Fantasia Festival 2020 — Lineup Rundown

The 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival announced its third wave of titles today. The festival, which focuses on genre filmmaking and is normally held in Montreal, will take place entirely online between August 20 and September 2. Although it will be accessible only to Canadian audiences, the festival often runs quality genre films that may be good to keep on your radar for their future VOD releases.

Now that the full festival lineup has been announced, let’s take a look at a handful of titles.


The Reckoning (d. Neil Marshall)

The fest’s opening film comes from Neil Marshall, director of the excellent The Descent and, more recently, the divisive Hellboy (2019). The Reckoning is set in 1665, the time of the Great Plague ravaging London society. I have a great appreciation for The Descent, which remains one of the most frightening horror movie experiences that I have had. As much as I disliked Hellboy, I can see the possibility for this follow-up to be a return to form for Marshall. As such, I think The Reckoning is one to look out for.


Special Actors (d. Shinichiro Ueda)

Shinichiro Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead was one of my favorite genre exercises of 2019 (U.S. release year). It is idiosyncratic and inventive, perhaps a bit too pat in its execution but nevertheless thoroughly entertaining throughout. The director’s next feature, Special Actors, can’t lean on the deconstruction of horror tropes for novelty, but it appears similarly idiosyncratic. While the trailer currently available to watch on IMDb does not contain English subtitles, the sheer energy of the promo is enough to pique my interest in the film.


The Dark and the Wicked (d. Bryan Bertino)

I have a mixed relationship to the work of Bryan Bertino. I remember having The Strangers hyped up to me by a number of friends in high school who couldn’t believe I called myself a fan of horror but had never seen the film. I then remember being fairly let down by it, as its influences cast long shadows that put a pall over what was otherwise a spare thriller. The Monster, on the other hand, was a film whose spare premise felt distinctly new, but the sheer simplicity of it also caused the film to run out of gas.

His latest, whose poster brings to mind possession or occult films, also appears to rely heavily on some basic horror tropes. I will be approaching The Dark and the Wicked with caution, hoping that Bertino puts a clever twist on a basic premise as in The Monster.


Lucky (d. Natasha Kermani)

Lucky is one of two films playing Fantasia Festival this year to feature the behind-the-scenes work of Brea Grant (in Lucky, she also stars). Given that my recent experiences with Grant is seeing her do interesting work in fairly flawed films, I am very curious to see what she brings to Lucky and 12 Hour Shift (on which she serves as writer/director).


Fried Barry (d. Ryan Kruger)

A South African film about a drug addict whose body is taken over by aliens, leading to a delirious psychotronic rampage? Color me curious. Director Ryan Kruger’s latest “thing” is a feature-length expansion of a short film released in 2017 under the same name. That experimental short, with its erratic editing and abrasive sound design, is likely a good indicator of what Fried Barry will entail (at least formally). Expect a gritty, acid trip-lite aesthetic and unhinged storytelling.


Labyrinth of Cinema (d. Nobuhiko Ôbayashi)

I have only seen one Nobuhiko Ôbayashi film — 1977’s House, which is a delirious, wonderful masterwork. As such, it is hard to speak on the progression of his career. But his final film, Labyrinth of Cinema, is a three-hour epic of war, cinema, and time travel that I am cautiously excited to experience. While a three-hour runtime is often a personal impediment, as I will admit to having an impatient and wandering brain, Labyrinth of Cinema may have just the right mix of outlandish formalism, erratic storytelling, and earnest themes to keep me rapt. Time will tell.


Pvt Chat (d. Ben Hozie)

Pvt Chat catches my eye for two reasons. One, because it is featured in the “Fantasia Underground” slate, which showcases “films created by eccentric and transgressive artists working outside the mainstream.” The best part about festivals like the Fantasia Festival is that they bring much needed exposure to the type of ultra-low budget, experimental, or otherwise underseen films that, at their best, feel exciting and new. Two, this is star Julia Fox’s second feature film appearance since her breakout role last year in Uncut Gems. Those two things are all I need to get excited about Hozie’s film.



Survival Skills (d. Quinn Armstrong)

Survival Skills is framed as a police training video circa the 1980s. Jim (Vayu O’Donnell) is a police officer who appears to have the perfect life. But things will almost certainly go horribly wrong for him over the course of this shift. Another Fantastic Fest 2019 connection (it was the last festival I attended before the world shut down, so consider it a nostalgia trip), Survival Skills appears to have a similar metatextual, videotape nostalgia that VHYes did. VHYes was one of my favorites of Fantastic Fest 2019, and I also enjoy things like WNUF Halloween Special, so I am optimistic that Survival Skills can scratch a similar itch.


As always, thanks for reading!

—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan, Letterboxd, Facebook)


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