Fantasia Festival 2019: Shorts

Fantasia Festival 2019 is over but as per usual, there were a lot of shorts showcased whether before feature film screenings (which is where all of these two segments of shorts were seen) or as a compilation (which I missed all of due to schedule conflicts). Regardless, there’s a lot of interesting selections to say the least.

Below are six shorts that I saw as opening during screenings.

Bar Fight (World Premiere, 2019)

Bar Fight

Director (and writer): Benjamin R. Moody

Cast: Aaron D. Alexander, Donald Brooks, Hector Gonzales, Nelson Nathaniel

When a machete-wielding cult walks into a bar, one bartender is in for the longest night of his life. – IMDB

Paired with The Prey (review) as a the opening short film, Bar Fight is 5 minutes of non-stop action. The premise of the story makes it feel like the world has fallen apart due to this cult as the constant pounding on the door above ends up with three thugs come into the bar. While the bar owner seems meek at first, he quickly fights his way brutally out of the situation. From the series of moves to how the short is done, its an impressive 5 minutes that is very entertaining to watch especially because its in a closed off space resulting in close hand to hand battles with some limited choices in weapons as defense and combat.

Bedtime Story (El Cuento, 2019)

El Cuento

Director (and writer): Lucas Paulino & Angel Torres

Cast: Nerea Barros, Miguel Galbin, Ismael Palacios, Alberto Sanchez

Opening for The Wretched (review) is this Spanish horror short about a family of three being observed by a witch living in an apartment across the street. As the kids settle into to bed, their mother comes in to tell them a bedtime story except it seems very similar to their current situation and bigger brother Lucas who is sleeping on the top bunk doesn’t know whether to look or not at who is telling the story.

No doubt that Spanish horror does really well. In the case of Bedtime Story, its satisfying horror experience. How its filmed and gloomy and darkness of the nighttime setup along with the mom’s unsettling behavior gives it a nice tinge of horror that blends well together. The whole element of being watched also is done very well with a decent twist at the end. Its a fairly complete horror experience for a short film.

Le Blizzard (2019)

le blizzard

Director (and writer): Alvaro Rodriguez Areny

Cast: Aida Folch

Le Blizzard is a 2018 horror short that paired with The Father’s Shadow (review) which tells the story of a woman waking up in the middle of World War II in a blizzard and goes looking for her daughter that has separated from her in the forest. Le Blizzard is not a bad concept to start with. It just feels a bit dragged out because it turns around in a circle. Somehow, it does have a fairly bizarre turn in events and has something of a loop element to it. There is an attempt of adding in a twist in there which does give it some intrigue but its an odd one.

Right Place, Wrong Tim (2018)

Right Place Wrong Tim

Director: Eros Vlahos

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Adam Buxton, Ella Purnell

A 90’s British sitcom is taken over by clones of the lead actor and descends into chaos. – IMDB

Perfectly paired with Daniel Isn’t Real (review), Right Place Wrong Tim is a horror comedy where a on-screen . Its bloody and funny and so over the top that it just fits together in the oddest way and still works. It also lingers on the part of how much of it is reality and how much of it is part of the effects of the show so the audience is still laughing as the scene gets more and more bloody and absurd and yet that just adds to the humor. Of course, this type of humor might be very unique to its audience and might not land for everyone but perhaps its the charm and talent of Asa Butterfield that I’d always enjoyed his acting and roles that this one worked for myself.

Lone Wolf (2019)

Lone Wolf

Director (and writer): January Jones

Cast: Joanne Booth, Charlotte Cook, Karla Hillam, Mackenzie Mazur, Izabella Measham-Park, Freya Van Dyke-Goodman

Opening for Riot Girls screening (review), Lone Wolf is a 2019 Australian horror short about a 15 year old social misfit called Sam who gets invited to a classmate Willow’s party and tries to blend in with her new classmates who happen to be a bunch of mean girls who are Willow’s best friends. However, she starts to go through some kind of inexplicable change and it just starts going out of control. Without ruining anything, that’s the best that I have for this short. Its tries to make fun a little of the situation because its really odd what happens. Sam’s transformation from a little decision of being accepted changes her as well. There’s not a ton to say about this. Its fairly on rails as to how the story progresses with what she gets made fun of as well as who comes to her defense and then we get a twist which explains her transformation. Lone Wolf tackles one of the horror subgenres that I feel is still fairly underused with a lot of potential to explore further so that was a great angle.

