By Sean Boelman
Every year, the Fantasia International Film Festival is a showcase of some of the most exciting genre cinema of the year. From horror to action to thriller and other films that are just downright weird, Fantasia is where genre cinephiles go to make their next big discovery.
We at disappointment media again had the pleasure of covering Fantasia remotely. Here are some quick thoughts on some of the films we saw as part of the lineup.
Korean filmmaker Park Hoon-jung has become something of a mainstay in the Fantasia lineup, best known for his duology of action horror films, The Witch: Part 1 - The Subversion and The Witch: Part 2 - The Other One. His latest work, The Childe, doesn’t have as much of a horror influence, opting instead for more of a gritty crime thriller approach — albeit with Park’s penchant for shocking brutality. Although the action sequences are a ton of fun, the story that surrounds them is overly convoluted and, worse yet, not all that interesting. There are some moments that are inspired and shine very brightly, but it just doesn’t all come together.
Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping’s Femme is the type of movie that is extremely difficult to watch, but in a way that feels necessary and thought-provoking. Following a drag artist who finds a way to get revenge against his assailant after a brutal homophobic attack, this is definitely not your standard revenge thriller. The film creeps under your skin, thanks in part to strong direction by Freeman and Ping, but also from a wonderfully vulnerable performance by Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and a truly chilling turn by George MacKay. Although it might be too much for some to stomach, it’s quite effective.
Reiki Tsuno’s Mad Cats is the type of movie where its success will depend heavily on the viewer’s willingness to get onto its absurd wavelength. The film follows an unlikely hero as he goes on a bizarre quest to rescue his missing brother, bringing him up against a group of ferocious warriors who may or may not be cats. It’s a wild concept that has the potential for plenty of wacky, fun moments, but its aggressive quirkiness gets overwhelming at times. The martial arts action sequences are also quite enjoyable. However, despite a bunch of individual elements that work well, the film never congeals as well as it needed to.
Soi Cheang’s Mad Fate is a literal manifestation of the description “your mileage may vary.” The film is a vile cacophony of superstition and violence. It’s extremely unpleasant, but that’s exactly what some audiences will be looking for with a film like this. This story of a fortune teller and the man he foretells to be destined to murder simply doesn’t make a ton of sense. However, regardless of if one connects with the film’s weirdness and brutality, there’s no denying that the film boasts an impressive visual style, as well as more than a few moments that will be etched into your memory — for better or worse.
Stay Online is meritorious in the fact that it’s impressive that it was even able to be made, and its heart is in the right place. As the first Ukrainian fiction film shot during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the film shows the importance of the Ukrainian resistance movement. Unfortunately, the film’s story of a volunteer trying to reunite a young boy with his missing father feels like too much of a tear-jerker to really work. Add in some less-than-impressive performances, and the fact that the director often breaks the film’s Screenlife conceit, and you have a film that is thoroughly frustrating despite its noble intentions.
The 2023 Fantasia Film Festival runs from July 20 to August 9.
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