On July 7, humidity engulfed Montreal, gloomy, thick and viscous. The perfect setting for suspense and dark tales to unfold. On that day, Fantasia Film Festival unveiled its generous program chock full of unnerving, innovative flicks that will haunt you potentially for years.
For many, this season offers more gifts than any other festivities: over 130 features across the genre spectrum. Navigating the whole shebang can be dizzying, and so here are my recommendations for a varied selection of the most promising films to check out this summer:
10. The Invitation – USA/Karyn Kusuma/2015
August 3, 7:35 PM, at Concordia Hall Theatre
Karyn Kusuma, known for her breakout debut Girlfight and the fun Jennifer’s Body offers what might just be that unexpected unnerving Fantasia experience that stays with you for weeks. A young couple, Eden and Will, splits after a tragic event and depression ensues for the heartbroken man who struggles to move on.
Years later, an invitation from Eden proves too hard to resist. This dinner party, however, is strange – the kind of strange you can’t quite put your finger on. Mitch Davis, co-director of the fest, hails the film as a “astoundingly frightening film, a brilliantly scripted, character-driven ensemble horror work of the rarest kind.”
9. Crumbs – Ethiopia/Spain/Finland/Miguel Llanso/2015
July 31, 7:40 PM and August 3, 3:30 PMat J.A. De Sève Theatre
Crumbs is a post-apocalyptic work of afro-futurism. In this world, relics of the past are so old and unknown that they hold a sort of mystical quality. Candy, a man, forgoes his routine in the search for some answers. This sci-fi feature is part of a resonating Ethiopian new wave and its name has been on critics’ and programmers’ lips since its screening at the Rotterdam Film Festival.
8. Cherry Tree – Ireland/David Keating/2015
July 25, 9:45 PM, and July 31, 1:00 PM at J.A. De Sève Theatre
Cherry Tree is one of two Irish genre cinema picks on this list, and for good reason. In a tiny town with a rumoured dark past, Faith’s father is very sick. Things seem hopeless until one of her mentors makes her an offer she can’t refuse. Fantasia wouldn’t be complete without a film doused in dark intentions and sprouting from satanic intentions.
7. We Are Still Here – USA/Ted Geoghegan/2015
July 19, 7:20 PM at the Concordia Hall Theatre
A couple attempts to start over in rural New England after the loss of their son. But there will be little time for mending wounds, as something is off with the house and it seems they are not alone. The floors are squeaking with secrets ready to spill out. Soon, they inadvertently unleash a bloody slaughter that will literally paint the walls red.
This film is a Fantasia baby of sorts, directed by Ted Geoghegan, the fest’s Director of Publicity. Noteworthy is the casting of Larry Fessenden (director of The Last Winter and Wendigo) as a spiritualist hippy. Can’t wait!
6. The Blue Hour – Thailand/Anucha Boonyawatana/2015
July 24, 17:40 PM, and July 27, 13:00 PM, at J.A. De Sève Theatre
From its trailer, The Blue Hour seems like one of those films the premise of which is less important than the experience of immersing yourself into its world alongside its characters. Tom, a young bullied queer man, meets up with a potential one night stand at an abandoned pool, which is supposedly haunted, and the two embark on a relationship that becomes increasingly murky. Fantasia programmer Ariel Esteban Cayer calls The Blue Hour a “masterpiece of tension” and hails its cinematography as “ethereal and painterly.”
5. Turbo Kid – Canada/Bew Zealand/François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell/2015
July 23, 7:00 PM, at Concordia Hall Theatre
I am beyond stoked for the Canadian premiere of Turbo Kid, a film that has come about as a result of the magic of Fantasia’s co-production market, Frontières, where industry members join forces to bring audiences their labour of love. This Quebec indie has been met with lots of love in its initial festival run, winning the audience award at SXSW and screening as part of the official selection at Sundance. This flick offers a post-apocalyptic tale of BMXs and kitsch, a killer electronic score, friendship and courage, and from what I can tell from the tailer, some good fun crimson splatter. Plus, it stars Munro Chambers (as The Kid) and Laurence Leboeuf (Apple) who must face off against Michael Ironside (the super evil Zeus). This will be rad.
4. Cub – Belgium/Jonas Goaverts/2014
July 28, 5:15 PM at Concordia Hall Theatre
As a kid, I always loved going to summer camp and always envied scouts for their survival and wilderness training. I loved ghost stories and campfire scares even more. Cub centres on outsider Sam whose camp experience will earn him some unusual badges. Facing bullies and an unsympathetic scout master is hard enough, but Sam will come to face to face with a much more deadly foe.
3. Bridgend – Denmark/Jeppe Rønde/2015
July 15, 9:15 PM, and July 17, 2:45 PM, at J.A. De Sève Theatre
If I were a gambling person, I would bet that this Danish production is most likely in the running for one of the bests of the fest this year. The subject matter is dark and disturbing; more so since it is based on the tragic epidemic of suicides in the town of Bridgend, Wales. Rønde dramatizes these events, refusing simple answers, into what Ariel Esteban Cayer calls “a tale of pure South Wales horror.”
2. The Hallow – Ireland/Corin Hardy/2015
July 15, 9:35 pm, at Concordia Hall Theatre.
The Hallow explores the consequences of trespassing and unheeding the warnings of locals and the land. A conservationist and his family move to a woodland cottage and are quickly met with the cold shoulders of neighbours. This does not bode well – secluded location, dark woods, critters in the woods… Building on mythology and lore, The Hallow offers a creature feature from the darkest corners of our nightmares. An official selection at Sundance, this film promises beautiful visuals and viscera gripping intensity.
1. Goodnight Mommy – Austria/ Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala/2014
July 20, 2:50 PM, and July 23, 7:30 PM, at J.A. De Sève Theatre
There is a slight chance I might pass out or have a full-blown panic attack during Goodbye Mommy, a nightmarish art house horror sure to mess with your head. Twins Elias and Lukas try to grapple with their mother’s odd behaviour since her return from surgery. Their mother, whose entire face is bandaged, has begun acting increasingly angry and the two begin to suspect that perhaps this woman is not who she claims to be. Convinced something bad has happened to their rightful progenitor, the two do anything necessary to force this imposter to abandon her guise.
Special Mentions: Bite, H., Anguish, Observance, Dark Places, They Look Like People
Fantasia Film Festival runs from July 14 to August 4, 2015. Tickets can be bought here.