The end of Fantasia, for me at least, really means the end of summer. Oh sure, there’s still a month or so of getting to spend days on end sitting around in my underwear re-watching The X-Files, but the heady, intoxicating nights bingeing on fine cinema before stumbling back home are over, and really that’s what summer’s all about.

Endings are important; they put the proper button on experiences and no matter how good something is, if it doesn’t end well there’s the sense the whole thing was a waste. I mean, just look at look at…well, The X-Files, come to think of it. But I’m happy to report that not only has Fantasia 2014 ended well, it’s ended superbly, going out on a much suitable note of low-brow fun, indie weirdness and Asian period action. So let’s take one last look before sauntering off into the night to begin the wait ’til next year.


I think Zombeavers may end up as the most quintessentially “Fantasia” movie I’ve seen all year. An intensely low-brow but even more enjoyable tongue-in-cheek horror romp about a bevy of attractive and usually barely clothed co-eds falling under attack by zombie beavers while on a cabin trip.

Like Dead Snow 2 before it, Zombeavers knows exactly what it wants to be (fun, crass and incredibly silly) and goes about achieving that with as much gusto as a low-budget horror comedy can, which in this case is a whole lot. The cast are the usual assortment of good girls, bad girls, dudebros and shotgun-wielding hill-folk, and all of them perform about as admirably as you’d want them to. Despite the tongue-in-cheek drum the film is furiously beating on, none of them ever feels like they’re phoning it in. What I rather like the most is how the film actually keeps you guessing until the very end about which of the female protagonists will be the survivor and throws the occasional curve ball into your expectations, probably cracking them on the jaw in a way that will require some expensive dental work.

It’s just clever enough that it doesn’t become an attempt at some Cabin in the Woods-esque meta-commentary and isn’t dumb enough that you feel yourself edging towards the exits before the first undead aquatic rodent rears its ugly head.

Kundo: Age of the Rampant

As we’ve covered before, South Korean cinema is becoming big business. In my experience, that business has been a store specializing in unflavoured rice cakes and saltines. But at the last moment a Korean film came along that impressed me with its personality and charm, that being the period actioner Kundo.

On paper, it plays out like Star Wars with more bamboo groves: evil empire oppressing the people, scrappy band of rebels fighting for equality and justice, seen through the eyes of a normal joe on the ground floor. Except the normal joe in this case is a former butcher turned top-notch cutting swordsman who heaves around a pair of cleavers that look like they’re a few bangles away from something out of an early Final Fantasy game. Which sounds a bit dull, but is pulled off with a fiery energy that mixes rapid-fire editing, a score with echoes of a Spaghetti Western, and some surprisingly coherent fight scene photography.

Of course, it takes a good while to get off the ground, devoting the entire first act to the overly-drawn out origin of our hero. Once the landing gear comes up and the flight attendants let us go to the bathroom and use our smartphones again, you’re in for a pretty darn entertaining martial arts movie with some good fights and memorable characters.

I am a Knife With Legs posterI Am A Knife With Legs

I want you to imagine for a moment a sect of monks, raised in the furthest reaches of the globe and trained from birth in the art of nonsense. While other men and women have trains of thought, these proud warriors of the random have Jackson Pollock paintings of thought, with no notion or idea they have being in any way related to what came before or after in their seething, chaotic mindscapes. Sensibility and reason are their sworn enemies, which they regularly trounce at all opportunities.

Now imagine the greatest of these monks are brought to the Western world, given a budget consisting of 50 bucks, an old Kit-Kat wrapper and a pat on the back, and told to make a film. I Am A Knife With Legs is about as close you’re going to get to that film. To describe the plot almost seems futile and the best I can do is that it centers on a European pop star named Bene who goes into hiding after the love of his life is killed and a Fatwa is taken out on his life. Left mostly alone in an LA apartment, Bene can only contemplate his impending death, sing odd songs only vaguely related to the plot at large and find some way to escape the approaching “SSN”.

I Am A Knife With Legs is that one wild summer fling you only half-remember as a storm of madness and confusion, as some girl with a mad gleam in her eyes and an intoxicating smile pulled you kicking and screaming from your comfort zone into a succession of things which seem frightening and strange at the time, but can be described as “adventures” once the scars have healed and the hair dye washes out. It’s pure, concentrated, madcap lunacy that can’t ever be predicted and God damn, do you love it for that. It’s the kind of completely singular experience that film festivals like this exist to bring about, the kind you rave about to friends who are probably questioning your sanity more with every word. And really, “experience” is the best way I could hope to describe I Am A Knife With Legs. You don’t watch it; you live it, and remember living it, even if you don’t entirely remember what “it” was, for the rest of your life.

 In the years I’ve been covering Fantasia, there hasn’t been a lineup of filmmakers as diverse in terms of the gender as this year’s program. What often feels like a boys club (the film scene in general that is, not Fantasia) was refreshingly less so. One of the films that peaked my interest from the get go was Honeymoon, which tackles some of the ways that human relationships can be horrifying. I had the opportunity to speak with director Leigh Janiak about the inspiration for the film, casting, lepidoptera, and her experience directing an engrossingly eerie debut.

Offering an unconventional cabin in the woods tale,  Honeymoon refuses to rely on traditional scares and manages to build tension in a way that is insidious. Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) are a pair of lovebirds sojourning at Bea’s family cabin for their honeymoon. Neither of them could have imagined the turn of events just a few days in the wilderness could take.

Honeymoon_film_poster-1The incentive behind making Honeymoon, Janiak explained, came from trying to break into the industry with her scriptwriting partner Phil Graziadei in LA since 2005:

“There was the writer’s strike and it was just not a great time to be trying to be a new writer. And I think it was around 2011 that the movie Monsters came out and we kind of just had this epiphany of what are we doing here, why don’t we just make a movie?”

The idea of making a film that would explore a relationship launched the story that would eventually become Honeymoon:

“I like this idea of how you never really know who another person is. I think that anyone who has had any kind of relationship, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, wife, husband, has had that moment where even if you’ve been with them for a long time, something happens and you are suddenly reminded that they exist outside of you,” Janiak added, “there’s this idea, this freudian thing of the uncanny, which was the Das Unheimliche, and that was a kind of core theme for the movie too. Which is that sometimes the most familiar thing can become horrifying.”

From this, Janiak and her writing partner began thinking about movies they both loved centering on 70s horror films like The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby and Body Snatchers, which she cited as the strongest influence. However, Janiak is more inclined towards sci-fi than horror and particularly “grounded movies that become fantastical.”

The casting in Honeymoon is excellent. The performances by leads Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway render Honeymoon’s tensions and eeriness palpable.

