Fantasia Festival Short Films

This year, we’re doing things a little different. Previous years, I’d do the short films before the movie review that its paired up with for the Fantasia Festival showing. This time, since I chose movies coincidentally without a lot of short films and there is only two, I’m doing a lovely little double feature to cover them. I’ve always been impressed with the short films shown at Fantasia and this year is no exception.

Quenottes (Pearlies) (2016)


Director: Gil Pinheiro & Pascal Thiebaux (writer)

Cast: Lionel Abelanski, Matthieu Clément-Lescop, Frédérique Bel (voice)

Quenottes (Pearlies) is a story about a little mouse, but not just any mouse. It is THE little mouse, or tooth fairy, of your childhood. The one that brought you your first coin in exchange for the tooth under your pillow. In everybody’s mind, the little mouse is a benevolent and generous character… What if it isn’t ? What if it is actually a neurotic psychopath obsessing about its collection of dental trophies? If a tooth is missing, it simply must be replaced. By any means necessary…-IMDB

There is some intricate planning for how these short films are paired up because this French partially animated horror short matched perfectly with the film Before I Wake. Both played on a fairy tale-esque sort of story. You can see the Before I Wake review HERE. Quenottes is done so well. It plays on the tooth fairy story which seems innocent enough. As a father and son clean out the grandmother’s house, the father finds a hidden spot in the wall where a tin holds the teeth he lost and gave to the tooth fairy. When he drops the tooth he had and it falls into the cracks, we know something is wrong. In the short film, its effective because it brings an incredibly uneasy dark tone. On top of that, the animation is done incredibly well for the mouse. Its eerie and before we even know its a mouse, all we have are the quick patters and the constant feeling as it spies on the father and son. Not to mention the short film is accompanied with really ambient music.

Quenottes is a 12 minute short film but one that is worth a watch if you get a chance.

Roadside Assistance (2015)

Roadside Assistance

Director and writer: Bears Fonté

Cast: Sarah Fletcher, Joel Gross, Kelsey Deanne, Ronald Bush

A mysterious woman stranded by the side of the road hitches a ride with a passing stranger – neither of them is who they seem.-IMDB

For a seven minute short, Roadside Assistance carries quite a bit of plot. Sarah Fletcher plays the mysterious girl who gets picked up and she is definitely hard to grasp. Her character is provocative but at the same time, we soon learn is special. She captures her role perfectly. It also makes us wonder whether there is something more to it. Maybe the potential of a full feature. Regardless, Roadside Assistance carries a rather suspicious tone but pulls the stops at an unexpected moment and teasing the audience with a little more. These few minutes of the short is all about the subtleties in the actions and conversations.

Fantasia Festival: Don’t Breathe (2016)

The grand finale of the entire Fantasia Film Festival goes to Fede Alvarez’s new movie Don’t Breathe. If you don’t know who he is, he directed the remake of Evil Dead. Much to our surprise, he made it to host the movie as well.

Fantasia Festival

As mentioned in my Twitter post right after, Don’t Breathe was the perfect way to end the festival, at least for my line-up. This year’s movies were all fantastic and many times, breathtaking and full of tension. Don’t Breathe is the cream of the crop.

Don’t Breathe (2016)

Don't Breathe

Director and co-writer: Fede Alvarez

Cast: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Stephen Lang

A group of friends break into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong.-IMDB

Man, could they be more wrong? Obviously they haven’t seen Hush.

Don’t Breathe is the perfect title for this horror thriller. It is a brilliantly horrific story full of shocking twists and turns. Before the movie started, the host of Fantasia called it the perfect way to end because it will have us scared for the next eleven months all the way to next year’s festival. While that isn’t completely true unless you can relate by ever breaking into a blind veteran’s house to rob them (which would be an oddly specific scenario), Don’t Breathe creates a lot of tension in its atmosphere effectively. There a few jump scares but its more the agony of not knowing a territory in the dark. As the audience we see everything even before the characters, that makes us squirm in our seats unsure about what will happen next. At the same time, a lot of merit has to go to the great camera work here. It captures and moves to cause panic but also shows and hides exactly enough to keep it an tense experience.

