After tearing the roof off Fantasia with crowd-pleasers like Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim, Edgar Wright is prettymuch Fantasia royalty, which explains why the Imperial Theatre practically exploded in a torrent of hot, sweaty nerd-love when he took the stage Tuesday to present his new film, The World’s End, as the official closing film for the 2013 festival.

The long awaited finale to the “Blood and Icecream Trilogy” that started with Shaun and middled with Hot Fuzz, the story this time around is that five friends, in their highschool years, attempted a twelve pub crawl in their sleepy English hometown, but ended up facedown in vomit and failure. Now, many years later, they’ve all grown up and gotten real jobs and bank accounts and ex-wives and probably a few prostate problems if the statistics are to be believed. That is, except for Simon Pegg’s Gary King, who’s stuck in arrested development like a tick in a dog’s arse, and gets the gang back together to try the “golden mile” once again, even though most of them, especially Nick Frost’s Andy, think Gary can go straight to hell.

Of course, things take an odd turn when the gang discovers that their home town is now populated by robot dopplegangers, and decide the best course of action is….to keep getting wasted. Makes sense to me.

the_worlds_end_posterThe film gets off to a slow start, and I kept thinking to myself that it’ll probably get really funny once the robot shenanigans start, and while I wasn’t wrong, the first little bit of the movie is a tad dead, laugh-wise. Of course, once things start to get weird and the heads start flying, the writing starts getting sharper and it feels like Pegg and co. are back in a familiar groove. The dialogue is fast and punchy, with a gag of some sort virtually every minute. The writing is full of those little quirks and in-jokes we’ve come to expect, like how the names of all the pubs on the Golden Mile give you some hint of how things will go.

There’s an incredible sharpness and wit to the writing that you just don’t see in most American comedies, one that gives the impression someone, or perhaps multiple someones, gave some actual thought to the writing, as opposed to just writing some poop jokes and calling it a day. The characters are also remarkably well-rounded, especially Pegg and Frost. Towards the end, there are a few fairly dark character revelations about Pegg’s character Gary that most American comedies would probably shy away from, in favor of more stoner humor and tedious improv sessions.

All that being said, this is probably the weakest of the “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy”. While Shaun and Hot Fuzz were rife with in-jokes and references to horror and action movie staples, The World’s End feels a tad less reference-heavy. For some, this could be a good thing, but it definitely makes The World’s End feel like the odd film out. Or maybe there were tons of references and I just missed them, Wright and Pegg are usually subtle enough writers.

But even if The World’s End is the least of the trilogy, that still puts it head and shoulders above most, if not all other comedies you’re likely to find in theaters, and it’ll probably wind up on my list of best films of the year.

And that, my children, is that. Fantasia 2013 has come to a close and is receding into the night like a vampire at dawn, or Ryan Reynolds’ agent after seeing the latest Turbo and RIPD numbers, although with less of an air of manic terror than the latter.

All in all this has probably been the best iteration of the festival I’ve attended thus far, with only a couple of films driving me into a blind rage and more than a couple leaving embarrassing stains theatre seats. I’m already looking forward to coming again next year (you heard me) and for now….I need a damn nap.

Like an elephant hurtling towards the surface of Jupiter, Fantasia Film Fest is bearing down on the city of Montreal with the kind of severity that normally sets off air-raid sirens. Every year for a few weeks, all the best, weirdest and most generally fucked up films the world has to offer can be found playing on Montreal screens, invoking awe and the occasional seizure in the audience.

This year’s fest, which will screen over 120 films, is shaping up to be a good one, one I look forward to spending my every waking hour at, to the detriment of my family and frontal lobe. But in case you’re not like me and mark this on your calender every year like some people mark this year’s estimated Rapture date, you may still be on the fence. As always, I’m here for you, with a look at some of the most interesting looking stuff we’re in for this year.

Shield of Straw (Dir Takashi Miike)

It wouldn’t be Fantasia without Takashi Miike, the Japanese cult filmmaker who churns out films with the same tireless gusto with which Stephen King turns out forgettable novels. His new film, Shield of Straw, looks to open this year’s fest with his usual amounts of violence and shouting, as an elite police unit in modern day Japan transports a violent prisoner across the country.

