August 11, 2023
WRITTEN BY: QUENTIN
While I would love to attend Fantasia International Film Festival in person one day, the fact of the matter is that it just isn’t logistically easy or cheap to get to Montreal from Germany. So, for the fourth year in a row, I was forced to experience this great festival remotely.
On one hand, it’s much easier to watch these movies from the comfort of my couch, usually sans pants, maybe with a beer in hand. On the other hand, not all festival offerings are available as a remote screener, which means I was unable to view a few titles I was really excited for, including Talk to Me and Late Night with the Devil. Plus, nothing beats the theatrical experience, especially at a film festival. That said, I still got to watch 19 movies, ranging from documentary to horror to absurdist comedy, so I don’t have much to complain about.
As you know, we only post reviews when two or more writers have had their say, but with festivals, there is often a lack of overlap amongst the writers. We call those single review outliers “Solo Shots.” Below, you’ll read about several great movies that only I saw at this year’s festival; however, the movies that were seen by some combination of Quentin, Nick, and/or Paige can be found in the Film Reviews section of our site.
As always, covering Fantasia was an absolute delight, and I look forward to the opportunity to do it again next year and beyond. Until then, enjoy Quentin’s Solo Shots from the 2023 Fantasia International Film Festival!
Starring: Dae-hwan Oh, Dong-Yoon Jang, and Jae-ho Jang
Director: Kim Jae-Hoon
For my money, when I start looking at what non-English-speaking countries are doing in terms of content, no one comes close to South Korea in terms of consistency. Devils is the latest film to validate that opinion. This dark and twisty serial killer movie has several obvious comparatives, including Face/Off and Freaky, but despite the somewhat familiar body-swap plot, I was roped in from the start. Even through the subtitles, Dae-hwan Oh and Dong-Yoon Jang give terrific performances, and the level of suspense and tension created is palpable. I know subtitled movies aren’t for everyone, including me oftentimes, but this is one to check out.
HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS
Starring: Olivia Graves, Doug Mancheski, Luis Rico, Wes Tank, and Ryland Brickson Cole Tews
Director: Mike Cheslick
Hundreds of Beavers succeeds at everything it sets out to do in creating a live-action cartoon. The gags come a mile-a-minute, and the silent movie slapstick approach will certainly elicit some giggles. It genuinely feels like Charlie Chaplin meets Wile E. Coyote. The thing is… there is a reason that most of Chaplin’s “The Tramp” movies and classic Looney Tunes cartoons were rarely longer than maybe 10 minutes. There is little story, and once you’ve acclimated to the dialogue-free vibe, it’s diminishing returns. Beavers‘ runtime is 108 long minutes. It gets tiresome quickly. However, if broken down into multiple shorts, there is little to complain about.
Starring: Richard Joseph Paul, Juliet Mills, Leon Russom, Walker Brandt, Tai Thai, Robert Cornthwaite, and Kevin Mangold
Director: David Allen
The behind-the-scenes story of The Primevals is kind of incredible. Pre-production started in the 1960s, and a series of financial issues and, eventually, the death of its writer/director in 1999(!) made for a slow, winding journey. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that it feels like a stop-motion tribute to King Kong (1933) and Land of the Lost (1974). All things considered, it works! Sure, it’s cheesy and it approaches so-bad-it’s-good territory, but for what it is and what it took to get here, I can’t be too hard on this future cult classic. Plus, Rondo Montana (Leon Russom) is an all-timer character name.
Director: Todd Max Carey
As a documentary, I suppose tOuch Kink does what it sets out to do by informing viewers about the world of BDSM and those who live the lifestyle while also dispelling some commonly held misconceptions. However, for a topic that has some inherent (sexy) fun baked in, this is a fairly tame affair. Sadly, none of the people interviewed are all that interesting, nor do they come off in a way that says they feel comfortable in front of a camera. Also, the piano-driven score is super cheesy. All in all, tOuch Kink carries the vibe of a workplace training video rather than feature documentary.
Starring: Ka Tung Lam, Lok Man Yeung, Charm Man Chan, Ting Yip Ng, and Wing-Sze Ng
Director: Soi Cheang
Mad Fate boasts excellent cinematography and a layered story that I wanted to be engaged in, functioning as part murder mystery and part examination of fate. However, and I admit that it could have been the subtitles, but this film struggled to hold my interest. This could 100% be a Q problem, but it’s a lot of mystic horoscope-driven dialogue, so because I had to read so much, it really took me out of the film’s vibe. That said, all the parts are there for something potentially great. I’d certainly be interested in an English-language remake, and this has David Fincher written all over it.
Starring: Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George MacKay
Directors: Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping
Although it doesn’t play out quite like I expected, particularly with its abrupt and somewhat unsatisfying ending, Femme is a taut little thriller that boasts tremendous performances from Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, who won Fantasia’s Outstanding Performance Award this year, and George MacKay. The direction and screenplay aren’t bad either (Sam H. Freeman & Ng Choon Ping won Best Director too), showing two characters as they walk the tightrope between violence and lust in a story that explores queer power dynamics and code-switching with unflinching nuance. I just wish the ending had a little more oomph to it because it really drags my rating down.
SHIN KAMEN RIDER
Starring: Tasuku Emoto, Minami Hamabe, and Sôsuke Ikematsu
Director: Hideaki Anno
While I’ve been notionally aware of Japanese tokusatsu, I’ve never experienced it in feature length movie form. And although Shin Kamen Rider certainly captures the vibe of the genre, it doesn’t work for me because I don’t have nostalgia for it. Rider is purposely campy, coming off as a mix between 1990s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and live-action Marvel shows from the 70s. But imagine showing someone Power Rangers now, in 2023, for the first time. It won’t hold up. That’s the problem with Rider; without a baked-in familiarity and love for the source material, it’s tough to get on board with this level of cheese.
Starring: Yûto Nakajima, Nao, and Kento Nagayama
Director: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri
If you’re a fan of movies like Buried, which is to say single-location thrillers, #Manhole is for you. The tension built by the mystery of where exactly Shunsuke (Yûto Nakajima) is and how he may have ended up there is only trumped by the escalating madness that unfolds as the story moves along. I will say, given that the film hinges on Shunsuke reading texts and social media (hence the hashtag in the title), which were subtitled to English for me, it’s hard to know if I missed any additional nuance, but for the dark story given to me, I couldn’t have asked for much more.
Photo Credits: Fantasia International Film Festival