don't breathe

The first thing right from the start of the movie that we will notice is the emphasis on sound. As everyday people, we don’t always notice the little noises that go on from the things we do to the steps we make to the creaks on the floor. Our characters and surroundings are like that. The movie seems to zero in on the effects from a piece of glass stuck under a shoe making a different effect to the loud rumbles of a car engine. It is because of the heart of the movie being focused on a blind man with these heightened abilities that our senses and the characters also increases. Ours probably before the characters because we would have covered our mouth holding our breath every time the man walks by. Talk about flipping the situation around. They broke in and now they want to break out and survive.

don't breathe

Now that we’ve talked about what happens to the characters a lot, we should talk about them individually. This young burglary team consists of three friends: Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto). They are great friends that grew up together and have stuck together hoping to leave. We never get a glimpse of their backgrounds but its suffice to say that they want out. Rocky and Money more than Alex. While Rocky is the star of the show, she isn’t completely likeable. In fact, she has many flaws except Alex, played incredibly well by Dylan Minnette is the one that we will cheer for. He is the likeable character even if he is the underdog in some ways. He is the loyal friend that sticks around through all of this crazy. However, to say that Jane Levy didn’t do a good job as Rocky would be lying. However, if there was criticism, it would be that our main character is not as well-crafted as she should be. Although, its hard to not bond with her at the end although in many ways, it has to do with a well-written script which constantly thrusts our characters into danger making those small victories mean a lot more when we catch our breath for a split second.

Don't Breathe

The “bad” guy in this one is The Blind Man. We never know his name but he’s wealthy as heck (even if it doesn’t seem that way) and brutal and dangerous. Can we just say how creepy his eyes are, especially in the dark and the way he portrays his motions. The Blind Man is played by Stephen Lang and it was an outstanding job. It emphasizes on the point that being old or losing an ability doesn’t make it weak. In fact, his other senses clearly make up for what he has lost. Don’t Breathe is actually so much more. His character has a story and a pretty shocking one. To discuss more about this would ruin your experience.

Don’t Breathe is a brilliant horror thriller. While the characters may not be all that resounding in majority, you will come out of this remembering the intensity and well-crafted film here. Its full of shocking twists and turns. There’s a lot wrapped up in this thriller and it constantly has something going on that will have you holding your breath. There’s still a few months left in 2016 but this may be one of the front runners. Great job on this one, Fede Alvarez!

*As a side note, just to emphasize how great this movie is. If it is in a theatre near me when it gets released, I’ve already decided to go see it a second time with my husband. That is how much I loved it! Plus, to me, the best horror movies are those that we fear its existence like Lights Out plays on fear of darkness or like believing in supernatural beings makes ghost spirits seem scary. Don’t Breathe is about a situation that won’t likely happen to me and it actually had me genuinely scared and thinking about it even in all its unlikelihood. *

All you lovely readers might also want to know that I’ve decided to add Evil Dead movies to this year’s Halloween marathon and pair it up with something else. I can’t remember what I decided last year.

Fantasia Festival: I Am Not A Serial Killer (Canadian Premiere 2016)

Next up in Fantasia International Film Festival is an absolute treat. I Am Not a Serial Killer is a little independent film. What does make it even more special is that it was hosted by  Christopher Lloyd. Are we even surprised at this point? The roster at the 20th annual Fantasia Festival has been incredible and the last comment from the audience during the Q&A wraps it up perfectly. When we think back of Christopher Lloyd’s career in over 200 movies, a lot of those roles have never been attempted again and he is irreplaceable.

Fantasia Festival

Christopher Lloyd deserved the standing ovation he got and the feeling in the theatre of hearing him talk about his career was enlightening. After so many roles, we can still hear how grateful he was for each role that he has taken on.

I Am Not A Serial Killer (2016)

I am not a serial killer

Director: Billy O’Brien

Cast: Christopher Lloyd, Max Records, Laura Fraser, Karl Geary

In a small Midwestern town, a troubled teen with homicidal tendencies must hunt down and destroy a supernatural killer whilst keeping his own inner demons at bay.-IMDB

I Am Not A Serial Killer is an adaptation from a series of novels by Dan Wells (one that I don’t know much about before).  However, it has a really intriguing premise. Our main character is John, played by Max Records. If that name rings a bell but you can’t pinpoint him, he was the little boy in Where the Wild Things Are. In many ways, I Am Not A Serial Killer is a character study. We learn about John (Max Records) and on the other side, we learn about his neighbor Mr. Crowley, played by Christopher Lloyd through his observations. At the same time, this movie is also an extremely slow movie. It takes its time to set up, execute and build everything it needs for us to connect with these characters. At all times, there is a sense of uneasy even under its bizarre humor. One of the most notable parts of the movie in the opening was the music: something like rock and alternative or whatnot. During different parts of the movie, it also cues in and then we mix it with a lot of silent moments.

