For the sixth year I am attending the unwaveringly lovely Fantasia International Film Festival. Known for blending the world’s best Asian cinema with upcoming genre film the festival is now in its 18thyear. I am up in occasionally sunny Montreal for a full two weeks this year, and will be writing to let you know about the best and the worst films I see there.
Extinction (dir. Miguel Ángel Vivas) Ironically, the best metaphor for the constantly resurrected zombie genre is zombies themselves. In this new take on the zombie outbreak we are introduced to two of the least neighborly men left after the end of humanity. Patrick (Matthew Fox) and Jack (Jeffrey Donovan) are two of the last men living on earth, they live a few meters from one another, and they refuse to talk. Jack’s daughter Lu (Quinn McColgan) has finally reached the age where she wants to know more about the man across the road. But in their frozen and zombified world, small rebellions can have big consequences. Extinction has an interesting spin on the zombies themselves and does a good job of featuring two very different ways to live out the zombie apocalypse, but ultimately adds little life to the subgenre.
Slumlord (dir. Victor Zarcoff) The film begins by letting us in on a secret. Landlord Gerald (Neville Archambault) is adding to the house he is renting to a nice, young, pregnant couple. The only problem is that he is adding a thorough surveillance system throughout the house, including the shower and toilet. When Claire (Brianne Moncrief) and Ryan (PJ McCabe) move in they think that their relationship troubles will be the only issues in their new home. The film moves slowly at first but picks up quickly as Gerald’s obsession with Claire deepens. Archambault turns in a great performance as the landlord here, and his casting is especially refreshing. He is not a quiet, meek, physically shriveled voyeur. The character is far more resourceful and intimidating than we are accustomed to seeing, and his inclusion is what stops Slumlord from falling into clichéd territory.
Ojuju (dir. C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi) Without a greater context for the current state of Nigerian horror films it is difficult to assess the merits of Ojuju. A simple and easy to follow zombie outbreak film, Ojuju is the story of the zombie plight coming to a Nigerian neighborhood. With only one source for water, the tainted resource quickly infects the whole place, save a few survivors here and there. The film reads like homage, and even has a main character named Romero (Gabriel Afolayan) for anyone who somehow misses the references. I was not expecting this film to be a masterpiece, but the extended toilet jokes, the unnecessary sex scenes, and the fact that the camera work and acting were painfully amateur made me realize that the filmmakers were not trying to make a masterpiece either.
Tales of Halloween (dirs. Darren Lynn Bousman , Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, & Paul Solet) Anthology films can be hit or miss, and it breaks my heart to report that Tales of Halloween was a giant miss. With the directors, writers, and actors reading like the list of the best in the business of indie horror it was baffling to see that all of these filmmakers I typically praise ended up with a collective effort that was wholly less than the sum of its parts. A ten piece anthology, Tales of Halloweenfeatures all ten stories taking place all on one hallow’s eve, in one town. The stories zip along at a good pace, so you do not have to spend too long suffering in each uninspired and timeworn story. The film’s feel and look is remarkable cohesive for an anthology, but the childish tone made the entire film feel like a 1980s after school special than a showcase for the best contemporary film directors. The title sequence of the film not only looks as if it was made in Microsoft Paint, but it also features shots that contain some major spoilers for every single segment of the film. The Fantasia audience had a great time with the screening, so my dissent may be a fluke, but I found the film completely tedious and substandard.