This weekend at Fantasia Film Festival
Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival begins today, Aug. 20 and continues till Sept. 2, bringing genre cinema right into your home thanks to their pandemic-friendly online-only edition. Here is our weekend roundup:
12 Hour Shift
Brea Grant’s second directorial effort, 12 Hour Shift is a dark comedy in the most traditional vein – full of antiheroes, blood spatter and comic setpieces revolving around the gruesome deaths of innocents. Unfortunately, Grant delivers much of those elements in a broad, sitcom-y tone reminiscent of summer stock theatre that ultimately turns out grating.
Angela Bettis stars as Mandy, an overworked nurse with not-too-distant substance abuse problems and a troubled home life who has decided to make lemonade out of lemons by participating in an illegal organ harvesting scheme. The scheme has worked out pretty well for Mandy in the past, but now the go-between between her and crime lord Nicholas (Mick Foley) is her dumb blonde cousin Regina (Chloe Farnworth), who almost immediately misplaces a kidney she’s meant to deliver. Threatened with bodily harm by the mob boss, Regina decides to take matters into her own hands and harvest a kidney herself, which sets off a series of unfortunate events that send the hospital in general disarray.
As usual, tone is key to everything in this particular dark comedy, and Grant has trouble finding the right amount of edge to bring her more prurient ideas to life. Set, for some reason, in 1998 (one assumes this allows to cast cell phones by the wayside as a plot element), 12 Hour Shift also indulges in dumb blonde humour and redneck tropes in a way that feels less like a throwback and more dated than anything else. Bettis is the only person here not giving as broad a performance as possible, but the film’s deliberate broadness doesn’t really match how relatively tame its gore and other genre shenanigans turn out. As interesting as its premise is, 12 Hour Shift rarely rises above the level of scattershot sketch comedy.
12 Hour Shift screens Saturday, August 22 at 9:30 p.m. and Thursday, August 27th at 11:30 p.m.
Lucky (Fantasia Film Festival)
In Lucky, May (a resolute Brea Grant) is a self-help book author with fledgling sales and an icy relationship with her husband Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh).
When a masked man breaks into their home to murder them, it should be a life-altering event for the troubled couple – but, instead, it barely registers for Ted. After calling the police, May is told by an indifferent investigator she should count herself “lucky” it wasn’t worse. But when the intruder returns every single night, intent on killing her, it seems like May can’t count on her friends to help or the authorities to protect her from the seemingly unkillable stalker.
There will always be slasher movies: they’re familiar, a type of horror comfort food. They don’t need an immense budget to produce and all you need to end up with an iconic new horror figure are some striking visuals! But like all good genre staples, they’re an effective lens to look at a particular topic.
What’s behind the murderous, seemingly teleporting stalker? Magic? Time loops? Natasha Kermani’s movie is more concerned with what’s happening to May and women like her but
Brea Grant’s script uses the tropes of slasher movies to shine a light on how authorities and sometimes even friends fail victims of abuse.
As familiar slasher-comfort-food, Lucky is just fine. But as a movie that goes all-in about the forces that have created its near-invulnerable monster (and what’s needed to stop it), it’s admirable. It’s nowhere near subtle, but seeing as we’re living in a post-satire era, maybe it doesn’t need to be. (Yannick Belzil)
Lucky screens Sunday, Aug. 23rd at 9:45 p.m. and on Friday, Aug 28 at 11 p.m.
The Columnist (Fantasia Film Festival)
There is not a lack of idle chatter, think pieces, podcasts and shouting matches at your family dinner parties about social media and hate speech or freedom of speech and cancel culture. Leave it to Dutch filmmaker Ivo van Aart and screenwriter Daan Windhorst to think… what if we just killed all the trolls though?
This is the idea behind The Columnist, an infectiously fun film starring Carey Mulligan lookalike Katja Herbers as the titular columnist, Femke Boot, who spends more time scrolling through Twitter and the comment section below her articles than writing the book she’s meant to be working on. We’re briefly lead to understand that she is receiving buckets of colourful insults and threats, because she dared to criticize the Dutch tradition of Black Pete, which consists of locals donning blackface for a jovially racist Christmas-related celebration or something (You OK, Netherlands?). When she discovers one of these angry incel haters is actually her neighbour, something clicks in Boot, and by that, I mean that she pushes him off the roof and kills him. One thing leads to another, and suddenly, she’s hunting down all her trolls, violently murdering them and keeping their middle fingers as cute keepsakes. You go, girl!
