of business, American animation studio Imagi was all set to produce an English language CGI Gatchaman movie, teasers for which can still be seen

Now Toya Sato, a mostly unknown director, is posed to bring a sexy, teched-up version of Gatchaman to the big screen, with tons of effects and explosions and broody attractive people to back it up. Most Japanese superhero films, spinoffs of TV franchises like Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, are usually killed by feeling too low-budget and tv-ish, but from the trailers Gatchaman doesn’t have seem to have this problem, so this one’s definitely high on my priorities list.

The Conjuring (Dir James Wan)

There’s a lot of huff and noise around The Conjuring, the new haunted house movie from Saw director James Wan.

Based on a true story, the film focuses on a pair of Paranormal Investigators, an interesting twist admittedly, called to help out a family with a ghost problem. So basically it’s like Poltergeist from the perspective of the little woman with the ludicrous accent.

Of course, The Conjuring, and James Wan himself, both have one mark against them already: the fact that contrary to popular opinion, Insidious was about as scary as stale toast and so monstrously overrated I sometimes wonder if I’m the butt of some practical joke. All the same, I’ll probably give it a shot, if only because I’m always open to being proved wrong, even though most of the time I’m still right.

Drug War (Dir. Johnnie To)Drug War 2013 1080p Blu-ray ACV DTS-HD MA TrueHD 7.1-HDWinG - 2.jpg

Hong Kong director Johnnie To has built a pretty impressive name for himself in the world of crime thrillers and shoot-em-ups, boasting such flicks as The Mission, PTU, Exiled, Vengeance and Breaking News on his resume.

This is a man who KNOWS how to direct a gunfight, and if you want evidence, just look at the tense mall shoot-out in The Mission or the single-take opening of Breaking News.

After dabbling in romantic comedies of all damn things, To seems to have returned to his roots of finding new and creative ways to show people shooting the crap out of each other, and Drug War looks like the film to see for Hong Kong action fans.

Vegetarian Cannibal (Dir. Branko Schmidt)

The title alone, and the description “The story of a corrupt gynecologist’s exploits within a toxic medical system” makes this one sound like a screwball farce, but director Branko Schmidt has by all accounts turned out a tense, psychological horror flick aimed at unnerving the audience as much as possible.

Given that this is Fantasia, the fest that purportedly cheered at scenes of shocking brutality in T.F Mou’s Men Behind the Sun, Vegetarian Cannibal has a pretty high order to fill if it wants to get under the skin of this audience.

By all accounts though, if any flick will succeed it’s this one, and gore hounds and fans of transgressive cinema will want to watch it.

worlds-end-posterThe World’s End (Dir. Edgar Wright)

A few years back, Shaun of the Dead had its North American premier at Fantasia, blowing the socks off horror fans and ensuring that director Edgar Wright would never be short of fans lining up to give him blowjobs and script ideas.

Now just shy of ten years later, the last film in the unoffical “Cornetto Trilogy” that began with Shaun and its follow-up Hot Fuzz, is ready to hit screens, and bring Fantasia 2013 to a close.

Reuniting stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the focus seems to be sci-fi this time, as Pegg and newcomers Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine play a gang of friends brought together after 20 years apart to make one last go at the epic pub crawl they never finished in their misspent youth, while discovering their childhood haunt is infested with Body Snatchers style alien doubles.

To say fans have been waiting for this one for a while is a wee bit of an understatement, and this will probably be one of the first films of the fest to sell out, so I’d advise buying your tickets now. Like NOW.