Tag Archives: Fantasia Festival


Still from The Eyes of My Mother (2016)My first screening of my second day at Fantasia was The Eyes of My Mother, ‘s black and white horror/art film that made a minor splash at Sundance in the NEXT category. The SGWU Hall was about half full for this one (which still means a couple of hundred folks attended). The title is suggested by the fact that our anti-heroine Francisca’s mother was an eye surgeon in her native Portugal, before immigrating to the U.S. to live on an isolated farm. Mom is an Un Chien Andalou-style homeschooler who slices open cow eyeballs to demonstrate ocular anatomy, setting up Francisca’s future lack of squeamishness about physical mutilation. Francisca is devoted to her mother, while papa, by contrast, is what we euphemistically call “distant.” Knowing only her parents, the girl loses half of her socialization opportunities when mother dies in a gruesome fashion while Francisca is still a tyke. This event sends her already stoic father into a state of near catatonic depression, and sets up Francisca’s lifelong quest for companionship that goes horribly wrong in ways that I won’t spoil here. Although Mother is packed with grisly sequences—a couple of scenes had the jaded horror crowd squirming in their seats—overall it is more of a psychological character study than a horror show. Kika Magalhaes holds down the fort as the adult Francisca, lonely and deranged, and the script makes her as sympathetic as possible; her lack of human empathy is understandable, given the odd, near-feral circumstances of her childhood. Bleak as hell, both in its subject and its visuals, Mother unspools in a non-specific, grayscale, timeless rural void. The soundtrack mixing Portuguese fado with old-timey country death ballads ensures we won’t mistake the film’s style for anything contemporary or accessible.

Those who love Eyes of My Mother are going to defend it as a beautiful nightmare, but commercially it’s a hard sell, and may not get enough distribution to find a following. This is a movie that falls between audiences: it’s too slow and somber for the average horror fan, but too gruesome and disturbing for all but the most adventurous of art-house patrons. For our purposes, it’s not weird; it is, in fact, all too realistic—not a stylistic flaw, but a fact that puts it on the periphery of this site’s circle of interest.

Mother was preceded by the short “Agravoy,” an impressionistic, subjective story of an unkempt stranger who spies on the romantic trysts of two apartment-dwellers through a series of peepholes. The sound design is intense and director Jacob Nizzola has promise, with an eye (and ear) for weirdness. He’s someone to look out for.

Just like at yesterday’s screening of As the Gods Will, I arrived late to the lineup for The Wailing—which wasn’t a pre screening sell-out, but Continue reading FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL DIARY, 7/18/2016 (THE EYES OF MY MOTHER & THE WAILING)


I had 30 tabs of Losartan, an unopened bottle of acid reducer, a handful of melatonin, and three half-full bottles of e-liquid. The only thing that worried me was the e-liquid. Health Canada considers them unapproved nicotine delivery devices, and insists I get my nicotine fix from something with a longer history of safety, like cigarettes.

We flew over bat country at 10,000 feet, so that was not an issue. Poor hairy bastards can’t handle the thin atmosphere at 747 cruising altitude.

To cut the preliminaries short, skipping any mention of Newark’s carnitas tacos, I arrived in Montreal in time to pick up my press credentials with 15 minutes to spare, and had time for a much-needed shower before heading off to the night’s big event, a screening of Fantasia Lifetime Achievement Award winner ‘s As the Gods Will, with the director in attendance. It was the Fest’s first sell-out screening, and they weren’t kidding when they advised badge holders to get there forty-five minutes before the scheduled start. Arriving about forty minutes early, I walked past film fans lined up around the block to get the best seats in the SGWU Alumni Auditorium, which must have seated 500. Finding the end of the badgeholders line, which now curled anarchically well beyond the snaked red velvet ropes, I was slightly nervous that I might not make it in, but when the doors opened a few minutes later the ushers clicked me through and I found an excellent aisle seat on the upper tier.

Miike probably could not have dreamed of a more favorable audience before whom to screen As the Gods Will. The buzz from the seats was incredible before the show began, and Miike got a standing ovation when his name was announced. The mostly-Francophone audience howled with laughter at every gore set piece, spontaneously clapped along to a child’s ditty in the middle of the film (a fact Miike later commented on appreciatively), and applauded at the conclusion of every action sequence. Clearly, the audience came in with certain preconceived black comedy expectations. I’m not certain Miike intended every exploding head to be funny—sometimes, you blow out a teenager’s brains to try to bring a sense of urgency to the hero’s predicament. Still, the energy in the room when almost everyone in a huge audience treats the screening like a party is incredible and infectious. It’s a rare moviegoing experience, one that perhaps is not conducive to critical distance, but which nonetheless makes for a hell of a good time.

still from As the Gods Will (2104)Thankfully, the film was up to the audience’s expectations. It’s fast-moving, well-written, gory, funny in spots, and looks fantastic. The spinning daruma doll who shoots laser beams from his eyeballs, Continue reading FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL DIARY, DAY 1: 7/17/2016 (“AS THE GODS WILL” WITH TAKASHI MIIKE Q&A SESSION)