“I had read the Game of Thrones books before the show and Ygritte was one of my favourite characters. When Rose showed up I was just so excited because I had seen her on Downton Abby and this scottish show called Newtown. She was completely different in those two roles and then she was completely different again in Game of Thrones. I just thought her talent was incredibly immense. She just has this great charisma […] I just felt lucky that she responded to the material and signed on,” Janiak recounted.

“For Harry,” she continued, “I had been kind of scouring young actors and all of the agencies in LA were sending us ideas. Harry ended up being on one of those lists and I was immediately extremely excited when I saw it because I had loved him from Control and Fish Tank. He hadn’t just come to mind. I had just seen all of these American men that were talented but they were all kind of looking and blending together. They all seemed the same. So, I skyped with him. I think he was still on set for Lone Ranger at the time and he was wearing this crazy cowboy drag makeup. I don’t know how to explain it but when you have a conversation with Harry he just comes alive in this amazing way. He did a tape for us and it was perfect; he was Paul right away.”


Janiak’s background involves working as a production assistant on several bigger film projects. When we spoke, I asked what unexpected lessons she had learned making her first feature. Janiak explained that although warned, she had left some of these unheeded and learned things the hard way.

“ Shooting on the water with a tight schedule is something that everyone had said is a nightmare, but I hadn’t quite realized how difficult it would be. Our amount of coverage just dropped, it was not as nearly close to what we had when we were inside […] The night shooting outside, that’s another that people had warned me about but I hadn’t quite realize the limitations that we would have with the limited schedule until we got there. And then the only other thing that I’d say really really was a great thing for me to learn and I’ll certainly keep with me on my next movies is the importance of a temp score.”

Honeymoon boasts strong, at times subtle, stylistic elements as well as reverberating imagery. One of these is that of moths, fascinating creatures that they are. Janiak shared her experience directing moths:

“Fun is not the word. It’s interesting. My writing partner is an amateur moth-er, I guess, I don’t know what you call that. He advised the prop master about how we need to kind of capture moths and keep them happy and healthy while we are shooting. It involves this mixture of molasses and beer. And you are supposed to have this crazy light. They caught a bunch of moths and had them feeding in the back camera room. Then, we would start rolling and everyone on set would just be holding their breath that the moth would perform. We ended up getting really lucky. They did what they are supposed to do and go to the light [laughs].”

We’d like to thank Leigh Janiak for a captivating in depth interview that tempted us to write two feature length pieces.

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Nicholas McCarthy before the premiere of his second feature At The Devil’s Door to talk about his debut film The Pact, the craft of storytelling and the casting for his latest project.

In 2011 The Pact screened at Fantasia leaving me unsettled and creeped out for many months.

“When I premiered The Pact short, I hadn’t even a glimmer of what it could be,” McCarthy explained. “I think between when I first sat down to write it, it was 40-something weeks ’til when it was finished.”

One of the greatest strengths of The Pact are the stories that are left untold, and the moments left unseen.


“The kind of gamesmanship in The Pact feature was about not showing some things and showing others,” McCarthy said. “When you look at Hitchcock, you see a film like Frenzy and The Birds and you realize that he probably [wanted] to show horrific things but it was censorship and the times that prevented him. Or maybe [it could have been] his own British morality. That’s not to say that that made him a worse filmmaker, it probably made him a better filmmaker.”

McCarthy found inspiration in short fiction such as Raymond Carver and John Cleever’s short stories along with the curious question of endings. He found formal inspiration in this for both the short and feature versions of The Pact as well as for At The Devil’s Door

“It’s all about kind of following down these trajectories, these hallways, and then you come to a wall and you don’t know where you are going to go and then you go where you never had thought you were going to go,” he said.

After The Pact premiered at Sundance and went on to be successful, McCarthy found himself in new territory.

“I was in a position for the very first time in my life of meeting people who wanted to make movies with me, which is a thing that I, of course, had wanted my whole life,” he said.

Although he was advised to adopt the safe route towards lining up to make a studio film, McCarthy chose a different path.

“For me, the cinema was the thing that brought me to this point in my life,” he said. “What I really wanted to do was to make another movie with my core crew. And to make it a film that I necessarily hadn’t felt like I had seen before […] I told myself that I shouldn’t be afraid  to fail instead of taking that path that in some ways one is expected to follow in Hollywood, which is to find a series of sure things.”

McCarthy retreated to a cabin in the woods to write his second feature. He began with the “obsessive dramatic structure” that he had begun exploring in The Pact about sisters. Along with this, an incident fueled his creative well. While at Sundance, a cab driver, prompted by the title of McCathy’s debut film, shared in detail with the director about how he had made a pact with the devil and sold his soul.

“I was sitting idling in front of the condo listening to this and I realized that this was a story that would make a really great scene in a movie and so that became something else that I was working on,” he said. “And that really was the genesis of this movie. I was just organically trying to find things that meant something to me and that I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why. I just wanted to weave something that felt unexpected to me.”

At The Devil’s Door has the uniqueness of starring three leading women. McCarthy shared that he enjoys casting and finds it an important part of directing a film in terms of learning to communicate the ideas that will be most important in the film.

“We decided on the role of Leigh first just because she sort of dominates one section of the film,” McCarthy mapped out. “The very first name that came up was Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace) […] I met her and I realized that she has this really interesting poise, she’s very beautiful, and she has this kind of distance that’s really, really intriguing. It’s really what I wanted for this character that is in some ways a contrary sort of impulse for a lead. I knew frankly that maybe it would be something that would turn some people off.”

Next, McCarthy had to cast Lee’s sister. Although McCarthy had not seen Naya Rivera in her starring role in Glee, his editor highly recommended he meet her.


“I just knew as soon as she walked through the door that she’s gonna play this part,” he said. “It’s a very similar role in some ways to Caity Lotz’ in The Pact: a lot of pantomime, it’s a lot of walking through dark hallways and reading her face. The character needed to have a certain toughness that you can’t act. Naya has that.”

Last but not least, McCarthy and his team cast the third lead. As with Rivera, McCarthy had not seen Ashley Rickards (Awkward) in her current role playing a teenager on television. McCarthy was drawn to Rickards for her performance in Fly Away where she played someone severely autistic.

“So I wanted to meet her and it was clear from meeting her that she was going to jump into this thing without any hesitation and she was really, really excited. Her role is the most kind of extreme in this film,” McCarthy said.

Keep an eye out for At The Devil’s Door for — fingers crossed — a wide release. Although not as strong as McCarthy’s debut, At the Devil’s Door is a film that doesn’t shy away from trying unconventional narrative structures, exploring the meaning of home and will have you jumping out of your seat (literally, I dropped my popcorn). Added bonus for fans of Naya Rivera and Ashley Rickards who will find thrills in seeing these two actors out of high school, on the big screen and in altogether darker and more sinister circumstances.

