BOOGER (Fantasia Fest 2023) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

While perhaps an unusual point of reference, Booger feels like the indie body horror equivalent of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, doing for grief what the latter did for depression; both are portraits of human experience that at their core reject preconceived notions of how some emotional experiences should be depicted in favour for how, for some of us, they actually are.

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LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP (Fantasia Fest 23) – Review by Nadine Whitney

Lovely, Dark, and Deep is an extraordinary debut for writer/director Teresa Sutherland. It is magnificent in both its haunting visuals and sophisticated script. Essentially relying on star Georgina Campbell to carry almost every scene, the film allows for Campbell’s external and internal point of view to be the locus for the horror and Campbell delivers the right amount of increasing terror as what is supposed to bring peace becomes an unending nightmare

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THE BECOMERS (Fantasia Fest 2023) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

A planet far, far away has died, and two alien lovers are flung onto our own as they seek to find each other in their strange new home. Moving from body to body, while the manner by which they take the form of their many varied human hosts is gruesome, the aliens themselves are soft romantics, their innermost feelings shared primarily via a sentimental voiceover that stands in stark contrast to the often viscerally intense transformations that occur on-screen.

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Women at Fantasia International Film Fest 2023 – Alexandra Heller Nicholas reports

Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival returns from 20 July to 9th August this year with an exceptional array of films showcasing the international work of women in genre cinema both in front and behind the camera. The opening night film – Pascal Plante’s Les Chambres rouges – kicks off the fest’s focus on women with Juliette Gariépy starring as a serial killer obsessed young woman who gets close to the subject of her fascination. Fantasia will also host the world premieres of Mark H. Rapaport’s Hippo starring Berlinale Silver Bear winner Lilla Kizlinger, as well as two films with horror icon Barbara Crampton: Joe Lynch’s Suitable Flesh, and the world premiere of Larry Fessenden’s Blackout.

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I LIKE BATS (Fantasia Fest 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Released in 1986 by Polish actor and director Grzegorz Warchol, that I Like Bats has, until now, gone broadly unchampioned is a jaw-dropping oversight; this is your new favourite cult film classic, just waiting to be discovered. Sleek, sexy and riddled with dark humor, this electrifying vampire tale has more energy and sparkle than most contemporary horror films could ever dream of.

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HELLBENDER (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Izzy and her mother live an isolated but relatively happy life in the lush mountains, their reclusiveness supposedly because Izzy has a rare autoimmune disease. As Izzy soon learns, however, her mother has kept her squirrelled away from the world because they are both “Hellbenders”, defined as a hybrid of witches, demons and predatory animals. While her mother tells herself she has her powers under control, when Izzy learns that she too has these abilities, a mother-daughter power struggle collides with a supernatural coming of age story that at its heart is also a powerful tale of the maternal bond and that old chestnut, the circle of life. A film embossed with all the ferocity and heart and passion and craft of the most powerful of art, Hellbender is a reminder that when film like this is revealed as possible, we never should settle for less.

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GIVING BIRTH TO A BUTTERFLY (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

A visually immersive experience as much as a compelling narrative populated by some truly unforgettable characters, it’s lush 16mm photography adds a textural quality that only deepens the sense of intoxication that riddles the film – as a world building exercise, Giving Birth to a Butterfly pulls you in, and refuses to let go. Giving Birth to a Butterfly is a poem, a love song, a cry to be heard and a breaking free, all in one.

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THE RIGHTEOUS (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

A brazenly ambitious horror film about grief and belief, actor Mark O’Brien dominates both in front and behind the camera in the additional roles of writer and director in one of the year’s most unforgettable horror films, The Righteous. Shot in crisp, high contrast black-and-white, the tale of an ex-priest forced to face his demons hinges largely around a series of intensely focused one-on-one conversations. Yet so steady is the writing and so solid are the bulk of the performances that this is all this film really needs, so much so that when it strays from that path the impact of what in other films would be jump scare highlights, here they seem somehow out of place. Thankfully, however, O’Brien knows to trust his cast and trust his words, and the showier horror set pieces are kept to a minimum, leaving the real terror of The Righteous buried in the words of its key protagonists.

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MARTYRS LANE (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

While on one level this is a ghost story about a child who fears her mother does not love her, it is more broadly a vision of a nightmare world where adults are unable to speak openly and honestly with children – and the consequences are chilling. Passionately rejecting the far-too-common tendency to reduce children to ciphers for innocence or symbolic tools in the telling of stories about adults, in Martyrs Lane Ruth Platt pulls back the curtain into the complexity and sophistication of the childhood experience with breathtaking imagination, extraordinary filmmaking, and a heartfelt, sincere respect for children themselves.

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GLASSHOUSE (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Kelsey Egan’s Glasshouse from South Africa is a masterclass in how small-scale fantastic allegory and its world-building potential can provide fertile ground with which to examine the stain of colonialism itself on that country’s cultural imagination. The film centers on a mother, her three daughters and her son, who have protected themselves from an airborne contagion which has ravaged society, causing a dementia-like condition in those who inhale the infected air. Although never articulating colonialism as a central thematic focus of the film, its presence is thus escapable, and Glasshouse excels in its understanding of how the mechanics of genre cinema itself allow them to strip back the specifics of history itself to get at its heart.

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