Wonderful Paradise Fantasia film festival reviews Montreal

Fantasia Festival reviews: The Righteous, Remain in Twilight, Wonderful Paradise

A Canadian psychological horror film and comedies of varying levels of silliness from Japan are streaming this week.

Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival began Aug. 5 and continues till Aug. 25, offering both online and in-person screenings. See our program highlights here and read our first review round-up here. The following films are streaming this week or throughout the festival.

The Righteous

The Righteous Fantasia 2021 reviews
The Righteous (Fantasia Festival 2021 reviews)

Henry Czerny stars in The Righteous, directed by his Ready or Not co-star Mark O’Brien, as Frederic Mason, a troubled defrocked priest living in grief with his wife (Mimi Kuzyk) after the death of their young daughter. Feeling despondent and looking for signs from God, Mason lets a mysterious stranger (played by O’Brien) into his house despite his being extremely creepy and ominous. What ensues is a harrowing back-and-forth between a man with plenty to feel guilty about and another whose reasons for being there are slowly becoming obvious.

The Righteous is a horror film in theory and approach, though anyone expecting even A24-level shocks and scares is likely to find the ethical, moral and religious quandaries explored here to be pretty disappointing. The Righteous honestly has more to do with Bergman than with most of what one might consider horror these days, which happens to be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because O’Brien is able to build tension subtly and effectively over the course of the film without ever relying on jump scares or grotesque reveals; a curse because it becomes pretty obvious where this is going early on, which is in turn difficult to sustain over the course of an entire film. Its meditations on sin, guilt and personal responsibility are pretty interesting, but they’re also built around a series of reveals that aren’t that revealing in the grand scheme of things. Regardless, The Righteous is an engrossing bit of business.

The Righteous screens virtually on Aug. 18, 9 p.m. and is available for a 24-hour period.

The Righteous, directed by Mark O’Brien

Remain in Twilight

Remain in Twilight (Fantasia Festival 2021 reviews)

Six friends meet for a wedding, some 12 years after cementing their high school friendship, but one of the friends isn’t supposed to be there — because he died five years prior. Less a supernatural mystery than a bromantic meditation on loss and grief, Remain in Twilight has a great premise that can’t quite be sustained by the final product. Chief among its flaws is the fact that the film — ostensibly a character sketch in its intent — has no less than six main characters, which makes it very difficult to develop any sort of kinship with the characters. 

Their Apatow-adjacent shenanigans account for more of the movie than it can handle, and by even the halfway point the characters remain thinly sketched and difficult to relate to. (It’s worth noting that this is one of those friends’ groups that seems more designed by pulling archetypes left and right rather than coming up with six dudes who might convincingly become friends in real life.)

In spite of all this, I found myself curiously moved by the third act, which grows increasingly goofier before becoming seriously moving. It’s pretty rare for a film one finds dull or uninvolving to absolutely redeem itself in the last stretch — after all, we’ve spent much more time being convinced of the opposite — but Remain in Twilight almost pulls it off.

Remain in Twilight is available on demand for the duration of the festival. 

Remain in Twilight, directed by Daigo Matsui

Wonderful Paradise

Wonderful Paradise (Fantasia Festival 2021 reviews)

Punk filmmaker Masashi Yamamoto is working in deeply silly mode with Wonderful Paradise, a superficial-yet-bonkers comedy starring Seiko Ito as a once-prosperous man forced to sell his large home in a wealthy Tokyo suburb. His teenage daughter Akane (Miyu Ogawa, seen last year in Special Actors) decides to hold an open house party on Twitter, which leads to guests both welcome and unwelcome crashing the property one last time. That includes her estranged mother (who left the father for a coffee shop owner — something that mysteriously factors in in a major way later on), Taiwanese tourists, a homeless and possibly delusional monk, a would-be housethief and an anthropomorphic coffee bean that leaks white fluid.

Beginning in a deadpan manner reminiscent of the work of Stéphane Lafleur (Tu dors, Nicole especially), Wonderful Paradise eventually devolves into the kind of absurdist nonsense that we once associated with a particular strain of Japanese cinema. Think of a more colourful and joyful 2000s-era Miike and you’re on the right track. As inventive and imaginative as Wonderful Paradise can be, I found it exceedingly difficult to get on its wavelength for very long. Its wild flights of fancy in the second half could only be admired from afar, but let it be said that I very much approve of doing whatever it is Yamamoto is doing here.

Wonderful Paradise is available on demand for the duration of the festival.

Wonderful Paradise, directed by Masashi Yamamoto

For the complete 2021 Fantasia program, to buy tickets for in-person, on-demand and streaming screenings, please visit the festival website.

For more film and TV coverage, please visit our Film & TV section.