A satirical film devoid of any attempts at a grand statement on the subject it mocks, The Columnist zips by at just under 90 minutes, jammed with clever dialogue and darkly humourous situations between Boot and her no-nonsense publisher, her activist daughter and her new crime writer boyfriend. Some might wish for the violent spectacle to lead somewhere greater, perhaps to some kind of moral conclusion on the downside of the internet, but this is not that kind of film and I love it for it. It just sticks to its simple premise and delivers a very entertaining story of lady-killing revenge fueled by the dark comedy of its very topical theme. There is also something kinda very satisfying about a plot proposing that men who spend their days wishing death and rape on women should just… die. (Roxane Hudon)
The Columnist is available on-demand until Sept. 2nd.
Perdida (Fantasia Film Festival)
“Hitchcock with fuego” is how I’d like to brand stylish Mexican thriller Perdida by director Jorge Michael Grau, a remake of a Colombian film called The Hidden Face. It’s easy to enjoy this as you would a very sexy page-turner of a crime novel written by one of those horny spinsters like Mary Higgins Clark. There’s suspense, but also, a lot of backs arched, bums on piano keys and good-looking bodies throwing each other around.
The melodrama kicks in early on, when orchestra conductor Eric (José María de Tavira) is tearfully watching the video his wife (girlfriend?) Carolina (Paulina Dávila) left him before mysteriously disappearing, while imbibing a bottle of whisky to himself. He does what every good man who’s been abandoned by his wife does… tries calling her and reasoning with her to come back. Just kidding! He gets really drunk at a bar and wakes up in the apartment of attractive barmaid Fabiana (Cristina Rodlo). The two spark up a very hands-on romance and suddenly, she’s staying in Eric’s beautiful house and wondering if maybe there is a ghost living in the sink?
Everything here is a little schmaltzy and very attractive, namely the three main characters and Eric’s impeccable home. Nothing says “thrillers” quite like a house with big windows, a dog that pops out of nowhere and a mysterious library. Every dramatic moment is amplified by loud, intense classical music, but the suspense fizzles out a bit when the film shifts mid-way, right when we’re starting to think something spooky is going on. That’s when Grau rewinds and takes us back to what happened between Eric and Carolina, slowly leading us to The Twist, which brings about an interesting perspective change, but is not enthralling enough to keep you on the edge of your seat for the reminder of the film. Like most pulp crime fiction, the thrills here are more sensual than they are scary. (RH)
Perdida is available on-demand until Sept. 2nd.
Patrick (Fantasia Film Festival)
I’m pretty confident in stating that this is the most Belgian dicks I’ve ever seen in a film about grief. Tim Mielants’ Patrick surrounds the dramatic trauma of losing a loved one with the strange comedy that unfurls when this happens to take place in a nudist camp.
Our hero is a heavy-breathing, pot-bellied man with an unattractive mushroom cut (Kevin Janssens) who works as a handyman in the nudist camp his father runs. When his dad passes away, instead of stepping in and taking charge, or trying to comfort his blind mom, Patrick becomes obsessed with the fact that one of his prized hammers is missing from his workshop. He launches an investigation with all the other naked campers, frantically searching for his missing tool as an obvious means to distract him from dealing with death.
Mielants interestingly tip-toes between tragedy and comedy, not always very successfully. How seriously can you take one’s man sadness when his penis is hanging out and his few lines mainly revolve around a hammer? Once the incessant nudity starts fading into the background, the movie gets a lot more serious than you would think, except for a spattering of comic relief from a great supporting cast, including a cameo by Jemaine Clement as rockstar Dustin Apollo, and a funny fight scene in a camper van. Perhaps that was Mielants’ goal, to confuse the viewer with a tone that never actually truly makes you laugh, but is also too silly to make you actually feel sad for the struggles of its protagonist. Set in an idyllic European forest, it’s also often surprisingly striking, even if the scenery is dotted with the soft flesh of middle-aged vacationers. The film’s originality is definitely its main draw, but I think I would have enjoyed it better if the deadpan comic side had been maintained throughout. (RH)
Patrick is available on-demand until Sept. 2nd.
To see the complete Fantasia Festival program and more details about tickets and streaming, please visit their website.
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