Posts Tagged 2017 Fantasia Film Festival

Late Fantasia Film Review: Spoor

Fantasia may be over for 2017, but I had the chance to watch Spoor recently.


Spoor was directed by Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik and written by Agnieszka Holland and Olga Tokarczuk. This Polish, German and Czech film takes on nature, hunting, humanity and life in the golden years.

It’s not a horror film. It walks a line between life in the country, small town thriller, mystery, revenge film and ecological message. Duszejko (Agnieszka Mandat) is the main lead, and the actual story of the film. She’s retired but she teaches English part-time at the local school. She’s a full fledged character, a senior woman that works, lives her life, falls in love, makes some friends and a lot of enemies. She’s the kind of person that feels empathy for the animals in a town where hunting is not only a sport, it’s encouraged and sanctioned by the church. She seems to be alone in that regard.

But soon enough, strange deaths start to happen, deaths that have one thing in common: all victims were all hunters. There seems to be a serial killer in town. The movie never quite acquires the murder-mystery feel to it, and there’s a reason for that.

Duszejko keeps pointing at the strange details surrounding each murder. Animal tracks. Deers that don’t shy away from humans. Nobody seems to be paying attention. This is one of those movies where something is being shown to you from one point of view but not everything. We also get flashbacks of all characters introduced, which I’m still on the fence of whether that added to the film in any way.

It’s a bit of an acquired taste. Agnieszka Mandat steals the film as the determined, idealistic and non-conformist Duszejko. For her role alone, the movie is worth watching. There’s a moral tale somewhere here, but at the same time it does get a bit diluted by the time the big reveal is evident.

Recommended with reservations. You’d better off watching this film without any preconceived notions. Even so, it’s a little hard to sell this movie to one type of audience. There’s a twist, not too surprising, by the end that will shift the tone for some viewers. I fear that because of the way it’s first envisioned, it might miss the audience that will truly appreciate it. That being said, audiences overlap. I know I still loved the movie once I realized where it was going to end up. That might not be the case for everyone.

That will do for now.

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2017 Fantasia Festival Wrap-up: The best of the best!

The line up was amazing this year.

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First, let’s talk about the official Fantasia 2017 Awards! Congratulations to SPOOR for winning the Cheval Noir for Best Film. The Cheval Noir for Best Director went to BAD GENIUS. The Audience Awards gave Best Asian Feature and Most Innovative Feature Film to BAD GENIUS and Best North American, South American or European Film to BETTER WATCH OUT. You can read the full Fantasia 2017 Awards announcements at Screen Anarchy.

I believe that it has been one of the best years to date. I saw so many movies (close to 40!) that inspired me, that challenged me, that stuck with me for weeks. I was so impressed. There were a few that disappointed, or that just missed the mark. Some I planned for, others I heard about, a few I went without knowing anything. I also think I actually started a conversation with new people and geeked out about movies. Whoa, that’s too much. Back to living under a rock now.

So, here’s how I wrap up Fantasia myself. These are my version of the awards, my own made-up Never Think Impossible Awards for the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival. These are NOT real. Don’t expect some trophy on the mail, ok? Let’s start.

The One Not-To-Be-Missed Award: ANIMALS

This award goes to that movie that is only made once in a green moon. Sometimes a movie is so weird that it’s good and sometimes it’s so good it’s weird. This one award goes to the one that is both, and a little more. Runner up: BAD GENIUS

The One Everyone Will Cheer For: BAD GENIUS

You know that movie that has everyone in their grasp, cheering, laughing and crying? Yeah, this is everyone’s favorite entertainer and the most complicit partner in crime. Engaging from beginning to end, interesting, entertaining and the coolest kid in school, this is the movie that will make a fan out of you. Runner up: SPLIT

No Fucking Way Get Me Out Of Here: MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND

The movie that has that one scenario with that crazy thing that happens that in real life would make you shit your pants. No, you don’t get to know what it is until you watch it. Runner up: BETTER WATCH OUT

You Do Not Want To Meet Them In A Dark Alley: POOR AGNES

A psychopathic type that oozes charisma, intelligence and determination through the screen enough to cause fear, but also respect. Or perhaps that’s your survival instinct praying you never run into someone like the character. Runner Up: TRAGEDY GIRLS.

The Secret Ninja Award: THE ENDLESS

This is a movie that you don’t know how good it is until you watch it. Yes, it has some crazy eerie shit to show you that is done so well that you want to see it again. It’s really so good in many levels and it starts so normally that it’s literally a great movie hiding like a ninja, waiting to to amaze you. Runner Up: LOWLIFE.

The Crazy Over The Top Award: ANIMALS

You gotta be careful with this one, because this is the kind of movie where your friends will turn to you to explain them what just happened on the screen every few seconds. Enjoy being lost? Enjoy when a movie plays with the fabric of time and space? Enjoy figuring it out and debating it until the red sun comes up. Runner Up: SEQUENCE BREAK.