As Fantasia 2014 enters its final days, we fortunate souls tasked with covering it for various media outlets are in various stages of film festival burnout. Although as exhilarating an experience as one can hope for, three solid weeks of fine cinema can take a toll on a man. The three weeks of fast food haven’t helped either, come to think of it. And yet, I soldier on with three more looks at Fantasia’s 2014 lineup.

The Curse of Evil (1982)Curse of Evil

Shaw Bros studios are mostly known for films centering on men and occasionally women flying kicking each other in the head in a variety of colourful and interesting ways, but kung-fu wasn’t their only bag. Some of the studio’s most unique movies are outside their usual kung-fu wheelhouse, straying into genres like sci-fi, superheroes and, in the case of Curse of Evil, horror.

I’m trying to find an adjective to describe Curse of Evil and coming up blank, or at least somewhere between “Lovecraftian” and “Mignola-esque”, that last one mostly due to the presence of large numbers of killer frogs. Mostly, Curse of Evil feels like a family intrigue drama with a splash of horror and another splash of eroticism for good measure, an odd beast of a movie that can switch between intrigue, rubber suit monsters and nudity, if it isn’t somehow doing all three at once. Which is showing off, really, but I’m not complaining.

It’s almost like an episode of Scooby Doo at times, but one directed by Jess Franco and set in period China. Which makes the film sound a lot more interesting than it actually ends up being, especially after the cavalcade of madness that was The Demon of the Lute. Mostly what brings it down is the endless scenes of one family member or another plotting something dastardly while the legless demon waits patiently around the corner for its next appearance, with the audience waiting with perhaps a bit less patience. But when things finally take off for the explosive finale, it’s all about as insane as you want it to be. It’s just that getting there can be a bit of a task.


New Zealand has a proud tradition of horror comedies, ever since bringing Braindead/Dead Alive into the world, and Housebound continues the legacy with all the manic glee and black humor you’d expect.

Our main character is Kylie, a juvenile delinquent under house arrest in a home she’s long since left behind. But when evidence mounts that her home is actually haunted, Kylie starts to unravel the mystery of the house’s former occupants in the hopes of placating the supposed spirit.

Housebound borrows as much from recent horror films like The Innkeepers and classics like Rear Window as it does from the horror comedies of Peter Jackson, a unique hybrid of styles that occasionally seems to have some trouble finding its footings. It doesn’t help that Kylie is walking a very tight line between “cool bad girl” and “obnoxious” and I found myself wavering back and forth on how much I liked her as a protagonist for most of the first two thirds. Similarly, the movie itself seemed to waver back and forth on how much it wanted to be a traditional ghost movie and how much it wanted to be more of a suspense film, with the focus shifting as Kylie and the local public security guy try to gather evidence on a decades-old murder case, with any paranormal spookery being left behind when the film gets a bit bored with it.

By the third act, though, everything seems to coalesce and it all comes together in a whirlwind of violence and comedy beats — with the odd exploding head for good measure — that reminds you just how fun a good horror comedy can be when the Wayans Brothers aren’t involved.

When Animals DreamWhen Animals Dream poster

After the rousing success that was In Order of Disappearance, films with a Norwegian pedigree shot up to the top of my list of must-sees at Fantasia this year. That’s how I found myself at When Animals Dream, a psuedo-werewolf flick that seems to be angling to be the lycanthropic equivalent of Let The Right One In.

Like Ginger Snaps before it, When Animals Dream uses werewolves as a metaphor for puberty and female sexuality, a metaphor that seems most obvious when one character tells the juvenile protagonist that she’ll soon be experience new hair growth and mood swings, to a knowing chuckle from the audience. Other times it feels almost akin to 2011’s Turn me On, God Dammit but with a protagonist who bites a few more peoples’ faces off.

The film, to say the least, is gorgeously well-shot, taking full effect of the desolate landscape in a way that Norwegian films seemingly have to do by law. The cast are all excellent, particularly the young lead played by first timer Sonia Suhl. However, when the inevitable comparison to Let the Right One In comes up, When Animals Dream will most likely come up short for most fans. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t great, but the comparison is unavoidable at times and really, what movie can compare favorably to Let the Right One In?

Trying to keep up with this beast of awesome that is Fantasia has left me breathless. I’ve fallen into a strangely blissful kind of sleepless stupor. No complaints! Now that I’ve finally sat down long enough, here is a report on 4 of the 15 films named (by me) as most anticipated in this year’s program: Life After Beth, Suburban Gothic, Cybernatural, and The Harvest.

Life After Beth (Baena, 2014)


Life After Beth is a refreshing addition to the growing list of zombie coms.  Life After Beth fleshes out the ups and downs of hanging on to a relationship that is over; attempting to revive what should be mourned.

Dane Dehaan (Chronicle, Kill Your Darlings) plays Zach whose girlfriend Beth, played by none other than the fiercely deadpan Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Rec), has recently succumbed to a snake bite. Overcome with grief, Zach finds solace in hanging out with Beth’s parents who at first welcome him with open arms and then suddenly shut him out.  For, you see, Beth has come back from the grave and doesn’t realize she’s died. Zack is overjoyed… but for how long?

Before the screening, I had the opportunity to tag along with Ryan Stick of Season Xero to interview Jeff Baena and Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds), who plays Zach’s bizarre brother Kyle who is the film’s absurdist comic relief.


In a way, Life After Beth is itself a filmic zombie having been written by director Jeff Baena years ago, abandoned, and then revived by happenstance into the wonderfully strange creature before us. During the Q & A, Beana mentioned his interest in the work of Jacques Derrida at the time. This perspective opens up a whole new dimension of the film in which Beana engages with ideas of inversions which are sprinkled throughout.

Dehaan’s performance as Zach is one of the film’s greatest strengths as his emotional roller coaster and brief dances with madness lead the audiences further down(up) the rabbit hole. Along with his performance and those of Plaza and Gubler, the film offers some great scenes that stay with the viewer even after the credits have rolled. Life After Beth is very relatable in a twisted kind of way, boasting delightfully raw comedy.

 Suburban Gothic (Bates Jr., 2014)


Richard Bates Jr.’s first film Excision raised the bar for genre films and what the initiated expect from genre and horror films whose aim is to cause visceral emotional reactions in their audiences. Bates Jr.’s sophomore film Suburban Gothic, then, was an automatic must see this Fantasia. Although it is a completely different kind of film it’s also a great flick proving that this director is more than a one hit wonder and is one to keep an eye on in the next years.

In the vein of childhood mysteries (Scooby Doo, Hardy Boys and Are You Afraid of the Dark) with a hardy splash of profanity and paranormal ejaculate, Suburban Gothic follows recent graduate Raymond (Matthew Gray Gubler) who finds himself having to move back in with his parents (a nightmare in and of itself), a doting mother and an unrelentingly disappointed father (Ray Wise). Soon Raymond finds himselt t(h)aunted by strange visions and soon must face his proclivity for the paranormal.