Cliché (2018)

Cliche

Director (and writer): Miguel De Plante

Cast: Anne-Justine Guestier, Lilie-Rachel Morin, Josian Neveu

Three young friends, a dark cabin, a wandering killer… You think you’ve already seen this movie ? You’re probably right… – Fantasia Festival

Cliché was the opening short for Aquaslash (review). I’m a huge fan of any concept that can make fun of itself. There’s a lot of really absurd moments here and it feels like the goal is to be over the top in presenting all the cliché moments in horror films and diving into those horror tropes that usually serious horror films would be criticized. Its not meant to be taken seriously and because of that, it dives into a lot of fun territory. It has some ridiculous ideas but then also embraces the idea of the final girl and challenging breaking away from the cliché moment. Its pretty silly and the comedy might not work for everyone but its not a bad guilty pleasure idea and really suitable for a short film.

That’s it for these 6 Fantasia Shorts!
A bit heavy and probably should have broken into two posts, but its what it is.

Thoughts? Which appeals to you more?

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Fantasia Festival 2019: Riot Girls (2019)

Riot Girls (2019)

Riot Girls

Director: Jovanka Vuckovic

Cast: Madison Iseman, Paloma Kwiatkowski, Alexandre Bourgeois, Munro Chambers, Ajay Friese, Evan Marsh, Jenny Raven

Riot Girls is a 2019 Canadian action coming of age story where adults have been wiped out by a mysterious disease leaving two groups of kids in one area to fight against each other over territory, resources and survival.

Set in an alternate 1995, it zeros in on a town now divided by West and East side, named exactly as that, Westsiders and Eastsiders respectively, these two groups are run very different. The Eastsiders are run by big brother Jack (Alexandre Bourgeois) along with his girlfriend and younger sister Nat (Madison Iseman) and her girlfriend Scratch (Paloma Kwiatkowski). When Jack goes for a resource run and ends up saving Westsiders escapee Sony (Ajay Friese) and consequently, taken by the Westsiders, Nat, Scratch and Sony set out to rescue him from the Westsiders turf in the center of operations at a high school from the hands of jock leader Jeremy (Munro Chambers).

Right off the bat, there is a lot of style in the execution. Riot Girls uses a comic strip set up to present its story. Using this, it also helps with scene transitions and location swaps as well as switching the narratives from one side to the other in a fluid way. There’s a lot of charm in using this form of execution but also helps keep the tone in check of having something a little wild and fun but also comedic and cool. The cool punk elements are elevated because of the hard rock soundtrack that plays in its scenes especially the chase scenes or fighting scenes. As a fun little trivia, the school used as the base for Westsiders is also where Degrassi: The Next Generation was filmed, so a little throwback of familiarity as well for Munro Chambers who is the baddie in here.

Talking about the story itself, there is a gnawing feeling that a film called Riot Girls lacks a little of the girls element at first. It spends a lot of time in the first act following Jack and his kidnapping to the Westsiders area then it dives a lot on the Jeremy and how he runs his side of town with only snippets of Nat and Scratch as they make it there and little establishment bits for them. However, the story does converge itself as the girls reach their main objective, they show up much more frequently and the dynamic slowly switches over to their heroism and cooperation as they work together to successfully rescue Jack while surviving the more brutal Westsiders. Its a change in a pace because usually we have boys saving girls but in this situation, the girls are saving the boy especially as they go into a very male-dominant area with Jeremy and his jock buddies in the lead.

