I think the one thing I’ve had difficulty with is picking which films to select for the curtain raiser I’m posting here ahead of this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival installation. Nearly all the selections I would bet are easy picks, but I’m resigned to only a handful.
Honorable mentions thusfar for me go to Sadako DX for anyone who’s anyone who’s been a fan of iconic Japanese horror in the last three decades, namely since the infamous literary character was first adapted for the screen in the 1990s. I’m also keen on Cult Hero, Jesse Thomas Cooke’s pulpy and spectacular-looking seventh feature which stars Ry Barrett (The Demolisher, The Hoard), and other tasty thrillers like Kim Dae-jin’s latest live-action series take on animated South Korean classic, The King Of Pigs, Choi Dong-hoon’s time-walloping fantasy actioner Alienoid which is set to be back-to-back with a second part coming later this year, Carlota Pereda’s horror pic, Piggy which has been making a splash with the horror crowd for a while, Shinichiro Ueda’s latest gonzo entry, Popran, whose premise you have to read to believe, and other amazing hits like Don Lee starrer The Roundup, Shinji Higuchi’s Shin Ultraman, breakout actress Shin Si-ah’s stellar performance in The Witch: Part 2. The Other One and Yugo Sakamoto’s Baby Assassins which has already scored well since screening for Fantastic Fest last year.
Of course, I got more HMs, but three Fantasia waves are a lot to sift through so I can’t get into all the titles. There is simply too many in the variety to choose from. Classics, contemporaries, restored cult favorites, old school Hong Kong action hits, tastemakers from many parts of the world, and I’m leaving you off with a list of five picks which you can scroll through below as tickets continue to roll out. I am curious as to what your picks are beyond these, so hit me up on Twitter if you like. And shouts to Edward Orndorff and Vance Ang for lending their voices to this post.
Jang Hyuk had to be one of the earliest talents in my personal segue into Asian niche films in the early 2000s outside of the HK crossovers out of Miramax and Dimension. Indeed, the second Volcano High landed on my radar felt like a special moment going forward, and I haven’t had a single regret since. This is almost 20 years of fandom as we now look toward his latest feature, The Killer, following hits like The Swordsman and Paid In Blood, now center-stage for a flick currently electrifying festival and event audiences here in the states. The film has already received a bevy of praise from early watchers of the film and with North America inching closer to its release, Fantasia is one other good place to catch it this summer.
Vance Ang: The Maestro of the Giallo genre is back with the stylised and brooding horror of Dark Glasses (or Occhiali Neri), and whilst this may not be as striking as Deep Red or Suspira for fans of Dario Argento this will be well worth the viewing. Seemingly like a modern and layered cat-and-mouse thriller, Dark Glasses appears to contain some of the hallmarks of this Italian director’s previous films, with rich textures in his visual setting with that constant sense of foreboding as the blind protagonist Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli) and her new ward Chin (Andrea Zhang) elude a sadistic killer in the dark streets of Rome. Trading the romance for horror, Argento caresses the grim material with his trademark flair creating deliberate obscuring shots whilst Arnaud Rebotini’s score accompanies each of the more intense scenes. After a decade long sabbatical, this movie is certainly going to bring a breath of fresh air to the crowded horror genre with much impact and a call back to the bygone era of the Italian Giallo genre.
The first trailer I spotted for Park Dae-min’s Special Delivery was all it took to get me hooked, giving air to films like The Transporter, NWR’s Drive and Baby Driver and it made me super-curious as to what Parasite actress Park So-dam could bring to the table; It might also help that she was handed a Best Actress nom at the 58th Baeksang Arts Awards back in May. As the summer approached, I was very cautious to see if any of the festivals around here would get wind of this film, and I’m very proud to see it landed on Fantasia’s lap. It’s the third feature from director Park Dae-min who firstly helmed 2009’s Hwang Jung-min led South Korean noir, Private Eye, which became a box office sensation. Six years after following-up with hit comedy satire, Seondal: The Man Who Sells The River, Park is back with what looks to be a supple treat for festival goers.
Edward Orndorff: Viewers looking for an exciting visual and audio experience with an intriguing premise should look no further than the latest by the unbelievably creative minds of Science SARU and Masaaki Yuasa’s new film, Inu-Oh. Coming off of the international success of the award winning The Night is Short, Walk On Girl and Devilman crybaby, Inu-Oh is a rock opera that utilizes narrative themes to highlight marginalized people, and make a statement on artistic freedom to great effect. The film already has been widely successful on the festival circuit, receiving immediate acclaim by critics on it’s debut at the Venice International Film Festival. With it’s unique and eye-catching animation style, and a rock and roll soundtrack that absolutely must be heard, cinema fans and animation junkies would be ill served by skipping Inu-Oh,the latest feast for the senses from a maverick director.
One of the most recent fascinating occurrences for me was the discovery of narrative cinematic puppetry by the likes of Gen Urobuchi’s “Thunderbolt Fantasy”. I never did get to catch up with the series apart from a few promos and I loved what I saw, and that’s basically the motivation I have for lending my voice to Demigod: The Legend Begins. It’s the latest work of filmmaker Chris Huang and his family of puppeteering trailblazers out of their Taiwan-based Pili International Multimedia and Puppetmotion Entertainment wheelhouse, and will undoubtedly serve as a much-deserved tribute to Huang’s younger brother, Vincent Huang, who sadly passed away last month at the age of 65, but leaves behind a sizeable legacy in voice-acting and puppet performance. If Demigod: The Legend Begins is your first consumption of these impressive projects, join me, and let’s enjoy it together.