Bates Jr. spoke of this film as a project made with a bunch of friends, a project of the heart, and this comes through in the film. Those seeing Suburban Gothic should go into it expecting an oddball tale made wonderful by Gubler’s strange antics, the strained relationship between Raymond and his bizarre folks, and Ray Wise’s great ability to play a total jackass.

Cybernatural (Gabriadze, 2014) **Best of the Fest**

cybernaturalCybernatural is hands down one of the best films of Fantasia. Furthermore, I’d add that it is one of the most innovative films screened at the fest in the last few years.

Told completely from the perspective of a fixed computer screen, Cybernatural is a thriller that follows, in real time, six friends who on the eve of the suicide of a fellow classmate, meet up on Skype. Unexpectedly, a seventh uninvited guest shows up and soon the teenagers are faced with the horrors of their social media ways.

Cybernatural is storytelling adapted to the age of social media. It breaks new ground and marks the beginning of a branching off of found footage, which is itself is the descendant of the epistolary novel in the advent of new media (from letters to film, from film to video, from video to phone cameras, and from these to digital media).

McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” might be, would be apropos here. Throw in some Donna Harraway. Cultural studies scholars will surely be speaking of this film in years to come: “From Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Gabriadze’s Cybernatural: The Medium is the Murder.”

Truly, what makes Cybernatural remarkable is that its finger is right on the pulse of the ways in which we currently produce the stories of our lives. Cybernatural explores with its narrative methods how our lives unfold and the ways in which stories, told and untold, have the power to shape our lives in a myriad of sordid ways.

Along with this, Cybernatural features a talented cast, a mix of fresh faces and seasoned actors: Shelley Henning (Blaire), Renee Olstead (Jess), Jacob Wysocki (Ken), William Peltz (Adam), Courtney Halverson (Val) and Moses Jacob Storm (Mitch). These six actors deliver performances so realistic that it’s easy to forget that they are acting at all. Often for this kind of spooky thriller, characters are undeveloped dispensable walking body parts. Cybernatural however succeeds in grabbing the viewer into the screen by delivering chemistry between the cast that is remarkable.

Director Levan Gabriadze, writer Nelson Greaves, and producer Timur Bekmambetov not only crafted an immensely enjoyable (read: thrilling) film but one that has developed new methods for filmmaking that will no doubt change the landscape of many movie genres.

The Harvest (McNaughton, 2013)


After hearing whispers of how dark and negative John McNaughton’s The Harvest would be, seeing the film was a disappointing experience. Perhaps I am jaded by having seen so many dark and twisted films (i.e. Excision) that something like The Harvest leaves me unmoved. Perhaps not.

The Harvest follows a nurse/doctor couple, Richard (Michael Shannon) and Katherine (Samantha Morton), who take great pains to take care of  and shelter their sick son Andy (Charlie Tahan). When Maryann (Natasha Calis), a young girl who just lost her parents, moves in next door and tries to befriend the mostly bedridden Andy, his parents’ reaction is beyond bizarre.

Although I am not inclined to hail it a total loss, The Harvest just didn’t work. To begin with, the title is too straightforward and unimaginative. Although Morton’s performance was interesting as was Shannon’s emasculated broken father, most of the film felt forced.

The Harvest felt uncomfortably off beat. There were pleasant touches of fairy tale-like elements in the film, but performances and music choices were at odds. The few thrills the film had were early on and the climax was at its height at the first reveal with the second twist being so obvious that it was painful. The resolution was just okay, slightly on the boring side.

Perhaps this was the wrong audience for a film like The Harvest and it might appeal to non genre audiences who are looking for a bit of a strange dip into the dark basement of suburbia. Perhaps not.

Up until this point I’ve been able to tie these little three film jaunts together into some kind of loose theme or experience, which, if nothing else, makes this little opening blurb easier to write. This time, however, I’m presented with a problem: how exactly does one tie together a kung-fu flick, an arctic Nazi zombie movie and an anime film?

The answer remains elusive, and I feel this may be the point at which I have to abandon the method all together and present the first of what will probably be several completely theme-less articles. So this time, let the downward slide commence as we begin our first random Fantasia grab-bag.

Demon of the Lute posterThe Demon of the Lute

Shaw Bros. Kung-fu movies are a favorite of my particular circle of film nerd friends. Screenings of classic Shaw goodness at Fantasia are usually a sea of familiar faces, usually faces with far more experienced and knowledgeable brains than mine lurking behind them. I say this because I want it to be known exactly how remarkable it is that The Demon of the Lute left most of its audience completely dumb-struck.

Shaw Bros. Films are known for being a bit off-the wall at times, going into slightly ridiculous territories of kung-fu action. However, I think even the most seasoned Shaw aficionado isn’t prepared for Demon of the Lute.

While other Shaw films like Battle Wizard wade into a pool of ridiculousness, Demon of the Lute cannonballs in like a rowdy fratboy, presenting the audience with one insane concept after another. A giant axe-wielding, pink haired warrior who rides into battle on a chariot pulled by German Shepherds one moment, a game of kung-fu air hockey the next, all set to a score that’s equal parts rock guitar and Goblin-esque synth. The creativity and imagination of the minds behind the film is shining through every frame, and probably a fair number of their acid hallucinations as well.

It doesn’t look or sound like any Shaw movie I think anyone in attendance had seen before. A high-octane anomaly of some kind never considered for mass consumption, too insane not to enjoy, and too weird to ever forget.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead

The original Dead Snow was a fun enough tongue-in-cheek zombie flick out of Norway, a pretty ideal Fantasia movie that didn’t take itself in any way seriously and committed fully to just being gory, low-brow fun. The apparently long-awaited sequel recently hit screens at Fantasia, and pretty much everything nice you can say about this first one, you can say about the sequel.

Trading in small scale zombie horror comedy for large scale zombie action comedy, I’d almost call it the Aliens to Dead Snow’s Alien. While the first one took a small cast and a few locations and used them for scares and horror, the second goes full-on action movie, with the nazi zombie horde from the first film marching against a small Norwegian town. The over-the-top gore and gross-outs are aplenty and usually skillfully executed enough to keep a Fantasia audience more than happy.

And although I could easily rattle off a list of films that do the horror comedy route better, I would be hard pressed to find one that commits to its own ridiculousness more whole-heartedly. Dead Snow 2 seems more than eager to break every taboo, cross every line and go big in every regard, and I can’t help but admire its dedication to being the biggest, loudest, most ridiculous piece of schlock it can possibly be.

