Fantasia Week One: A Weekly Recap of The Genre Film Festival

Once again, this year I am taking part in the virtual portion of the Fantasia Film Festival due to the circumstances. However, I am happy to see the theatrical component of the festival come back this year because there is nothing like a Fantasia audience for a film premiere. Quite honestly it is the only way to truly appreciate the festival in a room of other genre film lovers while keeping everyone safe under the current guidelines. In my theatrical experience the film that I got to see seemed lost amongst the audience I saw it with, and I ponder how it played out among the Fantasia audience. 
King Shark or Nanaue (Sylvester Stallone) seen here showing his hand is one of the best parts of The Suicide Squad from director James Gunn
I went to a theatre this week to catch the opening night premiere of The Suicide Squad from director James Gunn. The premise of the film is sending in a group of misfit, no good criminals with special abilities on dangerous missions that can only be described as a point of no return. Normally this involves a roster of DC villains, but don’t expect the Joker to join the team anytime soon. They must complete the mission to get a reduced prison sentence. If they abort or fail the mission in any way, they die. Running this operation once again is Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who is more ruthless, and back on the team is Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), seen in the first film. Deadshot (Will Smith) is absent from this instalment but may return in the future. Team newcomer Bloodsport (Idris Elba) steps in, engaging in an egotistical competition with Peacemaker (John Cena) throughout the entire film. 
The Suicide Squad found the perfect director for this sequel - James Gunn, known for having directed Guardians of the Galaxy – a film about a group of misfit characters from the Marvel franchise. This film doesn’t match its dark broody DC aesthetic, with Gunn adopting more of a colourful palette through the characters of Harley Quinn and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian). The aesthetically pleasing choice takes away from the film, making it seem more light-hearted than the original intention of the film. The darkness is found more in the comedy of the film; while it did not resonate with the audience that I watched it with, I wonder if it played better with the Fantasia showing at Cinema Imperial the night before. The best part of the film for me is King Shark or Nanaue (Sylvester Stallone), a new member of the squad.  
My second film of the week is an un-pious comedy horror possession film Agnes. When a convent of nuns is plagued by a demonic possession of one of its own, Agnes, it is up to the Catholic Church to investigate the matter. An old priest and a young one, yet to be ordained, come to the convent to solve this matter of possession. Even though this is the typical possession movie, the film finds a niche through religious humour which might seem sacrilegious to some, but it is funny. One example shows in the nuns who are in awe of and pining for the yet to be ordained priest. Agnes (dir. Mickey Reece) is a smart horror film, unlike the Scary Movie franchise that is a straight up lampoon. The film is self aware of the humour and even though it might be sacrilegious, it is theologically relevant for the modern age. 
Finally, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror was the first documentary that I caught up with, focusing on the history of folk horror cinema. It is divided up between British Folk Horror (where folk horror found its roots), American Folk Horror, World Folk Horror and Modern Folk horror; films in the last category include Robert Egger’s The Witch or Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Midsommar. We get a sense of the subgenres of nature folk horror as well as my personal favourite - chapter paganism and witchcraft. The documentary also realizes how folk horror cinema can be frustrating when a movie reinvents aspects of a folklore tale and it becomes part of a new canon, completely straying from the original. Spanning over three hours, this document may not be the faint of heart, but definitely fits in well with the niche of diehard folklore horror cinema fans that can be found all the time at the Fantasia Film Festival. 
What do I hope to get to in week 2? Hopefully some more narrative films from the Camera Lucida section as well as some documentaries. Hopefully I get a chance to check out some of the animated section and short film section. One film that my co-host of At The Movies viewed this week which I can’t wait to see would be Strawberry Mansion. My favourite movie of the festival so far is definitely Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror from Canadian director Kier-La Janisse
As always, Stay Safe et Bon Cinema.

Here is week one from Co-Host Danny Aubry. 

For me, my first week at Fantasia 2021 was full of fun and excitement. To my great delight I was provided with the opportunity to watch the films that I had mentioned within our last article. These were some of my most anticipated films of the festival. As I watched these films, I noticed that they all had an underlying theme in common - becoming a better version of oneself.
Kato meets Future Kato in Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, a film which reminds us never to fear the future. 
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is a Japanese film from director Junta Yamaguchi, which mainly focuses on a coffee shop owner Kato who lives in an apartment above the coffee shop. He is unhappy with his life until he discovers his future self speaking to him through his computer screen and instructing him on what to do next. His friends come and visit him shortly after the discovery is made, and while they are immediately intrigued by this phenomenon, Kato is freaked out by it. As the film progresses, Kato's confidence progresses because he later realizes how beneficial knowing what could happen in advance can be. As he faces his fears of what could happen in the future, he later finds himself standing up to bullies and finding the courage to talk to the girl that he was too shy to approach. This is a film which I really enjoyed because it was oftentimes funny, and it was a reminder to us of how much stronger we become in the long run when we don't spend as much time fearing what could happen in the future. 
Dreams on Fire is also a Japanese film from director Philippe McKie. A young lady named Yume dreams of becoming a professional dancer, runs away from home after her verbally abusive father belittles her and tells her that her dreams are unrealistic. Immediately after leaving, she enters a dancing contest that she loses. Although the loss was a crushing blow, it was a reminder that she needs to take dancing lessons. Throughout the film she takes dancing lessons as often as she can and finds dancing gigs which don't pan out the way she wanted. She later befriends a costume designer who believes wholeheartedly in Yume’s dreams and takes the time to fabricate her costumes. After she loses another dancing contest she feels down and defeated, but still hangs on to a shred of hope. As she held on to that shred of hope, it later becomes evident to her that all of her time and effort that she put into her craft provided her with enough recognition to land her an opportunity of a lifetime. I really enjoyed this film because I was impressed with the acting, and it provided a lesson of how important it is to never give up.
Strawberry Mansion from directors Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney is an American film whose main character is a dream auditor for the United States government named James Preble. He is summoned to the farmhouse of an eccentric old woman who calls herself Bella. Part of his assignment during his stay is to use a VHS device in order to review videos which keep track of Bella's dreams. Through the usage of the device, he finds himself visiting Bella's dreams and encountering a younger version of Bella. Within these dreams he falls in love with the younger version of Bella and becomes her hero. I was very impressed with the special effects of the film, although for some it may make them feel as if they are in a drug induced state. What I personally liked about the film is that I felt there was a spiritual message within showing what it means to get to know someone on a soul level. Within Bella's dreams there was a soul connection between her and Preble, but sadly within the world that we know as "reality" their souls were kept apart by a generation gap and the fact that they had never met until Preble visited her property.
The main characters of all the films outlined above all became better versions of themselves, but they all did it in different fashions. Kato from Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes became a better version of himself by conquering his inner demons through facing what could happen in the future and therefore became more confident. Yume from Dreams on Fire became a better version of herself by never giving up on her dreams despite her hardships, and later realized that dreams do come true as long as you continue to put in the time and effort. Preble from Strawberry Mansion became a better version of himself through the evolution of his soul. Visiting Bella's dreams helped him realize that there is so much more to a person than their physical exterior and there is so much more to life than what we see in front of us.
For week 2 of Fantasia, I look forward to checking out more films of various genres, regardless of whether they be Horror, Comedy, or Romance. Within the Horror genre, I feel that The Righteous shows a lot of promise. However, despite which movies I choose to watch, I will once again find films with an underlying theme in common for next week's article. 
Remi and Danny host At The Movies, which can be heard every Tuesday morning from 8:00 - 9:00AM. Tune in for discussions about movies, soundtracks, and iconic film scores. At The Movies also covers film festivals that are located in Montreal.