Another year, another fascinating selection of films from Fantasia International Film Festival! For 2022’s edition of the fest, animation and horror reign supreme with a variety of intriguing titles. After the jump, check out our full coverage!

Films

BODIES BODIES BODIES

Full review at the link.

THE BREACH

Based on the Audible original book by Nick Cutter, The Breach was an intriguing option from this year’s Fantasia. I was hoping for a goopy, otherworldly practical-effects-laden horror gem, but The Breach is rather too interested in its paper thin characters instead of its mysteries, particle physics, and zany rituals. Set in the town of Lone Crow, Sheriff Hawkins investigates a strange murder involving a demolished body robbed of its bones. This leads to an all-out search for answers, as Hawkins firmly commits himself to uncovering the truth. It feels very much by the numbers; the accompanying flesh-sliding production still is one of the only exciting elements, and even that does not emerge until the final twenty minutes of The Breach.

DARK GLASSES

Known for popularizing the giallo slasher, legendary director Dario Argento returns to the horror fray for the first time in a decade, since 2012’s Dracula 3D. His comeback film is a loving tribute to the earliest days of his career—this translates to substantial, gory kills, a propulsive orchestral score from Arnaud Rebotini, and a meaty role for Argento’s daughter, Asia (Demons 2, The Church). For those seeking a cerebral or intoxicating experience, they can look elsewhere. Argento is far more interested in approaching a greatest-hits catalogue of exciting slasher elements, which for this viewer just plain worked.

DARK NATURE

Dark Nature tries hard, but it cannot seem to escape living in the shadow of 2005’s far superior horror/survival joint, The Descent. Far off on a wellness retreat in “bum fuck nowhere,” abuse victim Joy (Hannah Anderson) trusts in her close friends to follow the ways of Doctor Carol. This translates to Joy giving herself over entirely, and willingly sacrificing a full weekend to test the questionable methods. Throw in some type of horrifying-looking cave creatures, recurrent nightmares, and a tragic dead dog alert, and one would anticipate Dark Nature being a solid-enough time waster. Unfortunately, the film never manages to rise above its own existence. It is serviceable, yet hollow, especially when it comes to the film’s final act. Despite the excellent setup and moody atmosphere of the first act, Dark Nature eventually devolves into a predictable thriller.

FAST & FEEL LOVE

I was moderately excited for Fast & Feel Love, a movie I assumed would be a fast-paced spoof set during a “stacking” competition. The focus instead is more human-based, and while there are attempts at comedy, I would still classify this as more of a dramedy. Kao (Nat Kitcharit) has been focused on nothing but the sport of stacking. Said to stack “faster than an assembly line,” Kao’s fullest ambition in life rests solely on this oddball sport. The film definitely tries to emphasize that focusing on a specific passion for one’s entire life could be a bad thing, especially if it surrounds a concept as pedestrian-sounding as stacking. Each time we stop to learn more about the art of stacking, I was captivated, but every time it aims for zany life humor, the mark is missed. I mostly just wanted Fast & Feel Love to get to the point. Familial ties and cutesy vibes are simply not enough to boost up a saggy midsection. The poster promised a team-up of surprising proportions, but by the time Kao is shouting for his version of the Avengers to “assemble,” it is too little too late. 

THE FIGHT MACHINE

Tackling the world of illegal street brawling, The Fight Machine spends too much time on character-work and not enough on the namesake fighting. Young Robbie (Dempsey Bryk) is trying to make a name for himself, following in the family footsteps of being a hardened brawler. Meanwhile, Paul (Greg Hovanessian), the son of a winery owner, begins training after getting in a pretty bad car accident as a means to find his place in the world. Though this film sold itself as these two men crossing destinies, this doesn’t even really occur until the final ten minutes or so. Andrew Thomas Hunt, who directs and co-writes with Craig Davidson, does some fascinating techniques with depicting the violence, and the acting is quite good for a smaller indie movie. However, I never fully connected with the material. I have enjoyed a handful of fighting-based movies, but bone-crunching fist brawls resulting in one’s fecal matter dripping out onto their shoe isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.

THE GIRL FROM THE OTHER SIDE

Lushly animated but narratively bereft, The Girl From the Other Side is based on the manga of the same name. I have no doubt that the manga contains a plethora of mythology and explanation not present in this iteration. As it stands, the film recounts a simplistic tale of an adorable misplaced little girl named Shiva, and her bond with a mysterious being known as an Outsider. She calls him “teacher”—even though his kind are supposed to present souls for sacrifices, Teacher grows an unbreakable bond with Shiva. Together, Shiva and Teacher are absolutely adorable, but beyond this relationship, I found the movie a bit hollow. Certainly sweet and lovingly created, yet something felt like it was missing for this viewer.

GIVE ME PITY!

Dated television references and a mock-style television special format definitely set Give Me Pity! apart from other titles at this year’s Fantasia. I have never quite seen anything like this movie, and I am still not entirely sure whether that is a good thing. An undeniable devotion to capturing the vintage authenticity and tone of 80s TV is definitely to be commended. Mostly though, Give Me Pity! is just a sensory overload of confused tones and bizarre imagery. It tries to force in the horror overtop of random, seemingly unrelated skits. While Sophie von Haselberg as Sissy St. Claire makes the film entirely into her one-woman show, I cannot safely say I would purchase a return ticket or tune in for her act if it actually existed. Too strange to be entertaining, and too silly to be taken seriously, Give Me Pity! is a near-indescribable oddity.