Giovanni’s Islandgiovannis-island-poster

Shifting gears from the ridiculous to the sincere, we close this grab-bag on Giovanni’s Island, one of Fantasia 2014’s anime selection. While our last two films were over-the-top romps, Giovanni’s Island is dead serious, set on a small Japanese island in the immediate aftermath of WW2, and showing a family torn apart by Russian occupation and later internment.

It’s rare to see an animated film staunchly refuse to pull as few punches as this one, and indeed make as many precision-targeted strikes right at the audience’s feels. Despite whimsically portraying the main character’s boundless imagination struggling against the harshness of reality, Giovanni’s Island rarely shies away from showing that harshness as well. The realities of post WW2 Japanese life are shown in full, as families are pulled from their homes and thrown into Russian-run internment camps, or forced to watch as occupying forces take over their houses and workplaces.

And when the film isn’t reducing you to a quivering ball of emotion and anguish, it’s astonishing you with just how pretty anime can still be after all these years. The backgrounds and character models are stunning, often having a quality that gives the impression that the whole thing was drawn in colored pencils by one of those colored-pencil savants you see in your Facebook feed.

At times it lays the emotion on a bit thick, straying uncomfortably into melodrama with the occasional overly-picturesque montage, but Giovanni’s Island is if nothing else a gorgeously animated film that will probably reduce half the audience to heaving, undignified sobs.


Cold in July

While I’d have been more than happy with Matthew C. Hall in a mullet, Sam Shephard being a lethal but loveable old dog, and Don Johnson reliving Vice-era novelties with a car phone the size of an attaché case and a red convertible the size of a tugboat, there’s a lot more to Cold in July than that.

Set in 1989 Texas, this Jim Mickle picture nimbly skirts a number of lines. It’s ghoulish, funny and, for lack of a better term, literary. For instance, it punctuates the shock of murder with a couch purchase and “I thought we’d agreed on floral patterns.” It buttons a contemplation of impending mass murder with Shephard’s character snapping “Get that gun out of my ear!”

Cold in July is an instance when compound talent has managed to deliver. The direction, screenplay, the stellar trio of actors at work and the noir magic of veteran genre and comics writer Joe R. Lansdale’s original novel all make their mark here. It makes for one of the most self-aware thrillers in a while, and it plain works, continually tussling between light and dark.

The Infinite Man

Remember that time you screwed up that one relationship so very bad? Well, The Infinite Man is the solution to that screw up, if you were an awkward-as-hell dork with the sweetness of a three-legged pup, an urge to overcompensate and control, and a TIME TRAVEL MACHINE.

Set at a deserted hotel in an Australian sand-scape, this impressive little film is both ruthlessly nipped and tucked and a ton of unbridled fun. Between Josh McConville as Hugh, Hannah Marshall as Lana, and Alex Dimitriades as the asshole ex with a javelin, it is overflowing with doubles plotting around each other and trying out a myriad of shoulda/coulda/woulda schemes. And just thinking about keeping the editing together as well as it was cut is enough to make my eyes bleed.

Director Hugh Sullivan makes it look deceptively easy, and delivers one of the smoothest time-travel rides encoutered since Back to the Future. I figure he has control issues, too, and they pay off on the screen.

THE INFINITE MAN Trailer from The Infinite Man on Vimeo.


First thing that comes to mind when I think of the Spierig Brothers is how horrible Daybreakers was. All evidence pointed to them being expert stylists and otherwise null and void. But with Predetermination, the Brothers’ third feature, I get a feeling they’re gaining a grasp on, you know, narrative.

Still slick and spiffed as ever, but now way more lyrical than previously imaginable, this Spierig time-travel thriller had just enough variables to keep you engrossed, and enough textual heft to keep you interested once you’d figured it out. Doesn’t quite follow fellow Aussie production The Infinite Man, but as a different, much more action-driven piece, it carries its own slickness rather well and delivers swimmingly on the critical dramatic mass.

I could have done without the predictable action faux-pas, not to mention the transgendered character that didn’t want a sex change (what a way to present an underrepresented community . . . ), but it’s hard to find a deal-breaker with Predetermination. It’s an epic, really, complete with significant lushness and a patient puzzle that will suffice. Even Ethan Hawke doesn’t make himself unbearable, which is a directorial feat in itself. One thumb up!

The Creeping Garden

the creeping garden

This documentary isn’t even on IMDB (yet) and is likely the best you’ll see this year if you manage to see it. Out of post and flown to Montreal less than a week before it world-premiered at Fantasia, Jasper Sharp and Tim Grabham have been working on The Creeping Garden for three years. What starts as a documentary about slime mould ends up a film essay about the assignation of meaning an understudied, fascinating, reductive and mysterious life form has attracted.

Whether they be amateur naturalists, scientists, bio artists, time-lapse historians or computer engineers, everyone in The Creeping Garden has an expansive interpretation of what the life form means, and what it might mean going forward. Punctuated by a Jim O’Rourke score, a gorgeously careful film—this thing is beyond fascinating. A must-see.

As is the case whenever you consume a large amount of culture in a short span of time, Fantasia isn’t so much an experience of highs and lows as averages with the occasional spike in one direction or the other. While there is the occasional joyous, orgasmic cinematic experience and the occasional arduous, painful slog, for the most part things average out to being just ok. Last time, I took you through a few examples of that “just ok”-ness, but today we’re having a look at some of the highs and lows I’ve had at Fantasia 2014. And one movie about slime, because I thought of a snappy title.

In Order of Disappearance posterIn Order of Disappearance

Film nerds, in my experience, tend to be a jaded, cynical lot, prone to dark humour. So when a particularly dark comedy comes out, one can practically already hear the film buff community’s attention suddenly zeroing in like a Terminator locking on to its latest target. And In Order of Disappearance isn’t just a black comedy, it’s a comedy that absorbs light itself and crushes atoms into even smaller atoms that have to buy supplements off the internet so they don’t feel embarrassed in the atomic locker room anymore.

Stellan Skarsgard stars as a snowplow driver in Norway whose son is killed during an incident with the local mob and the usual quest for vengeance follows. In terms of tone, or at least the particularly obsidian shade of black the film’s comedy comes in, I’d compare it to In Bruges or even one of the Cohen Brothers’ darker comedies. Moments of stone-faced absurdity come frequently and images like a group of mob pallbearers being slowly raised onto the back of a truck by an arduously slow lift have all the morose hilarity of a perfectly timed pie thrown in the face of a sad clown.

I don’t even care that the photography occasionally looks like a car commercial. I don’t even care that it can be a bit sexist at times. This is black humour done perfectly, a deadpan knockout that left me without any doubt that it was the best thing I’d seen at Fantasia this year so far.


