The Week in Horror: Fantasia International Film Festival 2023 Edition!

JXM: As always, Fantasia Fest is bringing a variety of buzzworthy films to its screens. Sure, I’m anxious to see Late Night With the Devil (that David Dastmalchian… he’s so hot right now). Where the Devil Roams, the latest movie from the Adams Family, looks to be a right scorcher. The trailer for Talk to Me gave me chills. But there are some other Fantasia Fest selections I’m hoping to place directly into my eyeballs.

Where The Devil Roams

Having lived through the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and bearing the emotional scars to prove it, I’m chomping at the bit to watch Satan Wants You. It’s about the book that helped kick off that whole dastardly movement, Michelle Remembers. I’m anxious to dig into the weird world of false memories, media hype, and the possibly-fictitious acts of Satanic ritual abuse that horrified the United States.

Satan Wants You

I’m not precisely sure what Eight Eyes is about, but I know Austin Jennings (Shudder’s The Last Drive-In) is the director and it’s backed by one of my favorite boutique Blu-ray labels, Vinegar Syndrome. I know it’s about a marriage gone off the rails during a sightseeing trip through Serbia. That’s all I need. I’m totally on board.

Austin Jennings’ Eight Eyes

While we’re at it, I’m hoping to watch the Japanese film, #Manhole, about a salesman who “falls into a concrete manhole with no way out.” There’s also a movie called Booger, in which the main character may be turning into a cat. I want to see both of these things happen. Bring it on, Fantasia Fest!

SH: Looking through the lineup for this year’s Fantasia is like looking through the work of my favourite artists and unearthing new treasures. New works from the Adams Family (not that one), Larry Fessenden, and a long-lost masterpiece from a VFX legend compliment an absolutely packed lineup. Is that Nic Cage over there? And Jackie Chan? There’s always great stuff at this festival, and it often sets the table for the upcoming year of independent genre films – especially science-fiction and horror. 

Described by the programming team as “a deeply moving heartbreaker of speculative science fiction”, Jared Moshe’s Aporia  had me sold from the jump. I’ve realized that I like my sci-fi violent or deeply sad, and Aporia looks like it’ll deliver on at least one of those things, if not both. This one’s a time-travel tale starring Judy Greer as a woman trying to work through devastating grief alongside her daughter. 

Jared Moshe’s Aporia

Kassy Gascho’s #BossBabe seems to have a lot in common with one of my favourite, most unapologetically over-the-top Fantasia features of the past few years, Elza Kephart’s haunted pants thriller Slaxx. This one takes on the world of pyramid schemes and establishes the fictional Bevlon community, whose recruitment drives have a way of turning deadly. 

Larry Fessenden’s long-awaited werewolf feature Blackout finally lands at Fantasia. In this tale, which rounds out vampire film Habit and Frankenstein’s monster riff Depraved, an artist sets out to right several wrongs in his life while grappling with a terrible secret – that he’s a werewolf and has committed several murders for which his put-upon coworker has been blamed. 

In a story that feels unsettlingly timely but long overdue, Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping’s Femme has a drag artist literally fighting back and taking revenge on homophobic attackers. It looks like a deliciously subversive reaction to films that are happy to stop at queer trauma while not exploring how drag and queerness can be the source of the kind of strength that leads to a retaking of power. There’s a lot to live up to for Femme, but it already feels like one of the most important films of the year. 

If you missed Junta Yamaguchi’s 2021 film Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes, you skipped out on one of the most interesting, hilarious, and personal time travel films in recent memory. I know that’s setting the bar pretty high, but it looks like Yamaguchi is aiming straight past it with his new film River. Where Beyond explored a single story about the mechanics of time travel, River employs a pastiche of short, two-minute takes that build a mystery and the characters in the Fujiya Inn, which is caught in a time loop. There’s nothing in the lineup that has me more intrigued than River.

Okay, I lied. There’s one film that has me even more interested than River, and it’s effects wizard David Allen’s posthumous life’s work, his Mad God if you will, called The Primevals

The film follows an expedition with an aim to track down the Yeti in the Himalayas, and features some of Allen’s most legendary stop-motion effects, of the sort seen in Puppet Master, Willow, and The Howling. The film is a long-lost treasure and a white whale for fans of visual effects and fans of film in general.

These are only a tiny portion of the Fantasia lineup, but it should be clear why this is one of our favourite festivals of the year. The films here are highly likely to be the ones you and your friends will be talking about through 2023 and into 2024, if not longer. If you find yourself in Montreal this summer, this is where you want to be.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 20 to August 9, 2023 in Montreal. Tickets and lineup information can be found at the Festival’s official site.

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