As we wrap up the second full week of Fantasia, I can’t help but marvel at how much more than a simple film festival it has become.
In addition to the theatrical performance Nevermore, this past week included a Miskatonic Institute Lovecraft adaptation masterclass given by Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli, a rare screening of The Devils where Ken Russell was presented with a lifetime achievement award, and a two-part live slideshow presentation from Rick Trembles and the creators of the very cool lostmyths.net. Fantasia is evolving into a three-week long series of events, appearances and live performances that just happens to also contain the best genre film festival in North America!
While most people have already seen Russell’s The Devils, seeing it on the big screen with an audience was a reminder of just how subversive and extreme this 1971 historical horror flick really is. Due to the film still being censored the world over, and Warner Brothers being skittish about screening a non-Canadian approved version, Fantasia was unable to secure the promised 35mm print. The capacity crowd booed the Warner Brothers logo when it appeared at the beginning of the digital projection, and here’s hoping executives at WB heard it. An uncut DVD release of The Devils is long overdue.
On Tuesday we checked out the derivative but nonetheless fun muck-miners run amok film La Meute (The Pack). With influences ranging from Fulci, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Robocop(!) it’s a well made French hillbilly horror flick that has monsters, gun fights, torture and wears its love of the genre proudly on its sleeve. Look for a full review shortly.
We also got to see [REC] 2 with a packed theatre and had a blast jumping in our seats to this demon-zombie filled funhouse ride. [REC] 2 is definitely the Aliens to the first film’s Alien. Both it and La Meute provided a brainless and fun diversion from a lot of the political and transgressive horror on display this year (A Serbian Film is still rattling around in my head and is showing no signs of going away anytime soon).
Wednesday brought the always highly anticipated “Small Gauge Trauma”, Fantasia’s cornucopia of the world’s weirdest short films. This year was atypically light on noteworthy fare, but the whole program was more than redeemed by the following three genre gems:
“The Necronomicon” (2009)
Dir: Joseph Nanni
In this hilarious infomercial length satire two friends are sitting in a coffee shop engaging in banal TV safe banter, and one asks, “Read any good books lately?” By way of response out comes the original bound-in-human-skin book of the dead, the Necronomicon! A perfect bite-sized joke with pitch perfect marketing-speak dialog. Tailor made for horror fans.
“Off Season” (2010)
Dir: Jonathan Tulleken
A man traverses a frozen lake with a sled and his trusty dog intent on burglarizing cottages in the off season while no one is home. Nearly devoid of exposition and sporting a disconcertingly ambiguous threat, viewers aren’t quite sure if the film is about a haunted cabin, a serial killer or some kind of monster faced tundra beast. A moody and genuinely terrifying film that is sure to scare at least a few would be criminals into law abiding citizens.
“Ninjas” (2010) (full review coming soon)
The undisputed king of this year’s “Small Gauge”, Ramalho, the director of 2003’s haunting Brazilian Voodoo short “Love From Mother Only” and writer and assistant director of Coffin Joe’s Embodiment of Evil, returns with “Ninjas”, his God Told Me To inspired story of cop perpetrated slum genocide in São Paulo. Devoid of the explicit supernatural elements of his other films, but rife with the same theme of spiritual decay, “Ninjas” is a frank and brutal portrayal that uses the ideas of government corruption and religious mania to rail against not only events happening specifically in his country but the world over. McCannibal liked the short film so much he dedicated an entire feature length sized review of it.
Finally, we checked out Simon Rumley’s latest genre bending horror film deconstruction Red White and Blue. This is without a doubt one of the discoveries of the festival and a film everyone is talking about. This is Rumley’s second appearance at Fantasia, and his 2006 screening of The Living and the Dead had a similarly enthusiastic response, making him one of the true stars of Fantasia. Look for my review of Red White and Blue soon.
Screening before Rumley’s masterpiece was Morris County helmer’s Matthew Garrett latest exercise in cinematic bleakness, Beating Hearts. Like all of Garrett’s work, the film is disturbing and graphic beyond belief but never veers into exploitation territory. He has a true talent for evoking a mood of familial and societal corruption that was a perfect opener for Rumley’s meditations on similar themes.
One more week to go with some anticipated films on the lineup including Black Death, The Last Exorcism, The Violent Kind, Suck, Centurion, The Shrine, Dream Home, The Loved Ones, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.
“Ken Russell accepting his lifetime achievement award”
“Simon Rumley and Amanda Fuller”
“Matthew Garrett, Mitch Davis, and Dennison Ramalho”
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