Being the upstanding crew that they are, the folks at Fantasia saw fit to extend the festival by an extra day, giving me and others time to catch up on some of the more popular films we may have missed the first time around.

While I could have used this opportunity to check out Attack on Titan, I elected instead to hit up two of the smaller releases from this year’s line-up, Deathgasm and A Christmas Horror Story. Both films are Fantasia to the bone, fun, gory, clever crowd-pleasers that kept me entertained throughout and left me smiling. So for my last piece of Fantasia 2015 coverage, let’s take a look back at these two gems.

DeathgasmDeathgasm poster

Since Peter Jackson burst onto the scene with Braindead and Bad Taste, New Zealand splatter flicks have garnered a rep for being fun, gloriously low brow exercises in excess and black humor. Deathgasm, which takes this formula and adds a whopping infusion of Heavy Metal antics, might just end up being one of the best examples of the burgeoning sub-genre, a definite future cult pick and a must-watch for metalheads and horror fans alike.

After our hero, lonely metalhead Brodie, is moved out to a small New Zealand town, he befriends the only other metal fan for miles, Zakk, and starts up a band. But when the two find a set of mysterious pages of music clutched in the manic grip of a burned out former metal legend, they inadvertently unleash hordes of demons on the town. Demons that only they, naturally, can stop.

Deathgasm is an archetypal Fantasia movie, drenched in gore, full of tongue-in-cheek humor and tripping balls on its own manic, gleeful energy. The gags come hard and fast, the soundtrack is a constant barrage of roaring chainsaw engines and squealing guitars and it’s basically impossible not to have barrels of fun with the thing. It’s a cult tour-de-force, already bound for a place of honor in the collections of cult horror aficionados.

If there’s any one thing that kept coming back to bug me, it’s the films depiction of women. Specifically Medina, the popular girl who strikes up a romance with Brodie and joins him in the demon-slaying antics of the last act. She reminded me a lot of the female lead from Some Kind of Hate, a film I thought far less of. Both fall into a few stereotypes that I’m growing increasingly weary of, and which continue to not go away despite our best wishes.

Both are dating the resident bully when the movie opens, in flagrant defiance of prettymuch everything we learn about them later on, but almost immediately fall for the hero. At best it’s a bit of juvenile wish fulfillment, the attractive popular girl who likes bad boys but falls for the hero as soon as she sees what a sensitive soul he is and yada yada yada.

Based on what we learn about her, it seems completely unlikely she would ever have be dating the bully, but character consistency takes a back seat to how well she can serve as a fantasy for introverts and quiet types. Of course, “juvenile wish fulfillment” is basically Deathgasm’s log line, but that doesn’t totally excuse the film from engaging in this tired trope.

Also, in both cases, the female lead has metal bestowed on her by the male lead, implying that metal is an entirely male domain into which women must be led. And that just ain’t true, man. Tons of women find metal on their own, the same way as men do, and it would be nice to have seen this rather than portraying metal as something inherently foreign to women. Deathgasm sorta makes up for this by implying that by the end of the film, Medina has become more of a metal expert than Brodie, though.

But these problems aside, Deathgasm is still tons of fun, and I look forward to revisiting it in years to come.

A Christmas Horror Story

Anthology horror is something that keeps trying to make a comeback, with efforts like the much-seen V/H/S series and the under-watched gem Trick R’ Treat. A Christmas Horror Story is the latest film to try and rejuvenate the old formula, and arguably one of the most successful at recapturing the feel of classics like Creepshow and Body Bags.

Weaving multiple tales of Christmas-themed terror together, Christmas Horror Story is a rollicking good time at the movies. Like Deathgasm it’s gleefully gory but combines that with some terrific ideas and execution from the group of writers and directors who brought it to life.

As is always the case in anthologies, there’s a clear favorite, in my case the tale of a group of teens filming a project on a series of murders in their school. This story thread cleverly subverts expectation in a lot of ways, keeping the audience on their toes by subverting and conforming to horror tropes in equal measure.

