Fantasia International Film Festival is rapidly approaching. In keeping with public safety, the festival will be online featuring both live and on-demand films, panels, and discussion. There is still time to get tickets and set your schedule. The festival runs August 20th, 2020 through September 2nd, 2020. Please be aware it is geo-locked to Canadian residents only. This year’s lineup has an interesting mix of genre fare and a few unexpected gems. Ahead of opening day, tomorrow here are our top picks. This is in no way an exhaustive list, but rather the films that can’t be missed. Follow all our Fantasia 2020 coverage here.
Attempting to surpass his father’s legacy and pressured by an old colleague (Dana Ashbrook of TWIN PEAKS), a reclusive neuroscientist becomes entangled in his own risky experiment. Ethan (Sathya Sridharan) has now locked himself in his home with his ex-girlfriend Allie (Paton Ashbrook) and the two navigate trauma, ambition, and missteps of the past. Diving headfirst into the uncharted equations of the brain, they realize that there is more at stake than just their relationship or Ethan’s reputation. With time quickly running out, he is forced to face off against the darker sides of himself while frantically attempting to solve an enigma that lies within his subconscious.
The sci-fi thriller is thoughtful without being trite and inventive. Taking the best of other future paranoia films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, this film challenges you and is so perfectly suited to a pandemic audience. The cast is excellent and editing even better. It premiers on August 29th, 2020, and gets a second showing on August 31st, 2020.
18-year-old Sarah (HONEY BEE’s Julia Sarah Stone) is having troubles. A tense situation at home has her avoiding the place as much as possible, crashing with friends, in a park, anywhere, and it’s ruining her at school. A call for participants at a university sleep study comes at precisely the right time, offering both a space to rest her head and perhaps a way towards healing past the terrible dreams that have been tormenting her. Before long, Sarah realizes that she’s become the channel to a frightening new discovery. Dreams twist. Nightmares come true.
If you are looking for the top pick for Fantasia 2020, Come True is it. This dark fantasy looks and sounds like nothing you have seen before. It is haunting and unsettling. Julia Sarah Stone(Sarah) and Landon Liboiron(Jeremy) are fantastic. It premiers on August 30th, 2020.
American Sofian Khan’s provocative DOPPELBÄNGER (international premiere) is presented as a clever tale about sex work and, quite singularly, takes place in a futuristic world where people have robotic doubles of themselves.
It’s the only short on this list, but it is an absolute must-see. Shot almost entirely in black and white and littered with a low budget but ingenious set-piece, DOPPELBÄNGER is the kind of short that easily can and should be expanded on. It’s quirky, funny, endearing, and nostalgic science fiction at it’s best. It premiers on August 25th, 2020.
Dean Imperial is memorable as Ray Tincelli, a not-quite-honest delivery boy doing his best to make a living and provide for his sick brother. After several odd jobs, he finally landed a real job in an emerging industry. This consists in installing kilometers of cabling on inhospitable terrain, in order to supply the new “quantum stock exchange”, a real revolution in the world of high finance. Needless to say, the quantum stock market favors only the richest of the rich, and that these armies of independent entrepreneurs who set up the cable network have virtually no social benefits. As Ray sinks into the depths of the forest, he enters a rather singular working environment. Robots compete to increase productivity. A workers’ revolt seems poised to erupt – a revolt of which Ray, despite himself, seems to be a centerpiece.
I love speculative films. Comedic ones that aren’t just weird for weird’s sake, I like even better. Lapsis is one of the rare finds that is speculative but yet still accessible to the masses. It’s funny and disturbing in equal measures. Visually compelling with a relatable hook, it scratches the tech paranoia itch everyone should feel. Read our full review here ahead of the on-demand release on August 20th, 2020.
