Today at Fantasia

Our critics delve into Bertolucci-esque drama (with zombies), a tale of Nordic isolation (with corpse paint) and a coming-of-age story (with werewolves).

The Desert
The Desert
The following films are screening as part of the Fantasia Film Festival, on through Aug. 7.

The Desert

Bored young lovers, reduced to wiling away the hours in their apartment in various states of undress while terror rages on outside. A love triangle forms out of the apathy and boredom. One man tattoos himself methodically while the other tape themselves confessing their deepest secrets.

While that sounds like a Bertolucci movie (okay, okay, it sounds exactly like The Dreamers), the above is actually the basic concept of The Desert, an Argentinian drama that barely ekes by the ‘genre film’ moniker by sprinkling in some zombies. You see, what’s keeping Ana (Victoria Almeida), Axel (Lautaro Delgado) and Jonathan (William Prociuk) confined to their apartment isn’t apathy or rioting; it’s a zombie outbreak that has seemingly decimated most of the earth and left the trio living in someone else’s home, taping over old home videos with confessional videos and unraveling slowly as affairs of the heart start becoming an obsession.

The zombie stuff is easily the most disposable angle of The Desert; it barely factors into the plot until they capture a zombie and keep him chained to the wall in what I assume is a nod to the Bub character in Day of the Dead. The domesticated zombie (dubbed Pythagoras for whatever reason) seems mostly to serve to remind viewers of why these characters are trapped together in the first place. Beyond the snatches of zombie artifice lies a measured psychological drama that doesn’t really hit any untold depths, more efficient in its form than its content. It looks great despite the cramped surroundings and limited budget and the actors help ground it, but it’s almost entirely attitude and artifice. (Alex Rose)

The Desert screens today, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 3:10 p.m.
when animals dream

When Animals Dream

Danish director Jonas Alexander Arnby gives you the best lady-wolf film since Ginger Snaps with his feature-length debut, When Animals Dream, making its North American premiere shrouded in hype due to many expecting a werewolf version of Let the Right One In. It’s more of a teen girl coming-of-age tale than a child vamp love story, but if you’re looking for the same mix of intelligence and horror, you won’t be disappointed.

The film takes place in a quiet coastal fishing village in Denmark where Marie (Sonja Suhl) lives with her dad (The Killing’s Lars Mikkelsen) and her invalid mother who suffers from a mysterious disease that no one will tell Marie about. Being seemingly the only pretty young girl in the village, she garners attention from a bullish idiot named Edsen who mercilessly pranks her by throwing her in a vat of fish guts, amongst other disgusting things. She also gets noticed by a sexy fisherman boy and these two male encounters provoke a rise of angry temper tantrums mixed with good ol’ teenage horniness. While this may seem normal to most teen girls, Marie also experiences incredibly violent fits and weird hair growth, because (spoiler alert!) she’s a werewolf!

Beautifully shot and superbly acted, this is one amazing first film that gives a hauntingly original spin on the supernatural puppy story. Arnby uses Marie’s lycanthropy as some kind of metaphor for being the outsider in a small, isolated and conservative town. Instead of feeling ashamed, Marie owns it, with abundant facial hair somehow making her badass and more beautiful. Americans, please don’t ruin this! (Roxane Hudon)

When Animals Dream screens today, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 5:30 p.m. SOLD OUT



An Icelandic lady metal film — need I say more? Critically acclaimed director Ragnar Bragason (Children, Parents) offers a poignant, and somewhat darkly comic portrait of how one family deals with grief.

At the age of 12, Hera witnesses her metal-loving older brother Baldur die in a tragic accident involving a tractor on the quiet, Icelandic farm where her family lives. Blaming the only person who can be blamed, Jesus, she turns to metal for solace, burning all her colourful clothing, donning her brother’s large leather jacket and ostracizing everyone around her. While her parents remain frozen in grief, she spends her time making incredibly loud music, drinking moonshine with the farm’s cows and walking to the bus stop with her guitar, threatening to leave town, without actually doing so.

This is another film that takes place in an eerily isolated town where Hera goes out of her way to be the outsider with violent outbursts, metal facial make-up and smoking inside the community church, avoiding dealing with her brother’s death by simply impersonating him. An encounter with the new village priest encourages her to use her love for heavy music as a positive instead of a means to shutting everyone out. It’s a unique film that throws in an examination of death, grief and religion with an odd celebration of metal subculture with an end result that is surprisingly heart-warming. Whether you say praise to Satan or not, this is a definite must-see! (Roxane Hudon)

Metalhead screens today, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 7:35 p.m. SOLD OUT
Fantasia tickets can be purchased at Concordia’s Hall building (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) for $10 each, or online ($11 each), here.