Unsettling, slow-burning and intellectually challenging
ejecta posterI am not fond of alien movies, save for a few. I think I have said that before and I will say it again to be clear on my stance. That being said, Ejecta utilizes a powerful script, tension-building techniques and a dominant acting presence to create one solid extraterrestrial flick.
Ejecta tells the story of William Cassidy (Julian Richings) and his encounter of the third kind. William is a man plagued by strange occurrences: mass memory removal, floating on water, and mostly noises and voices in his head.
To wrap up my Fantasia International Film Festival coverage, I wanted to provide four capsule reviews of a handful of other genre titles I caught while in Montreal. You can find full reviews of nine other horror films via our Fantasia hub right here. (I also caught Midnight Swim – a genre film with some great performances and a modicum of mystery, but it wasn’t really horror.) I want to thank Mitch Davis and his Fantasia team for welcoming me this year.
A film that draws a parallel between rabid soccer fandom and a zombie outbreak is comical on paper. Is it strong enough to serve as the backbone for a two-part film that stretches across 140 minutes of French undead carnage? No it’s not, as Goal of the Dead proves. Split in two – “First Half” and “Second Half” – this film’s story is about as flimsy as a deflated soccer ball. There were reportedly six writers on board and this was the best they could do: Another entry in the zombie sub-genre that features a fun “outbreak” scenario (think performance-enhancing drugs that leads to extreme “roid rage”) which is followed by a formulaic tale of survival.
Can you believe it has been 14 years since Ginger Snaps? Fourteen! I guess more than enough time has passed to make room for another tale of teenage angst and lycanthropy. That is, a tale that doesn’t involve Stephenie Meyer and one that knows how to delicately balance the two while being entertaining, thoughtful and never heavy-handed. So welcome with me When Animals Dream, a Danish thriller from Jonas Alexander Arnby that gets the job done in surprising and pleasing ways. There’s not a whole lot of new ground being broken here, but the film presents a beautiful-looking backdrop and introduces more of a “classic Universal monsters” tone than one would expect.
One of the highlights of Fantasia for me this year was checking out Alejandro Hidalgo’s The House at the End of Time. I gave it some praise here, but if that review isn’t enough to get you curious about the film, here’s a trailer.
The film does have a U.S. distributor in a company we’re all very familiar with. That news will be announced soon and hopefully we’ll get a release date then, too.
The latest entry in the Ju-On series comes with a title that could be considered false advertising. It’s called Ju-On: The Beginning of the End yet it’s not the “beginning” of anything, it’s simply the end. Hell, it’s beyond the end. Here are some alternative titles – Ju-On: Beating a Dead Horse (or dead cat, if you want to stay true to the Ju-On legacy) or Ju-On: The Greatest Hits.
Sadly, an opportunity to reinvigorate a J-horror mainstay has been wasted to regurgitate every Ju-on film we’ve seen to date. Furthermore, it’s disappointing to see writer-director Masayuki Ochiai deliver such a flat-looking film, especially considering he gave us the colorful and textured Infection many years back.
The House at the End of Time is one of the most inventive supernatural thrillers to come along in a while – an impressive, confident and creepy debut from Venezuelan writer-director Alejandro Hidalgo. This fresh voice in the genre adopts many of the usual genre tropes, however, he crafts them in a relentless, meticulous manner to serve a story that is full of shocking twists and turns.
The film doesn’t waste any time either. In the first 10 minutes it effectively manages to provide two solid jolts involving leading lady Ruddy Rodriguez (as “Dulce”) who awakens on the floor of her home bleeding and surrounded by shards of a broken mirror. Moments later, we find Dulce being arrested for the murder of her husband and son. Flash forward 30 years later and Dulce is an elderly woman being released from prison but who is under house arrest in the very home she supposedly committed her crimes in.
Here’s the trailer for Black Mountain Side, the Canadian horror production that made its premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival. You can read my review of it here.
Nick Szostakiwskyj writes and directs this paranoia-driven thriller about a group of archaeologists that uncovers a strange structure in Northern Canada, dating over ten thousand years before the present. The team finds themselves isolated when their communication systems fail and it is not long before they begin to feel the effects of the solitude.
There’s an unexpected, quiet meditation on loneliness and love at the core of At the Devil’s Door. That theme elevates writer-director Nicholas McCarthy’s latest film beyond the glut of “demon baby” and Devil-driven fare we’ve been seeing over the last year, but it doesn’t make the story entirely successful. It’s just an added added, welcome layer that shows McCarthy – as he had previously proven in The Pact – is operating outside of the box when it comes to the genre. He demonstrates that in his themes and story structure. And even though the results can be a bit clunky, I appreciate his instincts.
Keeping his audience on its toes, McCarthy juggles the lives of three women: A mysterious young girl (Ashley Rickards) who meets a boy she loves and makes a dark pact; Leigh (Catalina Sandino Moreno), a real estate agent who is tasked with selling the girl’s house many years later; and Leigh’s artist sister, Vera (Naya Rivera).