I am not a serial killer

 I Am Not A Serial Killer has a small cast. In fact, the other players such as Laura Fraser who plays the mother and Karl Geary who plays the psychiatrist is there but never enough to take away from the main journey of John Cleaver played by Max Records. It is amazing to see that the young adult that Max Records has become and how his acting has matured as well. His performance in Where the Wild Things Are was quite enjoyable. In this one, it is a completely different beast. One that probably would be hard to imagine. In many ways, John Cleaver is like a normal teenager except right from the first scene, we already realize that his is fighting a battle against an obsession with death. It isn’t his death but rather one where he stops himself from the desire to kill. His psychiatrist early in the movie in one of the sessions says that he has the predictors of being a serial killer, something like a diagnosed sociopath or something along those lines. Can you even imagine what it is like to fight the thought of being a serial killer, trying every day to be a nice person and feeling like you have no feelings? In fact, Max Records does a great performance in showing the struggle. His performance doesn’t end there because he soon learns that his neighbor might be a serial killer and wholeheartedly sets out to stop him. Can you see the conflict in his character already? However serious this movie does become, it never forgets to put in these random humor areas. One of the best is when John Cleaver explains why he compliments and smiles to a bully at a party. It is funny and creepy all at the same time.

Christopher Lloyd

The neighbor Mr. Crowley is played by Christopher Lloyd. His character shows that people have different layers, whether its physically or mentally. On the outside, Mr Crowley is a silly man that is completely in love. He is the sweet grandfather that still does all the gestures. However, he holds a deep secret and we soon learn that he is a serial killer and causing a havoc in the small town that hasn’t seen such frequent killings ever. No one knows who he is except John but they also have a good relationship. Mr. Crowley’s character is learned through the eyes of John Cleaver. We see what he does and his personality and the conversations they have in different scenes. Just like Max Record’s character is conflicting, Mr. Crowley’s also is. In fact, perhaps there is some kind of parallel meant to be created.

I am not a serial killer

I Am Not A Serial Killer is a movie that will be interpreted differently to many. In fact, it is a slow paced movie. Some might not have the patience to see what happens. The ending itself is a shocking one. It turns the movie around. Although it never is talked about explicitly, as the audience, we get to see how both of these characters are quite similar but also opposite. We actually might catch the nuances of their characters even before they realize it in the movie. Especially as we watch John Cleaver’s character struggle, in many ways, we might ask ourselves why he cares so much to stop the killer, isn’t that feelings or is it to fulfill his obsession with death? The main question that will keep the audience intrigued is the clever pacing of never quite letting us in on the secret and revealing anyone’s intentions. We keeping doubting whether there is a danger.

I Am Not A Serial Killer is a serious movie injected with dark humor. It has great performances all around specifically with Max Records and Christopher Lloyd. The setting definitely emphasizes the isolation. It is for those ready to study and follow a character as it develops throughout the story and takes us for a dangerous adventure of following a killer, one that no one would suspect is any danger. This may be the hidden gem of 2016.

Fantasia Festival: Bed of the Dead (World Premiere 2016)

Ever since Antisocial’s showing a few years back at Fantasia Festival, Black Fawn Films has always world premiered their movies here. Antisocial, The Drownsman, Bite, Antisocial 2: three of the four I caught at this exact festival. None of these films are perfect to me but they are all passion projects where you can see the love for the horror genre seep through every corner. There are some really great ideas. It might not blow your mind but it has its merit that deserves to be seen. With that said, Bed of the Dead was inevitable in my schedule, as ridiculous as the premise seemed (since everyone laughed when I mentioned it). There was no way I could catch the first one at midnight but this second one was slightly more doable so here we are!

Bed of the Dead was hosted by director and co-writer Jeff Maher and music Stephanie Copeland.

