Fantasia: Aug. 3-5

Werewolves, space battleships, and teenage girls obsessed with sex and death dominate our coverage of another wild and crazy Fantasia weekend.


Friday, Aug. 3

Ace Attorney: Insanely prolific auteur and Fantasia standby Takashi Miike turns his genre-bending eye to the courtroom drama. Cult’s Esther Splett declared”It’s as if the cast of CSI had been fed glow sticks and Ritalin while being lured through the gates of Narnia, getting lost in a glam rock star’s closet before making friends with Caspar the Ghost on the way out.” Read the rest of her review here. After Thursday’s sold-out screening, a second one was added today, 1 p.m. at Hall Theatre (1455 Maisonneuve W.)


Game of Werewolves

Have you been searching for a little bit of humour in your horror? Well, Spanish import Game of Werewolves (“Lobos de Arga”) is exactly the dog to chew on your funny bone.

The town of Arga has been suffering a gypsy curse for 100 years and now sees a way out from under it. Enter Tomas (Gorka Otxoa), a previous resident and descendant of the matriarch responsible for enraging the witch who enacted the curse. He’s come back for some peace and quiet and the chance to finish his latest novel, but little does he know he’s literally about to be fed to the wolves (well, wolf, to be exact.) Because, of course, that’s the only way to break the curse. Things get out of hand, however, when Tomas escapes the beast’s bloody fangs and brings a second, more vicious curse down upon the townsfolk.

Writer/director Juan Martínez Moreno really knows how to let the fur fly, cutting loose here in this often tongue-in-cheek homage to werewolf films of the ’70s and ’80s. There’s enough blood are more than enough scares to please most fans and, while the mix of horror and humour doesn’t exactly match the style of genre mash-up pioneer American Werewolf in London, it’s tough not to pick out the parallels. Creature costumes, however, steer clear of the more realistic Rick Baker designs and lean instead — to awesome effect — on the man-in-plush-suit variations of lower-budget films. (BF) 7:15 p.m., Hall Theatre (1455 Maisonneuve W).


Saturday, Aug. 4

Space Battleship Yamato

Space Battleship Yamato is one part Battlestar Galactica, one part Armageddon and a whole mess of anime-turned-live-action. Debuting on our shores way back in the ’70s as Star Blazers, the original animated Space Battleship Yamato ran for several years, over several series and eventually spawned several animated films in its native Japan. But it’s only now, in the era of the CGI film, that anyone has dared adapt the voyages of Earth’s greatest space vessel to live-action film. And the results are pretty fun, if not a touch bloated.

The Earth is a wasteland, all but decimated from years of attacks by the vicious alien force known as Gamilas. Hope has arrived, however, from a mysterious world called Iskandar, whose people promise a method of ridding our planet of its deadly radiation, as well as providing the means to navigate the stars to find them and the technology to get there. Now it’s up to the heroic crew of the Yamato to battle their way through the Gamilas forces, using untested alien warp power, and uncover the means to save the Earth.

Director Takashi Yamazaki has done a great job adapting animation master Leiji Matsumoto’s Yamato for the big screen, but some of the effects work doesn’t quite hold up. The on-planet action is weak and feels like something out of a decade-old video game — but the outer-space battles are the bomb! Performances are, for the most part, surprisingly strong but suffer a touch in the overly melodramatic third act. It’s unfortunate, but Yamato eventually descends into Michael Bay-style cheese, even closing the film with a Steven Tyler song. Fans will love it from beginning to end, but Yamato might lose the casual viewer before the two-hour mark. (BF) 1:30 p.m., Hall Theatre (1455 Maisonneuve W).



Being a teenage girl is hard enough, but even more so when you’re a death-obsessed, acne-ridden misfit with a terminally ill sister and a hysterical Christian mother. Such is the premise of this hormonally infused horror flick from writer/director Richard Bates Jr., who adapted the feature from his 2008 short.

AnnaLynne McCord, a former teen model who appeared in the rebooted version of 90210, gives a bravely ugly and unhinged turn as disturbed teen protagonist Pauline. Bates peppers the film with interludes representing her dreams and fantasies, which gives him the occasion to stage elaborate, stylish and gory tableaux.

In between these reveries, Pauline struggles to put up with the boorish authority figures in her life. Here, Bates shows himself to be a master of stunt casting, with former teenage porn star Traci Lords (actually quite good) as the mother, Ray Wise as the school principal, Malcolm McDowell as a teacher, John Waters as a priest and hearing-impaired actress Marlee Matlin (from ‘80s weepie Children of a Lesser God) as a counsellor (the latter two are really just cameos, with Matlin in only one scene and Waters not much more).

There’s definitely more flash here than substance, and the ending manages to be both predictable and random, but McCord’s bold performance is memorable, and the film is definitely worth seeing with the sullen teen in your life — you’ll be the coolest (or weirdest) aunt or uncle ever. (MF) 9:35 p.m., Hall Theatre. NOTE: this screening is sold out — check the Fantasia site for possible other screenings.


Sunday, Aug. 5

Turn Me On, Goddammit!

Norwegian director Jannicke Systadd Jacoben’s coming-of-age drama is another look at a messed-up teen misfit. But instead of death, here 15-year-old heroine Alma (Helene Bergsholme) is obsessed with sex. We first meet her furiously stirring the honey pot while having phone sex (apparently paid phone sex for straight women is a thing in Norway?), and then meet the subject of her not-quite-chaste crush, cute classmate Artur (Matias Myren).

After he makes an extremely clumsy pass at her at a party, she finds herself outcast by her friends and schoolmates. Her uptight mom (Henriette Steenstrup) is horrified by her sex obsession, and Alma starts to wonder if something is indeed wrong with her.

Far from the typical Fantasia fare, this is a sweet and low-key effort with some genuinely touching (no pun intended) moments. The film occasionally borders on the insufferably quirky (Alma’s best friend’s hobby is writing letters to death row prisoner in Texas, which serves no purpose other than padding the film with eccentric colour), but that’s really its only flaw.

Whether it’s a woman’s touch behind the camera, or just Scandinavian progressive politics at work, it’s nice to see a film where a girl’s developing sexuality isn’t played for cheap laughs or slut-shaming, instead exploring her journey with sensitivity and humour. (MF) 3:35 p.m. (NOTE: this screening is sold out) and Wednesday, Aug. 8, 3:10 p.m., J.A. De Sève Theatre 



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