From kaiju seafood to murder mysteries to documentaries about Tiny Tim, Fantasia 2020 has all the cinematic weirdness you crave this year.
Much as the theatrical landscape has changed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, so too have film festivals: most are canceled, some are moving fully online, others in a curious hybrid of online and in-person screenings. But one fest that has weathered this better than others is Montreal’s annual genre showcase, Fantasia International Film Festival (which is a favorite of ours here at The Spool). They’ve moved to a 100% virtual model, which should still give Canadian festivalgoers plenty of space to enjoy the weirdest, wildest, bloodiest, and strangest pictures the world has to offer.
While some of these films will have to wait for the rest of the world to see them, we’re excited to have the chance to cover Fantasia once again in 2020 — look forward to near-daily updates and reviews from the fest for the rest of the month, as Associate Editor Gena Radcliffe and I binge a bevy of thrillers, horror flicks, and quirky docs that’ll make your head spin. Hopefully, we can give you an idea of what to look forward to at Fantasia 2020 (which runs from August 20th to September 2nd) or in the months to come when they see wider release.
Morgana (Australia, dir. Josie Hess & Isabel Peppard)
First-time directors Hess and Peppard make their debut with a documentary focusing on not one, but two controversial subjects: pornography, and middle-aged female sexuality. Despondent after a divorce, 50-year-old Morgana Muses planned to kill herself until an encounter with a male escort inspired her to embrace pleasure and alternative lifestyles. What sounds like a wild story is 100% true, as Muses eventually enters the world of feminist porn. A documentary five years in the making, Morgana promises to be a fascinating look at subjects we’re still far too reluctant to discuss. [Gena Radcliffe]
Crazy Samurai Musashi (Japan, dir. Yuji Shimomura)
One-shot action sequences are splendid, but nothing new — but what if you made one that lasted 77 minutes long? That’s the gimmick behind Yuji Shimomura’s Crazy Samurai Musashi, which pits martial arts star Tak Sakaguchi (Versus, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?) as infamous samurai Musashi Miyamoto against nearly 600 bad guys in a flurry of elegantly-choreographed mayhem. It may not be the deepest story, but I’ve gotta see how they pull this impossible feat off. [Clint Worthington]
Monster Seafood Wars (Japan, dir. Minoru Kawasaki)
Kaiju-sized sushi lay waste to Tokyo, and if that alone doesn’t sell you on Monster Seafood Wars, I don’t know what will. Relying solely on old fashioned actors-in-monster-suits special effects, Minoru Kawasaki’s affectionate tribute to Toho movies has an early lockdown as an audience favorite. [Gena Radcliffe]
Survival Skills (U.S.A., dir. Quinn Armstrong)
If you’re at all familiar with cult-movie curio Surviving Edged Weapons — the ’80s police training video that functions more as a bloody crime thriller that also advises you about exotic knife placement — you’ve got to be as curious as I am about Quinn Armstrong’s Survival Skills. A pitch-perfect parody of those fuzzy VHS training vids, the first-time writer/director looks set to highlight the kind of pernicious violence and rage issues ingrained in the police from training day. In a world where everyone knows what “ACAB” means, this ought to be interesting, [Clint Worthington]
Tiny Tim: King for a Day (U.S.A., dir. Johan Von Sydow)
Long before social media turned ordinary people into stars, Tiny Tim, born Herbert Khaury, found brief fame in the late ’60s as a novelty singer, thanks largely to his bizarre (and often off-putting) vocals. Narrated by “Weird” Al Yankovic, Johan Von Sydow’s documentary is a look at Khaury’s unusual career, and how his odd persona paved the way for such wholly unique performers as David Bowie, Prince, and Marilyn Manson. [Gena Radcliffe]
Perdida (Mexico/Colombia, dir. Jorge Michel Grau)
Ten years ago, Jorge Michael Grau thrilled us with We Are What We Are, a classic work of modern cannibal cinema. Now, he’s back with Perdida, a Hitchcockian tale of an orchestra conductor who moves to Mexico City, his missing wife, and the waitress who ends up intersecting with their life in frightening ways. It’s had solid reviews out of its home country where it’s already premiered, and out of the Morelia and Los Cabos fests, so this ought to befit Grau’s incredible command of tension. [Clint Worthington]
Bleed With Me (U.S.A., dir. Amelia Moses)
After her short horror film Undress Me made a gruesome splash at Fantasia’s “Born of Women” series, Amelia Moses’ debut feature Bleed With Me premieres with considerable buzz around it. A claustrophobic psychological thriller, it stars Lee Marshall and Lauren Beatty as a pair of friends staying in an isolated cabin together, where one eventually suspects the other of taking her blood. Promotional material is playing it close to the vest as to whether this is a vampire movie or something wholly different, but either way, it’s among the more promising screenings. [Gena Radcliffe]
Special Actors (Japan, dir. Shinichiro Ueda)
One Cut of the Dead was one of my favorite films of last year — a downright-adorable meta-zombie movie as much about the joys and follies of filmmaking as it was about vicious bloodletting. Director Shinichiro Ueda‘s followup looks to double down on the slapstick artifice of the first, pitching a film where a group of young actors bands together to rescue someone from a bizarre cult that worships rice balls. [Clint Worthington]
Come True (U.S.A., dir. Anthony Scott Burns)
Don’t let the fact that Come True is being described as an “elevated genre film,” among the more meaningless of film-related phrases, dissuade your interest. Sci-fi horror about a runaway teen who participates in a sleep study to confront her chronic nightmares, only to stumble onto something far more horrifying, Come True is described as “a chilling and mind-bending journey,” with high-tech production values despite a modest budget. [Gena Radcliffe]
I WeirDO (Taiwan, dir. Ming-Yi Liao)
The pandemic has turned us all into clean freaks retreating into our apartments for safety — wreaking havoc on our own relationships in the meantime. (Yes, I’m doing fine, why do you ask?) So Ming-Yi Liao’s I WeirDo comes along at a curiously perfect time, charting the story of two OCD lovebirds leaving their protective bubbles to chase love. Filmed entirely on an iPhone, it’s sure to be a strange experiment with startling parallels to our hand sanitizer-coated lives. [Clint Worthington]