Bed of the Dead (2016)

Bed of the Dead

Director and co-writer: Jeff Maher

Cast: Colin Price, Alysa King, Gwenlyn Cumyn, Dennis Andres, George Krissa, Joseph Cannata

When two young couples book a room at a seedy sex club for a birthday orgy, they bribe their way into a forbidden room that contains a massive, wooden bed, which happens to be carved from a cursed tree. They soon find themselves stranded when something pulls one of them beneath it.- Fantasia Festival

Bed of the Dead is a strange movie to discuss. For one, just like many of Black Fawn Films other productions, it reminisces on an 80s throwback. In this one, inevitably it had huge nuances of the scene in Nightmare of Elm Street. Bed of the Dead throws in a lot of ideas and in many ways, they are clever curveballs. In the Q&A session following, Jeff Maher makes a point that this isn’t a movie that you analyse because it is a mess and its meant to be an entertaining affair. That is exactly how to describe it, although not exactly a mess. There are tons of idea from time travel to cursed objects to hallucinations and desires. There are cheesy lines and awkward character moments. It has some laughs and some jumpscares and a ton of blood. Except with a title of Bed of the Dead and the cursed object being an emperor sized bed, did you expect something else is that question I’d like to ask? Whoever sat in the screening, knew exactly what they were in for and if anything, I was pleasantly surprised when I left.

Bed of the Dead

It is hard to pinpoint what gives Bed of the Dead charm. I believe that the future phase of the movie placed on the morning after the events of the night have passed with these two young couples is the strength as we follow an emotionally broken and drunk investigator that tries to figure out this case. This investigator is Virgil played by Colin Price. As he moves through the scene and each body is shown to him, we flash back to the events that only happened hours ago. Except his story is also much more than the surface and there is a particular care to putting his character together. This is where the mechanics of time travel happens. Virgil is also the strongest performance in this movie.

Bed of the Dead

Except it is hard to give merit to the other characters here. Although it feels deliberate to make the twenty something characters trapped on the bed full of dumb dialogue, particularly the guys and the reactions, it is hard to shake off whether it was meant to be a comic relief and eventually turn into an eye rolling bit with certain small roles as well. The gesture of humor like mentioned before, reminds us of the campy 80s horror. Is that saying that the characters are memorable? Not exactly. The acting still leaves a bit to be desired.

Bed of the Dead

Before we jump into the best part of Bed of the Dead (aside for Virgil), take a moment to think about what makes 80s horror iconic. It is the villain (Freddy, Jason and Michael comes to mind) and the scream queen (the character of Laurie in Halloween for example). This is what makes Bed of the Dead great. Black Fawn Films is iconic for this as well: creating the perfect prop with whatever budget they have and making it the best version possible and finding the girl that fits right in the role. The main players of Bed of the Dead is Alysa King as Sandy and quite unforgettably the bed (which wasn’t originally conceptualized in this way), however this one still proves to be incredibly menacing. The bed itself is the character. There are sound cues and because we are thrown into the situation before really knowing each of the characters, we never know what to expect until someone or themselves recount their story and we wonder how they will be taken out. Talking about sound cues before, the music of Bed of the Dead is also quite fitting. Stephanie Copeland puts together a mesmerizing soundtrack to match with the story.

Bed of the Dead may not be the best movie on the list but it definitely is the one with a lot of heart and passion put in it, and  definitely a pleasant surprise. It has a beautifully carved cursed item with a lot of character and even a back story and a protagonist for us to cheer for. It is predictable in some parts and also suffers from some not so memorable roles, but there are still some decent twists as the use a mix of mechanics especially in the time manipulation bits. However, we do need to remember the intention of the movie is to entertain. Bed of the Dead does a lot of that layered with a great soundtrack and a well-executed storyline even between some silly moments.

Fantasia Festival: Before I Wake (North American Premiere 2016)

If you are an independent horror fan, this next movie in the Fantasia International Film Festival will have you filled with joy. Before I Wake is Mike Flanagan’s upcoming horror, due for theatres on in September 2016. Mike Flanagan has showered its audience with fantastic horror starting with Absentia (which also premiered at Fantasia), followed with Oculus and earlier this year, Hush. You can check out the podcast we did recently over at That Moment In. What is even better than getting Before I Wake as a North American premiere is that Mike Flanagan was hosting the movie. As it turns out, Kate Bosworth also made it along with producer, Trevor Macy.

