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Fantasia 2006 Complete preview : American & European Films

USA, Dir: Gary Sherman, 2006

World Premiere, hosted by director Gary

Carroll McKane, having
already killed 17 couples, sets up eight DV cameras on reticulated arms in a
warehouse to document his crimes and kidnaps a celebrated psychologist in the
hopes that he will write his biography.  Told entirely from the perspective of
Mc Kane’s unblinking cameras, 39 is a disturbing slice of verite filmmaking from
Gary Sherman, director of DEAD AND BURIED and RAW MEAT, making his return to the
genre after over a decade’s absence. Make no mistake, this is a graphic and
unsettling work, but it doesn’t rely on abject depravity or exploitative gore to
disturb. No, this one’s by Carroll McKane, who’s far too obsessed with himself
to let his victims take centre stage.


Portugal,  Dirs: Tiago Guedes,
Frederico Serra, 2006

Montreal Premiere
A respected academic
inherits a sprawling country home and packs up his wife, children and
grandchild,  moving them against their wishes. And the country is a vastly
different place than the city, a place where superstition runs rampant, the
local priest still performs exorcisms, and there may just be a thread of truth
embedded in the strange, disturbing tales told about their new home. 
Beautifully shot and augmented with a minimalist score that evokes the work of
Daniel Lanois, this is a subtle, slow-burning tale of a haunting in rural
Portugal. Built around a carefully nuanced script and strong performances from
all involved, it is a welcome relief from all the noise of most Hollywood films,
a film that takes its time to build mood and atmosphere. A major prize-winner at
the Fantasporto Film Festival.


USA, Dir: Scott Glosserman, 2006

Canadian Premiere, Hosted by Director
Scott Glosserman
A breakout success at this
year’s South By Southwest Film Festival, this critically acclaimed comedy /
horror film takes place in a universe where the happenings of the HALLOWEEN and
ELM STREET films actually occurred, and where being an unstoppable killer is
virtually a career option.  A documentary crew follows budding supernatural
killer Leslie Vernon as he prepares to become his town’s worst nightmare,
training vigorously to be able to walk slowly yet still catch up with his
victims, learning the ins and outs of electricity etc. One part mockumentary,
one part stylized narrative filmmaking, Mask opens like a Christopher
Guest film and effortlessly shifts gears along the way to become exactly what it
satirizes, virtually evolving into an 80’s slasher movie, while cleverly
de-constructing the subgenre, exploring and parodying the deeper reasons why
these films have typically been structured in such specific ways.  

Closing Film)

Quebec, Dir: Erik Canuel, 2006

World Premiere, Hosted By Director Erik
+ Bon Cop Bad Cop
stars Patrick Huard and Colm Feore as a pair of cops, from Quebec and Ontario
respectively, who must work as a team to crack a series of crimes which target
the national sport – hockey. Based on an idea of Huard’s, Bon Cop Bad Cop
is the first completely bilingual Canadian film. Érik Canuel has been recognized
for some years now for his work in advertising, music videos and the direction
of television series. In cinema, he brought us successful and critically
acclaimed films such as Le Survenant, Le dernier tunnel, Nez
and  La loi du cochon.

Quebec,  Dir: Philippe Spurrell, 2006

World Premiere, hosted by director
Philippe Spurrell
It’s a year since the
mother of 25-year-old James Duke passed away, and he finds himself hungering to
learn more about her life, and about the grandparents she’s cut him off from
since early childhood. Resentful stares and tense whispers follow behind James
as he seeks to learn more about his roots, and his grandparent’s often
inexplicable behavior suggests that there are secrets deeply buried in the Duke
family history. Inspired by little-known but deeply tragic events in the foggy
history of own province, The Descendant, the 35mm debut feature by
Montreal filmmaker Phillippe Spurrell, is an eerie and effective mystery with an
effective, grounded supernatural twist.


