Now that Fourth of July weekend is over, we’re packing up our fireworks, putting away the grill, and getting ready for our next grand adventure – this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival. A three-week film festival extravaganza in Montreal, Canada, Fantasia Fest is one of the biggest genre/horror film festivals in North America. We covered it last year (back when The Spool was Alcohollywood), and now we’re back for a second year of frights, freaks and fantasy.
Fantasia Fest starts this Thursday, July 11th, and runs all the way till August 2nd. (Get your tickets here.) All the way through, we’ll be doing dispatches, reviews, interviews and more about the creepy creature features we find there. Until then, though, here are some of the films we can’t wait to see.
Director: Joe Begos
After a wild night of partying, a young artist (Dora Madison) wakes up with an insatiable craving for blood. All too eager to satisfy it, she descends into an L.A. underground nightmare to search for prey. Shot on 16mm, Joe Begos’ third feature (following 2013 ‘s Almost Human and 2015’s The Mind’s Eye) is both a punk rock take on vampire lore and a look at how the need to create is another kind of hunger, one that eats and destroys in its own way.
Why We Wanna See It: Ever since its sexy, gory trailer was released two months ago, Bliss has been one of our most highly anticipated indie horror films of the year. The vampire genre might not be (un)dead yet, but it is getting a little dusty, and this might be the film that injects some new, grimy life into it.
Come To Daddy
Director: Ant Timpson
Norval (Elijah Wood) travels to the middle of nowhere to visit his father (Stephen McHattie) after receiving a letter begging him to come. Having not seen his dad since he was five, it’s both mysterious and emotional for Norval. Things proceed to get both strange and violent.
Why We Wanna See It: Mining uncomfortable family dynamics for dramatic weight is a tried and true formula for horror films, so this sounds right up our alley. Throw in the presence of Wood and McHattie, two great actors with heaps of genre experience, and first-time feature director Timpson’s producing cred (Deathgasm, Turbo Kid, Greasy Strangler, and ABCs Of Death) and this could be one wild, trippy family reunion.
Directors: Zach Lipovsky, Adam Stein
Seven-year-old Chloe (Lexy Kolker) lives in a ramshackle home with her paranoid, controlling father (Emile Hirsch), who keeps her locked inside and warns her that “we have to stay hidden” from the outside world. But as she’s lured out of her home by the jingle of Mr. Snowcone’s (Bruce Dern) ice-cream truck, she slowly discovers the kind of world her father wanted to protect her from.
Why We Wanna See It: Looking like a cross between Room, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Firestarter, Freaks has all the makings of a visually-stunning Canadian sci-fi hit. Keeping such fantastical, supernatural goings-on from the perspective of a young girl is a fascinating twist, and Hirsch looks to be mining all his signature intensity for all its worth as Chloe’s overprotective father. Freaks made some waves at TIFF, and we can’t wait to see what all the buzz is about.
Director: Zach Gayne
Neurotic Michelle (Alex Essoe, who should have walked away with a handful of awards for the gruesome body horror of 2014’s Starry Eyes) meets needy Alex (Precious Chong) in a yoga class, and together they form a strange, co-dependent friendship. A unique blend of horror and cringe comedy, director/writer Zach Gayne’s feature debut explores the confines of femininity, and how the desire to be a “nice,” non-assertive person might be almost worth your life falling apart.
Why We Wanna See It: Ever since reading that Homewrecker has “the energy of a Jane Fonda workout tape,” we’ve been sold on it. With an upbeat 80s pop aesthetic to balance out its darker look at relationships that are all take and no give, it may turn you off to making new friends for the rest of your life.
The Island of Cats
Director: Mitsuaki Iwago
On the island of Tokyo, Daikichi (Shinosuke Tachikawa) lives a simple, humble life — he spends his days making recipes from his late wife’s cookbook and snuggling with his adorable tabby Tama-san. But when the aging man’s health begins to decline, he’s forced to contemplate leaving the island — and his adorable Tama — behind.
Why We Wanna See It: Look, for all the blood, guts, and ghouls Fantasia has to offer, sometimes you wanna watch some cute kitties. Iwago, an acclaimed wildlife photographer making his first feature, is sure to give the little furballs the visual relish they deserve, and the gentle domestic drama has shades of Tokyo Story and Tampopo written all over it. It may not scare the pants off me, but it’s sure to make me swoon and cry all in the same breath.
J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius
Director: Sandy K. Boone
Before the internet and viral memes made such things ubiquitous, a mail art project that started out as a joke between two friends turned into a strange underground phenomenon, introducing the world to one “Bob” Dobbs, prophet and pipe enthusiast. Sandy K. Boone directs and hosts this documentary about a moment when art, comedy, religion, and surrealism were as one, featuring interviews with fans Nick Offerman, Penn Gillette, and Richard Linklater.
Why We Wanna See It: Before QAnon made conspiracy theories terrifying instead of fun, there was the Church of the SubGenius. Though the documentary will likely be of no interest to anyone under 40, it’s sure to be a fascinating look at how a prank grew into a strange community of artists, celebrities, and weirdos, all of them gathered together to worship at the altar of a piece of clip art.
Director: Abe Forsythe
Dave (Alexander England) is a deadbeat loser who winds up relying on his sister’s support after pushing his friends and girlfriend away. Upon driving his nephew to school, he meets teacher Miss Caroline (the wonderful Lupita Nyong’o) and it’s love at first sight. He joins her as a chaperone on a school trip, blissfully unaware that their excursion will bring them and their group of small children into the middle of a zombie outbreak.
Why We Wanna See It: Two words: Lupita Nyong’o. After her revelatory double performance earlier this year as Red/Adelaide in Jordan Peele’s Us, we will unconditionally follow Nyong’o wherever she goes. And although the zombie genre has become a little stale and uninspired in recent years, the idea of throwing a group of children into the mix should certainly liven things up.
(Listen to Clint’s SXSW interview with Little Monsters composer Piers Burbrook de Vere here.)
Director: Keola Racela
Late one night after closing up, the teen employees of a single screen movie theatre stumble upon a scratchy arthouse skin flick. When the reels switch to reveal a satanic ritual, a sexy succubus is unleashed upon the real world and the Christian employees must battle to save their lives.
Why We Wanna See It: Word on the street is that Porno is a disgusting, perverse delight. There’s something incredibly compelling about the idea of a movie that literally comes to life and this 90s-set film should offer plenty of horror and comedy with its retro-styling and sex demon vs chaste teens storyline. Plus: anything with visceral testicular damage has got to be hilarious, right?
(Listen to Clint’s SXSW interview with Porno composer Carla Patullo here.)
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Located “near enough and far enough… just the right distance” is Yonder, a new suburban development that catches the eye of idealistic young couple Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots). Taken there by a mysterious realtor (Jonathan Aris), Tom and Gemma find themselves charmed by the pleasant, albeit labyrinthine, suburb. That is, until they realize they can’t find a way out.
Why We Wanna See It: We’re a sucker for Black Mirror-style sci-fi headscratchers over at The Spool, and Vivarium doesn’t look to disappoint. The pre-fab homes and ominous quiet of suburbia is terrifying enough, as is the prospect of taking huge steps with a romantic partner; Finnegan’s film looks to be a House Hunters-meets-High Rise level chiller that digs up the scariest aspects of adulthood. Plus, Poots and Eisenberg are tremendous, whether together (The Art of Self-Defense) or apart, so we can’t wait to see what terrors await them over Yonder.