As the blurb for Guardian is quick to point out, Indonesia is poised to become the next big hotspot for action movies, having already gifted the Raid films to an eternally grateful world.

What it failed to mention is that besides country of origin, The Raid and Guardian share nothing in common, quality level least of all.

While The Raid took a fairly small budget and used it effectively to deliver a tight, fast, hard-hitting action flick, Guardian tried to stretch what was probably a similarly-sized budget into a film with a much larger scope, featuring car chases, big action set pieces and more locales. While a skilled director may have been able to pull this off, it’s clear that “skilled” isn’t a word you’d use to describe most of the people who worked on Guardian.

The entire endeavor feels amateurish from top to bottom, from the horrendous photography that looks like something you’d get out of a cheap digital camera to the pointless and unbelievably bad visual effects. The shockingly scant martial arts scenes are so haphazardly filmed and edited that they become impossible to follow and the gunfights are endless shots of the heroes and villains firing machine guns at things with determined looks on their faces until the agreed upon allotment of people fall over, usually hamming it up in their herky-jerky death motions.

Nothing about it is engaging or interesting in the slightest way, and it all feels like a quick cash-grab thrown together in a week and shot on someone’s iPhone.

The Creeping Garden

“Hey, do you want to see a documentary on slime mold?” is a question that will usually be answered with blank stares and furtive movements toward the nearest exit. And while I understand that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, The Creeping Garden will probably end up being one of the docs to watch this year and not just if you’re Egon Spengler.

Creeping Gaden imageSlime molds, the film tells us, are a critically understudied organism, neither animal nor plant nor fungus. After a basic introduction to what slime molds are and what we know about them, the film becomes a highlight reel of all the weird but interesting stuff people are doing with them just for the sheer fuck of it. We meet people making slime mold art, using them as computers, as parts of robots and even to make music. This also comes after a brief, and a bit tangential, look at the origins of science films and time-lapse photography, which will probably interest film historians to no end but may seem like an odd dalliance to others.

But the centrepiece of it all is the time-lapse photography of slime molds in action, running mazes, absorbing food, or just living, pulsating and undulating like something out of a horror movie (probably one that has played at Fantasia in the past). The imagery captured in these sequences is stunning and memorable and the accompanying score gives it an almost Herzogian feel.

I can’t help but feel that The Creeping Garden lacks a bit of consistency as flits about from topic to topic a little too quickly and that maybe focusing more on slime mold biology might have been more interesting than one of the several slime mold-related endeavors the film presents us with. That being said, The Creeping Garden is still a hell of an interesting doc, with enough formal charm that it isn’t being entirely carried by the subject matter.

The Creeping Garden – official trailer from cinema iloobia on Vimeo.

The only thing more astonishing than the sheer number of South Korean films on display at this year’s Fantasia Fest is how many (at least of the ones I’ve seen) have been — and I want to be nice about this — about as “middle of the road” as a yellow line of paint. I thought a long time about why this may be. At what point does a national cinema cease to be bold, innovative, and possessing of an interesting new perspective and start to become bland, derivative and dull?

After some time, I realized exactly what’s happened: Korean cinema has grown up. It’s cast off the leather jackets and provocative hairdos of rebellious youth and gotten fitted for a two-piece suit and a corner office. It’s become just another film industry churning out profits by repeating previously successful formulas. At least in the mainstream. But I think that’s the point. Korean Cinema has a mainstream now, just as boring and repetitive as Hollywood or Hong Kong is such a depressingly large amount of the time.

And you know what, who says that has to be a bad thing? When a person becomes an adult, their last vestiges of youth and vigour stripped away, people throw them a party. Korean cinema has, judging by what I’ve seen at Fantasia this year, grown up as well. Break out the cake and the novelty ties, and let’s have a look at the proof.

No Tears posterNo Tears for the Dead

Tell me if this sounds familiar. A skilled HITMAN, a trained KILLER, is given his final assignment. But when confronted with their target (or the collateral damage from a job), this PROFESSIONAL grows a heart and rebels against their handlers and becomes the target himself. GHOST DOG. BOURNE IDENTITY. Is the joke getting across that this movie has been made a dozen or more times before?

To its credit, No Tears for the Dead probably isn’t the blandest example of the “hitman grows a heart” trope, but by golly it seems to be trying. I mean, it hits every checkbox. Adorable kid caught in the crossfire? Check. The guy sent to kill the rogue assassin is his old buddy? Check. Gets cold feet when he sees his target is a beautiful woman? Check. Double bonus points for it being the mom of the adorable kid he accidentally killed, thereby allowing the movie to fulfill both the “I can’t kill a LADY!” and “Oh God, GUILT!” options for why he goes rogue.

At the least, No Tears for the Dead has a few decent and hard-hitting action scenes, and probably some of the best gun sound effects I’ve heard in a while. And yeah, the fact that I’m citing the gun sound effects as a plus is an indicator that I’m struggling to find something nice to say, thank you for pointing that out.

The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Moving on from a film with a premise more worn out than my old socks, here’s one with a premise you could probably only come up with after a night or two on severe hallucinogens. A satellite array, long outdated and slowly breaking, falls to Earth and takes the form of a young girl. There she meets a man transformed into a milk cow by having his heart broken and on the run from a giant demonic incinerator and from a man who makes his living selling the livers of people-turned-animals. With the help of the wizard Merlin, now trapped in the form of a toilet paper roll, the two must overcome their differences and find happiness.

And I’ll do you one better. That isn’t even the weirdest thing about this one. The weirdest thing is that all that gets played with more straight-faced, earnest sincerity than I think I’ve seen in any movie at Fantasia this year. This movie takes itself completely and utterly seriously, despite a defiant lack of much internal logic, or logic of any kind. And I don’t even mean because it’s a kid’s film…because really, I don’t think it is. A lot of kids would find this boring. It’s really more of a young adult romance or even drama. There’s not a lot of action, not even that many jokes, beyond the humour found in the premise itself.

And you know what? That makes it interesting. Not great, but absolutely interesting. And I’ll take interesting over bland and forgettable any day of the week. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie so blatantly ridiculous and yet totally unaware of its own ridiculousness. Hell, even Takashi Miike is self-aware nine times out of ten. And none of his movies have had talking toilet paper…yet.

Fatal Encounter posterThe Fatal Encounter

When one generally thinks of period Asian movies, they usually think of films involving sword fights and archery. While The Fatal Encounter does have at least a few of them, it’s better off being labeled a period drama so that people expecting heroic bloodshed and duels to the death don’t get bored after the first hour of dramatic flashbacks and court politics.

Our hero is the saintly King Jeonjo, the impossibly kind and progressive ruler of Korea in the 1700s, set upon on all sides by assassins and traitors. The majority of the film isn’t so much him fighting them off as reacting when they’re revealed. Or having flashbacks to his youth. Or the assassins having flashbacks to their youths. Or the assassin’s cat having flashbacks to its youth. All of them bittersweet and stained with noble tears, of course.

