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.

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.