While there is seemingly a film festival cropping up every week for those with keen ears to the proverbial ground of hashtag Film Twitter, there are few festival quite like Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival. In the same tier as a Fantastic Fest, Fantasia is one of the film world’s foremost festivals shining a light on genre pictures, spanning the entire globe for their selection. Be it the latest film from a global icon or the debut film from an exciting new filmmaking voice, Fantasia offers up some of film’s most exciting and boundary-pushing pieces of filmmaking. And the 2018 slate is no different. Here are the seven films you need to keep an eye on as Fantasia 2018 runs from July 12-August 2.
Starting off this list is the latest film from cult filmmaker Joel Potrykus. Starring David Dastmalchian and Joshua Burge, Relaxer tells the story of Cam (Dastmalchian), a young man with a devious scheme which sees him challenge his brother Abbie (Burge) to attempt to beat the Pac-Man high score without ever once leaving his couch. While I myself have been hit or miss on Potrykus’ output, his most recent film The Alchemist Cookbook was a profoundly effective film, and proved to be an assured step forward for the indie darling director. With a great cast and an absurd premise at its core, one can only hope that this continues that upward trajectory.
From an up and coming director to one whose cult could not be more vocal, Joseph Kahn’s latest film lands at number six here. Bodied tells the story of a young, white, Masters student who has such an affinity for hip-hop music and battle rapping that his thesis (about the use of the n-word in that genre) thrusts him headlong into the world of verbal fisticuffs. A controversial, yet highly regarded, film out of the early 2018 festival slate, Bodied is not only one of the most exciting films of this festival but it’s also one of the year’s most hotly contested pictures. And it hasn’t even hit theaters yet.
Now onto a rep screening one simply cannot miss. Billed as Italy’s first genre film, L’Inferno is a 1911 silent film based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, and is as grand an experiment in silent film storytelling as there may ever have been. Shot over three years with over 150 cast and crew members, the film is itself a true feat of filmmaking, but also has an interesting wrinkle added to this specific screening. Scoring the film will be none other than Maurizio Guarini of the legendary rock group Goblin. One of horror cinema’s most influential composers, Guarini’s addition to this screening makes it something one simply can’t skip.
Number four is the latest film from director Nicolas Pesce, Piercing. Pesce made a splash with the brilliant Eyes of my Mother, and this follow-up stars Christopher Abbott as a man with some demons in need of releasing. In order to do so, he violently murders prostitutes that he has come to a hotel room of his choosing, that is until he meets Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), who complicates things in ways previously unforeseen. While the premise does seem quite brutal, Pesce’s previous film was such an assured, powerful and moving piece of work that the benefit of the doubt has to be given. Also the cast is an absolute doozy. Toss in good reviews out of its previous festival stops and you have a must-see thriller.
3. Madeline’s Madeline
Speaking of Sundance darlings, the next two were some of Sundance 2018’s most discussed works. First up there’s the newest film from Thou Wast Mild And Lovely director Josephine Decker. One of the great young directors of her generation, Decker returns with the story of a young woman coming to grips not only with adulthood and an overbearing mother, but also her growth as a performer and an artist as part of an experimental theater troupe. The lines between reality and fiction blur as Decker crafts a film that has been talked about as a year’s best contender since its debut at Sundance. Starring Helena Howard, the film is without a doubt one of the festival’s most hotly anticipated pictures.
The second Sundance darling of this pair is the long-awaited return of Beyond The Black Rainbow director Panos Cosmatos, Mandy. Coming nearly a decade after his 2010 rookie effort, Cosmatos returns with a Nic Cage vehicle unlike any we’ve ever seen (and that’s saying quite a bit). Cage stars as Red, a man looking to avenge the love of his life who has become the center of attention for a religious sect. Descending into hell itself, Cage’s Red must face forces far greater than any one man or group of men, seeing this film evolve into a drug-fueled surrealist nightmare par excellence.
1. Tokyo Vampire Hotel
Finally, the film I myself am most eager to track down is one with an interesting production history and from an interesting artistic mind. Sion Sono has become one of the film world’s great bad boys, and this story of two warring vampire families in 2021 is one of his most grand works to date. This feature film is cut down from the director’s 10-episode TV series backed by Amazon, and it appears to be as action-packed and expressionistic as anything the director has ever done. Telling the story of the Draculas and the Corvins as they ready not only for war between themselves but a pending apocalypse, Tokyo Vampire Hotel sounds like yet another thrilling piece of work from today’s great enfant terrible.