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Fantasia Celebrates its Sweet 16

It was my first summer at Fantasia International Film Festival, which means I got to help blow the candle’s out for her sixteenth birthday, and it’s safe to say she’s growing up fast. This year is a big year for Fantasia. Mark Hamill made an appearance for the screening of Sushi Girl, along with Tony Todd, James Duval, Noah Hathaway, and Michael Biehn–which may have been one of the largest events in Fantasia history. Nerds and fangirls alike were summoned from miles away. Biehn premiered his own feature, The Victim, with wife Jennifer Blanc. Prior to the screening, he announced, “If you don’t like sex, and you don’t like fighting, you can go home.”

Fantasia is not only a place where B movies get a chance to earn their deserved respect, where some of the most obscure genre films are found, and where indie filmmakers can make their big break, but it is also an all-out unhinged and uncensored canvas where those involved in production speak openly and freely, and where cinephiles get to interact with the creators of the films they love. Considering I was there for the first wave of programming only, I only got a taste of the three-week long festival; however, this taste was jam-packed with enough films, events, and rendezvous to keep me sated…at least until next year.

The festival was kicked off with an art show, wherein filmmakers teamed up with designers and artists to create fake movie posters. The event was hosted by Rue Morgue Editor-in-Chief Dave Alexander. Amongst the directors who took part were: Lee Demarbre (Smash Cut), George Mihalka (My Bloody Valentine), Vincenzo Natali (Splice), and Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun).

Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn sign autographs
Photo by Olivia Saperstein

My screening experience began with anime spectacular Blood-C: The Last Dark, where I learned that Fantasia audiences like to “meow” once theater lights go down (thanks to DJ XL5’s kitten projections one year). Charles de Lauzirika blew audiences away with his brilliant debut feature, Crave. The McManus brothers screened the vulgar, yet endearing coming-of-age story, Funeral Kings, and Allison De Fren creeped us out with her documentary on men who have relationships with Real Dolls, The Mechanical Bride. POV flick V/H/S played on Saturday 7/28, which came packed with a superstar directing team including Ti West (The Innkeepers), and Radio Silence (Interactive Adventures), with Bloody Disgusting founder Brad Miska co-producing. Larger movies like ParaNorman and William Friedkin’s latest, Killer Joe, will also be showing as the festival continues; as well as Jennifer Lynch’s Chained.

Some of the wildest moments I experienced took place during introductions to films or afterwards at Q&As. Stephen McHattie read from E. L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey during the Q&A for A Little Bit Zombie; while, during the pre-show to Darren Lynn Bousman’s (Saw II – IV, Repo the Genetic Opera) The Devil’s Carnival, a young woman danced topless with a snake. Noboru Iguchi premiered two outrageous gross-out comedies: Zombie Ass and Dead Sushi. During the introduction for Dead Sushi, lead actor Rina Takeda came out and showed off her Karate moves. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead opened their screening of Resolution with a French-spoken apology for the film’s lack of boobs; then they proceeded to instruct the audience in how to use  the movie to get laid.

Given the spirit of the festival, I left laughing instead of cringing with fear; yet the film palette was a delightful mixture of all things subversive. Not only big names, but everyday moviegoers are starting to catch on to Fantasia, as lines spanned the outside of Theatre Hall Concordia prior to each screening. Co-directors Marc Lamothe and Mitch Davis, along with all staff, kept the festival’s aura positive, allowing filmmakers, writers, festival programmers, editors, and fans to interact. Rarely was an air of pretension ever exuded on festival grounds; this clearly reflected the predominating spirit of love for genre films. If anything, that is what will keep Fantasia going for years to come.

by Olivia Saperstein

About Olivia Saperstein

Olivia Saperstein is a freelance writer and film critic residing in Brooklyn, NY. At the age of 11, Olivia became fascinated with horror films, and would often stay up late watching Carrie and The Exorcist alone on her couch. Thus in writing about movies, she feels she is resurrecting her pre-teen self, minus the angst. While horror was her first love, she also adores seeing and writing on all different genres of film. She hopes to continue doing this for years to come, as long as there is food involved.

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