Tag Archives: Fantasia Festival 2023


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Montréal 2023

I have now been told by a Canadian filmmaker that I look like a cartoon character. (But in a good way.)

8/4: My Animal

There’s a lot going on in Jacqueline Castel’s story about Heather, a fairly awkward, fairly out-of-place teenager in a small town where there’s little to do but play hockey at the local rink and get hammered at the local dive. Damaged families, coming of age, and the challenges of being queer are all explored in My Animal, as well as the unique difficulties of lycanthropy. While Bobbie Salvör Menuez capably carries much of the dramatic weight, and is a pleasure, as always, the real star is the fusion of cinematography and editing. The well-crafted visuals shift between the beautiful, the unworldly, and the frightening as days and months go by leading up to a striking “Blood Moon” when all the emotional whirlwinds eddying around Heather converge. She breaks curfew, seeks out the girl she loves, and has a nasty encounter with the local scumbag baseballer.

Mad Cats

With his silly, violent, cat-filled first feature, Reiki Tsuno plants a big ol’ kiss on Fantasia. The story of yet another deadbeat, Mad Cats chronicles an epic-in-miniature concerning Taka and his twin quests to retrieve the legendary catnip of Ancient Egypt and to save his brother, captured in the claws of a mysterious group of very feline femmes fatale. With plenty of firepower and a limited budget, Reiki puts together a laid-back slacker buddy comedy, with Taka and a homeless man ending up in over their heads. There’s a very “Japanese movie” moment with the pair chatting over lunch after being saved from a cat woman assassin by the unlikely presence of a master combatant; after dispatching the feline foe, the savior gratefully knocks back a full pint of milk. Somewhat-recommended silliness that works more because of the easy chemistry between the three leads than for the premise.

8/5: International Science-Fiction Short Film Showcase 2023

Rift (dir. Farhad Bakhtiarikish)—Welcome to the age of the age of iEscape, Rupert Holmes’ near-future vision of a young man and his avatar who has fallen in love with the avatar of an online stranger. This world is full-tilt VR, and looks Continue reading 2023 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL: “MEGA-MEMORANDA”, PART THREE


Despite the ominously grey threat of rain, the week started off well with a conversation both edifying and gratifying. The target of today’s piercing queries was none other than all-around-artiste, Quarxx, who provided a pleasantly black-toned sartorial counterpoint to this interviewer’s candy-colored clothing. He’s an affable fellow, however, and happily discusses his creative background, elucidates his new film Pandemonium, and does us the pleasure of recommending two Parisian must-taste restaurants.

Audio only link (Soundcloud download)



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DIRECTED BY: Lee Won-suk

FEATURING: Lee Ha-nee, Lee Sun-kyun, Gong Myoung

PLOT: Erstwhile “It”-girl Yeo-rae will do anything to escape the clutches of her possessive husband—even if it means enlisting the aid of one of her bumbling super-fans to commit murder.

Still from Killing Romance (2023)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: A common grumble we have about Wes Anderson on this site is that he doesn’t go far enough. Lee Won-suk does, with maximal ridiculousness rendered in an Andersonian tint.

COMMENTS: During the audience chatter that immediately followed the film, it was mentioned that, in its native South Korea, Killing Romance is not much dissimilar from other films of its genre. I have no reason to doubt this—all the less-so for having a limited exposure to South Korean films in general, and their romantic comedies in particular—but even if Lee Won-Suk’s film were the most run-of-the-mill outing to found in that East Asian nation, it was unlike anything I have seen.

Framed as a storybook (possibly added to ground potential American audiences), Killing Romance tells the tale of Yeo-rae, famous for a staggeringly idiotic reason, but nonetheless someone who won the hearts of many fans. While recovering emotionally from a badly panned film performance, she meets mega-mogul environmentalist Jonathan “Jonny” Na. They wed, retreat from the world for seven years on a remote island, and then return to Seoul. There Yeo-rae meets a neighbor, lovable loser and fan club president Bum-woo, and Jonny’s darker side emerges.

This darker side manifests in the form of possessiveness, down-to-the-smile control freakery, and occasional beatings (of sorts) via tangerine. Amidst the randomness (when the murder schemes kick off, super sauna steam heat and countless bowls of bean soup are among the attempts at offing Jonny), musical numbers (spoiler alert: the film climaxes with a sing-off, in karaoke so the audience can join), and animal encounters (a throwaway joke about Bum-woo at the start manages to become a major plot point somehow) is the phenomenon of Jonny Na—a masterfully whimsical sociopath. He loves his wife, but she must be “just so”; he loves to be loved, and finds this “so gooooooood” (a running gag); and he seems genuinely confused that the world does not always bend to his wishes. Lee Sun-kyun’s performance nearly steals the show.

Except there is so much going on here. I’ll spare you further lists and sentences and wrap up with a brief anecdote. Over the course of the screening, a young woman in the audience removed her shoes and neatly placed them on the floor below; perched herself atop the edge of the fold-down theater seat; and proceed to sit in a state of grin-stricken happy tension throughout the feature. Killing Romance is a sheer delight, and one of the few “quirky” movies to turn that corner into weirdful wonderment.