USA, Dir: Stuart Gordon, 2005

Canadian premiere, hosted by Director
Stuart Gordon
+ A powerful,
confrontational, exploration of male middle-class white America’s undercurrents
of hate, written by David Mamet (GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS), directed by the
equally legendary Stuart Gordon (RE-ANIMATOR) and starring William H.
Macy, Julia Stiles, Joe Montegna and Jeffrey Combs. Gordon, who founded and ran
Chicago’s Organic Theater for 15 years before venturing into film, was one of
the first people ever to direct a Mamet play, and has been wanting to adapt
for well over two decades. Until recently, it was deemed too
controversial and no producer was brave enough to touch it. Undiluted by the
calculated hipness that often plagues edgy US indies, it is a violent film, both
physically and emotionally, boiling with existential provocations and jet-black
wit that redefines the term “uncomfortable.” Mamet’s script, written during a
painful period in his life, plays almost like a 70’s Paul Schrader work dosed in
breathless “Mametspeak”. Tough as nails and provocative to the extreme.


Sweden, Dir: Anders Banke, 2006

Canadian Premiere
+ The first vampire film
from Sweden is a gleeful teen comedy/horror that takes full advantage of that
country’s Polar Night – the period during which the sun stays beneath the
horizon, causing months of darkness without sunlight! Director Banke was given
an almost unheard-of budget, and he and producers Magnus Paulsson (longtime
programming director at Lund’s celebrated Fantastisk Filmfestival) and Goran
Lindstrom used a large portion to load their film with state-of-the-art makeup
and visual effects on par with any American studio release. Featuring the most
destructive use of a garden gnome ever, and a soundtrack that mixes contemporary
pop with an original score by the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra,
marks the opening of a new chapter in Scandinavian cinema.


USA, Dir: Mike Mendez, 2005

Canadian premiere, Hosted by Director
Mike Mendez
+ A group of college friends
joking around in a cemetery find themselves followed home by spirits, commencing
a terrifying month of supernatural visitations that are designed to end in
death. Scary as hell and consistently surprising, the film is driven by freakish
scare sequences piled one on top of the other to exhilarating effect. Director
Mendez (The Convent) has said that he designed his film to play like a
very adult version of Disneyland’s haunted mansion ride and this spirit comes
through strongly. Coffins burst up from the earth, cadavers shriek, graves shoot
flames and the ghosts themselves wreak unbelievable havoc. A freakish dose of
old-school 80’s horror.

France,  Dirs: David Moreau and Xavier
Palud, 2006

Montreal Premiere
is a visceral
and very Freudian feature-length siege film depicting a couple being chased
throughout their residence and the surrounding forest after their home is broken
into by an unknown group of attackers. Stark lighting effects and intense set
pieces centered around rows of flowing curtains, endless corridors, elongated
tunnels and the like are constructed in a way that can best be described as a
fusion between the tones of Val Lewton and Alexandre Aja. Tension heats up to
incinerating degrees as intricate production-design manipulations make bizarre
nooks and crannies seemingly stretch onwards to infinity, lending a nightmarish
tone of irrationality to otherwise straightforward occurrences. Its closing
punchline will absolutely floor you, and is of the sort that most North American
films wouldn’t venture near. Expect the almost inevitable US remake to end quite
differently. A gripping exercise in horror film atmospherics.


Spain, Dir Daniel Monzon, 2006

International Premiere
+ A disturbing thriller with
sci-fi overtones from the producers of The Machinest, directed by Daniel
Monzón (Heart Of The Warrior) and co-written by regular Alex De La
Iglesia scripter Jorge Guerricaechevarría (Day Of The Beast, Perfect Crime).
David Norton (Timothy Hutton) is a best selling author on a publicity tour in
Majorca.  Everything seems to be going well until his fiancée receives a strange
telephone call. Suddenly, she jumps to her death from their hotel balcony. What
could possibly have driven her to do this? As David desperately searches for an
answer, people start dying all around him, inexplicably committing suicide.
David becomes the reluctant hero of one of his own stories.