Before I Wake (2016)

Before I Wake

Director and co-writer: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Kate Bosworth, Jacob Tremblay, Thomas Jane, Annabeth Gish, Antonio Romero

A young couple adopt an orphaned child whose dreams – and nightmares – manifest physically as he sleeps. – IMDB

Possibly one of the harder reviews to write for this festival is going to be Before I Wake. For those that know his work (and if you don’t, you should go check it out), Mike Flanagan is known for being very unique with his directing and writing. He knows how to build a great atmosphere and capture the feelings whether it is fear or dread or whatnot extremely well. It is something incredibly rare in the rather saturated horror genre. Before I Wake is a supernatural fantasy horror film. Before we start, I should reiterate that this was filmed quite some time ago, even before Jacob Tremblay started filming Room (review). Some other bits to take away from Before I Wake is that it was originally called Somnia and meant to be the third part of a themed trilogy with Absentia (review) and Oculus (review) being the first two.

Before I Wake

Before I Wake is no exception to what Mike Flanagan has achieved so far in terms of greatness. Although Absentia remains my favorite so far, this one is a beauty to watch and the ending it gives is always a wonderful surprise that pieces together the things that many of us may have missed.  It makes it extremely smart. However, it isn’t only that. Before I Wake starts off magically. Maybe not initially because we get introduced to the idea of what horrors we will encounter but it sets up who our front player is. Its of course Jacob Tremblay who plays Cody, a little boy whose dreams turn into reality while he is sleeping. And man, his dreams are beautiful from colorful butterflies to the images he captures. Unfortunately, his abilities does have a downturn and it causes him to be sent from one foster home to the next. Finally, they land with Jessie and Mark, played by Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane respectively. This is their first foster child they are are taking in except they both are also healing from the loss of their son, Sean. Suffice to say, this loss has damaged their relationship. While they still love each other, they are healing in a different way. Cody brings something more to their relationship and highlights who these two characters are and how they are truly dealing with the loss of their son.

Before I Wake

Here is where we need to take a moment in embrace the stellar performance from our cast, especially the young Jacob Tremblay. In the Q&A (which I hope to be able to put together a video soon), they describe Jacob Tremblay’s audition and image as a boy that we want to protect and that is true. Jacob Tremblay is a charming boy. We can see his character and he captures the moment and the expression needed perfectly. Jacob Tremblay’s Cody shows a boy that has gone through a lot and seen a lot as he is transferred from foster home to foster home. At the same time, he realizes his abilities and tries his best to protect those around him. In fact, while his sleeping sequences brings in a lot of joyful that eventually drop to scary moments, he also brings in a lot of humor. He has tricks up his sleeves as he tries every way possible to stay awake or the things he says. For the most part, we fall in love with him and his character.

However, we can’t discount Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane (or anyone else). The story is not only about Cody but also highlights Kate Bosworth’s character Jessie quite a bit also because we see her active attempt to heal from her loss. Jessie is the character that changes and develops the most during the entire movie. Thomas Jane plays something different. His character emits a true effort to accept Cody in the family. He is ready for a new start. He is in check with reality and is far more objective even if he is much more awkward, especially feeling like he tries too hard but it is deliberate in the script to evoke some funny moments.

Before I Wake

Aside from some great performances, Before I Wake is not exactly a full on horror. There is some great creepy moments but the heart of it is in telling a more emotional story. The moments itself and the monster he creates that are in Cody’s dreams is genuinely horrific. What is also notable is that it was played by a contortionist and not done with computer graphics. The sequence of introducing the monster and the supernatural bits are effectively scary even if there is a few jumpscares wrapped in the mix. With that said, Before I Wake is visually appealing especially with the imaginative bits. It is almost magical to watch. The most notable is the creation of the butterflies with Christmas lights that just brighten up the scene and a great sequence for creating an great atmosphere is that scene above for one of the creepier moments.

For someone looking for outright horror during the entire movie, this may not fit your slate. However, for those looking for something horror but with a little more, Before I Wake is a great pick. It carries some equally effective emotional moments that work well within the story. It has a creepy monster and a captivating performance by Jacob Tremblay and Kate Bosworth. There are some laughs and some jumpscares along with a clever way to wrap up the movie.

