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?

Fantasia is upon us. If you are anything like me and the fans that flock to theatres for this one of a kind experience, your summer can finally begin. The lineup this year is stellar which makes choosing which films to see that much more difficult. Screening decision anxiety and panic is amongst us. Never fear! Take out your colour-coded pens, rulers and notebooks; here are the must-sees of the 2014 lineup!

15.  Metalhead


Director: Ragnar Bragson

Writer: Ragnar Bragson

Iceland, 2013

Metalhead touches on themes of tragedy, grief, youth, faith and fate. Hera lives in a small town with little to offer her and is haunted by the death of her brother. She rebels against the bourgeois world of her parents and creates a safe haven for herself in the world of heavy metal: a world that she slips further into body and soul.

Screenings: Monday, August 4 at 7:10 p.m. and Tuesday, August 5 at 7:35 p.m at Salle J.A. De Sève (1400 de Maisonneuve w.).


14. The House at the End of Time (La casa del fin de los tiempos)


Director: Alejandro Hidalgo

Writer: Alejandro Hidalgo

Venezuela, 2013

Dulce receives ghostlike messages warning her of her husband murdering his own children. Panic ensues as do tragic events and Dulce is incarcerated for a crime she didn’t commit. Thirteen years later, on parole, Dulce must stay within the house where all these tragic events happened. Fantasia programmer Mitch Davis hails this tale as both scary and touching: not your typical haunted house story.

Screenings: Saturday, July 26 at 9:30 p.m. at Theatre DB Clarke and Wednesday, July 30 at 5:20 p.m. at Salle J.A. De Sève.


13. Feed the Devil


Director: Max Perrier

Writer: Matthew Altman

Canada, 2014

The world premiere of Feed the Devil is co-presented by the Montreal First Peoples Festival. This film follows Marcus, who is in dire need of some fast cash, as he, his sister and his girlfriend search for a marijuana plantation rumoured to be near a First Nations reserve. According to legend, this plantation is smack in the middle of a hunting ground for the gods, where no human is to enter and no human who has dared to enter has ever returned.

Screening: Monday, August 4 at 8:30 p.m. at Cinémathèque québécoise (335 de Maisonneuve e.).
* Tickets for this film will not be available through Fantasia’s ticket outlets and Fantasia passes are not valid for this film. Visit Montreal First Peoples Festival for more info.


12. The Snow White Murder Case


Director Yoshihhiro Nakamura

Writers: Tamio Hayashi, Kamae Minato

Japan, 2014

When a young office worker’s body is found, social media is quick to make the news viral. A television director soon comes into some juicy intel and realizes that this sensational case might be the perfect way to break through in the industry. He begins to to investigate the case, accounts multiply and cloud the waters: who killed Noriko?

Screening: Tuesday, July 29 at 10 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre.


11. Cybernatural


Director: Leo Gabriadze

Writer: Nelson Greaves

USA, 2014

After a humiliating video is posted online by her friends, a young girl kills herself. On the anniversary of her death, the six cyberbullies meet up on Skype. However, an uninvited seventh user joins the conversation and seems to know everything about the crime. As events unfold in real time, the six cyberbullies get a taste of their own medicine and the body count soon begins to rise.

Screening: Sunday, July 20 at 9:30 p.m. at DB Clarke Theatre.


10. The Creeping Garden


Directors: Tim Grabham, Jasper Sharp

United Kingdom, 2014

This documentary centres on something all around us but almost everyone is unaware of it: plasmodial slime mold. Slime mold is not plant, not fungus, nor animal but a strange hodge-podge of all three. It even exhibits forms of intelligence. The Creeping Garden explores this uncanny organism through interviews and microscopic photography and boasts a score by Jim O’Rourke.

Screenings: Sunday, July 27 at 9:45 p.m. & Monday, July 28 at 3 p.m. at Salle J.A. De Sève.


9. Life After Beth


Director: Jeff Baena

Writer: Jeff Baena

USA, 2014

This comedy follows Zack who falls to pieces after the death of Beth, his longtime sweetheart. Zack grows closer to Beth’s parents in the wake of her death until they 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?

Screening: Saturday, July 19 at 7:15 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre.


8. At The Devil’s Door 

Director: Nick McCarthy

Screenplay: Nick McCarthy

USA, 2014

From the writer of The Pact, a film that left audiences with an unshakeable chill, comes this tale of a real estate agent (Catalina Sandino Moreno) who faces the task of trying to sell a house with a sordid past. The film stars names you will recognize such as Naya Ricera (Glee) and Ashley Rockwards (Awkward). I can’t wait to see them in something out of high school and into a more dark and dangerous setting.