The Oak Room
On a snowy night in a small Canadian town, Paul (Peter Outerbridge) seeks to close his bar when a young man named Steve (RJ Mitte) walks in – with lots of luggage. A joint episode in the two-man’s story creates significant tension before Steve finally says he has one hell of a story to tell. This is another bar, The Oak Room, on another snowy night, and another bartender visited after hours, this time by a stranger. There is a story to this story too … and as each mini-tale unfolds it brings Paul and Steve closer to a truth that will have dire and irremediable consequences.
This character-driven thriller redefines storytelling. Relying on dialogue and performance to create tension, it is a taut, unique vision. Directly following the premiere on August 24th, 2020, join the live Q and A with actors RJ Mitte and Peterbridge. Also joining the discussion is director/producer Cody Calahan, producer Chad Archibald, screenwriter peter Genoway, cinematographer Jeff Maher, and composer Steph Copeland. The film will show again on August 31st, 2020.
Nothing is going well in the life of Eric (José María de Tavira). One day he leads a rather happy life as conductor of a prestigious philharmonic orchestra, then the next day everything breaks: Carolina (Paulina Dávila), his longtime girlfriend, leaves him without notice, a video message as only goodbye . Finding himself now alone and isolated in the house they shared, Eric feels overwhelmed and lost. Shortly after, he will meet Fabiana (Cristina Rodlo), who will know how to make him enjoy life again. Fabiana discovers, however, that Carolina’s departure hides more mysteries than she was led to believe. They live in a house full of secrets… and they are far from the only ones.
From Jose Michel Grau, who brought us the masterpiece, We Are What We Are comes Perdida. With a Hitchcockian story and De Palma sensibility, this is another soon to be classic. Dreadladen and suspenseful, this is a white knuckler you can’t miss. Watch it on-demand beginning August 20th, 2020.
Performed by Noémie Merlant ( PORTRAIT OF THE YOUNG GIRL ON FIRE ), Jeanne is shy and socially unfit. She works nights in an amusement park. It is also at night that Jeanne is truly happy, since her life at home is difficult: her mother (Emmanuelle Bercot, MON ROI ), a great extrovert no doubt a little too attentive, never ceases to observe and analyze the behavior of her daughter. Jeanne would like to find a boyfriend, just to put an end to the endless questions. One night while on her way to work as usual, she discovers a new ride that has just been delivered and installed. It is an imposing structure, covered with multicolored bulbs, and called Jumbo. For Jeanne, it was love at first sight. Her heart is beating wildly. She is silent with admiration. To his astonishment, and in a single transcendent second, his very conception of life is forever upset. Jeanne is in love. Deeply, hopelessly in love.
Its a beautifully bizarre love story that you have to see to believe. Noémie Merlant(Jeanne) is only one of the committed performances in this heartfelt and fantastical film. I had the pleasure of seeing it in conjunction with the Chattanooga Film Fest. Read our full review here. If you like your sex a little on the wild side, Jumbo is perfect. It premiers August 28th, 2020, with a second showing on August 31st, 2020.
Having surgery is stressful enough, but Alison (Maaike Neuville) has no idea what to expect when she arrives at Klinika Krawczyk for breast reduction surgery. She is accompanied by her mother Oksana (Taeke Nicolai), there for another procedure, and her boyfriend Michael (Bart Hollanders), who cannot stand the sight of blood. His hematophobia will be put to the test after he finds out the result of a skin cell rejuvenation treatment based on experimental technology, which leads to a deadly epidemic that spreads through the hospital. Soon, Alison, her relatives, Doctor Krawczyk and a few others are the only survivors, attempting to make their way through the health center overrun with bloodthirsty undead. And even though these creatures don’t kill them.
If you are only going to see one zombie comedy, go for Yummy. The Belgian gorefest is raunchy and disgusting, featuring some incredible practical effects and buckets of entrails. Read our full review here and watch it on-demand starting August 20th, 2020.