Fantasia Festival: Train to Busan (2016)

Continuing with a incredibly final showdown in the second consecutive day at Fantasia starts with a late morning screening of the North American premiere of Korean zombie film, Train to Busan. Those of you who know me know that I enjoy zombie films a lot. In fact, they are almost always entertaining to watch. Train to Busan caught our attention immediately and we had to add it into our rundown no matter what. Even if it meant going for the late screening the night before and waking up early to see this, not to mention standing under the scorching morning sun which was nearing 30 degrees Celsius. It was not pleasant but in our hearts, we believed that it would be worth it.

Train to Busan (2016)

Train to Busan

Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Cast: Yoo Gong, Su-an Kim, Dong-seok Ma, Woo-sik Choi, Yu-mi Jeong, Sohee

While a zombie-virus breaks out in South Korea, a couple of passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.-IMDB

Train to Busan is a Korean zombie movie that runs for almost two hours. It is absolutely one of the longer films showing at the festival. Zombies occur after a biotech company leak. It focuses on a self-centered fund manager Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) who after much convincing decides to take his daughter Su-an (Su-an Kim) to Busan for her birthday to his ex-wife. However on his way there, an infected girl ends up crashing into the train right before departure and from there it enters a claustrophobic and dangerous zombie film. At two hours, it is hard to imagine a tightknit movie but Train to Busan is executed extremely well. In fact, it doesn’t rely on jumpscares most of the time. It builds its characters and structures a story around them as they escape and learn about these zombies that have invaded the train.

Train to Busan

Before we head into the meat of this movie and tackle the characters, we have to dive into the zombies in Train to Busan. The zombie design is done really well. At this point, we have to start believing that we have seen everything there is to do with zombies. However, there is nothing tacky about these zombies. They die for a second and contort in a terrifying way into zombie mode right away. They growl and are infected with rage. Certain parts might even remind you of a cross over of World War Z with Zombieland. They have white out eyes and are incredibly vicious and quick. In short, they attack what they see. Anything else is for you to discover when you watch this because that is half of the fun.

Train to Busan

The heart of Train to Busan are the characters. They may act predictable but it proves a point that sometimes well-executed tropes are equally as effective. Our main character is the fund manager (as mentioned before) who has his young daughter with him. His character develops the most, especially his relationship with her. His daughter is worth a mention because she is incredibly talented in her role.  She never is annoying or bratty. In fact, she acts exactly as well as a child would probably act when thrown into this situation. Also, we have a father to be (or as Fantasia’s description calls him a “two-fisted goon”) and his pregnant wife: the righteous hero who also is the humorous guy with his one liners and infectious attitude. His wife creates a wonderful balance for the tact that he lacks. This goon is the absolute highlight of the movie. On the other hand, it highlights the fact that in times of crisis, human nature is a scary thing because the natural instinct of life preservation occurs and people do extremely selfish acts. One character in this whole affair is an absolute piece of garbage. You will know who it is right away and the feelings of hate that he stirs up might be hard to imagine. Along for the ride are some teenagers heading to a baseball tournament and a pair of senior sisters and some of the train crew who make impact on various scenes. If you find yourself cheering for some of these characters, especially the wildly fantastic father to be character, it is normal. We all were at the Fantasia screening also.

Train to Busan


However, there is one aspect that fell short: the way it was wrapped up. In fact, it may be the only aspect of this intense zombie film that may drag it down a little.  The ending was being taunted to its audience. It kept seeming like it wanted to end but somehow was playing up to the final scene. At a certain point, it simply felt contrived. While the ending was not bad, it was unnecessarily dragged out to achieve the end results that they desired which may or may  not be perfect. Perhaps, it felt a little too neat for some.

Train to Busan is a gripping and thrilling ride that will have you holding your breath.  It takes you on a claustrophobic and heart pounding adrenaline run with a growing population of terrifying zombies. It tackles human nature, life preservation, struggle for survival with brilliant characters that will make you fear for their lives, cheer them on their bravery and honor and feel sad when the good guys are sacrificed. This is a zombie movie after all. It is inevitable. Despite its contrived ending, Train to Busan is well worth a watch (and many more times after that).

