Five to look forward to at Fantasia

Our pick of what's coming up in Montreal

by Jennie Kermode

Sadako
Sadako Photo: (C)2019 "Sadako" Film Partners

One of the most eagerly anticipated events on the genre film calendar, the Fantasia International Film Festival opens its doors again this week and we're looking forward to some of the treats in store. Everyone's already talking about opening film Sadako, which sees Hideo Nakata return to his iconic horror creation after 21 years, but what else is showing and what should you know about it?

Freaks
Freaks

Freaks

A massive hit with the audience at this year's Glasgow Frightfest, Zach Lipovsky and Adam B Stein's genre-bending thriller centres on a little girl played by talented newcomer Lexy Kolker. Young Chloe lives with her dad in a house whose windows are covered with paper, its door secured with multiple locks.He tells her that she must never, ever go through that door unless he goes out and doesn't come back, in which case she must adopt a false identity. But Chloe, like all children, is curious. What is her dad so afraid of? Why does she get in trouble for doing things that seem like innocent fun? And who is the stranger in the ice cream truck who seems to be watching the house? This high-concept film keeps on delivering fresh twists and turns and building tension all the way up to the end.

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil
The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil

What kind of man would attack a gang boss if he wasn't doing so on behalf of another gang? Only an idiot - or somebody who didn't know who he was and was just doing it for pleasure. When don Jang Dong-soo (Dong-seok Ma) survives a vicious attack, he hooks up with Mu-Yeol Kim's ambitious cop to track down a serial killer - but the two unlikely allies are also rivals as each schemes to get there first and dole out his own form of justice. Won-Tae Lee's fast-paced, adrenaline-soaked thriller mixes stylish action sequences with playful wit as the characters try to outfox each other but both risk falling foul of a man whose agenda they struggle to comprehend and who is willing to do much nastier things than either of them. With a high body count and some spectacular fights, this is a dark tale with a surprisingly playful edge.

Darlin'
Darlin' Photo: Courtesy of EIFF

Darlin'

You don't have to keep a woman in chains to take control of her destiny. In this sequel to Lucky McKee's groundbreaking horror drama The Woman, written and directed by star Pollyanna McIntosh, a feral girl is taken in by a Catholic charity which hopes to profit both spiritually and financially from converting and civilising her. She's seeking both redemption and salvation, but not in the way they think, and meanwhile the Woman is searching for her, precipitating a series of blackly comic encounters with (supposedly) civilised society. A brilliant central performance by Lauryn Canny perfectly captures that innate wildness that's present in all children and gradually tamed out of them, whilst McIntosh takes a sly look at our world from the outside, pointing up the hypocrisies of the Church and much more besides.

The Art Of Self-Defense
The Art Of Self-Defense Photo: Courtesy of EIFF

The Art Of Self Defense

How safe do you feel walking down the streets at night? Would you feel safer if you had a gun? Jesse Eisenberg's shy loser has never been good at looking after himself, but after a mugging leaves him badly shaken, he decides that has to change and starts attending judo classes run by Alessandro Nivola's macho Sensei (Nivola spoke to us about his role here). The trouble is, there's more to the Sensei than is at first apparent in this mannered comedy about what happens when masculinity is taken to extremes. Dark deeds and psychological warfare are balanced by absurdist humour delivered with immaculate timing, and one if the cutest canine performances you'll see this year.

Porno
Porno

Porno

When teenagers unwittingly unleash a succubus in a haunted cinema with a secret past, horror fans have a pretty good idea what to expect. Keola Racela delivers that and much more in this beautifully detailed, artistic recreation of a Seventies exploitation romp. The twist? These are nice kids from a Christian school who try to remain true to their values no matter what they come up against - but they still have secrets and delusions they need to overcome before they can hope to defeat the evil ranged against them. The endearing characters keep viewers caring even when the humour is at its crudest. Although there's actually little in the way of sexual content, cheap thrills are guaranteed - the excellent technical work is a bonus.

Fantasia runs from 11 July until 1 August.

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