Dreams on Fire Fantasia 2021

Fantasia Festival reviews: Hotel Poseidon, Indemnity, Dreams on Fire

A deranged Dutch film, an admirable South African thriller and a dive into Tokyo’s dance underground by a Montreal-born director.

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. Read our first of many review round-ups below.

Hotel Poseidon

Hotel Poseidon (Fantasia Festival 2021 reviews)

The Dutch film Hotel Poseidon is one of those movies that sometimes feels like a catch-all of grotesque, absurd imagery — a sort of demented Quentin Dupieux riff on Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! that baffles as much as it thrills. The amount of comparable works and references you might tie in is so dense that Hotel Poseidon comes around on the other side, singular in its truly chaotic stew of ideas. Dave (Tom Vermeir) is the clerk (and possibly owner) of a decrepit hotel with few customers and fewer reasons to exist. He shuffles around the rotted-out hallways interacting blankly with an army of sex workers, sycophants, weirdos and half-dead relatives — a routine that takes a backseat when a catatonic elderly aunt dies, taking her hotel-supporting pension with her.

Unfolding in insane long takes and filled with absurd Beckettian non-sequiturs and sight gags, Hotel Poseidon unfolds like an endless nightmare of familiar images corrupted by God knows what. Characters from Dave’s teenage years pop up alongside his histrionic, castrating mother; a hand is tossed in a blender and a live autopsy is performed during a dance party, yet Hotel Poseidon is a far cry from simple gross-out cinema. It’s possible that Hotel Poseidon is less than the sum of its parts — it’s perhaps too dedicated to a never-ending onslaught of weirdness to the detriment of everything else. But when you’re in it, you won’t mind.

Hotel Poseidon screens online for a 24-hour period from Thursday, Aug. 12th at 9 a.m. to Aug. 13 at 9 a.m. Watch the trailer here:

Hotel Poseidon, directed by Stefan Lernous


Indemnity Fantasia Festival 2021 reviews
Indemnity (Fantasia Festival 2021 reviews)

A marvel for a country where the film industry has rarely kowtowed to genre films, the South African action thriller Indemnity is more admirable for the things it accomplishes on such a small budget than for the originality of its script. Though the film contains truly hair-raising stunts and a general air of slick professionalism throughout, the sub-Nolan thriller script makes it hard to latch onto much of what the film has to offer. 

Jarrid Geduld stars as Theo Abrams, a PTSD-stricken former firefighter who was forced into retirement after the tragic death of two colleagues. Every day is a struggle for Theo, but that struggle becomes much more complicated when he’s accused of a crime he didn’t commit — or, at the very least, doesn’t remember committing. A wild chase ensues, uncovering a conspiracy with far-ranging effects.

Obviously, echoes of The Fugitive and The Bourne Identity abound. Indemnity has all of the slick trappings of a mainstream Hollywood action movie from 10 or 15 years ago and acquits itself rather well with all of it, but there’s no amount of exciting stuntwork that’ll gloss over the fact that this is a movie we’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds, of times in the past. Bland TV-style cinematography doesn’t help, either, but the major problem with this movie is just how familiar it is. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty impressive calling-card for a director with plenty of promise.

Indemnity screens online for a 24-hour period from Thursday, Aug. 12 at 9 a.m. to Aug. 13 at 9 a.m. Watch the trailer here:

Indemnity, directed by Travis Taute

Dreams on Fire

Dreams on Fire Fantasia 2021
Dreams on Fire (Fantasia Festival 2021 reviews)

With a logline borrowed pretty much directly from any “small town girl with artistic dreams” movie of the last 40 years, I can’t say my expectations were sky-high for Dreams on Fire, the debut feature of Tokyo-based, Montreal-born filmmaker Philippe McKie. With a structure as codified as any biopic, the dance movie feels like it holds few surprises — and yet Dreams on Fire is an excellent reinvention of these tropes as they exist in the world of the Japanese underground dance scene.

Yume (Bambi Naka) leaves her small-town home and the oppressive grip of her grandfather to follow her dream: to become a dancer in Tokyo. Naive and inexperienced, Yume arrives in the city with all but a target on her forehead, the perfect prey for opportunistic weirdos, but also for artists and other bohemians who might offer her the path to what she needs. Getting a job in a cosplay hostess bar, she starts to meet people existing on the periphery of the dance scene, eventually getting a foot in the door of a world that might not quite be what she expects.

With countless neon-soaked dance sequences and energetic pacing, Dreams on Fire is both somewhat hallucinatory and yet pretty grounded. McKie explores the nooks and crannies of the underground club scene without necessarily exaggerating the seedier aspects of that world. Though Yume’s path is circuitous and not exactly standard, Dreams on Fire stays pretty far away from being the type of downbeat misery porn that one often associates with any movie about having a dream. 

Dreams on Fire is available on demand through the run of the festival. Watch the trailer here:

Dreams on Fire by Philippe McKie

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.