By Sean Boelman
Fantasia is known as one of if not the single best genre festivals in the world, so cinephiles both local to Montreal and across the world are coming together to celebrate the best in weird and niche cinema that the year has to offer. With a lineup that is diverse as ever, the 2022 edition of the festival has returned to an in-person-only format after a virtual edition in 2020 and a hybrid one in 2021.
We at disappointment media are excited to again be providing remote coverage of the festival in its 26th year. As we are able to screen some of the films from the lineup, we will continue to bring you our brief thoughts here, so make sure to keep an eye on this page for more updates.
Fresh off its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, the Korean film Next Sohee now made an appearance at Fantasia where it is a highlight among this year’s Asian showcase. The film is carried by a powerhouse performance by Kim Si-Eun as a young worker in a call center whose job causes a tremendous amount of emotional pressure on her. It’s a very depressing, sympathetic film, and while the second half pivots in a way that is slightly less compelling, July Jung’s sophomore feature is still wonderful.
Whether the Weather Is Fine
The Filipino film Whether the Weather Is Fine has been touring the festival circuit since last fall to a great deal of acclaim. Carlo Francisco Manatad’s film, set in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, is a slice-of-life film that has a lot of potential but ends up feeling a bit underdeveloped. Daniel Padilla, Charo Santos-Concio, and Rans Rifol make this a solid three-hander, but it is missing the sense of urgency — emotional or otherwise — that would have made this really powerful.
Led by acclaimed French actor Gérard Depardieu as the legendary eponymous detective created by author Georges Simenon, Maigret is a brisk ninety-minute mystery. And while the film is certainly short enough to not be dull, the mystery isn’t all that compelling or unpredictable. Depardieu’s performance is the main reason to watch the movie, and while this story itself might not be very interesting, it shows a lot of potential should there be further adaptations of the detective’s other cases.
Even now that he is an octogenarian, master of giallo Dario Argento has still got it. Although his newest film, Dark Glasses, is not his most stylistically or thematically rich, it still offers the fun, murder-filled atmosphere which the filmmaker excels at creating. The kills aren’t all that original, but the gore effects are well-done and will satisfy fans of the genre, as will the synth-heavy score by Arnaud Rebotini and Ilenia Pastoreli’s gloriously over-the-top leading performance. What else could you hope for from a throwback Dario Argento film?
The Pass: Last Days of the Samurai
There is no good reason for a movie called The Pass: Last Days of the Samurai to be as boring as this, but viewers will leave this one wondering what went wrong. Directed by Takashi Koizumi, who several times served as the assistant director to master of samurai cinema Akira Kurosawa, this film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. However, in terms of plotting, it’s really just two hours of negotiations. Although it is certainly possible to make boardroom scenes like this compelling, the aggressively dry way in which this film is written will almost put you to sleep.
Unsettling more than it is scary, Michelle Garca Cervera’s Huesera is nonetheless one of the best horror movies to play at this year’s Fantasia. Combining elements of body horror with shades of Rosemary’s Baby, this is a fascinating and compelling exploration of motherhood and femininity in Latin American culture. It’s definitely light on scares and even disturbing imagery, but some eerie sound design and a few genuinely haunting moments will certainly leave audiences squirming by the time the credits roll.
Argentina has a rich history of producing fantastic supernatural horror films, so Fabian Forte’s Legions was naturally one of the more hotly anticipated titles playing at this year’s Fantasia. Unfortunately, this is a major case of “been there, done that” — an homage to a series of much better horror films that have used these tropes in the past. Although the third act is fittingly wild and gnarly, the hour that precedes it is wildly uneven and unfocused. There is a good movie in here, but it was in need of a sharper edit.
My Grandfather's Demons
Billed as Portugal’s first-ever stop-motion animated film, My Grandfather’s Demons is certainly the type of film that feels more like an early experiment than the work of someone who has found their style. This story of a woman returning to her family’s farm after her grandfather passes away has some interesting themes about legacy and identity, but the story feels rather generic despite its attempts. There is some cool folklore-inspired imagery, but for the most part, it’s just a passable animated feature.
Ma Dong-seok is one of the best action stars working today, so any movie that he leads is going to be one of the most promising action movies of the year. The Roundup, a follow-up to the successful 2017 film The Outlaws, finds him in his element. The only issue? There isn’t enough of him. For most of the film, he doesn’t end up coming in until partially through the fight sequences, and a lot of the fights are overly reliant on knives rather than the hand-to-hand combat for which he has become known. It’s still an entertaining watch, but it doesn’t rank among Ma’s best.
Nico van den Brink’s Moloch starts out extremely well, but once it starts to reveal its hand, audiences will begin to realize that it doesn’t make very much sense. A bit of a home invasion thriller, a bit of a haunted house movie, and a lot of a rip-off of Hereditary, there are certainly some interesting ideas happening in the film, but they never pay off into anything remotely worthwhile. A handful of moments of disturbing imagery aside, this film largely feels like it is doing the same thing that other horror movies have already done more successfully.
Goodbye, Don Glees!
The anime film Goodbye, Don Glees! shows the potential to be a summer coming-of-age classic a la Stand by Me or The Goonies, but it never manages to capture the magic of the iconic films to which it clearly owes so much. Although this tale of friendship is enjoyable enough, audiences will be able to see through its blatant and unabashed emotional manipulation. As a result, the film’s beats don’t hit nearly as hard as they should, and it ends up being just another quaint entry in an already overstuffed genre.
Following a “delivery driver” who specializes in transporting illicit cargo as she is given a job that pushes even her moral boundaries, South Korean action filmmaker Park Dae-min’s film Special Delivery promises to be a kickass, feminist take on Baby Driver, but it doesn’t arrive on time or as expected. The high-octane vehicular action is pretty solid, and Parasite star Park So-dam makes for an interesting action heroine, but the story is so generic and bland that it is hard to get invested in the film, no matter how exciting the chases may be.
The 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13 through August 3.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.