Well, that’s it, another year of Fantasia, over and done with. Paul and I are filled with simultaneous feelings of sadness that we have to wait another year and thankfulness that the next Fantasia is so many days away. The complete 18 day Fantasia experience is a full body one; hours sitting in cramped musty seats, rushing to eat crappy food between screenings, staying up until dawn. It’s sometimes easy to forget that it really is all about the movies.
Despite this year’s festival being nearly 50% larger, there just didn’t seem to be as many discoveries as in the past. I think I actually prefer a slightly more compact program, since it allows viewers to experiment a little more. Many of the films were great, but they didn’t come out of left field; you saw them coming. For me, the exceptions to this were almost universally part of Mitch Davis’ brilliant program entitled “Hell is a City: The Cinema of Urban Apocalypse” dealing with end of the world scenarios, in all their horrific, dramatic, and comedic incarnations.
Mulberry Streetn (Bronze Public Prize winner) blew everyone that saw it away, and the modesty of its director, Jim Mickle was a refreshing change from the overblown hype machine so many other “next big thing” directors are getting so good at. Track this one down if you can, under whatever name it finally ends up getting released as. As Paul says “It’s the rattiest film of the festival!”
The Signal (Bronze Public Prize winner) surprised me the most, since I went in expecting a low budget 28 Days Later rip-off and ended up being smitten by the clever, darkly humorous script and the constantly shifting narrative and visual tones brought by each of the three co-directors. And where else are you going to hear the line “I’m gonna grab a slut and pee in her butt!”
Maurice Devereaux did his hometown proud by delivering End of the Line (Silver Public Prize winner) one of my favorite straight horror films of the festival. That’s not to say that it wasn’t smarter and funnier than your average end of the world flick, but the demons versus religious fanatics with survivors in the middle premise was so much fun (and begs an action packed sequel!) that you could easily kick back and forget that the film is actually making a statement. Keep your eyes peeled for the muffin symbology…
We were all a little disappointed by how unoriginal Hatchet was, but were pleasantly surprised at how different and skillful Adam Green’s follow up effort, Spiral, turned out to be. Hatchet ended up winning the North American Gold Public Prize, which is actually voted on by attendees of the festival and not judges, so I expect that it will do well when it comes out, but I’m much more excited to see what Adam Green does next. Green is a talented filmmaker and clearly a horror fan, so I’m sure he can do something innovative with the genre, but Hatchet isn’t it for me.
When speaking of derivative films at the festival, it’s impossible not to mention Hell’s Ground, the Pakistani rip-off of Fulci’s Zombie and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If this one was made in North America it would be a straight to video knock-off, but setting it in Pakistan and making it with a Pakistani crew has somehow elevated the film to must-see status. The Mondo Macabro guys have promised to keep us updated concerning the film’s release. We’ll let you know when a date has been set.
J-Horror was less well represented this year, which can’t be anything other than a good thing. The defiantly raised middle finger to hair horror was Sion Sono’s Exte: Hair Extensions which is the definitive word on fearful filaments, and hopefully the last time we’re expected to be scared by head fuzz.
And what’s Fantasia without the shorts? Small Gauge Trauma is Christmas for twisted sonsabitches and this year’s program didn’t disappoint. While Rodrigo Gudino’s “The Demonology of Desire” had technical problems during the festival screening, we’ve subsequently seen it in all its non-muddy glory and can confirm, it’s even better than “The Eyes of Edward James”. Gudino’s definitely ready for a feature. We can’t mention short films without recognizing the most ballsy, heartfelt and disturbing film (nevermind short) of the entire festival, “Gary’s Touch”. This one isn’t horror and deals more with outsider sexuality than it does with violence, but rest assured you’re not likely to see a more shocking piece of cinema this year. I really hope this one ends up on a 2008’s impending Small Gauge Trauma DVD, because it needs to be seen.
Without further ado, the completely unauthorized 2007 Dread Central Fantasia Awards, given only to the best films of the festival (full reviews for all of which are in our Fantasia 2007 database):
Best Kid Friendly Film: “Gary’s Touch” (review)
Best Film That Makes You Realize A Candlestick, Steak Knives And Duct Tape Is All You Need To Build An Effective Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Killing Weapon: The Signal (review)
Best Film That Was Made So Cheaply There’s A Good Chance The Guy Who Poured Your Coffee This Morning Could Have Financed It Single-handedly: Mulberry Street (review)
Best Creature Design Most Resembling Genitalia: “The Demonology of Desire” (review)
Best Film That Makes You Realize Those Weird Hairs Starting To Sprout On Your Shoulders The Older You Get Could Be Much, Much Worse: Exte: Hair Extensions (review)
Best Film Guaranteed To Disappoint Closet Sadists: The Girl Next Door (review)
Best Film That Is Likely To Cause Breakups Due To Deep, But As Yet Undiscovered Philosophical Differences: Right At Your Door (review)
Best Film That May Inadvertently Attract Swingers Due To Its Partner Swapping Plot Device: The Ferryman (review)
Best Original Film Most Resembling A Sequel Or Remake: Hatchet (review)
Best Film That Makes Al Gore Wish He Had Flesh Eating Caribou Monsters In His Movie: The Last Winter (review)
All right, that does it for this year’s coverage! We’re going to go spend some time with our families and learn to live in daylight again! See ya next year!
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