Today at Fantasia

Freud vs. vampires, lions vs. Californians, Indian teens vs. possessed beggars & more at the film fest.

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Therapy for a Vampire
The following films are screening as part of the Fantasia Film Festival, on through Aug. 4.

Therapy for a Vampire

In 2013, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive confirmed that some juice was still pumpable from vampire films without being processed through the creative desert that’s been the nest of the genre in its mainstream version for many years.

Set in 1930s Vienna, director David Rühm’s most recent offering, Therapy for a Vampire, is a sly jab at both vampire films and Freudian theories, as it imagines good old doctor Sigmund (Karl Fischer) as the happy-go-lucky therapist of Count Geza von Közsnöm (Tobias Moretti), a vampire whose thirst for life – in his own words – has disappeared.

Without appearing too often on screen, Dr. Freud indirectly plays the most important part in the film, as we stumble across various incarnations of his psychoanalytic theories.

Inspired by a certain degree of psychoanalytic scholarship, the film pokes fun at the Count’s repressed fantasies and ever-growing contempt for his blatantly narcissistic wife whose main disappointment in (the after-)life lies in the fact that her condition prevents her from seeing her own reflection – a problem that Freud’s young painter friend Viktor (Dominic Oley) aspires to correct. But – coup de théâtre –  the Count falls in love with Viktor’s girlfriend Lucy (nudge to Bram Stoker) when he sees her on a canvas in Freud’s office.

Packed to the rafters with wit, this hodgepodge of a feel-good comedy is however only thrilling in small doses and fairly predictable. It’s nowhere near as teeth-gnashing as Dracula: Dead and Loving It, but is too polite and visibly lacking depth to go down in history. (Ralph Elawani)

Therapy for a Vampire screens at the J.A. de Sève Theatre (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) today, Friday, July 17, 12:45 p.m.


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Jean Jacques Lelté in Cruel
In the cold-blooded vein of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (and Camus’s The Stranger, if we want to get literary), Cruel depicts the routine existence of a psychopath in the bleakest corners of Toulouse, France. Pierre (Jean Jacques Lelté) leads a fairly dull life as an unskilled labourer who drifts from job to job, caring for his elderly, demented father and methodically stalking and kidnapping his prey, briefly confining them in his cellar for conversation and a last supper before finally killing and disposing of them, one by one.

As most of us have learned from fiction and true-crime edutainment over the years, serial killers are often narcissists, they’re unable to form meaningful relationships, they tend to victimize a specific type (blonde female, for example) and crave recognition and even punishment for their crimes. Without giving away too much, Cruel plays with all of these notions, following some (nearly) by the book and flouting others entirely, lending the film an unpredictable quality that makes it more suspenseful than most studies of psycopaths.

Cruel is the debut feature film by crime novelist Eric Cherrière, and while it’s a far more sad and subdued thriller than anything Hollywood would ever produce, it’s an artful, gripping film with a fine performance by Lelté at its core. (Lorraine Carpenter)

Cruel screens at the J.A. de Sève Theatre (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) today, Friday, July 17, 5 p.m. and on Monday, July 20, 12:40 p.m.


Showbiz has oft been likened to a jungle, but Hitchcock starlet Tippi Hedren and her producer husband Noel Marshall brought an entirely new meaning to the comparison in their bizarro 1981 home movie experiment Roar. Having stumbled upon a pride of lions that overran an abandoned African house, the filmmaking couple grew entranced by the majesty of the enigmatic felines enough to write a script about a makeshift family living with the carnivorous kings of the jungle — and shoot it using untrained animals. They scouted their stars by way of zoos, circuses and wildlife control officers, and shipped them out to live with them on a ranch in Acton, California.

150 furry friends, 10 years of production and a countless number of injuries (including Hedren’s daughter, a young Melanie Griffith who was mauled to the point of requiring plastic surgery) later, the safari flick only briefly saw the light of day. The prime reason worth checking out its revival run this year, really, is for the stunning cat fights and the non-bravado in the human performers’ panic-stricken eyes when they’re evidently worried that those on-camera breaths may be their last. Although no cats were harmed during the making of the film, public reaction was irreconcilable and Roar didn’t come close to making back its $17-million budget. Deemed the most expensive home movie ever made, its tagline read “There’s never been a film like ROAR — and there never will be again!” It’s as if truer words were never growled. (Oliver Skinner)

Roar screens at the Hall Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) today, Friday, July 17, 5:30 p.m.


Ananya Biswas in Ludo
Every year the Fantasia slate reveals at least one pairing of genre and country of origin that boggles the mind. It goes without saying that India is not particularly known for its output of low-budget gore flicks, but Q and Nikon’s blood-soaked Ludo rarely transcends the limitations of its own genre. It follows four inner-city Indian teenagers as they booze it up and attempt to find a quiet place to get laid; turned away from most legitimate establishments, they end up in a mall after closing, playing a deadly board game with a couple of disquieting (and probably possessed) old beggars.

Ludo begins well enough, its melding of kinetic ’90s aesthetics (souped-up neon filters, chugga-chugga nu-metal soundtrack) with the contemporary Indian setting making for a dynamic first act. Once the protagonists meet the beggars and we learn of their backstory, however, the film turns away from the protagonists towards an atmospheric but disjointed fable that grows tiresome. There’s some great (gory) imagery in here but not much dramatic tension or structure. As transgressive as this may be considering the cinematic landscape of India, sometimes an eye being pulled out is just an eye being pulled out — over and over and over again. (Alex Rose)

Ludo screens at the J.A. de Sève Cinema (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) today, Friday, July 17, 9:35 p.m. and on Saturday, July 18, 4 p.m.
Fantasia tickets can be purchased at Concordia’s Hall building (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) for $10 each, or online ($11 each), here.