Christmas Horror Story

At times I found myself a bit underwhelmed by the creature effects. While competently brought to the screen, the creatures of the film (including a murderous changeling and everyone’s favorite Christmas Demon, the Krampus) felt like they were missing something in the visual department. They aren’t as eye-catching as Sam from Trick R’ Treat, for example.

But there’s still a hell of a lot to love about A Christmas Horror Story. It’s smart and fun, packs a few great surprises, and if nothing else gives audiences the chance to bask in the glory of Shatner in what could be called the framing story.

Now, someone get to work on an Easter-themed horror anthology flick so we can complete the trilogy.

And with that, my Fantasia 2015 coverage comes to a close. I’d hesitantly call it the best iteration of the fest I have yet to attend, and can’t wait to see them try and top themselves next year.

Though the last week of Fantasia is upon us, the coverage must go on! Here are three more reviews from what I saw this week.

The Interior

A few years back, I saw at Fantasia a sweet, quirky little movie called Doomsdays. It was exactly the kind of movie you go to a film festival to see: one made entirely out of passion and overflowing with charm, creativity, rock-solid formal elements and built a simple but staggeringly effective script.

The Interior is this year’s Doomsdays. It’s everything I just mentioned and more: a profound example of how a committed indie filmmaker can take a budget a major studio would blow on craft services and use it to trounce most major studio films in terms of both form and storytelling. It’s funnier than most studio comedies and scarier than ANY studio horror film of the past decade.



What begins as an office comedy in the vein of Office Space or Haiku Tunnel suddenly morphs into an alone-in-the-woods horror film as James, a downtrodden office worker, retreats to the woods after receiving a fatal diagnosis. But James soon finds he isn’t as alone as he thinks he is, as a series of odd occurrences escalates into a terrifying ordeal

On paper, The Interior seems impossible to pull off. A wacky comedy that morphs halfway through into a horror film? That kind of sudden tonal shift just shouldn’t work. And yet it does here, better than you’d believe. The comedy sequences are hilarious, full of quirky characters and biting dialogue. The horror sequences, by contrast are completely terrifying, exemplifying the “less is more” approach to horror that seems to have gone completely extinct otherwise.

Director and writer Trevor Juras expertly builds the tension over the course of the latter half of the film, taking us through pitch-black sections of forest only sometimes illuminated by James’ flashlight, almost constantly resisting the urge to have something jump out and go boo. But it never does. We keep waiting for the jump scare, the payoff we’ve been trained to expect by years of awful horror movies. But it never comes, because the tension isn’t just a prelude to a cat jumping out or a knife wielding maniac suddenly pouncing from the underbrush to show us his stabbing technique. The tension is the point.

The film, ts should also be mentioned, is staggeringly well-filmed. When James enters the woods the camera takes on this beautiful objective quality, gliding through the woods, not focusing on anything. The focus is as deep as the Marianas Trench, allowing us to take in these full, beautiful frames of untouched wilderness, beautiful and daunting at the same time. During the Q&A, I was knocked for a loop to learn these scenes weren’t even filmed using Steadicam, just a hand-held camera with a counterweight, and it’s clear that the DP, Othello J. Ubalde, has the steady hands of a brain surgeon.

I hope to heck that The Interior gets a distribution deal if it hasn’t already, because this is the kind of film that needs to be seen by as many people as possible. It’s a direct counterpoint to so many of the awful, toxic ideas plaguing not just horror films but cinema at large.

Cop Car posterCop Car

Oh hey, speaking of indie films that completely show up major studio films: Cop Car, a film for which expositional dialogue is a foreign entity and yet still tells a story so well it hurts.

The film focuses on two young boys who, after running away from home, find a seemingly abandoned cop car, which they naturally take for a joy ride. Of course, the car is owned by the corrupt local sheriff, whose drug connection is bound and beaten inside the trunk, putting him in a hell of a hurry to get the car back.

From the first few lines of dialogue, Cop Car is telling us everything we need to know about who the characters are and what they’re about, without the kind of awkward exposition you’d normally get. The film trusts us to put the pieces together from dialogue, characterization and by watching the performances themselves. This goes for both the boys and the sheriff, played by Kevin Bacon. We’re never told exactly what kind of seedy doings the sheriff is up to, but we know it involves drugs and the need to quietly dispose of multiple bodies. And that’s really all we need to know. We’re given all the relevant info we need about the entire cast organically and then left to put the pieces together for ourselves.