Despite the fact that there is a big storyline focused on the Westsiders, its not a huge problem because the entire cast delivers on their performances well. No doubt that Westsiders is strong because of Munro Chambers as Jeremy who also delivers on his bad guy roles. In this case, he shines quite a bit especially with the fact that Jeremy also delivers on showing that there is never a forever leadership in this world because kids will grow up to be adults and the inevitable will happen. Nat and Scratch is rightfully the stars of the show with  Madison Iseman and Paloma Kwiatkowski as the actresses behind it respectively. The friendship and relationship behind Nat and Scratch is a fairly positive one that doesn’t need to be explained. Its just there and its accepted for exactly what it is. They have each other’s backs and they love each other through these hard times and they are both empowering roles as they fight with their girl power against a band of boys. What is viewed as the less competent are actually the most competent and that goes not only for the Riot Girls Nat and Scratch but also their help Sony who is somewhat of the awkward yet comic relief. Not to mention Scratch and Nat have incredible style especially Scratch sporting a fantastic mohawk.

Its not like the movie is very heavy to begin with. Its both fast paced and a lot of action with some nice sarcastic humor to pair with it all. Riot Girls is a fun movie. Perhaps it betrays its title a little with having more boy times and a lot more male roles than females but Nat and Scratch are the most memorable characters in this no matter how little they may be, its all big moments which give their characters their own natural spotlight. Sure, its a flaw perhaps in the script but in terms of everything else from execution to soundtrack to pacing to the Riot Girls and the baddie, everything falls into place and works really well together.

Riot Girls hits theatres on September 13, 2019.

Fantasia Festival 2019: Depraved (2019)

Depraved (2019)

Depraved

Director (and writer): Larry Fessenden

Cast: Alex Breaux, David Call, Joshua Leonard, Ana Kayne, Maria Dizzia, Chloe Levine

Depraved is a 2019 American horror film about a field surgeon suffering PTSD that successfully puts together and brings a human to life.

After a sour conversation with his girlfriend, Alex leaves her apartment to go home and suddenly is attacked. When he wakes up, his brain has now been transplanted into another body with only fragments of his memory left. Now named by his maker Henry (David Call) as Adam (Alex Breaux), he needs to learn how to be human from a clean slate. His curiosity leads him to meet Henry’s partner Polidori (Joshua Leonard) who has less responsible expectations of this successful experiment.

Playing out as a modern retelling of Frankenstein , Depraved stays a lot in familiar territory. Its hard to redo a classic especially with a lot of similar elements being played out with modern day distractions. There are obvious challenges to overcome and yet, its hard to say that Depraved truly overcomes the familiar territory with enough of a twist to make it memorable. Sure, the modern take of it gives it a lot more attractions to open up the eyes of Adam, the name of Monster. A night out in town quickly takes him to experience drugs and strip clubs as starters, opening his eyes to the world outside from his contained world controlled by Henry. And no, naming him Adam doesn’t have to do with Adam and Eve. There’s something more to it.

There are two things to appreciate in Depraved. The first is Adam’s design as a character. He isn’t this bulking huge scary beast but still has his stitches and cuts to make him feel pieced together. At the same time, Adam has a past that flashes in his mind and it helps that the movie starts off with the perspective of this fellow before he is transformed into this new person. From the first moments of Adam, there is undoubtedly the character with a lot to discover because he is essentially a newborn discovering the world around him. Here is where the movie truly excels in making Adam feel more forgivable than the Creature because he is made to be more normal and the world around him in general accepts him to be that as well. Alex Breaux delivers on the roles and fits the character very well.

The second element is that the director navigates the film through different point of views. The focal character changes with the flow of the story, revealing the motives for each of them fairly seamlessly. Alex’s point of view flows into Adam and Henry and then pivots into Polidori and so on so forth. Because of this change, the story moves forward and reveals each of its elements with a smooth flow. Its a unique way to navigate this story even if its still much of the standard fare in terms of a modern retelling. At the same time, its important to probably mention that the movie is best when it is showing the Adam and Henry aka Creature and Maker interactions because these two characters have the most depth and friction in the balance of the story, making Alex Breaux and David Call the standout roles here as well.

Depraved is an okay movie. It executes a lot of elements that do make it unique in its way of telling this Frankenstein story and has a lot of merit to be discussed simply in making Adam into a different type of Creature. However, Frankenstein is a Classic and the story is very familiar and at times, while the story gives it some twists and turns to help reveal the ultimate goal of this experiment, it lacks a memorable climax. The tone is good and the execution is decent but the retelling doesn’t push itself to an exciting moment and feels rather flat. Not to mention, some of the acting leaves a little to be desired as well. Overall, Depraved has its pros and cons but it is a decent effort and if Frankenstein is a story that you enjoy, this could be one to check out for sure.

