Fantasia 2013: Dread Central Raises the Curtain on Our Top 11 Must-See Films

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Fantasia 2013: Dread Central Raises the Curtain on Our Top 11 Must-See FilmsWith the onslaught of Comic-Con coverage beaming your way right now, this a firm reminder that Fantasia, one of the world’s preeminent genre film festivals, is also kicking off today; and we have a list of our Top 11 most anticipated entries.

The Fantasia Film Festival, now in its 17th year after debuting in 1996, will likely be making heads explode with this year’s lineup so we thought we’d point you in the direction of those films that look dressed to impress. So take off your Hulk Smash Hands for a few minutes and give these talented filmmakers a little bit of your time!

24 Exposures (USA) Dir: Joe Swanberg (World Premiere)
Joe Swanberg has been an indie darling for years for his intimate portraits of twenty-something hipsters, but it’s his latest stint in the horror genre that has us turning our heads. After the director’s effort in last year’s V/H/S entitled “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger”, I’m personally taken with a premise centering around a photographer whose subjects model as if they were deceased only to find out that one of his subjects actually does. 24 Exposures seems to harken back to late ‘80s, early ‘90s softcore melodrama. Anyone out there that remembers “Friday After Dark” on Cinemax might want to put this one on their radar.

Billy (Adam Wingard) is an erotic photographer whose images blur the line between fine art and pornography. Together with his girlfriend, Alex (Caroline White), he lives in a haze of drugs, sex and models. When a gorgeous model ends up dead, Billy draws the attention of Detective Michael Bamfeaux (Simon Barrett), an unstable cop dealing with some personal demons of his own. Meanwhile, Billy tries to lure Rebecca (Helen Rogers), a curious and innocent young woman, into his photography, while balancing a complicated relationship with Callie (Sophia Takal), his favorite model. As the murder investigation deepens, Detective Bamfeuax is drawn into Billy’s lurid world, which he may prefer to his own.

After School Midnighters (Japan) Dir: Hitoshi Takekiyo (North American Premiere)
There isn’t a lot of fanfare circling around After School Midnighters, probably having to do with the fact that it’s a 3D animated film in Japanese with no recognizable stars. The famed director Hayao Miyazaki has almost single-handedly put 2D animation in Japan at the forefront with films like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, but Midnighters attempts to make some much needed progress in the world of three dimensions.

A school’s morbid monsters of the night are no match for a trio of irrepressible little girls in this charming, distinctive and eye-poppingly weird work of 3D digital animation from Japan. Scientifically proven to spook and amuse! Official Selection: Annecy International Animation Film Festival 2013, Raindance Film Festival, Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival 2012.

Cheap Thrills (USA) Dir: E.L. Katz (Canadian Premiere)
Being the most recent example of why you should probably just go to the park to think things out after losing your blue-collar job instead of going to the bar, Cheap Thrills follows Craig (Pat Healy) and his downward spiral of debauchery and dares, in that order. Reminiscent of the premise of The Magic Christian starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, Thrills forces you to consider what you would really do for the love of money.

Recently fired and facing eviction, a new dad has his life turned upside down when he meets a wealthy couple who offer a path to financial security… but at a price.

Curse of Chucky (USA) Dir: Don Mancini (World Premiere)
The real grabber for me is not the return of Don Mancini and Brad Dourif to the series (as if they ever left) but the addition of newcomer Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad. Bringing in the next generation from father to daughter in order to introduce Chucky to a new generation is a great move. She’s also in a wheelchair, so the Lakeshore strangler might have a fighting chance this time around.

Nica (Fiona Dourif) is grieving over the gruesome suicide of her mother when her domineering older sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti) arrives with her young family in tow to help settle their mother’s affairs. As the sisters butt heads over Nica’s plans for the future, Barb’s young daughter comforts herself with a grinning, red-haired talking doll named Chucky (voiced again by Brad Dourif) that recently arrived mysteriously in the mail. But as a string of brutal murders begins to terrorize the household, Nica suspects the doll may hold the key to the bloodshed. What she doesn’t know is that Chucky has a personal score to settle. He’s determined to finish a job he started more than 20 years earlier, and this time he’s going to see it through to the bloody and shocking end.

The Complex (Japan) Dir: Hideo Nakata (Canadian Premiere)
The Complex has a lot of hype surrounding it – and for good reason. J-horror genre king Hideo Nakata (Ring, Dark Water) returns, and word is he’s honed his skills for creating atmospheric, sense-driven scares. With that in mind, it’s safe to assume that The Complex might get you to pull the covers up all the way when you try and go to sleep after watching.

Asuka (Atsuko Maeda) moves into the Kuroyuri apartment complex, without knowing about the mysterious deaths that occurred there 13 years ago. She begins to hear strange sounds of “garigarigari” from the apartment next door. One day, an old man, who lives next door, is found dead. People became aware of his death after his alarm clock continually rang. Since the death, more horrifying incidents occur. With the help of Sasahara (Hiroki Narimiya), who specializes in cleaning out the homes of recently deceased individuals, Asuka tries to find something from the old man’s apartment to give to his family. Official Selection: International Film Festival Rotterdam 2013, Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival 2013, Udine Far East Film Festival 2013.

Cottage Country (Canada) Dir: Peter Wellington (North-American Premiere)
Starring Tyler Labine (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil) and Malin Ackerman (Watchmen), Cottage Country is more comedy than horror, but that is very much in Labine’s wheelhouse after garnering acclaim and new fans in Tucker & Dale and “Reaper.” If we didn’t learn our lesson from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Cottage Country looks to remind us that it’s the country where bad things happen, not the city. And for the love of god, never bring hippies or slackers with you. They tend to ruin a romantic getaway!