If it hadn’t been for Mad Max: Fury Road, Cop Car might have been the only film that I’ve seen all year that does this properly, but now we have a duo of organic storytelling movies heavily based around cars and the rapid conveyance thereof, and I’m more than ok with that.

Some kind of hate posterSome Kind of Hate

Here are some things you just don’t do in a story about self-harm. Eroticize it. Fetishize it. Make it a source of power. Some Kind of Hate does all three, turning a serious problem faced by countless depressives and turning it into a fetishized gimmick, producing a repulsive film in the process.

The protagonists are the students of a kind of camp/cult for wayward teens, one of whom swears to kill his bullies for tormenting him. To his “rescue” comes the ghost of a previous camper who was killed by her camp-mates, who cuts herself to inflict identical injuries on her victims.

While Some Kind of Hate COULD have been an interesting and thoughtful look at self-harm and depression, it remains teaspoon shallow throughout, using cutting as a gimmick for a blandly presented ghost/killer.

Cutting and self harm becomes a source of empowerment for the killer, a problematic depiction of a real issue that is never corrected. Cutting isn’t shown as self-destructive but rather as a source of power or agency, and that dangeous association between self-harm and power is never counteracted, even in the finale when the heroes defeat the killer by – guess what? The film even has the outright gall to depict a quasi-lesbian scene between the ghost and the female lead in which cutting takes on an erotic element as razor blades across the thigh result in what for all the world appear to be orgasmic gasps. I would have thought it was a general rule that you DON’T MAKE SELF-CUTTING SEXY, but there it is.

One person I spoke to found this interestingly transgressive, but there’s two problems with that reading. One: transgression is only relevant when it has a point, when it’s stripping away a taboo and forcing us to talk about something we aren’t. The scene in Some Kind of Hate just feels like cheap titillation, an out of nowhere spoonful of lesbian eroticism that exists only to excite the audience. And second, some things shouldn’t be transgressed against for a very good reason: because they’re harmful and toxic. And the sexualized depiction of self cutting fits “harmful and toxic” to a tee.

Some Kind of Hate is a repugnant, ugly movie and that’s as much as deserves to be said about it.

Panelists Pamela Fillion and Cem Ertekin discuss Fantasia (includes a segment from a forthcoming interview with the director and star of We Are All Still Here), zombie movies, a zombie apocalypse, the very real actions of Montreal police stopping a Unist’ot’en solidarity protest and Just for Laughs. Plus the Community Calendar.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau



Pamela Fillion: FTB music and film contributor

Cem Ertekin: FTB news editor

Read the rest of our Fantasia and Just for Laughs/OFF-JFL coverage and Cem’s report on the protest

FTB PODCAST #9: Fantasia and Zombies, Unist’ot’en Solidarity Protest Arrests and Just For Laughs by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

The home stretch of Fantasia 2015 is almost upon us. It’s hard to believe the fest is nearing its end, but the coverage continues all the same. Here’s a quick rundown of some of what I saw this week.

He Never Died posterHe Never Died

I believe I’ve said this before, but some of the best Fantasia experiences I’ve had are with films I knew almost nothing about going in. Such was the case with He Never Died. I knew it had Henry Rollins in the lead, I knew he was a cannibal, and that was about it. And true to form, I had one of the best experiences of the year so far. It’s not a perfect film, mind, but Rollins’ performance alone elevates the film above any petty flaws that I might be able to find in it.

Rollins plays Jack, a reclusive man who’s apparently as tough as old boot leather and has a taste for human flesh. Jack lives day by day, trying to keep his proclivities in check and stay out of trouble. Of course, this becomes considerably harder when in the same week Jack runs afoul of the local mob and meets the daughter he never knew he had.

