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Fantasia Film Festival 2020: Our 10 Most Anticipated Films

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Fantasia Film Festival 2020: Our 10 Most Anticipated Films

Fantasia 2020

In response to the current pandemic, many film festivals around the world have either been canceled, postponed, or moved online. Like many industries and institutions across the globe, COVID-19 has forced film festivals to find ways to pivot quickly and provide opportunities for aspiring filmmakers to showcase their work and for film festival-goers to participate in the moviegoing experience. One such event is the Fantasia Film Festival which has decided to go fully virtual this year, allowing the world’s biggest and best genre fest to celebrate some of the best new cinematic offerings without putting folks in danger.

Things will surely be different this year but in all honesty, we are super excited for the 2020 edition of the festival. Yes, we will miss hanging out with friends; grabbing drinks in between movies; interviewing filmmakers and of course, the fantasia crowd— but there is a lot to look forward to. Apart from another kicks-ass selection of way too many movies to watch, we won’t have to travel downtown every day and wait in long lines in the summer heat. We won’t have to worry about choosing between two movies that are screening at the same time nor will we have to sit for hours on those incredibly uncomfortable seats in the Hall cinema. Yes, folks, there is much to look forward to since watching some killer movies from the comfort of your own home isn’t so bad.

For the unfamiliar, our crew has been covering Fantasia since 2007, starting at our former website (Sound on Sight) before transitioning here. One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is how difficult it is to decide what to watch. That’s why every year, we release a list of our most anticipated films. This year’s wave of films includes a whole slate of new talent waiting to dazzle us with new perspectives and angles.

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Crazy Samurai Musashi

Crazy Samurai Musashi

Yuji Shimomura’s last film, Re:Born, already felt like a video game as Tak Sakaguchi moved from target to target, barely breaking a sweat. Its climactic forest fight goes on for an extraneous amount of time, switching between guns, knives, fists, and feet in a portrayal of the ultimate power fantasy. Once you watch Re:Born it makes complete sense that Shimomura’s follow-up film would be Crazy Samurai Mushashi – a 77-minute action sequence with no cuts and Tak Sakaguchi leading the charge against 588 enemies. Oh, and it’s written by famed Japanese auteur Sion Sono (Why Don’t You Play in Hell?TagLove Exposure).

The film is based on a fabled battle of swordsman Musashi Miyamoto, and shot in a single take. In anyone else’s hands, this would seem like it just won’t sustain entertainment value. However, Sakaguchi has an electrifying charisma when he moves between kills in other films, and as previously mentioned, that forest sequence in Re:Born is absurdly satisfying despite its length. Sakaguchi has also proven time and again his value as an entertainer leading films like Versus and Yakuza Weapon. The challenge will be whether a single-take 77-minute action scene can maintain the thrills, but the team behind Crazy Samurai Musashi would be the one able to pull it off. (Christopher Cross)

Detention

Detention

Based on the popular survival horror video game of the same name, Detention garnered praise at several festivals including Rotterdam, Busan, and Fantasporto, where it received the Special Jury Prize. Set in 1962, the film is set at the height of the “White Terror”, a period of martial law which lasted for 38 years, during which any resistance real or perceived towards Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang government was suppressed with thousands tortured, imprisoned, or killed by the regime. Detention will undoubtedly develop a cult audience beyond the gamer communities, and from what I’m told, it might just be the best video game adaptation yet. Fantasia calls it a shocking historical drama, a melancholy coming-of-age, and a terrifying horror film— if it’s as half as good as the game, this is a must-see! (Ricky D)

Feels Good Man

Feels Good Man

If you’ve followed most of the worst parts of the Internet in recent years, you probably know about Pepe the Frog. It’s a cartoon frog that, around the time of the 2016 election, was adopted as a symbol by the alt-right, and other racist and fascists.

But Pepe’s origins have nothing whatsoever to do with racism or political extremism. In fact, the character was created by artist Matt Furie, as part of a cartoon published back in the MySpace era. Feels Good Man, which takes its name from the phrase uttered by the original Pepe, is about Furie’s attempts to reclaim Pepe’s good name.