When the third act rolls around and the assassins finally take more direct action, things get a tad bloodier, and I’d even say exciting, with archery battles and fights galore. And yet, much like No Tears for the Dead, I don’t see anything in The Fatal Encounter that I haven’t seen in other period court intrigue flicks. At least Curse of the Golden Flower had zip-line ninjas and Chow Yun-Fat.

The 2014 edition of Fantasia International Film Festival runs until August 6. 

Oh ye ole Fantasia Fest. Ye sideburns of geek. Ye vixens of awkward. Ye meowers of dark. Ye forever awesome lineup.

It’s been a few years for me, but I’m right pickled to be back in the Fantasia action, and these first few days have not disappointed. Here are a couple of movies you might want to check out, whether at Fantasia, or in theatres down the road, God willing.



Set in an Any Nowhere USA of the late 70s, Riley Stearns’ first feature brings us Orsen Roth: down-and-out cult and mind-control expert, living out of his car, touring regional hotels with his book no one wants, broke, eating ketchup with a fork. Down on his luck, nose continually bleeding, he owes a lot of money and is desperate for any way out of the hole he’s dug himself. A deprogramming job comes along, and it’s a chance at salvation, for better or worse.

Well-written, evenly directed and featuring a great ensemble of character actor weirdos, following likeable but despicable Roth around as he gets beat up, manipulated and teeters on every kind of edge is a good way to spend your evening.

Faults is screening for a second time tomorrow, July 24, at 7:15 p.m. at Theatre J.A. de Sève.

The Mole Song – Undercover Agent Reiji

Full disclosure: Takashi Miike is kind of a god. Supreme stylist among even the most showy directors, this is a man who is equally at home creating feudal ronin tragedies (Hara Kiri), out-Lynching Lynch (Gozu), and crafting manga live-action adaptions so complete they include nose bubbles and head-bump prosthetics (Nina Kids). In The Mole Song (likely his 100th feature), Miike showcases a couple of additional things he does especially well: the yakuza and funny.

Bringing both together into a world of razor-grilled midgets, sing-song DEA agents, butterfly obsessed number-2’s and the usual hoard of Miike perverts, The Mole Song does not disappoint, and is always willing to stoop a bit, if only to button a dumb joke with an even dumber, even funnier button. Though the third act leaves the tremendous energy built up kind of flattened, the sweet jokes keep coming, and it’s well worth a looksee overall.

Suburban Gothic

Ah, the suburbs! Once I got over the momentous shock of seeing Leland Palmer in person (he’s just a cool old white guy, but his head is so BIG, especially from mere FEET AWAY!), Suburban Gothic proved to be the most familiarly hilarious of picket-fence fancy feasts. Complete with mucho macho and anti-Mexican dad, skinny jeans garnering much unwanted attention, and a generalized sense of the cultural wasteland too many of us are overly well-acquainted with, Richard Bates Jr.’s latest was like going home again, only wayyy funnier. Also: JOHN WATERS AND JEFFREY COMBS CAMEOOOS.

The Zero Theorem


Verging on complete calculated nihilism, both retroactive and deeply insightful about the grandness and cheapness of the future that may be waiting around the corner (or which is already the past, as the director suggested in his hilarious welcome message), The Zero Theorem is as Terry Gilliam as it can get: beautiful, expansive, meandering, dysfunctional, unapologetic, and undeniably singular. An independent release, this one ain’t going wide, so see it, iTunes it, seek it out and share it if you can. As Gilliam mentioned, there’s always a chance this will be his last, especially when presenting the off-kilter, wholly unknown, and big-studio free. Must see, do see, gotta see, even if it holds a few headaches.

The Zero Theorem is screening for a second time Saturday, July 26 at 12:30 p.m. in the Concordia Hall Theatre.

To some, the idea of seeing five movies in a day might seem excessive. “Why?” they’d ask, their heads barely breaking the surface of the sea of mediocrity they belly-flopped into years ago. To which I would reply, my hands on my hips and my chin thrust proudly into the air, “Why not?” Fantasia 2014 kicked off this weekend, and for me it truly started on Sunday, when I set out to break my own record and attend five screenings, essentially back to back. So to kick off my real coverage of this year’s festival, let’s take a quick look at what I’ve seen so far.

Jellyfish Eyes

It’s no great shock that Jellyfish Eyes has been masterminded by a renowned pop artist, because the film is in many ways pop art personified. Everything is impossibly colourful and crisp looking, about as processed and artificial looking as the plastic toys no doubt already long since sold-out bearing the likenesses of the film’s Pokemon-esque fighting monsters. For a lot of people, Jellyfish Eyes’ bright, four-colour aesthetic would be an instant turn-off but for me it really made the movie.

In a lot of ways, Jellyfish Eyes pulls off the “live action anime” vibe better than more overt attempts at pulling that aesthetic off, like some Miike movies. If nothing else, it’s a gorgeous looking flick, and has enough heart and charm to carry it the rest of the way to a top spot on the list of things I’ve seen so far this year.


Zero Theorem posterThe Zero Theorem

Despite being the driving force behind more fantastic, groundbreaking films than many directors working in the industry today, the past several years have not been kind to Terry Gilliam. Or rather, critics and audiences haven’t been kind, as his last few efforts have gone either unnoticed or failed to impress anyone to the degree of his earlier efforts.

As much as I’d love to say that his new film, The Zero Theorem, is the turning point Gilliam fans have been waiting for….eh, it’s not amazing. While the movie continues his trend of stunning sets, costumes and overall look, it also continues the more recent trend of his films feeling meandering and unsure of themselves. The social satire is still there from the Brazil days but it feels like an easy, unsubtle Mad Magazine type of social satire. I’d probably like the movie more on a whole if not for a fairly disappointing ending that doesn’t so much offer closure as a big, black void of closure. I get enough of that from my romantic relationships, thank you very much.


Nuigulumar Z

Even without the presence of Japanese cult auteur Noboru Iguchi, it’s not at all surprising that I was drawn to Nuigulamar Z, a wild take on the “Tokusatsu” genre that sees a girl fuse with a teddy bear to fight zombies. Perhaps more than Takashi Miike, Iguchi is quickly becoming the quintessential Fantasia director (for me at least) and Nuigulamar Z is more proof of that.