The centerpiece of He Never Died is Rollins’ astounding performance as Jack, which mixes phenomenal deadpan deliveries with heaps of charm. It’s astounding that Rollins has never headlined a feature film before, and I hope this is just the start for him because watching him onscreen is an engrossing experience.

Of course, the film isn’t perfect. At times it feels like its spinning its wheels a bit, it could use a more complete ending and it feels a bit too gore-happy. But those are piddling complaints towards an otherwise hugely entertaining experience. Apparently the film is being developed into a Netflix series, and if that happens I’m all the way on board.

Nowhere Girl posterNowhere Girl

Director Mamoru Oshii is best known for the Ghost in the Shell series, the first of which is one of the most influential anime films of all time. With such a staggering achievement under his belt, you’d see why studios would essentially give him carte blanche on future projects, allowing him as much creative freedom as he needs.

Nowhere Girl, his new live action film, might be proof that that may not be the best idea. The film follows Ai, a student at an all-girls art college, thrown into social withdrawal by a severe bout of PTSD. After some trauma, AI is receding further and further into herself, prompting bullying from her classmates and concern from her teachers.

The first 80-odd minutes of Nowhere Girl is, and I need to be harsh about this, dull. It’s one scene of slow pans across still frames set to soft piano after another. And while I get that stillness and quiet meditation are two of Oshii’s calling cards, here it just feels like the majority of the film has no forward momentum whatsoever.

Of course, there IS a really good fight scene. A really, really, really good fight scene, because as you may expect the movie has a big twist at the end. A lame one, as it turns out, but one that at least facilitates the aforementioned really, really good fight scene. But as good as it is, it doesn’t make everything that comes before and after it less of a droning, repetitive slog that feels mostly like the product of rampant directorial indulgence.

Jeruzalem posterJeruZalem

Found footage horror isn’t too likely to pique a lot of interest these days. Since Blair Witch opened the door to every schmoe with a camera who wants to make a horror film, the market has been flooded with wave after wave of cheap, unimaginative, motion-sickness inducing dreck.

And yet. It’s still very possible for a found-footage horror movie to be good. And JeruZalem is the proof.

JeruZalem follows two American tourists as their trip to Israel unexpectedly brings them to Jerusalem during Yom Kippur. One of the two naturally is filming the whole thing on her brand new pair of Smart Glasses, which gives us literally a first-hand look when the biblical apocalypse happens and the city is beset by demons and giants.

While JeruZalem plays to a LOT of eye-roll inducing horror conventions, it also innovates in some really interesting ways. The use Smart Glass opens up some interesting new storytelling devices, for one. When our protagonist meets someone, for example, we can see her glasses recognize their face and open up their Facebook profile (or Myspace page in the case of her dad, in a really clever little joke), which acts as a quick way to get exposition out of the way. Some may see it as a gimmick, but I thought it was a really interesting and innovative device for getting the story told and the characters established quickly.

The visuals are also pretty interesting, though the budget obviously means that we see precious little of the demons that attack our heroes. But what we do see feels striking and interesting, and that goes a long way.

Of course, it takes a bit of while to get off the ground, but that aside I see a lot of potential in JeruZalem. There’s a lot of cleverness and craft on display. It would be easy to write it off as just another found footage horror flick, but even if this film doesn’t make a huge splash, it may be worth it to see what the directors have in store next.


U.S.A./Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion/2014

Cooties is a laugh-out-loud, good time – perfect for Fantasia audiences. Comedy-horror is a tricky business which can often fall totally flat or be so over the top that it completely misses the mark. A  promising premise does not always a good movie make and there are so many ways in which the zombie apocalypse can happen. I had expected Cooties to elicit a few chuckles but not much more. Boy was I wrong. Children are scary as hell, straight out of the worst arsenal of nightmares, and horror fans are not uninitiated to tales of possessed, haunted, or sociopathic murderous children. Rabid zombie kids, however, is fairly unexplored terrain. Unlike The Children, a scarier tension filled horror, Cooties opts for the humour in the horror with rewarding gory bits.