Fantasia Festival: Kidnap Capital (2016)

Next up in the Fantasia Festival line-up is Kidnap Capital, a movie that was compared to Sicario as it also tackles the subject of human smuggling. Kidnap Capital is based on real stories. It takes a different angle from Sicario and in my opinion, not to be compared because it is not the same.  Kidnap Capital was hosted by director Felipe Rodriguez, cast members Pedro Miguel Arce, Michael Reventar and Juan Carlos Velis along with cinematographer Boris Mojsovski, film editor Julia Blua and composer Norman Orenstein.

Kidnap Capital (2016)

Kidnap Capital

Director and writer: Felipe Rodriguez

Cast: Paulino Nunes, Johnathan Sousa, Michael Reventar, Pedro Miguel Arce, Michael A. Miranda, Michelle Arvizu, Lara Gilchrist

Kidnap Capital is an intense ninety minutes movie experience that pulls you into a man, Manolo who has been smuggled into America with his pregnant wife. The men and women are separated upon arrival with others and locked into a room in a drophouse in Arizona. The only way to be released is simple: pay up. One way or another, you pay with money or maybe eventually with your life. Kidnap Capital is claustrophobic and takes the angle of what goes on in a drophouse. In fact during the Q&A, they mentioned that one of the extra characters had gone through something like this and talked about how genuine the set and the feeling they recreated was.

Kidnap Capital

Kidnap Capital sucks you right into the movie. It doesn’t give you time to breathe or think. Much like each of the characters here. They all don’t talk a lot and many times, the things they do and say defines their character. In the heart of this, we learn about the lives of the captors and the captives. Each has their own stories and the captives all embody the feeling of leaving for a better life that sadly did not happen. Among themselves, there are prejudices and anger and desperate situations. It is an enthralling experience that brings a grave situation to light, while remembering to focus on the captives and their stories and never diving into the political issues. In fact the setting of this movie revolves most of the time within the drop house in the closed space and only momentarily outside. With that said, the setting itself gave a special touch to the entire feeling and atmosphere of Kidnap Capital.

Kidnap Capital

One of the most captivating parts of Kidnap Capital are the characters. Seeing as the setting is about smuggled human beings that happen in groups, a scene opens with the scene on top. Some of been there a long time and others are newcomers like our main guy here, Manolo, played by Johnathan Sousa. It is fair to talk about him because this guy wants to escape to save his wife that is just outside and he goes through quite a bit of change in this whether its desperation to utter despair. With him is a weaker though larger man, Pedro (played by Pedro Miguel Arce) who they met on the way to America. Even in the room as they wait for their inevitable turn with the boss Wyler (Paulino Nunes) who has a heart to heart with them about how they can get out and his ways of reiterating that along with his goons, some characters are calm and patient, others have gone downright crazy and others are menacing and self-absorbed. This takes us to a well-crafted character like Michael Reventar’s Rico, just like the character of Pedro.  Life endangering situations brings something different out in everyone. This is one of the reasons why Kidnap Capital is so intense to watch because it takes no time for us to care about the characters, the captives here before we start fearing for their lives. This goes down to stellar performances from the entire cast.

Kidnap Capital

On the other side, the captors in this case get a lot of screen time as well. Wyler is the boss and we soon learn that he is also trapped in this situation. At times, it did feel like it was meant for us to grow sympathetic on the tough choices he had to make. However, he never moves away from being able to take the situation in his own hands as it approaches getting into a time crunch for him to recuperate the money needed. This man is scary because he is unpredictable. One minute he will be nice and manipulative but it can all turn around and the measures he takes to get his point through are harsh and brutal. His presence becomes menacing to watch. In that, Kidnap Capital works because it is unpredictable. We never know who Wyler will choose as his next captive to talk to. There is a clear division between him and the captives and us as the audience gets to see both sides of the situation and be worried before our characters even are.

Kidnap Capital is a unique and genuine thriller. It captures the desperation of its characters and the situation. It brings to light a grave situation while focusing on its victims. Kidnap Capital takes us into four days of agony and despair, hopelessness and fear of these people who hoped for an escape to something better but ended up in something much worse. It is a raw, intense and especially claustrophobic movie experience filled with captivating performances. Kidnap Capital is a must-see!