Almost from frame one, the viewer is assaulted with more irreverent, weird, messed up, “because it’s Japan” zaniness than you’re bound to see anywhere else at the movies this year. If you’re into that kinda thing, you’ll probably be grinning ear to ear as hard as I was for the entire run time. The only thing Iguchi’s fans may find lacking is the lack of any real “splatter” or gore beyond CGI blood-splatters added in post. But apparently his other movie this year, Live, makes up for that. But for weirdos like me who are into this kinda thing even without Iguchi around to add adult babies and boob lasers, it’s about as much fun as you’re going to have at this year’s Fantasia.


The Reconstruction of William Zero

God, The Signal was good, wasn’t it? Going into director Dan Bush’s new feature, you can practically hear that phrase being spoken like a litany by about half the audience. But here’s the big problem: if you go in to William Zero expecting The Signal, you’re going to be disappointed.

If you go in to William Zero expecting a low-key, well acted genre flick with some interesting turns but nothing that will splinter the Earth’s crust ‘neath its mighty steps, then your expectations will very much be met. What strikes me as more interesting about William Zero than anything else is just how formally different it feels from The Signal. That oppressive, apocalyptic vibe is totally gone in favor of something a bit cleaner, a bit more polished and less intentionally raw. And though some may find the difference jarring, or even disappointing, when taken entirely on its own it’s a perfectly good, if only half-remarkable movie.

Just seriously, don’t compare it to The Signal.


The suspect posterThe Suspect

As good as The Suspect is, I can’t shake the feeling that by the time the festival is over, it will be lost in my memory, fused together with the two or three similar looking Korean action thrillers in an amorphous blob of gunfights, car chases and blue tint.

This may be because when the overly convoluted plot involving North Korean spies wasn’t confusing the hell out of me, the nigh-incomprehensible action scene photography was confusing me even more. It seems that in their haste to ape all the qualities of American and Hong Kong actioners, the team behind The Suspect picked up all the bad qualities, resulting in a mess of shakey-cam, bland leading men and a score that feels like something Hans Zimmer writes to warm himself up.

Which isn’t to say it isn’t enjoyable at times. Some of the supporting cast are fun and likeable enough that the movie really should have been about them, and not the bland, near-superhero of a protagonist. But it feels overly drawn out, overly complicated and emblematic of all the worst qualities of modern fight scene photography, and the fun supporting cast can’t entirely save it from being forgettable.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs until August 6, 2014.

Being a film nerd mostly interested in genre movies writing for a website mostly interested in local culture can be a tricky thing. Oh sure, I love local film as much as the next guy, but it rarely falls into my specific wheelhouse (whatever the hell a wheelhouse is). This is one of several reasons why the Fantasia Film Festival is one of my favorite times of the year: it’s one of the only instances where I can cover the kinds of films I enjoy most and actually follow Forget the Box’s normal schtick of talking about local culture and events.

That magical time will soon be upon us once again, and majority of the 2014 fest’s film lineup has been released on to the internet to a ravenous fandom. This week on FFR, let’s take a look ahead at what we’ve got in store for this year with a look at some of the films I’m anticipating the most.

Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation: Mamoru Oshii

In a lot of ways, my days as an anime geek are behind me. I haven’t watched a full series in ages, and these days my attentions are focused more on live action Japanese television and film. However, some directors will bring the old flame back, and Mamoru Oshii is one of them.

Bursting on to the scene in the late 80s and early 90s as the director of the first two Patlabor films, Oshii quickly moved into his own franchise with the groundbreaking Ghost in the Shell, one of the defining movies of the first wave of the North American Anime invasion and a landmark in the genre.

On opening night (July 17) Oshii will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement award before a screening of a brand new HD print of Ghost in the Shell (the original version, not that heinous new version with the bad CGI added in) that’s never been aired outside of Japan.

Jellyfish EyesJellyfish Eyes – Dir. Takashi Murakami

The fact that no one ever attempted a live-action Pokemon movie always seemed odd to me. Granted, the franchise is probably past the apex of its popularity, but people would still probably flock to one like seagulls to a dropped french fry, and bring enough money with them to keep Japanese executives eating Sushi off of naked women until the end of days.

Jellyfish Eyes looks to be filling that niche, looking like a Pokemon film in everything but name and the presence of a catchy theme tune. What makes Jellyfish Eyes look like more that an absurdly commercial cash-grab, however, is that it’s set in the aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear disaster, which opens the unspoken possibility that the magical monsters that only the heroes of the film can see are actually signs of radiation poisoning. And I know, that’s an incredibly morbid and depressing prediction for the end of what otherwise looks like a children’s adventure movie but….well, it’s Japan. We should expect the unexpected.

The Reconstruction of William Zero – Dir. Dan Bush

Back in ’07, director Dan Bush delivered The Signal, a smart, atmospheric, funny and all around awesome indie horror gem in a time when horror movies were otherwise far too enamored with torture porn and found footage.

Now, after a lengthy absence from the director’s chair, Bush is returning with The Reconstruction of William Zero, a film we know almost nothing about, but that I’ll probably be first in line to see anyway. The press release gives the barest description of the plot, which involves a scientist waking up from a coma, but the presence of bush and Upstream Color star Amy Seimetz already have my interest piqued.

Let us PreyLet Us Prey – Dir. Brian O’Malley

It wouldn’t be Fantasia without something gruesome and dark about people having their gibblets sprayed all over the place in a variety of disturbing ways, and Let us Prey looks to be more than ready to fill that role this year.

The trailer doesn’t let much on in the way of plot, but the mood, style and production values all look rock solid, and hey, it’s got the Onion Knight in it! That’s enough for me to get interested.

Frank – Dir. Lenny Abrahamson

I’ve had my eye on Frank for some time, and not just because it always intrigues me when established, popular actors who probably have job offers rolling in like a Left 4 Dead horde when somebody gets hit by a Boomer takes on a quirky, low-profile indie flick.

Frank stars Michael Fassbender as a brilliant but troubled indie musician on the cusp of stardom who refuses to remove a giant paper mache head that makes him look like a character our of that old David and Goliath claymation cartoon. It’s an odd turn for Fassbender, one that could either prove his acting chops as world-class once and for all, or could just feel like an overly quirky indulgence. It’s probably that risk that has me interested the most,

IngtoogiINGToogi: Battle of the Internet Trolls – Dir. Uhm Tae-Wa

Korean cinema has long been a darling of the Fantasia crowd, and while crime thrillers like No Tears for the Dead certainly look entertaining, it’s the offbeat indie fare that will more often grab my attention, like 2012’s Young Gun in the Time or last year’s The Weight.

INGToogie sees two internet rivals take their grief to the streets for a knock-down brawl, something that’s become more and more common in Korea recently as internet trolls meat for “real life player kills” or “hyunpi”. While the prospect of internet trolls beating each other senseless is enough to lure me to a screening, the stylish presentation makes me think this may be more than just mere catharsis.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Dir. James Gunn

Never heard of it. Looks weird. They’ll screen anything these days.