Todd wants everything to be just perfect at the family cottage where he plans to propose to Cammie. But things go awry with the arrival of Todd’s slacker brother Salinger and his free-spirited girlfriend Masha. When Todd accidentally dispatches his irksome sibling with an axe, Cammie is determined not to let murder stand in the way of their happiness.

Horror Stories (Korea) Dir: Min Kyu-dong, Jung Bum-shik, Lim Dae-woong, Hong Ji-young, Kim Gok and Kim Sun
What would a horror festival be without an anthology? Seriously, you had me at anthology.

A high school student is kidnapped by a killer and has her life on the line. To survive, she tells him the scariest stories she knows; starting with “Don’t Answer to the Door”, a story of eerie things happening in a house with a brother and sister who are waiting for their mother, “Endless Flight” in which a flight attendant and a serial killer is left alone in an airplane up in the air, “Secret Recipe” a cruel 2012 version of a folktale in which two stepsisters fight to marry a rich man, and “Ambulance on the Death Zone” in which the survivors in a city filled with a deadly zombie virus suspect each other of being infected while riding together in an ambulance.

I Am Divine (USA) Dir: Jeffrey Schwartz (Quebec Premiere)
From the director of Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story comes another documentary centering around a famous cult icon, Harris Glenn Milstead a.k.a. Divine, who has been largely forgotten by the general populace even though their contribution to pop culture is undeniable. This documentary highlights one of the freaks but looks to do it in a thoughtful and endearing way.

I Am Divine is the story of Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, from his humble beginnings as an overweight, teased Baltimore youth to internationally recognized drag superstar through his collaboration with filmmaker John Waters. Official Selection: SXSW, Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013.

Rewind This! (USA) Dir: Josh Johnson (Canadian Premiere)
Featuring in-depth and revealing interviews with Frank Henenlotter, Jason Eisener, Atom Egoyan, Cassandra Peterson, Charles Band, Don May Jr, Zack Carlson, David Gregory and more, Rewind This! documents the rise and fall then rise again of the VHS industry. With over 50% of movies that were on VHS still unavailable on DVD or streaming services like Netflix, it’s no wonder why an entirely new faction of geeks have become obsessed with the format.

An exploding industry without rules! Backyard filmmakers with zero budget and a surplus of dreams! Unchecked global piracy! The race to control media consumption! Videotape changed the world and laid the foundation for today’s digital culture. Low cost equipment created unprecedented opportunities. Major studios and small indies operated on an even playing field for the first time ever. The story of the home video revolution is a tale of both technological advancement and human ambition. VHS vs. Beta! Porn invades the home! Direct to-video madness! It’s all here, along with a rogues gallery of directors, rental employees, XXX vets, box artists, collectors, and more. Join the pizza party! Official Selection: SXSW 2013.

Return To Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 (USA) Dir: Lloyd Kaufman (World Premiere)
It took me awhile to come back on board with Lloyd Kaufman and Troma, but now my freak flag waves for them just like it did when I was twelve years old. Kaufman is the Sylvester Stallone of indie horror right now, smartly returning to the well, breathing new life into the few true trashy classics in Troma’s stable.

Return to Nuke ‘Em High Vols. One & Two, directed by Lloyd Kaufman, is a satirical sci-fi comedy event film with themes ripped straight from today’s headlines: the contamination and degradation of the world’s food supply, rampant bullying, love triumphing over prejudice and LGBT rights. The film, a redux of Troma’s 1986 Class of Nuke ‘Em High is in the same vein as other classics such as Class of 1984, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, and Carrie, but seen through the unique vision of Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma Team. Welcome to Tromaville High School where, unfortunately, the glee club has mutated into a vicious gang of Cretins. Chrissy and Lauren, two innocent lovers-bloggers, must fight not only the Cretins, mutants and monsters but also the evil Tromorganic Foodstuffs Conglomerate. Will they save Tromaville High School and the world?

Willow Creek (USA) Dir: Bobcat Goldthwait (International Premiere)
I’m not really sure what possessed Bobcat Goldthwait (Shakes the Clown, God Bless America) to want to go into the woods to shoot a found-footage Bigfoot movie, and I don’t really care. Almost a satirical sister film to Blair Witch, the teaser trailer follows the same beats, but this time around the tent scene is twenty minutes long and supposedly very suspenseful. What answers will be revealed? Maybe John Landis and Rick Baker will emerge at the end and finally reveal that they were the ones that faked the 1967 Bigfoot footage.

Handsome young city lad Jim is a true believer — he’s convinced of the existence of the Sasquatch, the elusive shambling man-beast nicknamed Bigfoot, said to haunt the wilds of the American West Coast. Jim’s girlfriend Kelly isn’t so sure. But she loves Jim and hey, joining him on his silly quest to craft a homemade documentary while seeking out the notorious creature, well, there could be worst ways to spend her downtime between bit-part acting gigs. The couple drives out to Trinity County, CA, on a pilgrimage to the site where the famous Patterson-Gimlin film clip, which purported to capture the mysterious monster in motion, was shot in 1967. Rolling into Willow Creek, they find a wonderland of Bigfoot-themed gimmickry and tourist traps, and chat with assorted locals. Some of the townsfolk are happy to share, while others are apprehensive. Their warnings become increasingly aggressive. The deep woods are no place for a couple of naïve city slickers — as Jim and Kelly are soon to find out!

Stay tuned to Dread Central for reviews and interviews from the 17th edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival which kicks off TODAY, July 18th, and continues into the first week in August. Visit the Fantasia Film Festival website for more info.

Fantasia 2013

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