GLORIOUS

Full review at the link.

GOODBYE, DON GLEES!

Full review at the link.

THE HARBINGER

Full review at the link.

INU-OH

I have seen some bizarre animated films in my time, but Inu-Oh certainly takes the cake as one of the strangest. Presenting mostly as a musical film after a slower, introductory first act, director Masaaki Yuasa tackles a meandering story by punctuating it with stunning visuals and music asides. Nearly every segment features an interlude in one way or another. Tomona, who goes blind and loses his father in the aftermath of a strange encounter while hunting for a mysterious treasure, connects with a cursed gourd-masked stranger over Tomona’s Biwa-playing expertise. Each time this stranger—who becomes known as Inu-Oh—performs with Tomona at his side, his limbs change one by one to a human form. The film’s central conflict doesn’t even emerge until very little remains, but the ending posits a beautiful, if depressing, conclusion for both characters. Qualms aside, the animation and rock-music language are both breathtaking.

LEGIONS

Creature features and Evil Dead imitations are a dime a dozen, so Legions already had its work cut out from the get-go. Now confined to an asylum deep into old age, a wise shaman must again confront the forces of evil as they circle Argentina. Writer/director Fabian Forte clearly owes a lot to the works of Sam Raimi, and the injection of cultural mythology is the only thing unique about this experience. Gore aplenty, in addition to werewolves and bone-cracking demon possessions, still cannot make this feel fresh. It ends up feeling akin to a dollar-bin straight-to-video production. Legions was simply not my ritualistic cup of tea.

MEGALOMANIAC

Full review at the link.

MISSING

When it comes to a good mystery movie, I prefer the kind that follows one particular perspective, rather than those attempting to examine every existing angle from multiple points of view. Judging by its description, I assumed that Missing would tell the story of young Kaede (Aoi Ito) as she hunts for her missing father. Instead, Missing provides an uncomfortable look into a killer’s psyche, a depressing side story with aforementioned father, Satoshi (Jiro Sato), and assisted suicide taking center stage. That is a lot of weight for any movie to hold, let alone one that sits at a bloated runtime of just over two hours. The way we rehash particular events over and over began to grow stale as we approach the climax of the movie. Admittedly, the finale is entertaining enough, but the film is unable to conclude with a large enough exclamation mark to justify the slowness of getting to the point. Missing needs to contain as a suicide trigger warning as well as ones for content—blood-soaked masturbation, bizarre fetishes, and murder are afoot. All I wanted was a film about a daughter trying to find her dad; what I got instead can best be described as disappointing, puzzling, and moderately intriguing.

MOLOCH

Moloch, coming to one of my favorite streaming services Shudder later this year, is a mixed bag of bizarre mythological nonsense and ritualistic slayings. When the eponymous “Bag Man” turns up dead shortly after digging up several holes in the bog, Betriek (Sallie Harmsen) and her family who live near the edge of this bog are drawn into the fray. First there is someone traipsing through their garden late into the night, then things take an atmospheric turn when a random stranger shows up sitting in Betriek’s kitchen. Before it is too late for her family, Betriek races to solve the mystery of whatever strange occurrences are invading their quiet sense of calm. We have seen this type of story before, and executed significantly better than Moloch

MY GRANDFATHER’S DEMONS

Full review at the link.

POPRAN

Full review at the link.

PRINCESS DRAGON

Full review at the link.

Relax I’m From The Future

(Written by Allison Brown) As someone who is always down to check out a time travel flick, I was excited to see quirky, British comedy Relax I’m From The Future on the Fantasia lineup this year. Sadly, the film is one of my least favorites of the sub-genre. The sci-fi element is significantly lacking. Ultimately, the narrative focuses more on a fish out of water story and the unconventional friendship between lead Casper (Rhys Darby) and his current timeline buddy, Holly (Gabrielle Graham). When the true genre hijinks appear towards the end of the film, they do provide a few laughs, but it feels like too little too late. In his role, Darby elicits a comedic performance on par with similar stylings from Mike Myers in the Austin Powers films and Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun series. His acting really helps to strengthen the film, and I am sure it would not be as watchable without Rhys Darby in the role. While Relax I’m From The Future presents some interesting commentary on humanity and a strangely unique potential future, I was left disappointed and hoping for more from writer/director Luke Higginson.

SADAKO DX

Full review at the link.

SHARP STICK

Full review at the link.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE DEAD KAIJU

In a concept that has to be one of the most intriguing ones at the festival, a giant monster kaiju has mysteriously died ten days ago, fresh off its rampage. The world is reeling from the good news, but the biggest question remains: What to Do With the Dead Kaiju? The movie’s answer to this question is far less interesting than one would expect, played for laughs. It does not operate on any level of realism. People protest as a poop/puke smell bursts forth from the dead carcass and threatens to spread across the land. The government, of course, tries to cover it all up, insisting the smell is simply that of “ginkgo nuts.” With poor CGI and a non-existent plot, my only takeaway is that Satoshi Miki’s latest is merely a kaiju-sized disappointment.

Thanks for following our coverage of the festival once more! For a full listing of everything that screened at 2022’s Fantasia International Film Festival, which took place again in Montreal, Quebec, please check out the official website.

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