It’s that time of year again, with Fantasia International Film Festival presenting a tempting spread for genre fans. With just four days to go until it opens, we take a look at some of this year’s highlights.
The emergence of a new film by the undisputed king of giallo, Dario Argento, is bound to whet the appetite of horror fans, and this looks set to be one of the most popular screenings at the festival. We don’t want to provide spoilers, but suffice to say that, even though it’s not his finest work, fans will find a great deal to enjoy about it. It follows a call girl trying to make her living whilst a killer targeting people in her profession stalks the streets of Rome. After being caught up in a car crash as she flees this threat, she loses her sight, and finds herself caring for an orphaned boy who acts as her guide as she continues to face peril. Right from the opening scenes, it’s visually spectacular and thematically intense.
A modest little Argentinean film whose combination of indigenous occult tradition with politically savvy satire and joyously gruesome special effects has seen it break through onto the world stage, Legions see a sorcerer incarcerated in a psychiatric asylum battling to save his daughter from an ancient forest fiend. At stake are not only her life and her soul but also her birthright, as one of a line of legendary guardians and as an indigenous woman compromised by colonial society. She, meanwhile, struggles to protect her obviously troubled dad from the authorities, and to live her life without his interference. Can they ever be reconciled? See it for yourself and find out.
One of the biggest hits of the year in its native Korea, The Roundup sees two frustrated police officers travel to Vietnam to try and track down the leader of a crime syndicate responsible for a series of kidnappings. Tough guy Ma Seok-do has never met a problem he couldn’t solve through the use of unreasonable force, and has only the flimsiest notion of what being outside his jurisdiction means, so there’s a serious risk of diplomatic incident before they make it back to home soil, and the action doesn’t stop there. A spectacular car chase and stunningly choreographed scenes of hand to hand combat make this one a must for fans who like their films fast paced, violent and cheerfully irresponsible with a sturdy thriller structure underneath.
Baby Assassins Photo: Courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival
Andrew Robertson writes: Baby Assassins is spiky and energetic, at once a flatshare comedy and also an unfolding thriller about a shadowy murder for hire cartel. Wildly embracing tone and content shifts it contains both the gore and care Japanese extreme cinema stalwarts like 'Beat' Takeshi and Takeshi Miike. There are observational moments of awkwardness that will speak to anyone who has cohabited or visited a restaurant or failed to audit their ammunition stock. There's also exhilarating action in a variety of forms of combat, including spicy food. The Baby Assassins are at that stage where imminent adult responsibilities make having a life seem much more difficult than taking one. The circumstances may be fictional but the struggle is real.
Tonally distinctive, deliberately unpolished, this cleverly structured Canadian film is likely to divide audiences. Some won’t cope with its impressionistic style or the rawness of the performances, but others will find it magical. It follows a group of young women, in their final hometown summer between school and college, who get tired of waiting around for boys and decide to move to a remote cabin where they can live by their own rules. Cinema’s fond pairing of whimsical femininity with prettily photographed wild environments soon takes a darker turn, reminding us of the true nature of nature, but from their perspective, it’s all fun and games even after somebody loses an eye. A signifier of a major new talent.
The Witch 2: The Other One
Supernatural thriller The Witch: Part One, The Subversion played Fantasia back in 2018, and this hotly anticipated sequel delivers more of the same, with a few new twists to keep things interesting. Like its predecessor, it begins with a teenage girl on the run. This time, fans will already have a fair idea of where she’s come from, but newcomers will find that her nature quickly becomes apparent. Taken in by a sister and brother who live on a remote farm, she gradually learns to fit in, providing plenty of culture clash comedy and some sweet emotional moments, but of course there are people looking for her, and the exceedingly violent all-action showdown in the film’s final quarter will have you on the edge of your seat.
Fantasia runs from 14 July to 3 August and we’ll be bringing you coverage throughout, so watch this space.