The Fantasia International Film Festival, North America’s longest-running genre film festival, dominated three weeks of movie madness for its 21st year. Here are some of the films I took in.
THE VILLAINESS — This brutal 129-minute action film from South Korea opens with a lengthy, mind-blowing first-person assault that seems to go on forever. It’s a stylish, attention-grabbing opening that the rest of the film can’t quite live up to. Still, The Villainess is engrossing, albeit a little too derivative of La Femme Nikita. Sook-hee (Kim Ok-vin) finds herself forced into becoming a government assassin while also juggling an unexpected pregnancy. Director Jung Byung-gil juggles multiple timelines to concoct a complex, even melodramatic story that’s never as interesting as the violent action scenes peppered throughout.
See it or skip it? See it.
BETTER WATCH OUT — A horror-comedy that’s almost impossible to summarize without risking massive spoilers, Better Watch Out is one of those genre films that thinks it’s far more clever than it actually is. Pre-teen Luke (Levi Miller) has a crush on his pretty babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge). Ashley is about to move away from town, inspiring Luke to finally confess his true feelings. Things get complicated, however, with a home invasion. Sort of. There’s more to it than that, but what matters most is that this film, from director Chris Peckover, is insufferable, filled with “funny” moments that fall completely flat and tone-deaf gay panic jokes.
See it or skip it? For the love of god, please skip it. Don’t encourage this dreck.
KILLING GROUND — A clever twist on the typical “dead camper” sub-genre, Killing Ground is a nasty Aussie horror flick that presents two different timelines slowly converging to reveal a disturbing narrative. Director Damien Power shows great promise with his feature debut, mastering tension, although some problems with pacing hamper Killing Ground from being entirely effective. Still, there are about 200 other movies that have similar plots yet none are quite as well-done as this one, so that’s something.
See it or skip it? See it eventually.
MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND — I didn’t see many films at this year’s Fantasia, but in my humble opinion, the best of the fest was this stunning directorial debut from Ana Asensio, who also wrote and stars in the film. Asensio is a Spanish immigrant living in New York who gets invited to “work” at a mysterious party and gets more than she bargained for. Brimming with slow-burn menace and subtle dread, Most Beautiful Island is one of the most intriguing horror films of the 21st century and a terrifying reflection of the modern day immigrant experience. Please, someone give Ana Asensio all the money to make all the movies.
See it or skip it? SEE IT!!