The Fantasia International Film Festival — North America’s largest genre-focused film fest featuring horror, science fiction, thrillers, mysteries, dark comedies, animation, and the like — celebrates its 27th edition from July 20 through August 9, 2023 in Montreal, Canada at the Concordia Hall Cinema, with additional screens at the Cinémathèque Québécoise and Cinéma du Musée. Here are six of the features that look super tantalizing, with more information available at https://fantasiafestival.com/en/. Following are official press descriptions, followed by my thoughts in italics.
NICOLAS CAGE. JOEL KINNAMAN. YUVAL ADLER. SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL.
Award-winning director Yuval Adler (BETHLEHEM) reunites with Joel Kinnaman following 2020’s THE SECRETS WE KEEP and brings Nicolas Cage on board to deliver one of the most intense performances of his career in SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL. After being forced to drive a mysterious passenger at gunpoint, a man finds himself in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse where nothing is as it seems. This riveting crime thriller will leave you breathless. International Premiere.
One of Nicolas Cage’s most intense performances, you say? Count me in!
DECADES IN THE MAKING, THE PRIMEVALS WILL SOON LIVE
Fantasia’s world premiere of THE PRIMEVALS represents the culmination of a longtime dream harboured by visual effects wizard David Allen, whose career stretched from 1970’s EQUINOX through Oscar-nominated work on YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, WILLOW and beyond. Allen first conceived THE PRIMEVALS as a vehicle for his stop-motion talents in the 1970s and finally began directing the film in the 1990s under producer and Full Moon Features Founder Charles Band, for whom he’d brought all manner of beasties to life. Sadly, the film’s completion was scuttled by Allen’s death from cancer in 1999 at just 54 years old. For the last many years, Band and longtime Allen associate Chris Endicott (THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR) have worked to see the film to completion, and it emerges at Fantasia as a glorious tribute to the classic films of Ray Harryhausen, with a true sense of adventure and eye-popping stop-motion animation. Special-effects fans will not want to miss this. World Premiere.
As a lifelong fan of stop-motion animation and Ray Harryhausen, and a big fan of the wild Equinox, The Primevals is must-see viewing for me!
BANGLADESHI FOLK HORROR REINVENTED: PETT KATA SHAW
Bangladeshi folklore is rife with ghosts and unforgiving spirits, all deeply connected to its people’s collective history of injustice and societal dread. PETT KATA SHAW, an anthology inspired by oral legends from Bangladesh, is written and directed by Nuhash Humayun, the breakout star of Bangladeshi horror cinema. Winner of the Midnight Shorts Competition at SXSW as well as a Gold Audience Award at Fantasia 2022, his short film MOSHARI is the first Bangladeshi production ever to qualify for an Academy Award, catching the attention of Jordan Peele and Riz Ahmed. Reinvented in a contemporary setting, the spine-chilling tales of PETT KATA SHAW don’t shy away from issues such as mental health, religion, climate change, and gender roles. North American Premiere.
Folk horror has always been a popular form of fright-fare cinema, and the subgenre is having one of its most prolific times at the moment. It’s always interesting to see folk horror from different countries.
LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL (Australia) – Dirs: Colin and Cameron Cairnes
A career-best performance by David Dastmalchian headlines this innovative and nightmarish horror treat in which a live television broadcast in 1977 goes horribly wrong, unleashing evil into the nation’s living rooms. Accurately hailed by Stephen King as “absolutely brilliant”. Official Selection: SXSW 2023. Overlook 2023. Canadian Premiere.
I had the opportunity to watch and review Late Night with the Devil for its Overlook Film Festival run, and I can highly recommend it. Aficionados of supernatural cinema should consider this required viewing. It is a lock for my list of 10 favorite horror films of 2023.
FEAR RUNS LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP
LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP is the hotly anticipated directorial debut of Teresa Sutherland, screenwriter of THE WIND and a writer on MIDNIGHT MASS. Laced with stunning visuals, this ominously beautiful, deeply frightening nightmare is anchored by a captivating lead performance from BARBARIAN’s Georgina Campbell. Campbell plays a park ranger in an isolated forest outpost, the site of multiple mysterious disappearances, and she is plagued by visions blending the past and present with something even more sinister. This transfixing film oozes an immersive, fever dream atmosphere. Also starring Nick Blood, Wai Ching Ho and Edgar Morais. World Premiere.
Sylvan horror meets psychological horror — this alone is enough to capture my attention. Add to that the writer behind the chilling The Wind as director and you have a the potential for an eerie, unsettling slice of cinema.
LYCANTHROPIAN CHILLS FROM FROM LARRY FESSENDEN: BLACKOUT
At last, acclaimed horror auteur Larry Fessenden has fulfilled his long-held desire to make a werewolf film, rounding out the triptych begun with his vampire drama HABIT (1997) and FRANKENSTEIN variation DEPRAVED (2019). Fessenden, as always, makes BLACKOUT a very human story as well as a gripping horror show while weaving in his traditional focus on socio-political themes, from his long-held ecological concerns to very modern issues of suspicion and paranoia. Starring Alex Hurt, Addison Timlin, Marshall Bell, James LeGros, Barbara Crampton and Joe Swanberg. World Premiere.
Larry Fessenden! Barbara Crampton! Werewolves! Need we say more?