The Cheer For The Baddie Award: TRAGEDY GIRLS

This is a satire, right? I’m allowed to cheer for the evil side, because the good side is dumb as bricks. Either way, there will be a lot of blood, a lot of laughs and some will happen at the same time. So bad it’s good and it’s so good to be bad in a film you do not want to bring home to your parents.

Someone Finally Made A Film About It: GEEK GIRLS

The film that was missing goes to a documentary this year as Gina Hana’s film that you didn’t know you needed in your life drops in your lap. This one ought to go viral and then some. Runner up: TOKYO IDOLS.

The Out Of Nowhere Revelation Film: LOWLIFE

The new classic, a little movie that could make it without a big media promotion. It’s usually brutal but lovable, charming and violent, the good guys are flawed, the sacrifice hurts, the wounds cut deep. It’s just real and fantastic at the same time and it will steal your heart when you’re not looking, because it has the guts to do. Runner Up: FRIENDLY BEAST.

The Grandmaster Has Returned Award: SUSPIRIA (4K)

Okey, full disclosure – there’s a good chance I watched this film when I was very, very young because some scenes (and that music!) were really blasting some major deja vu. But it’s still the first time I absorb this film in all its glory from beginning to end. Consider this the Dario Argento Award if you like, but this film was an experience unto itself so no way I’m wrapping this up without mentioning it. Runner up: (you must be kidding if you think I’m putting something else here).

Thanks to everyone who works, plays, writes, blogs, selects, volunteers and supports the Fantasia Film Festival. Until next year, bon cinéma!

That will do for now.

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Fantasia Film Review: Suspiria (4K)

Dario Argento, you magnificent madman.


Yes, I was a tad apprehensive about seeing an italian film in such high regard as Suspiria. You can’t really approach such a film from a completely neutral standpoint, but I had the rare pleasure of seeing it for the first time. Yet, I’ve seen it a long time ago. As a kid, watching TV in the 80s, as a late movie that I didn’t remembered. A few scenes were more familiar than others. I didn’t recognize any faces but I’ve seen that nightmarish red corridor before. I’ve heard that haunting theme before. Never this bright, never this clear.

I must confess I was secretly thinking of not reviewing this film and that decision went out the window before the first body hit the floor. I didn’t think it was necessarily fair to hold up a 70’s horror film to the rest of the Fantasia line-up. As it happens, it’s not fair at all – for the rest of the lineup, that is. Suspiria gets your heart pounding just fine, thank you very much. The amazing, astounding color captured in the film might as well make the land of Oz look pale. You thought Wonka’s Chocolate Factory was an acid trip? This is a cocaine overdose.

The other thing is the sound. Everything sounds crisp clear. The music of Goblin is going to haunt my dreams for weeks. It’s in my head right now. But although we can hear the characters talk, I want to offer a personal (just personal!) word of advice. Forget the dialog. Yeah, there’s a mystery, witchcraft, exposition, blah, blah. The silly lines are just background noise, spoken sweetly to denote the heroine, urgently to mark the next victim and just plain boring when someone has to expose enough of a backstory to threat the whole thing together. I believe the plot and the dialog are intentionally given a very low priority because they don’t really matter here.

What matters, is the suspense and the thrill and the danger. And danger is plenty here. Redefine the damsel in distress for this movie: suffer, scream and die horribly. I don’t think there’s any redemptive quality here. Surprisingly, Suspiria passes the Bechdel-Wallace test but I’m also pretty damn sure this is not a female-friendly film. Actually, it’s not a friendly film period. Argento is making a horror film, courtesies be damned.

On the other hand, the male hero is obsolete in this world. He would just get in the way, so he doesn’t exist or just shows up as false hope or to do some exposure and is never heard from again. Well, one guy bites the dust at some point in probably the less colorful death of the movie. It’s almost like the director wanted to show the public how lacking that scene is, than everything surrounding the victim is black and grey.

For his female victims, Argento pains rooms in color. He films from behind lightbulbs, from high above buildings and into window reflections. There’s literally a hundred shots in this movie that could not have existed before and half more than have not been done since then. The music permeates the atmosphere, assaults the victim’s senses and becomes muted around corners, disappears behind a closed door. It’s like we get a reprieve from it as death is delayed, but it’s not far away.

Extremely recommended because you love films. If you doubt a horror movie can be a masterpiece and still remain very much bloody and violent, here’s your proof of concept. That being said, this is the farthest thing you’ll see from light viewing. You gotta be in this thing to watch it, so I gotta say this is not weekend at the movies, this is not blockbuster night, this is not netflix and chill. If you can’t sit down and watch this movie and fall in love with film again… Actually, screw that. Go watch this. You don’t have to get it. It’s out to get you.

That will do for now.


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