“…weird, campy, hilarious, and actually offers a cathartic revenge for anyone who has lived with a horrible spouse.” —Kate Sánchez, But Why Tho? (festival screening)


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DIRECTED BY: Cameron Cairnes, Colin Cairnes

FEATURING: , Laura Gordon, Ian Bliss, Ingrid Torelli

PLOT: In a bid to renew his contract, not-quite-popular-enough talk show host Jack Delroy pulls out one stop too many for his “sweeps week” Halloween broadcast.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: There is madness, realism, grubby dealing, and demonic intrusion. And plenty of humor. This was my fourth feature of the day, so I may have been addled already, but the increasingly wobbly stack of macabre craziness and moral compromise left me (very pleasantly) jittery as I emerged from this fast-paced little horror gem.

COMMENTS: Pinch me, I’m nightmaring.

That does not quite work, but do you know what does? That’s right: the Cairnes Brothers’ Late Night With the Devil. From the brown-drab authenticity of the broadcast television set, to the sideburns and wide collars, to the obliging gullibility of the live studio audience, and (particularly) to David Dastmalchian’s at-long-last-leading-man turn as Jack Delroy. And it nearly slipped my mind somehow, but this is a “found footage” horror story; one that is actually interesting from start to finish. (Perhaps the weirdest thing that could be said of any found footage yarn.)

After a brief introduction covering Jack Delroy’s rise to late night television stardom, the film unfolds in real time as the Halloween episode of “Night Owls …with Jack Delroy” kicks off. Jack’s guest line-up include a renowned spiritualist, a renowned debunker of spiritualists (and other charlatans), and a parapsychologist working to cure the young survivor of a mass suicide by a Satanic death cult. The screen widens and the brown-heavy palette of color shifts to black and white during the commercial breaks, as the action shifts to the backstage element. What starts out playful slips further and further into paranoia, then fear, then body horror. The slide is leisurely paced, as master TV presenter Jack Delroy attempts to keep his awkward guests in line, as well as the developing presence of supreme evil.

Late Night With the Devil touches on many elements with considerable assurance. Delroy’s association with a mysterious society “the Grove” lays the groundwork for a late film reveal (do not worry: you won’t guess this). The psychologist and Satanic cult survivor are obvious nods to Pazder and Smith, authors of “Michelle Remembers” and catalysts of the “Satanic Panic” of the ’80s (Ingrid Torelli as the girl deserves special mention for bringing something new to the well-worn “creepy child” trope). The ill-fated spiritualist, Christou, is a perfect amalgam of the various foreign “mystics” prevalent at the time. And the debunker, Carmichael Hunt, carries a hubris worthy of late magician-era , but with a tenth of the charm. And that’s only the quality performances in front of the studio camera.

The question as to whether this is Apocrypha-worthy is a matter I’ve contemplated for some days now. I am unsure. When I consider the consistent quality and feel of Late Night With the Devil, I am completely taken in: its realistic aura impressing me still, despite my knowledge of the artifice—which suggests quality filmmaking, not necessarily “weird” filmmaking. Mind you, my enthusiasm has been on the mark often enough; the triple-climax finale, with the stakes ratcheted up each time, is an impressive gamble that pays off handsomely. And no, I’m not worried that I’m giving away too much. I feel certain that you, too, will get lost in Jack Delroy’s battle for Good Ratings—and his battle against the Evil One.


“This isn’t the scariest movie, but neither is it entirely a self-conscious joke. The Cairnes maintain an astute balance between pop-culture irony, familiar if not always predictable thrills (including some creature/gore FX), and a kind of hallucinatory mass-media surrealism — one that recalls the title of a 1970s cautionary tome about TV, ‘The Plug-In Drug.'”–Dennis Harvey, Variety (festival screening)



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Montréal 2023

The other day, I gave a fellow a cigarette, the favour returned with a compliment on my “overalls.” They’re called suspenders, people, and they hold up trousers. At least I can take comfort that later in the week I was offered a black-market bow tie.

7/27: The Becomers

This Easy-Going Sci/Fi Escapist Genre (“EGSFEGG,” as I suspect I may need this acronym further down the line) piece is appropriately narrated by Russ Mael, and is among the few earth invasion films I’ve seen whose story is told from the point of view of the alien. Zach Clark’s aliens have fled their home world, and have relocated on Earth. Sure, the bodies that the aliens “become” are disposed of via nasty disintegration liquids, but the imitators are endearing, and they mean well. Influenced by most of the alien movies from cinema’s golden age of that kind of thing, The Becomers is delightfully performed (the traveling “lead,” in particular, is impressively transferred through four or more actors), with humor both clever and silly (loved the cult who snuck into the action), and visual treats.

7/28: Hundreds of Beavers (A Personal Experience)

& Co. have achieved a glorious devolution with Hundreds of Beavers. Their feature film debut was at least a talkie, but now all dialogue has been stripped away to make room for the raw and masterful idiocy of the premise. We’ve covered this before, so I will just add here: they added a heckuva fun live-bit during the screening, and were just as delightful for the Q & A.

7/29: Empire V

It was impossible for me to watch this without bearing in mind the current war in Ukraine, and what deplorable scum Russia is governed by. That said, Victor Ginzburg’s film is banned in his homeland, which is probably to his credit. Empire V concerns vampires as a global (but Russo-centric) cabal of Earth’s true overlords, being parasitic vessels for some neat-o cosmic bat entity. Their modus operandi is very much like the Russian mafioso-style government: always punch down, always fight dirty, never Continue reading 2023 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL: “MEGA-MEMORANDA”, PART TWO