Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 poster by Donald Caron.
Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, capsule Canada bills itself as a celebration of all things niche and genre. Our visit during Montreal Festimania coincided with the 15th anniversary of this independent festival, which over the years has grown to become the largest and most influential of its kind in the world. We were lucky enough to be granted a VIP pass allowing us access to any film we liked over our stay, and we decided to see quite a few!
Ironically quite a few of our choices were British films that we’d failed to view over here in the UK, starting with a trio of horror shorts called Little Deaths, based around sexual perversion and gore. My favourite was a tale of domination and manipulation gone wrong: Bitch by Simon Rumley was shot in grainy London greys with a fabulous score to accompany scenes of every day mundanity as they descended into something more sinister.
Burke and Hare follows the lives of two idiotic grave robbers operating in the Edinburgh of the 1820s. Despite the downbeat nature of this true story it was given a successful comedic twist by director John Landis, aided by an impeccable cast that includes Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis of Gollum fame.
It was gone midnight when we attended the world premiere of Final Destination 5 in 3D, introduced by Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, who plays leggy lead character Olivia Castle… I’m sure this appearance was a major boon to the mainly male audience. The film was as utterly daft as its predecessors, but a lot of fun to watch with a hyped up festival crowd.
One of the Fantasia International Film Festival highlights was a screening of the old black and white version of The Phantom of the Opera, made in 1925. This took place in the Barbican-like Theatre Maisonneuve in the Place des Arts, and was accompanied by a live rendition of the original full orchestral and operatic score. The auditorium was full to the rafters for this oddball story: I had no idea that the whole premise was so damn weird! The poster was designed by Donald Caron, the Montreal artist behind the fabulously kitsch Fantasia festival poster which features a flying horse: I loved them both and had to resist the urge to buy posters for which I have no wall space.
Horny House of Horror deserves a mention for pure over the top Japanese pornographic gore: totally silly and questionable in taste, but I just about managed to sit through the 70 minutes of movie.
Argentina’s Cold Sweat was more of a chore: lacking any kind of coherent plot and drawn out far longer than was necessary. How on earth did the zombies get into the basement? It may be that I have yet to find my horror chops, but I found it hard to spend time watching this movie.
My favourite discovery of Fantasia International Film Festival was a wonderful rom com from Korea called Petty Romance, which followed the awkward relationship between a girl and a boy who get together to write a graphic sex comic that they hope will win them a large amount of money. It was a smart, sweet and funny reminder that the perils of falling in love remain the same everywhere in the world. I recommend that if you get the chance to see Petty Romance you skip along to the cinema pronto.
The Fantasia International Film Festival was supremely good fun and made me hopeful that I get asked to attend more film festivals in the future: there’s nothing like an enthusiastic audience for a niche film to increase the joy of the movie watching experience.
- Competition: win a pair of VIP Golden Lanyard all expenses paid tickets to Montreal Festimania this summer!
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