I t’s July, normally a time of year when I escape steamy St. Louis for three weeks of new and classic genre films at the Fantasia International Film Festival in the much cooler (in every sense of the word) city of Montreal. This year I’ll be covering Fantasia remotely, but I’m as psyched as ever for the festival to start. There are so many great movies in this year’s lineup that it’s hard to pick just a few to recommend, but here are ten movies playing at Fantasia 2018 that I’m particularly looking forward to seeing.
Daniel Roby’s Dans la brume, the festival opener, is an apocalyptic thriller set in a Paris beset by an earthquake followed by release of a toxic fog. As the fog comes seems to come from within the earth, some people are able to escape it by fleeing to the rooftops—but of course the resources they need to survive mostly exist at the ground level. Romain Duris and Olga Kurylenko star as parents of a child (Fantine Harduin) who, due to a rare genetic disorder, must live in an isolation chamber and breathe filtered air. While this setup protects her from the deadly fog, her parents must risk their lives to take care of her.
It’s no secret that I love portmanteau movies, and Fantasia this year is blessed with three of them. The Field Guide to Evil features the work of nine directors presenting an eclectic selection of stories drawing on folklore traditions and tropes, from a goblin who crashes a Christmas party in a Greek town to two German siblings tormented by a mouse-like demon called a drude. Tales from the Hood 2, written and directed by Darin Scott and Rusty Cundieff and executive produced by Spike Lee, offers social commentary through the lens of multiple stories touching on both horror and comedy. Finally, Nightmare Cinema combines five short films directed by a regular murderer’s row of horror masters: Joe Dante (who will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from Fantasia this year), Mick Garris, Ryuhei Kitamura, David Slade, and Alejandro Brugues.
In Timur Bekmambetov’s thriller Profile, a British journalist (Valene Kane) investigating the phenomenon of Western women becoming Jihadi brides creates a fake Facebook profile and soon finds herself catfishing an ISIS recruiter (Shazad Latif). All the action in Profile, based on In the Skin of the Jihadist, a memoir by French journalist Anna Erelle, takes place on the computer screen, a technique also used in Unfriended, Searching, and Unfriended: Dark Web (the latter two are also playing at Fantasia this year).
If film festivals gave awards for titles, the hands-down winner at Fantasia this year would have to be Robert Krzykowski’s The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot. Sam Elliott stars as a man who has already accomplished the first task and is asked by the FBI and the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for you Americans) to do the latter. As if a killer title and Sam Elliott were not enough, this film also features special effects by Douglas Trumbull, whose previous credits include 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner.
The Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster might seem like an unlikely subject for humor, but it plays a central role in Tadashi Nagayama’s comedy Being Natural. Set in the Japanese countryside, Being Natural features Yota Kawase as a gentle man who cares for his senile uncle and generally leads a peaceful existence, only to see his life upended when an ambitious couple from Tokyo come to town.
The first live-action adaptation of Tite Kubo’s Bleach, one of the best-selling manga series of all time, will be screened at Fantasia this year. Directed by Shinsuke Sato, Bleach features Sota Fukushi as Ichigo Kurosaki, a teenager who can see ghosts as well as the evil beings known as hollows. Following an encounter with Rukia Kuchiki (Hana Sugisaki), Ichigo learns that he is in fact a shingami or Soul Reaper whose job it is to protect humanity from hollows.
Frank Henenlotter’s documentary Boiled Angels: The Trials of Mike Diana tells the story of zine creator Mike Diana, whose comics often featured sex and violence in a manner many people would find shocking and repulsive. Diana’s creations appealed to people with very specific, non-mainstream tastes, but somehow they came to the attention of the authorities, leading to his becoming, in 1994, the only American artist to be convicted of obscenity. Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys provides the narration while Neil Gaiman, Peter Kuper, and Jay Lynch are among those interviewed in this film.
Fantasia closes with the world premiere of Kam Ka-Wai’s Big Brother, a combination martial arts/high school drama featuring Donnie Yen as a soldier turned high school teacher. Sent to an underperforming school, his unconventional methods inspire his students while teaching them skills that come in handy they must face down a gang intent on taking over their land. | Sarah Boslaugh
The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 12 through August 2 in Montreal, Quebec. More information, including a searchable schedule and descriptions of the films playing, is available from the festival website (available in English and French).