The postmortem on Fantasia Fest 2015

An assessment of the 2015 edition of Montreal mega genre film festival.

Fantasia festival crowd

The crowd. Photo by Renaud Sakelaris


With Fantasia over, our two primary festival critics assess this year’s installment.


Alex Rose

This was my third year covering Fantasia in any regular capacity. While most Fantasia years resemble each other, I came away from this year with a few realizations. First off: It’s impossible to get a proper idea of the “calibre” of the programming based solely on what I actually end up watching each year. With something like six to 14 movies screening on any given day (two simultaneously at any moment), it’s difficult to make a sizeable dent in the programming. Even by watching a movie a day (save the days where I had to watch things like Pixels), I only really saw a small percentage of what was on offer. Some real warriors make a go of it, but it’s difficult to live a life and also knock down a significant percentage of Fantasia films — which in itself is not a negative thing. It just makes it hard to say with any amount of authority that a year is better or worse than another.

That having been said, the luck of the draw didn’t make Fantasia 2015 as solid a year as 2014. I had no left-field surprises like I Am a Knife With Legs or In Order of Disappearance; I would say that even the best films I saw at the this year (probably Cosmodrama, Haemoo or Cop Car) were not in the same league as those two films. On the other hand, I sat through a lot fewer movies that I found unbearable this year — in fact, Bite is the only film that I could safely say I straight-up did not enjoy. Weirdly, I saw precisely none of the films that were given any awards earlier this week, which further goes to prove that it’s always a numbers game.

Fantasia 2015 also made me realize that some of these films are simply better with an audience. As quick as I am to ridicule the Fantasia audience sometimes (still cannot abide by the meowing or the assumption that all films with gore and violence in them are automatically meant to be cheered on), I have to say that some of these genre films prove more difficult to enjoy outside of a packed theatre. I don’t know which experience yields the “truer” result (I find it easier to enjoy junk if everyone else is also enjoying it), but it’s undeniable that a theatre is preferable to sweating on my couch with three fans pointed at me.

One of my big regrets this year was not attending all of the screenings put on by Éléphant, Québecor’s restoration program that I have grown to love to hate. Every year they screen a handful of forgotten Québecois genre films, though the definition is sometimes broadened — as was the case for Montréal blues, a long-forgotten bit of hippie nostalgia that screened for the second time in 43 years (the film was presumed lost until canisters were found in producer Jean Dansereau’s garage). While it’s no lost masterpiece, it’s an interesting time capsule that I would almost certainly not have sought out were it not for Fantasia.


Emmanuel Delacour

This year, I dedicated myself to the “Asia” part of Fantasia comparatively to the past editions I’ve reported on. I must admit that I made this choice not without apprehension, fearing that I might get tired fast of seeing films mostly from the eastern part of the globe. I stand pleasantly corrected.


There were plenty of crime thrillers to go around this year. Takeshi Kitano’s Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen charmed me with its geriatric yakuzas and its dark humour, while Socialphobia proved an interesting, albeit flawed, whodunit thriller about the dangers of social media.

However, it’s Kim Seong-hun’s A Hard Day that really put me on the proverbial edge of my seat with its cleverly woven story and ingenious anti-hero cop. There isn’t one boring moment in this Korean thriller about a corrupt police officer who’s always running to cover his sins.

Redemption and crime was also on the menu with the excellent Cash Only (winner of the Best Director award), a film portraying the gritty and unglamorous world of the criminal underworld. Much more human than some other gangster movies that glorify an unlawful lifestyle, this story of a small-time hustler trying to make ends meet deserves your attention.

The power of the Internet is an unavoidable theme nowadays, or so it would seem, with movies entirely dedicated to the issue. Wonderful World End let me explore the universe of Japanese teen idols (and voyeurs) and their woes with a bittersweet narrative. To be honest, though, I’d rather rewatch Big Match, in which a master villain uses modern means of surveillance and all kind of technological gadgetry to control his victim, a badass MMA expert. Fast-paced, filled with eye-popping martial art stunts and quite self-aware, Choi Ho’s action-comedy is nothing short of entertaining.

It wouldn’t be Fantasia without some mind-benders and insanity driven storyline. Fan-favourite Tag (winner of Best Film, Best Actress and of a Special Mention for its opening scene) was a fun, although a curious exercise in style, legendary Mamoru Oshii’s Nowhere Girl tried hard but only managed to disappoint and H. was a philosophical slow-paced descent into madness.

In the end, I rather enjoyed the films that assumed their outrageousness. Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory reconciled me with Japanese humour with it’s Monty Python-esque sketch-driven pretense for a story. Director Lisa Takeba’s love for pop-culture and absurd comedy hit home perfectly.

In the madness department there are no movies that could surpass this year’s Meathead Goes Hog Wild. This story is with plenty of subtext and is driven by a mesmerizing performance by lead Kevin Cline (also credited as director and writer). Seeing him getting beat, robbed and ridiculed provides delicious schadenfreude that makes us come back for more.


See three weeks’ worth of Fantasia film reviews here