Fantasia Festival 2019: Aquaslash (World Premiere, 2019)

Aquaslash (2019)

Aquaslash

Director (and writer): Renaud Gauthier

Cast: Brittany Drisdelle, Nicolas Fontaine, Lanisa Dawnsen, Paul Zinno,

Aquaslash is a 2019 horror film about a high school graduating class who goes to a water park to celebrate when someone puts razors in the slide.

Before we start, its important to make a few things clear. One, the Aquaslash version seen at Fantasia is most probably not the final edit. Its a work in progress where the visual editing had not been completed yet resulting in some scenes to be dark and some to be in the day. There were also some sound issues that weren’t polished like ear piercing whistle sounds. Two, the director Renaud Gauthier referred to this version as The Director’s Cut. Its put together in the way that he would want it to be presented. Also, pretty much confirming that it won’t be this way upon its release. With those two points clear, there won’t be so much about the visuals but more the story, the characters and its 80s vibe and of course, the slasher elements.

Aquaslash is a fun movie. It has its flaws. Despite its short run time, it actually spends a lot of time in the characters’ drama. Its not all teenage drama but a lot of it is girls and crushes and love triangles and the likes. It uses this time to create the characters as well as some shenanigans and make some comedic moments. Aquaslash is meant to be reminiscent of the 80s with the park, the style and satisfyingly the background music and soundtrack.

The best thing about Aquaslash is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. Because of that, a lot of it is much easier to accept. There are a lot of moments that sometimes might feel disjointed or completely random. Yet the tone the movie sets never shifts into taking itself too seriously. While that might sound like a bad thing, its a compliment to be able to do that and stay consistent. Looking at the effects and the slasher kills, they are not quite so abundant however, there is a reminiscent feeling of the 80s slasher here that works. The most memorable one is for the razor blades slide set up and how it is done. Because it all happens around the fun idea of a race down three entangled slides, there is a suspense who will inevitably meet their end at the razors. Things get out of hand and there is a great amount of entertainment in how it all unfolds.

Aquaslash, in this version, has its flaws and in the visuals and effects polish has obvious further work to do, but putting that aside, the idea is a pretty good one especially since it seems like such a clever idea of instilling fear in a family destination like a water park and yet, doesn’t feel like its been done before. Its something of a guilty pleasure movie filled with some 80s reminiscent entertainment. It will be interesting to see what the final cut after all the post production is done will be like.

Fantasia Festival 2019: Harpoon (2019)

Harpoon (2019)

Harpoon

Director: Rob Grant

Cast: Munro Chambers, Christopher Gray, Emily Tyra, Brett Gelman

Harpoon is a 2019 Canadian dark comedy horror film about three friends who need to set aside their differences to survive being stranded when the yacht breaks down in the middle of the ocean.

Harpoon starts in a fairly dark comedy way introducing its film with a snarky narrator (Brett Gelman). Jonah (Munro Chambers) is a young man who recently lost his parents and needs to clean out their place when his best friend Richard (Christopher Gray) drops by and beats him up, suspecting that him and his girlfriend Sasha (Emily Tyra) had hooked up. After realizing it was all a mix-up which involved getting him a harpoon for his gift, he makes it up to them by going out to sea with his yacht. As issues arise between them, the yacht also breaks down, leaving them stranded in the middle of the waters with no help and not a lot of useful things to keep them alive except others company and more secrets to dig into.

Mostly set on the yacht and in the water, Harpoon is something of a one location film. It opens at Jonah’s home but quickly shifts over to the yacht and the waters. The film is shot in Belize and the overhead shots of the yacht constantly shows the isolation of the location. Harpoon utilizes its space, or lack thereof, on the yacht proficiently and its water around it as well to structure its scenes and consequences. As expected in one location, three people can be many especially when it is three best friends with grudges and suspicions trying to survive. The trajectory isn’t exactly unpredictable but the narrator, done by Brett Gelman adds a lot of substance to the story especially as they are aware to get the story paced tightly but the narrator will fill in the gaps of what the viewer needs to know to give the characters and situation more depth. At the same time, it helps to relieve some of the tension as he brings in the dark comedy of overlooking the situation. Its a nifty addition that adds quite a bit of fun to it all and Brett Gelman is a fantastic choice at getting this job done.

