Fantasia is upon us yet again, and our own Evil Andy has thrown a batch of brain-pickers at one of the festival’s programmers, Mitch Davis, to find out what fans can and should look forward to this year.
Fantasia 2008 boasts more than 100 films and no less than 9 world premieres during its three-week run (July 3-21), which is the biggest it’s ever been. The films were chosen from a host of talented and scholarly film fans like Fangoria editor Tony Timpone, TwitchFilm editor Todd Brown, Simon Laperriere (one of the newest additions) and King-Wei Chu. Davis is the glue holding it all together, however, so it’s his gray matter we dive into.
Enjoy the chat, and be sure to hit Fantasia’s official site for all the details on this year’s show!
Evil Andy: Holy shit Mitch; this is Fantasia’s 12th year. The customary 12th anniversary gift theme is linen and silk. Does this mean we’re going to see you flitting around the Fantasia site in billowing linen pants and lustrous silk shirts this year?
Mitch Davis: And voodoo skulls. Silk ain’t nothing without voodoo skulls!
EA: Is there another Small Gauge Trauma DVD coming out this year, and if so, is it true that the craziest film of last year’s festival, “>“Gary’s Touch” (review) is on it? If so, how the hell are you ever going to get that thing across the Border?
MD: We have crates of hollowed-out dolls waiting in a warehouse for that very purpose! Actually, it’s time for everyone’s favourite game of Good News & Bad News. The good news: “Gary’s Touch” has indeed been licensed for Small Gauge II, and as a bonus feature we have Ken Takahashi`s incredible Q&A session from last summer’s screening at the fest. The bad news: several things caused a string of unexpected delays and Synapse now has such a packed release schedule that the disc won’t be out until early 2009. It will be worth the wait though. That’s a promise!
EA: Clearly the genre staples are all represented as they are each year, but one of the best parts of Fantasia is discovering a bunch of films that are harder to classify. What geographies and sub-genres are being focused on this year?
MD: Our biggest spotlight this year is dedicated to American horror films. Specifically, to the re-emergence of uncompromising, wildly individualistic American horror filmmaking. There was a time when US horror films were globally adored for their audacity, their bravery and their politically charged subversiveness. The recent history of US horror, awash as it has been with mostly sequels, remakes and sequels to remakes has all but demolished a once proud heritage. Of course, there hasn’t been a year without several standout American horrors, but it’s nothing like it once was. Last year, films like The Mist and Mulberry Street broke through and the common words of praise from international fans usually included something along the lines of ”I didn`t think Americans made films like this anymore”.
This year, the number of truly inspired and unique American horror films – films that are made with an uncompromising singularity of vision – have continued to climb, so we’ve decided to pay tribute to this. We’re calling the spotlight “Bloody Radical: Unconventional American Horror” and it consists of From Within, Bad Biology (pictured), “>Repo! The Genetic Opera (review), The Objective, “>Midnight Meat Train (review), “>Baby Sitter Wanted (review), the utterly mad Pig Hunt, even though it’s not quite new, “>All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (review).
On the short film side, related to our US block, we’re showcasing a series of shorts from Adam Wingard. His feature film work has been interesting, but when you see the shorts he’s been making over the past year, you’re going to be amazed. He’s developed a very interesting voice and his new work ranks among some of my favourite US filmmaking of the moment. Kind of like a horror oriented nightmare fusion of David Lynch and Gus Van Sant. Really incredible, personal work.
Another, smaller spotlight is focused on the current trend of subjective-shot “reality horror” films. We call it “Playback in Black” and it’s made up of a trio of very, very strong examples of these kinds of narratives, from Spain, the US, and South Korea: “>REC (review), Home Movie and The Butcher. None are in any way comparable to the other and each are standouts. Actually, we were in hell when it came to Home Movie because it really should be appearing in the “Bloody Radical” spotlight too!
We’ve also got a showcase we’re calling “Animated Auteur Visions”, which I guess is kind of self-explanatory, and we’re finally bringing the touring Nikkatsu retrospective series No Border No Limits: 1960’s Nikkatsu Action Cinema to Canada, which I’m very, very excited about.
Last but not remotely least, we’re doing a tribute to Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom, who will be in town for the international premiere of 4BIA and the Montreal premiere of Alone. We were the first fest in Canada to show Shutter back in the day, the third time it was ever shown in the world, so we’re incredibly happy to be doing this. We can’t wait to see peoples skin crawling over the armrests!
Outside of any spotlight, one of the full-on must-see films at the fest is the Swedish masterpiece “>Let the Right One In (review), which I can honestly say is the greatest vampire film I’ve seen in my entire adult life. It’s absolutely extraordinary, poetic, frightening, shocking and touching. Brilliant in every way.
EA; You’ve manage to secure a pretty good group of directors attending the festival this year. What horror heavyweights have you managed to pull in, and can we expect any surprise visits?
MD: Well, the surprise visits would lose much of their electric surprise power if I were to spill them before they hit, but some of the more known guests we have coming in this year would be Ryuhei Kitamura, Bill Plympton, Gordon Liu, Darren Lynn Bousman, Frank Henenlotter, Eihi Shiina (star of Miike’s Audition), Jim Isaac, Tak Sakaguchi, David Blyth, Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom.
EA: What’s your pick for the goriest film of the fest?
MD: That would have to be Tokyo Gore Police by a landslide! A bloody, kinky, society-violating landslide!
EA: What’s your pick for scariest film of the fest?
MD: On a visceral level, REC. Easily. That film hits such a heightened peak of hysteria and intensity that I’m almost surprised nobody’s died during a screening yet! Most disturbing would likely be a toss-up between Home Movie and the doco I Think We’re Alone Now.
EA: What’s your pick for most subversive film of the fest?
MD: That’s a difficult one. Can I give you another tie? Tokyo Gore Police is the most obvious one, but From Within goes into some very culturally un-safe places as well.
EA: What’s your pick for foreign film most likely to be badly remade?
MD: Let the Right One In. Remake rights have already been optioned, but this is a story that can’t be told in a mainstream American studio production. Studios would be terrified to go near it. Whatever we end up getting in a remake, I’d be stunned if it bears more than a passing resemblance to the original.
EA: What’s your pick for horror film most likely to inject a badly needed dose of intelligence into the genre?
MD: A three-way tie between Let the Right One In, Home Movie and The Objective. Color me indecisive!
EA: That’s it for this year, thanks again for taking the time to chat with us. And hey, can I touch your velvet coat this year?
MD: The velvet’s been retired, but we can probably work something out. Nya ha ha ha.
Thanks again, Mitch and Andy! Keep your eyeballs on Dread for our regularly updated Fantasia reports, reviews, and interviews!