In terms of content, it looks to be one of Miike’s more “normal” efforts of late, with nary a Samurai or dance number or spikey-haired lawyer in sight. All the same, those familiar with Miike’s work probably should be prepared to anything to happen.

gatchaman_movie_poster_1Gatchaman (Dir Toya Sato)

Gatchaman, a property about a team of bird-themed superheroes strangely referred to as a “science ninja team” (which just puts me in the mind of someone running a particle accelerator veeery quietly) has been on the cusp of its own big-time movie for some time now.

Before it sadly went out of business, American animation studio Imagi was all set to produce an English language CGI Gatchaman movie, teasers for which can still be seen

Now Toya Sato, a mostly unknown director, is posed to bring a sexy, teched-up version of Gatchaman to the big screen, with tons of effects and explosions and broody attractive people to back it up. Most Japanese superhero films, spinoffs of TV franchises like Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, are usually killed by feeling too low-budget and tv-ish, but from the trailers Gatchaman doesn’t have seem to have this problem, so this one’s definitely high on my priorities list.

The Conjuring (Dir James Wan)

There’s a lot of huff and noise around The Conjuring, the new haunted house movie from Saw director James Wan.

Based on a true story, the film focuses on a pair of Paranormal Investigators, an interesting twist admittedly, called to help out a family with a ghost problem. So basically it’s like Poltergeist from the perspective of the little woman with the ludicrous accent.

Of course, The Conjuring, and James Wan himself, both have one mark against them already: the fact that contrary to popular opinion, Insidious was about as scary as stale toast and so monstrously overrated I sometimes wonder if I’m the butt of some practical joke. All the same, I’ll probably give it a shot, if only because I’m always open to being proved wrong, even though most of the time I’m still right.

Drug War (Dir. Johnnie To)Drug War 2013 1080p Blu-ray ACV DTS-HD MA TrueHD 7.1-HDWinG - 2.jpg

Hong Kong director Johnnie To has built a pretty impressive name for himself in the world of crime thrillers and shoot-em-ups, boasting such flicks as The Mission, PTU, Exiled, Vengeance and Breaking News on his resume.

This is a man who KNOWS how to direct a gunfight, and if you want evidence, just look at the tense mall shoot-out in The Mission or the single-take opening of Breaking News.

After dabbling in romantic comedies of all damn things, To seems to have returned to his roots of finding new and creative ways to show people shooting the crap out of each other, and Drug War looks like the film to see for Hong Kong action fans.

Vegetarian Cannibal (Dir. Branko Schmidt)

The title alone, and the description “The story of a corrupt gynecologist’s exploits within a toxic medical system” makes this one sound like a screwball farce, but director Branko Schmidt has by all accounts turned out a tense, psychological horror flick aimed at unnerving the audience as much as possible.

Given that this is Fantasia, the fest that purportedly cheered at scenes of shocking brutality in T.F Mou’s Men Behind the Sun, Vegetarian Cannibal has a pretty high order to fill if it wants to get under the skin of this audience.

By all accounts though, if any flick will succeed it’s this one, and gore hounds and fans of transgressive cinema will want to watch it.

worlds-end-posterThe World’s End (Dir. Edgar Wright)

A few years back, Shaun of the Dead had its North American premier at Fantasia, blowing the socks off horror fans and ensuring that director Edgar Wright would never be short of fans lining up to give him blowjobs and script ideas.

Now just shy of ten years later, the last film in the unoffical “Cornetto Trilogy” that began with Shaun and its follow-up Hot Fuzz, is ready to hit screens, and bring Fantasia 2013 to a close.

Reuniting stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the focus seems to be sci-fi this time, as Pegg and newcomers Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine play a gang of friends brought together after 20 years apart to make one last go at the epic pub crawl they never finished in their misspent youth, while discovering their childhood haunt is infested with Body Snatchers style alien doubles.

To say fans have been waiting for this one for a while is a wee bit of an understatement, and this will probably be one of the first films of the fest to sell out, so I’d advise buying your tickets now. Like NOW.