The film is reliant on the three characters being like onions, peeled layer after layer to keep having more to discover. Munro Chambers, Christopher Gray and Emily Tyra do a great job at delivering their roles as the situation get worse on the yacht and the secrets and tensions start building. All three of them have their own traits that balance out this friendship but because each of them have their own little secrets and their own motives, the whole situation ends up having a lot of depth. It turns into a game of trust and wondering when the next thing will be revealed and the tables turn again. The film is rather over the top deliberately in parts and it helps justify some of the overacting here. Fact is, while acting-wise all three do a great job, the characters are more in depth in terms of Jonah and Sasha perhaps because more of the past involves their mishaps and emotional hardships while Richard’s character in comparison is less complex and feels less fleshed out.

Harpoon has its obvious issues. There is some leaps of imagination here and there are gaps in the story, especially when pulling in the idea of survival based on an Edgar Allan Poe story. A lot of common sense probably needs to be tossed out the window to accept their actions but desperate measures, right? However, the tone right from the beginning with the narrator and the contrast with the tension in the reality of the situation makes for a lot of dark humor that lands really well. Its not for the squeamish though since it does have a decent amount of blood and violence. The title Harpoon is really probably just a metaphor or the start of things breaking down for their situation. Bottomline, Harpoon has its issues but its easily looked over due to a well-executed and sharp script. Whether its the one location, the characters and its blend of dark comedy and horror suspense elements, this movie is worth a look.

Fantasia Festival 2019: The Fable (2019)

The Fable (2019)

The Fable

Director: Kan Eguchi

Cast: Junichi Okada, Fumino Kimura, Mizuki Yamamota, Koichi Sato, Yuya Yagira

The Fable is a 2019 action comedy about a genius assassin forced to live a year of normal life but gets dragged into a whirlwind of chaos involving the Osaka underworld.

The Fable is the nickname of the genius assassin that this movie revolves around. After a massive killing job, he is forced to take a year off to live as a normal person, something that he has never done before. All he has ever known is to be trained as an assassin and be an assassin throughout life. Paired up in disguise with his partner as his sister, he is ordered to live a year without killing. Things go well as he awkwardly tries to adapts, find a job and meets a girl, Misaki that he is interested in until the Osaka criminal world gets him dragged in when Misaki gets caught as the underworld clashes in a fight for power. Making things harder is the fact that his reputation has put two young assassins on a hunting trail to find him and take his title of The Fable.

The Fable, named Sato for the year leave, is a peculiar character played by Junichi Okada. Wrapped up in his lifestyle as an assassin, he has weird habits like sleeping naked in the bathtub and disguising his bed, for example. In fact, he is naked doing a lot of things. What might seem general knowledge to everyone else is something that he needs to observe and try to learn in the process of being normal. It doesn’t help that he has odd tastes in what is funny and he is so calm and collected that everything is in his control as he faces the normal world around him. There is no doubt that the fighting scenes that he does is very fun, both in creativity and simple execution and style, however, the heart of the film is in how it pairs the fish out of water story and where a lot of the comedy lies. Most of the dark humor and slapstick comedy does land pretty well.

The fighting scenes are both close hand to hand combat and gun fights. The first scene and the last big fight is both larger scale and the more impressive part of the action element. In the opening scene, its already obvious that style is going to be apparent as the bullets hitting its targets are all probability and arrows as it hits set up in a hand- drawn trajectory zooming in and out. In the big final third act, its a spectacle on a massive scale through a disposal facility.

Taking home the Fantasia Best Action film this year, The Fable is a ton of fun to watch. Junichi Okada delivers an outstanding character as Sato. Not only the main character but also the two assassins who want to take him place has a lot of moments between fanboy-ing and trying to take him down. Its this sudden change in character that makes them hilarious. Its a side plot but these little elements puts more stakes on the line and keeps the action going. However, some of the little flaws here goes to some truly over the top characters that are a touch generic and annoying. The story has a lot of characters in and out that don’t always get enough presence, making it a little hard to place as a result. All this is easy to look past because The Fable is well-paced, has great comedic timing and some odd but charming characters paired with nicely choreographed action sequences.