Screenings: Saturday, July 26 at 7 p.m. at DB Clarke Theatre & Tuesday, July 29 at 5:10 p.m. at Salle J.A. De Sève.


7. Honeymoon


Director:  Leigh Janiak

Screenplay: Leigh Janiak , Phil Graziadei

USA, 2014

Honeymoon is a cabin-set flick that refuses to rely on traditional scares. Paul and Bea are on their honeymoon but things aren’t quite the bliss that you’d expect. The central questions in this film are “who did I marry?” and “am I enough?”

Screenings: Tuesday, July 22 at 7 p.m. at DB Clarke Theatre.


6. Jellyfish Eyes (Mememe no Kurage)


Director: Takashi Murakami

Screenplay: Takashi Murakami, Jun Tsugita

Japan, 2013

There is a lot of excitement brewing around the sci-fi/fantasy epic Jellyfish Eyes sponsored by The Japanese Foundation at this year’s Fantasia. Masashi’s father was lost in the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 resulting in his mother relocating them to a small town, near a university research center. Masashi finds a little flying creature and soon discovers that all the others kids at school have secret creature buddies who — unlike his pink bud, Jellyfish Boy — are controlled by their smartphones. But all isn’t honky dory in this town and something dark is brewing…

Screenings: Sunday, July 20 at 12 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre.


5. Housebound


Director: Gerard Johnstone

Screenplay: Gerard Johnstone

New Zealand, 2014

Kylie is on house arrest in the home where she grew up where she is forced to live with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. Like Kylie, an angry spirit is also displeased with the new living arrangement. But like it or not, Kylie is gonna have to do the time — even if it’s in a haunted house.

Screening: Sunday, August 3 at 9:45 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre.


4. The Harvest


Director: John McNaughton

Screenplay: Stephen Lancelloti

USA, 2013

When Andy gets sick, his pediatric heart surgeon mother, Katherine, has to start working from home. When a neighbourhood girl begins to befriend Andy, his parents — whose universes have centred around him and his illness — react in a strange way. According to Mitch Davis, “The Harvest exists in a disquieting median space between sinister fairy tale and shattering human horror.” And if that’s not enough, The Harvest promises what looks like a kick-ass performance by Samantha Morton.

Screening: Monday, July 21 at 9:30 p.m. at Theatre DB Clarke.


3. The Midnight Swim


Director: Sarah Adina Smith

Screenplay: Sarah Adina Smith

USA, 2014

The Midnight Swim is one of the most intriguing films of this year’s program. Dr. Amelia Brooks studied the mysteries of bottomless Spirit Lake, which became the site of her death when she didn’t resurface after a dive. Her three daughters head to Spirit Lake to reflect on their relationships with their mother and return to their family home. The sisters begin to believe that something supernatural is at hand after they jokingly summon the spirits of women who have drowned in the lake.

Screening: Sunday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. at DB Clarke Theatre.


2. Suburban Gothic


Director: Richard Bates, Jr.

Screenplay: Mark Linehan Bruner, Richard Bates Jr.

USA, 2014

Suburban Gothic is the second feature by Richard Bates Jr., director of the bloody and breathtaking Excision. The film follows Raymond (Matthew Gray Grubler) who, like many of us in Montreal, can’t find a job with his college degree and has to move back in with his parents. Raymond has had visions for most of his life and joining with local bartender Becca (played by the amazing Kat Dennings) things go in unexpected ways. According to Ted Geoghegan, “Suburban Gothic is popcorn cinema at its most endearing — a saccharine ghost story featuring a faultless mix of honest scares and well-played humour.”

Screening: Saturday, July 19 at 9:45 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre.

1. Frank 


Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Screenplay: Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan

United Kingdom, 2014

Official selection at Sundance 2014, Frank stars Michael Fassbender as Frank, the frontman of a band who swears by a giant plaster cartoon head that he never takes off. The film follows Jon who meets Frank and his strange lineup of bandmates and follows them down a strange musical odyssey to the SXSW festival in Texas.

Screenings: Sunday, August 3 at 4:20 p.m. at Concordia Hall Theatre & Monday, August 4 at 5:15 p.m. at Salle J.A. De Sève.


Honourable mentions:

Man in the Orange Jacket, Aux Yeux Des Vivants, Prom Night, Dys-, Wetlands, When Animals Dream, To Be Takei, and Summer of Blood


The 2014 edition of Fantasia runs from July 17 to August 6.