Clint takes on a summer school teaching position so that he can pay the bills while working on what he hopes will be his breakthrough novel. He isn’t prepared for what a total nightmare his first day teaching would be starting with a hostile welcome from a coworker and then one of his students attacking and biting another child within minutes of his awkward introduction to his classroom. Clint’s attention is momentarily pulled away from his novel to one of his former classmates, who also teaches at the school, whom he seems to still have a schoolboy crush on. As a virulent form of cooties ravages the playground,  Clint and his colleagues must survive each other long enough to protect themselves at any cost – even if it means impaling their former students.

From its opening sequence, Cooties doesn’t shy from plunging its audiences into an uncomfortable oozing meaty mess. Mass production is already scary enough, including the real world fear that we never know what’s in the things we eat. The audience is privy to the fact that something horrible is incoming as the teaching staff quips about whose mug is whose and gets ready for ‘just another day at work’ where they most tolerate each other. Elijah Wood as Clint plays to his strengths as an unimposing, somewhat obsessive, scrawny protagonist while Rain Wilson, who blew minds in Super, stands out in his role as the egotist P.E. teacher with whom Woods must compete for the affections of the film’s love interest, Lucy.

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The cast is comedy gold. I especially enjoyed the role of Leigh Whannel (who also co-wrote the film) as the socially awkward science teacher Doug. Some will find the characterization thin and that certain roles are given the short end of the stick: especially that of Tracy (Jack McBrayer). A few of my fellow critics have found the film to be somewhat lazy, but I would disagree. I would argue that Cooties does not purport to be an intellectual comedy nor a drama of any sort but rather takes audiences along for a ridiculous ride where some of the jibs are surprising while others are so overdone that it seems like the film is making fun of itself.

If you can imagine what sort of recipe this cooks up, Cooties is from the minds of writers who have penned Saw, Insidious, Glee, and the upcoming Scream Queens. A Spectrevision production, Elijah Woods’ new horror production company, Cooties is satisfying, gross in the best of ways, and oft hilarious.

As an added bonus, the short screened before Cooties turned out to be one of the most enjoyably frightening shorts I have seen at Fantasia since The Pact in 2011. Point of View by Justin Harding was shot in only five hours, this short is heavily inspired by The Weeping Angels episodes of Doctor Who. The premise is simple but the delivery is perfect and the few effects, such as the make-up artistry, are exactly on point – and scary as f***.



Spain/Miquel Angel Vivas/2015

Speaking of the zombie apocalypse, whether by a hoard of flesh eating kids or legendary creatures of old, what happens when you manage to survive the massive wave of the destruction of everything as you know it? What then? Based on the graphic novel by Juan de Dios Garduno, Extinction takes audiences to the cold and icy realm of uncertainty and torture of survivors. The film opens after the breakout, when mass exodus from cities is underway. The film follows two friends, who, nine years after escaping the massacre of their exodus attempts, live in fortified home-compounds separated by deep hatred. The heart of the film is Lu, who was born into the world post-zombie apocalypse and has never known anything outside of her home and routine with the man who has raised her. Now that the threat of the undead has died down due to the perpetual winter, Lu tries to convince her father to stop surviving and to let her live. But is the threat really gone or simply pupating awaiting its own gory spring?


Extinction features strong performances by the title cast especially Matthew Fox, whose character Patrick represents the double edged sword of hardening oneself to survive. The relationships between the characters is the meat of the film. As a testament to its strength, audiences will find themselves angry at characters, like Jack (Jeffrey Donovan) who is overprotective and frankly seems like a dick while rooting for others including Patrick’s buddy, the dog. Quinn Caulking who plays Lu does a great job of conveying the paradoxical naiveté and wisdom of youth, with her unbridled curiosity and yearning for connection, which threatens to bridge the divide between the two men. Aside from this, the film offers some instances of remarkable cinematography, creating a world that is real enough to draw audiences in yet, remains fantastic – recalling the aesthetics of video games and graphic novels.

Extinction has some thrilling scares to offer including fearsome zombies, along with detailed aesthetics and strong camera work all the while posing interesting questions about survival and humanity. However,  the plausibility of their initial survival is difficult to buy into and the stupidity of some of the character’s choices may be too frustrating for some.