2017 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: RECAP

Before and During:

When I volunteered to cover the  some months ago, I immediately started to worry a bit. It was something new for me, utterly unprecedented in length and scope. It was ambitious, too, as I’ve averaged less than two reviews a month since I was signed up here at 366. “Apprehensive” is how I’d label the sensation that increasingly gripped me as the start approached. Fortunately, my fears were for nothing — and as tiring as the “work” was, it also proved incredibly energizing.

Over the course of my three weeks in Montréal, I kept wonderfully busy and met dozens of interesting and varied individuals. The film-makers, many of them having their debuts, were brimming with energy; the audience, too, was brimming with energy — eager both to “Meow”[1] before a screening and to enjoy their investment of time and money; the other members of the press were eager to get a scoop on the New and Exciting. My long walks to and from the screenings were well worth the worn-out footwear, as each trek to either the Auditorium des Diplômés de la SGWU or the Salle J.A. DeSève brought the promise of transportation to something on the cusp of transcendent. By necessity not every movie brought an exciting feast for my eyes and ears, but more often than not, they did.

The Good:

All told, I watched 43 feature movies at one theater or another, three screeners on my computer, and four feature-length collections of short films: 50 in total, if my math is correct (and that doesn’t include the one and only movie I walked out of). I’ve already spoken well of Lowlife and Sequence Break, as well as others in the travelogue, but there were also largely unmentioned spectacles that amazed. and ‘s nerve-wracker The Endless was an end-of-Festival highlight[2] ; Tommy Swerdlow’s A Thousand Junkies deserves far more than the one sentence I dedicated to it (although it’s probably not quite a 366 kind of movie); and I can claim to have been among the first in the world to see a blemish-free, 4K remastered Suspiria in a packed house teeming with ravenous fans. God bless my Press Badge, as it got me into almost five-hundred dollars’-worth of screenings, nearly all of which would have been worth the outlay. The adjustments, scribbles, and check-marks in the photo show the daily challenge of seeing as many of the right things as possible.

The Bad:

With the kind of tally I reached, there had to be some duffers. I will never for the life of me understand the appeal of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, a poorly done, cheesy comedy with vapid characters that adds insult to injury by being unfunny in addition to being un-developed. 68 Kill brought about my greatest clash with the rest of the audience. I’ve put forward my arguments earlier, so I’ll just reiterate that Trent Haaga’s violence-comedy committed the greatest cult movie sin: trying too, too hard to be ludicrous and hilarious with little to show for the effort. And for sheer tedium-sans-payoff, nothing took the cake more than the languidly paced suspense whats-it, Town in a Lake. That I enjoyed a by-the-numbers action-drama like Darkland more than those ostensibly weird and out-there travesties speaks volumes for those films’ ineptitude.

All Told:

The Fantasia Film Festival was a wonderful experience and I am thrilled to have been a part of it. I was able to get in on the ground-floor with a lot of rising talent, all while spreading the gospel of 366 Weird Movies. It was a tiring three weeks that kept me busy eight-plus hours a day — and I can’t wait to go again for Fantasia Festival 2018.

  1. It was only toward the end of the final week that I finally got the history of this bizarre tradition of the audience “meowing” when the lights first go down. A few times was fine; by the time it reached 40+ performances, a bit less-so. []
  2. Capsule review coming soon. []

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