I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Fantasia Film Festival since the very first year and make no mistake about it, Fantasia has always been a highlight of every summer since. This year is no exception. With another impressive and diverse line-up, any movie-crazed die hard genre fan such as myself is left with no choice but to spend hours studying both the program and schedule to fit in as many films as you possibly can. So we’ve decided to put together this list of must-see films for anyone who is either new to the festival or simply doesn’t have as much time to properly browse through the massive program.
1) A Taxi Driver ( Taeksi Woonjunsa)
Fantasia is known for screening some of the greatest South Korean films ever made. In the past we’ve seen such gems as Castaway on the Moon, Memories of Murder, The Host, Old Boy, Chaser, I Saw the Devil and A Tale of Two Sisters, to name just a few. This year, the must-see South Korean film is without a doubt A Taxi Driver from director Hun Jang (The Front Line, Secret Reunion, Rough Cut). Based on a true story, A Taxi Driver follows the titular character (played by Song Kang-Ho) who helps a German reporter cover the Gwangju Uprising. This year’s edition will close with the international premiere of A Taxi Driver, with director Jang Hoon in attendance.
2) The Endless
The Sordid Cinema/Goomba Stomp crew have been huge fans of the writer-director duo Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson ever since they debuted Resolution back in 2012. Resolution surprised audiences with its meta-textual exploration of urban legends and two years later they followed up with Spring, a clever and severely romantic creature feature that has often been described as the demented cousin to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy. Their latest feature promises to be their best yet and The Endless has already won the hearts of critics worldwide including our very own Ivy Loftberg who wrote, “The Endless is a smart indie genre-bender and a thrillingly original picture not to be missed.” While not a sequel, The Endless does draw on Resolution’s ideas enough that it will play much better for people who’ve already seen their first film. Regardless, if you’re in the mood for Lovecraftian horror and technological mind-games, you’re not going to want to miss this.
3) Good Time
Fantasia will host the North American premiere of Cannes Competition title Good Time, starring Robert Pattinson. Those already acquainted with the young oeuvre of Benny and Josh Safdie — will understand why this is a movie you cannot miss! Robert Pattinson (giving what everyone is calling his most commanding performance to date) plays a desperate small-time bank robber who attempts to get his brother out of jail. Over the course of one crazy night, Constantine finds himself on a mad descent into violence and mayhem as he races against the clock to save both his brother and himself. The Safdie Brothers’ last feature, Heaven Knows What, evoked The Panic in Needle Park with its cinema verite observation of the New York City heroin subculture, and their follow-up, Good Time also draws inspiration from similar gritty American movies of the 1970s, notably, Dog Day Afternoon. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian best described it as “a New York story with a bizarrely picaresque feel and a pulsingly obtrusive synth score. It is a somber, downbeat movie whose initial thrills give way to sadness.”
Taking cues from late ’70’s /early ’80s horror, writer/director Ted Geoghegan’s directorial debut We Are Still Here had everyone at the festival buzzing back in 2016 when it premiered. We Are Still Here is a love letter to the films the director grew up watching as a kid (most notably Italian horror), but his sophomore feature confronts audiences with a very different kind of horror. Set in 1814, Mohawk tells the white-knuckle tale of two young Mohawk warriors and their British lover pursued by murderous American military renegades. Since the film will be making its World Premiere at Fantasia, not much as been written about it yet, but if you’re going to take a gamble on one film this year, let it be Mohawk! Director Ted Geoghegan said, “Mohawk is hard-hitting action-horror that subverts traditional genre tropes while delivering a timeless tale of good versus evil. We look to deliver a horrifying home invasion film where the home is North America itself.” Given his long association with the fest and his previous feature film, one can only assume he’s going to deliver on his promise!
5) A Ghost Story
With A Ghost Story, acclaimed director David Lowery (Aint Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon) reunites with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, and delivers a delicate portrait of “legacy, loss, and the essential human longing for meaning and connection”. The film follows a white-sheeted ghost (Casey Affleck) who returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife (Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. A Ghost Story might be the most beautiful and deeply affecting film you’ll see this year. While Lowery’s actual method of delivery may not be scary (something the Fantasia audience might come to expect), it’s sure to haunt those who open themselves up to the experience.