My Weekly Adventures & What’s Up Week 30

Another double Adventures and Whats Up post is among us. I have been very sporadic this month with posts, especially this week and really there isn’t a whole lot to talk about in terms of anything else. Adventures, will go first and then after it is the Whats Up!

Suffice to say that Fantasia Festival is well under way. Between the festival and increasing overload of work and as a result, overtime, its been a crazy and hectic 2 weeks. I won’t dive too much into Fantasia as I usually do a wrap-up post of sorts once everything is done and giving a general feeling about the whole festival. Lets move on to the other little things that happened.

Dinner at Dirty D

The husband and I don’t do a ton of date nights so when Fantasia comes around and we head for movies, its pretty much our date “nights”. We say two afternoon screenings so not exactly nights but we did head out to try out the dive bar Dirty D at Quartier Dix30 for dinner. I will be sharing my thoughts on it soon.

I forgot to mention it last time but we also went to check out Balthazar in the same complex the week before so that will probably have a little review as well.

Battle of Ingredients at Mama Dumplings

Some of the Battle of Ingredients gang are huge dumpling fans like myself so since the actual Battle wasn’t happening, we decided to go to Mama Dumpling. Everyone’s first time except for me. You can check out my post on it HERE.

This time we tried some that I had never tried before. The husband ordered the Wonton Soup and enjoyed it. We had Chicken Curry dumplings and that was pretty good. We also tried a lamb and green onion or something and I wasn’t too huge on it but then in general, lamb isn’t my first choice meat.

Cute Kitty Pic

That’s it for My Weekly Adventures!

Moving on…

This week has been a bit nuts as well. Its still a whole lot of movies so I’ll try to dive more into that side. TV series has been my writing companion though, so I will talk about that as well.

READING

Within

Currently reading: Within

I’m not going to say much on reading. I’ve read probably 5 pages or something since last week because there’s just no spare time for it. Reading will resume when movies take a break after all the Fantasia reviews are done.

PLAYING

dr. mario world

  • Bonza
  • Dr. Mario World (mobile)

Mobile games are my haven when I need a break from writing. Other than Bonza being my fun little moments taking most priority, Dr Mario World recently got its mobile version and I have played a little of that. I have skipped Mobile Games Roundup for Game Warp for two months but its all a time issue so I will get back on it soon.

WATCHING

White Snake

  • The Father’s Shadow (review)
  • Daniel Isn’t Real (review)
  • Koko-di Koko-da (review)
  • White Snake (review)
  • Harpoon
  • Depraved
  • Riot Girls

As we reach the end of Fantasia with only a few days trickling into the next week, its been a decent week. Some average movies but some really big highlights. Its nice because the beginning of the festival was getting me a little worried to be honest about my movie choices. This week also probably marked the most changes I had made because I swapped a few movies, let go of some of them and then added some others in screening room or screeners. With that said, I loved a lot of these ones. Daniel Isn’t Real, White Snake, Harpoon, Riot Girls all really worked for me, probably all in my Top 10 somewhere (funny how I can’t do Top 10s for new releases in any year but Fantasia alone can have one). Why I chose to highlight White Snake is because its really beautiful as a Chinese animation and shows change and somewhere new to watch out for especially if they keep doing movies to share its culture.

BINGING

go fridge 5

  • Go Fridge (Season 5)

Currently binging:

  • Queer Eye (Season 4)
  • Go Go Squid (2019)
  • Love Signal 2
  • Dream Space 2
  • Sugar Rush (Season 2)

Cooking shows or food shows or something are really great companion shows for myself so I went back to finish up Go Fridge Season 5 which I started some time in April or May. It is a fun little show and a ton of laughs and some great looking food. Probably the more important part is the huge currently binging list. A lot of it is near ending and just one episode released and such. Go Go Squid is still the irresistible series for me right now. Full plans on restarting it with full focus, instead of the current multitasking phase to re-experience it.

That’s it for this What’s Up!
Whats have you been reading/playing/watching/binging?