The Block Island Sound
Something terrifying is happening near the coast of Block Island. A strange force influences residents as well as nature. Birds are falling from the sky. Some people fall, too, breaking down emotionally in unexplained ways. Harry Lynch (Chris Sheffield, THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT ) has always been marginal. These days, he watches with concern as his father (Neville Archambault, 13 CAMERAS ) lose his memory and become more and more confused. And angry. Very, very angry. His sister Audry (Michaela McManus, THE VILLAGE), whose work in marine biology will soon prove indispensable, returns to town with his daughter and immediately sees what Harry sees. His exploration of the horrific phenomena of wildlife intertwine with what triggers his father’s actions, leading them all to blood-curdling revelations that no one is prepared for. Revelations that will affect the family in unimaginable ways.
Directors Kevin and Matthew McManus, who brought us the wonderfully clever American Vandal and Youtube hit Cobra Kai, sets their sites on horror. This intensely creepy film is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. If I had to use one word to describe it, that word would be panic. It is eerie and features killer performances from the entire cast. August 28th, 2020 with a second showing on September 1st, 2020.
One evening while working in a club, DJ Neel (Noble Luke) meets the lovely Sitara (Navjot Randhawa from MEHSAMPUR). He is completely fascinated by her beauty. Sitara brings him home, but poor Neel finds himself in a situation he could never have imagined: a grieving family, gathered in a ritual room around a dying father. As the patriarchal customs of India want a male descendant to administer the last sacraments, and there is no male descendant in the Sitara family, it is to Neel that we turn straight away. . Stunned, he complies. And this is far from being the most unusual thing he will have to experience in this house. Towards the end of the night, it becomes evident that Sitara’s family is under an ancestral curse. A curse that Neel is now a part of.
This is a seductive, provocative film that sneaks up on you. There is an army of genre Who’s who behind it, and the slow burn quality of the scares trick you into complacency before grabbing you with strangeness. It premiers on August 26th, 2020, with another showing on August 29th, 2020.
Bleed With Me
With her first feature film BLEED WITH ME , director Amelia Moses takes us on an intimate stay at the chalet where boundaries will be crossed and relationships will deteriorate. During a getaway with her best friend Emily (Lauren Beatty) and her hostile boyfriend Brendan (Aris Tyros), Rowan (Lee Marshall), a reserved and awkward young woman, feels she is too much. To calm her nerves, she drinks and pushes her body and mind into a deep trance, where she begins to have terrible nighttime visions that make her feel more like an intruder, insecure, and unstable. BLEED WITH ME is an excruciatingly imaginative thriller that manages to portray the state of vulnerability and discomfort one can feel when exploring the issues of self-harm and social isolation. In its winter setting, BLEED WITH ME has made the most of its low budget.
Bleed With Me is an uncomfortable but entertaining watch. Like the best horror, it weaves the terror of real-life with something all together illogical. This film has a ton to say about women, men, and their relationship with each other. Directly following the first showing on August 26th, 2020 director Moses, and actors Lee Marshall and Lauren Betty will be conducting a live Q and A. You can catch the film again on September 1st, 2020.
Chino Moya’s first feature film, UNDERGODS, places viewers in a distant futuristic world, although it unfortunately seems more familiar with each passing day. The film’s narrators maneuver through a deserted, ruined, greyish-blue town, gathering bodies as they go and sharing nightmarish stories from a long abandoned past. What follows is a series of narratives, overlapping and weaving through time and space with remarkable grace and ease. Narrative arcs intersect elegantly as the stories overlap and rush to a powerful and satisfying conclusion. While the stories clearly date from before their world was completely degraded, there is an ominous sense of hopelessness already present on every character’s weary face.
Incredible music and stirring imagery combine to deliver a haunting experience. This film is a study in contrasts. Occasionally funny and sad, hopeful, and resolved, scary and emotional UnderGods is a head trip. Catch this on August 30th, 2020, and then again on September 2nd, 2020.
Fantasia 2020 has a smartly curated list of genre films, shorts, live discussions, and panels. If you live in Canada and are a lover, this festival is well worth your time and money. Get your tickets today and see you virtually at the movies.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.