USA,  Dir: Chris Sivertson, 2005

Canadian Premiere, hosted by director
Chris Sivertson
+ This blistering portrait
of teen disaffection, depicting a narcissistic delinquent’s spiral into a
killing spree, has shattered audiences wherever it’s been shown. Director
Sivertson chose to set the narrative in an indeterminable era, one that combines
elements of 50’s America with modern-day styles, peppered with traces from all
periods in between, giving The Lost a chilling timeless quality perfectly
suited to deal with horrific truths that transcend generations. This approach
also creates a subtle sense of dislocation that runs throughout the film. Based
on the acclaimed and notorious novel by Jack Ketchum (an except from which was
published in The Outlaw Bible Of American Literature, alongside passages
from Henry Miller, William Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson etc) and produced by
director Lucky McKee, whose own film The Woods is having its
North American Premiere at this year’s festival.

USA Dir: Graeme Whifler, 2005
Canadian Premiere, hosted by director
Graeme Whifler
+ A knockout black comedy /
horror illustrating a young couple’s troubles with a right-wing Christian
fundamentalist neighbor that escalates to outrageously grotesque extremes.   The
feature directorial debut from the man who scripted Sonny Boy and
directed experimental videos for The Residents is a twisted, audacious work that
opens as an ironic comedy, takes a few black turns, keeps you smiling (albeit
far less comfortably then before), introduces some extremely perverse sexual
elements, throws in some gross-out humour as a diversion –  and then plunges its
audience into a violent abyss of extremities that will shock the un-shockable
and floor the rest of you – literally – a person fainted during a recent


Denmark, Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn,

Montreal Premiere, hosted by Director
Nicolas Winding Refn
+ A hard-hitting masterpiece
of urban crime cinema that traces one man’s descent into personal apocalypse
over a single day, night and following morning, starring brilliant Croatian
actor Zlatko Buric as a junkie trying to quit the habit – while maintaining his
position as one of Copenhagen’s biggest heroin dealers. This 3rd
entry in Refn’s acclaimed trilogy – a series of engrossing explorations of
Denmark’s criminal underworld, each film baring relation to the others only
through peripheral characters who inhabit the same universe – is one of the
strongest works of its kind since Scorsese’s heyday. Extraordinary character
writing and wholly immersive ensemble performances have always been Refn’s
signatures, but Pusher 3 is exceptional even by his standards. Reflecting
Denmark’s sometimes troubled cultural melting pot, nearly half the film’s
dialogue is in languages other than Danish – Polish, Serbian, Arabic and
Albanian. A gritty, violent and above all, honest film that thrives with a
humanity (and melancholic sense of humour) as impacting as any of its darker


Germany, Dir: Werner Herzog, 2006

Canadian Premiere
+ “I want to use imagery and
sound in a way you have never before experienced.” This is how Werner Herzog
describes his mesmerizing new science fiction/fantasy. Brad Dourif is a space
alien gone to seed, living in an abandoned southern Californian ghost town (“We
built a mall here, but nobody shopped”) and stewing over CIA conspiracies,
Roswell cover-ups and eons-long interplanetary travel (“Our ancestors were great
scientists, but the journey was long and boring and, by the time we finally
arrived, we all just sucked.”). Herzog appropriates previously unseen footage –
a 1989 NASA launch for the “interstellar” mission, underwater images from the
Arctic ice shelf for the alien world…- accompanying these strange visions with
one of cinema’s most hypnotic scores. A deserved prize-winner at the Venice Film


USA,Dir: Lucky McKee, 2006

North American premiere, hosted by
Director Lucky McKee
+ From the director of
. Indie hero Lucky McKee’s highly anticipated entry into the
studio-production big leagues is an atmospheric film about witchcraft in a
mysterious all girl’s boarding school that hits unique notes uncommon to most
modern studio releases. Graced with an effective cast that includes Agnes
Bruckner, Evil Dead icon Bruce Campbell and the always-fascinating
Patricia Clarkson (Wendigo, Dogville), delivering one of her most
memorable performances to date. McKee shot The Woods right here in
Montreal, assembling a stellar team with many figures from the city’s industry,
both in front of and behind his camera’s lens.

More Fantasia coverage on Ioncinema :

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