The film, which debuted at Sundance back in January, was directed by Arthur Jones, and is one of several indie films from this year’s festival circuit, joining White Noise and TFW No GF, to deal with the Internet’s darkest subcultures. And while the former film was an incisive portrayal of some of the alt-right’s leaders, the latter movie explored the lives of incels, only to confirm that these people are exactly what you think they are.

Feels Good Man looks like a promising look at a man in a predicament like no one else’s, having his creation stolen by and associated with some of the world’s worst people. (Stephen Silver)

Kriya

Kriya

Ten years ago was the last time New Delhi filmmaker Sidharth Srinivasan directed a narrative feature with 2010’s Soul of Sand. Finally, he follows it up with Kriya which sounds like just the right mix of mystical mayhem and family strife. While Soul of Sand focused on customs in India and the conflict between tradition and modernity within two different generations, Kriya sounds like more of that but amped up to an extreme. The plot synopsis reads “a DJ encounters a beautiful woman at a club, goes back to her home, and finds himself thrust into a nightmare odyssey of ritual magic, patriarchal death customs, and family conflict most unusual”. 

This is more than likely going to be a unique experience, for sure. The Fantasia line-up always gets fantastic foreign genre films and often they come from where you least suspect. Soul of Sand wasn’t really a horror film but leaned more into thriller territory with splashes of abstract imagery and a mysterious man hunting down an eloping couple. The hints of a great genre filmmaker are there and Kriya sounds like a fever dream. It’s only made more tantalizing once you see Jim Williams doing the score – who has scored another currently anticipated genre film with Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor, as well as many of Ben Wheatley’s movies. (Christopher Cross)

Labyrinth of Cinema

Labyrinth of Cinema

Cinephiles mourned the death of legendary Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi in April, but he was primarily known to all but the most dedicated cinephiles as the director of the sickeningly surreal horror film House (1977). That’s because none of Obayashi’s other films have been officially released in North America, and intrepid viewers have had to resort to less than legal means to see his 40+ features.

Hopefully that won’t be the case with Obayashi’s final film, Labyrinth of Cinema, which saw him return to filming in his hometown of Onimichi for the first time in 20 years. The movie begins in the final hours of Onimichi’s sole cinema as it screen’s a marathon of war films documenting Japanese conflicts going back to the 19th Century. Somehow, three young men in the audience are transported in time and space to the various wars, where they also meet a traveling theater troupe in need of rescue.

Obayashi’s anti-war sentiments have long been an essential part of his filmography, and they animate his last major artistic statement. Though he was weakened by cancer treatments while filming Labyrinth of Cinema, his striking style doesn’t seem to have been diminished at all, and the film is as connected to the history of cinema as it is to Japanese history, with segments mimicking the look of silent films as well as classic musicals and action movies. Obayashi is a master of world cinema, and his final film seems likely to be essential. (Brian Marks)

The Reckoning

The Reckoning

Like it or not, there are probably a lot plague-centric horror movies in our collective future, given the events of the past few months. While it was conceived of and shot well before the current madness, Neil Marshall’s new film certainly feels appropriate for the times, being set against the backdrop of the Black Death and following a woman accused of witchcraft. Marshall has a long history of genre home runs, from the tense and claustrophobic “The Descent” to the full-tilt spectacle of “Doomsday”, and it’s unclear at this point what mode “The Reckoning” will inhabit. Given the backdrop and subject matter, it’s not hard to imagine something gloomy and downbeat like “The Witch” or “Hagazussa”, a grim and somber meditation on human cruelty and oppressive, dogmatic systems. Which it probably will be, Marshall’s tendency toward action and mayhem will almost certainly be present in some capacity, and it’s a safe bet things will involve more brutal comeuppance for the oppressors than the aforementioned films. Put another way, there’s a very good chance that at some point in this movie, a guy in a Plague Doctor mask is going to have his day ruined in spectacular fashion. (Thomas O’Connor)

Sanzaru

Sanzaru

There are many reasons why I love Fantasia and at the top of the list is being able to discover hidden gems and watch movies that I may never otherwise see. Sanzaru is one of those movies and my gut feeling tells me, this movie is going to be a sleeper hit.  

