On the verge of turning 15, Fantasia had the usual Japanese freaks from Nikkatsu and Sushi Typhoon entertaining crowds with blood and latex‐soaked extravaganzas such Alien Vs. Ninja and Mutant Girls Squad (both Canadian Premieres, with co‐Director Yoshihiro Nishimura once again running around half‐naked), while the rubbery pleasures of Air Doll introduced us to a new way of loving, mind‐blowing anime Summer Wars sucked crowds in with its explosive eye‐candy and Rinco’s Restaurant (North American Premiere with director Mai Tominaga in person) was an optimistic heart‐warmer.
What was the plot of Japanese freak‐out Symbol? Nobody can really tell.
The Canadian premiere of Bodyguards and Assassins was one of the highlights of the Hong Kong section, its period martial arts action matched only by the quick‐witted and quick‐footed high‐ flying of Gallants (Canadian Premiere)with actor Bruce Leung and co‐director Clement Cheng in person.
This year’s South Korean showcase yielded the International Premiere of animated feature What is Not Romance, the North American Premiere of splatter comedy The Neighbour Zombie (with female director and FX artist Jang Yoon‐jung on hand to apply zombie makeup to enthusiastic patrons), the Canadian Premieres of historical tear‐jerker A Little Pond, martial arts extravaganza Blades of Blood, goblin‐magic period pic Woochi and spy‐thriller bromance Secret Reunion, as well as a repertory screening of steamy 1960 classic The Housemaid.
The international premiere of French surreal slasher Rubber mesmerized everyone who saw it, which the packed‐to‐the‐gills Canadian Premiere of geek smorgasbord Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World did in equal measures. Danish Director Tomas Villum Jensen and his Producer Christian Potalivo flew in to host globe‐trotting adventure story At World’s End, as did Christopher Smith for Black Death (both North American premieres), and director Neil Marshall and actress Axelle Carolyn hosted the Canadian Premiere of Centurion.
Mexican cannibal stunner We Are What We Are (North American Premiere), Deliver Us From Evil (Montreal Premiere), Down Terrace (Canadian Premiere), Red White and Blue (Canadian Premiere, with director Simon Rumley and actress Amanda Fuller in person) and The Disappearance of Alice Creed (Montreal Premiere) stressed out the Montrealers big time, where Spain’s [Rec] 2 scared the shit out of others. Multi‐award‐winning doc Marwencol won over audiences with its unique tale of obsession and healing while Lemmy (Canadian premiere with co‐director Wes Orshoski in person) rocked their socks off and Phillip Ridley (The Reflecting Skin) made a long‐awaited comeback with dark loner fairytale Heartless. Closing film Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (with its numerous guests, including stars Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) had the crowd laughing all the way to the voting drop‐box.
This year’s Canadian offerings included the World Premieres of Jon Knautz’ creepy‐village horror film The Shrine, Chad Archibald’s Neverlost and Frederick Maheux’s Theorie de la Religion (Maheux has gone on to direct one of this year’s buzz‐films, Art/Crime), the Montreal Premiere of surreal skateboard fantasy Machotaildrop (with co‐writer/co‐director Corey Adams, co‐ writer/co‐director/producer Alex Craig and producer Oliver Linsley in person), a special screening of Jephté Bastien’s local gangland drama Sortie 67 and the double‐header of both Mesrine films starring Vincent Cassel as the infamous French criminal, hosted by fellow actor Roy Dupuis.
Fantasia also provided plenty in terms of shock, terror and the usual cinematic mania. The Subversive Serbia spotlight shook entire rooms more than a few all nights long, with the controversial but slick A Serbian Film and the intense, wonderfully‐titled The Life and Death of a Porno Gang, in the presence of their respective directors (the comparatively softer side of Serbia was represented with the director’s cut of the epic Tears For Sale and retro feature A Holy Place, a version of Gogol’s The Viy). South Korea’s Dream Home (Canadian Premiere) came out of nowhere and sideswiped everyone with its real estate‐fuelled blood frenzy.
For the World Premiere of the I Spit on your Grave remake, director Steven R. Monroe, star Sarah Butler and producer Meir Zarchi – the director of the original – hosted the screening and its explosive Q&A (in which an audience member started to yell at Monroe for remaking his favourite film, then hugged Meir Zarchi before storming out of the room). Australian director David Blythe’s solemn madness‐tinged psycho‐thriller Wound had its International Premiere, and from the Netherlands came the notorious Human Centipede.
Director Stuart Gordon came back to Montreal just in time for the 25th anniversary of his Lovecraft‐inspired splatter classic Re‐Animator , which screened to a cheering crowd, but he really moved the Fantasians with his one‐man‐play Nevermore, written by Gordon’s regular collaborator Dennis Paoli and starring the one and only Jeffrey Combs as author Edgar Allan Poe. A real tour de force that took place at the beautiful Rialto theatre, where Siouxie and the Banshees’ Steven Severin also provided live musical accompaniment to a screening of Jean Cocteau’s Le Sang d’un Poete. For the World Premiere screening of the H.G. Lewis documentary The Godfather of Gore, the 84‐year‐old subject, producer Mike Vraney (of Something Weird Video) and co‐directors Jimmy Maslon and Basket Case’s Frank Henenlotter were on hand for a Q+A.
But the crowning achievements in the repertory department were undoubtedly a screening of Ken Russell’s rarely‐seen classic The Devils, for which the cult director received a lifetime achievement award from Fantasia, as did Don Bluth and Gary Goldman before their nostalgic animated family‐classic The Land Before Time.
Like a cherry on top, this edition – which began with the Canadian Premiere of Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (with star and local‐boy Jay Baruchel in attendance) – the festival ended magnificently with a screening of the restored original cut of the German masterpiece Metropolis at the Place des Arts, with a 13‐piece orchestra. Fantasia can be classy too, you know.