Fantasia Fest: A Preview Guide to the Genre Event!

Den of Geek is going to the 20th Fantasia Festival in Montreal this year, and we have a preview for what to expect!

Later this week, the city of Montreal is going to be genre movie central as it welcomes the 20th Annual Fantasia Fest. Running three weeks starting July 14 and ending Aug. 3, it started out as a relatively small and unknown movie festival, but it’s been growing over the years with lots of big studio features like last year’s Ant-Man getting exclusive previews. In 2013, director Bryan Singer even premiered two minutes of footage from his movie X-Men: Days of Future Past, which was filmed in the city.

It’s one of the summer’s biggest genre events, specializing in horror, action, science fiction, and a mix of the three with a healthy dose of international films from Europe and Asia thrown in. This year’s festival is another smorgasbord kicking off on Thursday with the World Premiere of John Stockwell’s action sequel, Kickboxer: Vengeance, starring Jean Claude Van Damme (in a different role from the one he played in the original 1989 movie, Kickboxer), as well as ultimate fighter Gina Carano. You can watch the trailer for the action movie here:

James Wan brought his 2013 movie The Conjuring to Fantasia and he’s one of the producers on David Sandberg’s horror film, Lights Out, which will have a Fantasia screening pretty much the night of its release on July 20. You can check out the original short on which it’s based below:

Another Fantasia veteran is Oculus director Mike Flanagan, who returns for a special screening of his long-delayed film Before I Wake, starring Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, and Jacob Tremblay from Room.

Fede “Evil Dead” Alvarez’s already popular festival fave, Don’t Breathe, will close Fantasia on Aug. 3 after premiering at SXSW earlier this year and before its nationwide release.

The above will be joined on closing night by Mesrine director Jean-Francois Richet and his new feature Blood Father, featuring Mel Gibson in his return as an action star. This is the type of revenge thriller he’s done so well in the past. Now, he plays a father reconnecting with his estranged daughter when she comes to him seeking help.

You can watch the trailer for Blood Father below:

Another Fantasia World Premiere mixing many of the genres represented at the festival is Rupture from Secretary director Steven Shainberg, starring Noomi Rapace  (Prometheus) as a single mom who is kidnapped into a truck and driven for days to an unknown location.  Ian MacAllister-McDonald’s Some Freaks, starring Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), will also have its World Premiere on July 24. Mann plays Matt Ledbetter, a high school outcast who befriends a confident overweight girl named Jill, as the film explores how their relationship evolves once they go to college.

Ad – content continues below

Another Fantasia World Premiere is Corey Asraf and John Swab’s crime-thriller Let Me Make You a Martyr, produced by and starring rocker Marilyn Manson, along with Mark Boone Junior and Niko Nicotera from FX’s Sons of Anarchy. Manson plays Drew Glass, who returns to his old town only to get involved with a bunch of unsavory individuals and the case of a missing girl.

Fantasia will also show the action flick Skiptrace, starring Johnny Knoxville and Jackie Chan, the latter who has been bringing films to Fantasia ever since 1996’s Supercop played during the inaugural festivial. Directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2), Chan stars as a member of the Hong Kong PD who has to unite with an American grifter to take down the head of a crime organization, taking them across all different types of terrain.

First and foremost, however, Fantasia is thought of as a horror fest, and there are some interesting international offerings beyond the studio releases mentioned above.

Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II – IV) is bringing his latest film Abattoir to Montreal following its premiere at the LA Film Festival. One of the Canadian films that should get a lot of attention is The Unseen, Geoff Redknap’s take on The Invisible Man, while Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown from Back to the Future) stars in the thriller I Am Not A Serial Killer from BAFTA-winning British filmmaker Billy O’Brien about a Midwestern teen who, while working at his mother’s funeral home, is obsessed with serial killers; Lloyd plays his neighbor with whom he bonds as they try to solve a series of killings closer to home.

The Mexican horror film We Are the Flesh from Emiliano Rocha Winter is a sexual thriller involving a teen brother and sister who come upon a real-life ogre living in a dilapidated building while Necrophobia director Daniel De La Vega’s White Coffin, from Spain, is a horror-action film about a mother whose daughter goes missing.

Nicolas Pesce’s black and white horror film The Eyes of My Mother got quite a bit of attention at Sundance for its shocking imagery that’s being compared to the work of Japanese horror-master Takashi Miike, who will receive Fantasia’s Lifetime Achievement award this year, as well as having a double feature screening of his recent films As the Gods Will and Terraformars. The Japanese horror film Creepy will also show at Fantasia following its premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival last week, while other horror films like the Middle-Eastern horror film Under the Shadow and Polish film Demon will play at Fantasia following their film festival runs over the past year.

Ad – content continues below

There are lots of interesting docs at Fantasia, including a couple that have played other festivals, but one that will definitely be of interest to any horror fan is Gilles Penso and Alexandre Poncet’s Creature Designers: The Frankenstein Complex, which looks at some of the great creature creators from horror, which will be followed by a special Masterclass with Fantasia’s special guest Guillermo del Toro.

Other cool genre docs include Irene Taylor Brodsky’s Beware the Slenderman, examining the story of two girls from Wisconsin who brutally stabbed a classmate, claiming a supernatural entity told them to do it. The Leonard Nimoy doc, For the Love of Spock, directed by the actor’s son Adam Nimoy, will also play this year’s fest.

Fantasia also screens a lot of popular Asian genre films, some which played at the New York Asian Film Festival the past few weeks. Some of the highlights include Yue Song’s The Bodyguard from China, Johnnie To’s latest crime thriller Three from Hong Kong, Lee Joon-ik’s The Throne, and Yeon Sang-ho’s zombie thriller Train to Busan from South Korea (the latter which will open in select cities on July 22), and from Japan, Takashi Yamazi’s Parasyte: Parts 1 and 2 and something called Karaoke Crazies.

Also, if you happen to be in Montreal on July 25, you’ll want to check out Grady Hendrix’s one-man show “Summerland Lost: A Ghost Story in Progress” as the author of Horrorstor and My Best Friend’s Exorcism previews one of his upcoming works.

The above is just the tip of the Fantasia iceberg, and you can see the full list of films on the Fantasia Festival site. We’ll be heading to Montreal later this week for five days at Fantasia, so look for more thoughts on the above films after we’ve seen some of them.