I’ll be honest; of all the movies screening at Fantasia this year, I’m choosing Sanzaru as one of my most anticipated films simply because it has an amazing trailer. This is the first full-length feature from director Xia Magnus and although I am not familiar with his previous work on short films, he must be talented since it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature at Slamdance earlier this year.

The festival website calls Sanzaru, a “densely atmospheric, elegantly directed piece of horror filmmaking, pointing to the emergence of a director to follow closely”. Check out the trailer here and decide for yourself! (Ricky D)

Slaxx

Slaxx

There’s a proud history of horror films, usually in the horror-comedy vein, that turn unsuspecting objects into horror movie villains. Oh sure, a killer car-like “Christine” is all well and good, but there’s always room for more outside-the-box monsters like the ones from “Death Bed: The Bed that Eats”, “Rubber” or “The Killer Condom”. Enter “Slaxx”, a new entry in the ‘killer things’ genre that centers on a pair of deadly jeans. Part of a new line of jeans that adjust to the wearer’s body shape, the killer pants menace the staff of a clothing store during a lockdown sale. Judging by the trailer, the film’s tongue is planted very firmly in its cheek, playing its premise mostly for laughs. But of course, that doesn’t preclude the film from tackling, even lightly, some of the more shady parts of the clothing industry like sweatshops or plain old rampant consumerism. Just because the film appears to be a raucous crowd-pleaser at first glance doesn’t mean there isn’t more going on under the surface, after all. The film also comes from Montreal talents Elza Kephart and Patricia Gomez, meaning that Montreal film fans and champions of women in the (unfortunately still male-dominated) horror scene should keep this one on their radars. (Thomas O’Connor)

Sleep

Sleep

The nightmare is an essential part of horror films that’s such an integral source of fear that it resists becoming a cliché. In director Michael Venus’ debut feature Sleep, he combines a Nightmare on Elm Street–like horror story, in which nightmares seep into the domain of the real, into a chilling family drama.

Sandra Hüller, who was electrifying in the family cringe-comedy Toni Erdmann, stars as Marlene, a woman who is tormented by horrific dreams. After filling notebooks with her obsessive notes about the dreams, she travels to the remote Alpine village that seems to be the location of her nightmares in hopes of confronting them. After she’s hospitalized in the village, Marlene’s daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) journeys there to be with her and takes a room in a local hotel, though the odd owners seem to have secrets that might connect to her family.

Although Sleep flirts with the haunted hotel subgenre, the film serves as more of a commentary on Germany’s shameful past and its legacy of guilt. The cerebral film seems to require viewers to put together many of its puzzle pieces, but it’s likely to be a welcome respite from more nihilistic horror films on the bill. (Brian Marks)

Tiny Tim: King For Day

Tiny Tim: King For a Day 

The film, which is set to debut at Fantasia, was directed Johan von Sydow and takes a look back at a cultural oddity like no other: Hebert “Tiny Tim” Khary. The film, narrated by “Weird Al” Yankovic of all people, goes through the life of Tiny Tim, who played the ukulele, sang with a falsetto voice, and got married on The Tonight Show, in what was a major cultural event in 1969. 

The documentary, which draws on the singer’s diaries, is presented as both a documentary and “psychological thriller,” and likely examines the question of how much of Tiny Tim’s presentation was an act and how much was the real man, who died in 1996 not long after suffering a heart attack on stage. 

The film, from Swedish filmmaker von Skydow, has been in the works for eight years and was co-produced by the singer’s biographer, Justin Martell. It appears to look at the sort of celebrity who was a prototype for everyone from William Hung to Howard Stern’s Wack Pack. 

I’m looking forward to King For a Day because it promises to answer some questions about a longtime curiosity who once enjoyed a surprising level of ubiquity. (Stephen Silver)

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and Tilt Magazine. Host of the NXpress Nintendo Podcast and the Sordid Cinema Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound on Sight. Former host of several other podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead shows, as well as Sound On Sight. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

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