FANTASIA 2016 Round-Up Reviews!

This year, the 20th Anniversary of the Fantasia International Film Festival, was a good one for film lovers and cinephiles all around. Film like LET ME MAKE YOU A MARTYR (review), SLASH (review), ANOTHER EVIL (review) and THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK (review) really left an impression on me and with the fest coming to an end, we thought it would be cool to shine the spotlight on a few others you fright fanatics should look out for.



1.) WHITE COFFIN (Dir. Daniel de la Vega)

Co-written by Ramiro García Bogliano and Adrian García Bogliano (LATE PHASES, HERE COMES THE DEVIL), WHITE COFFIN is a smile that has a lot going for it, but gets weighed down by some interesting use of music and a running time that leaves its viewer wondering if they missed the film while blinking (its running time is under 70 minutes). The story follows a woman whose daughter is kidnapped in the middle of the day, and her quest to find the girl. Almost immediately, the film hits the ground running, also injecting the fact that two other women are looking their daughters too.

What seems at first like a cross between BREAKDOWN and THE VANISHING, gets even more interesting when the film’s lead is injured and presumed to be dead and buried alive, just to be let out and given one chance to save her daughter. All three women rush against time (and each other) to locate the “White Coffin” which will grant only one of them their child.

It’s an very interesting premise and had it been a bit longer, it would have been easier to get into it, but with it being so very short, and with such an odd choice of music (its bombastic and feels like it’s taken from a Michael Bay film, it’s one of those films that has a lot of potential but ultimately fails to live up to those potential qualities. Had it been a short film, it would have been one of the best I’ve seen in a long while, but with playing on the fence of a film that’s basically an hour and six minutes, it’s just not able to make it to that point.



2.) RED CHRISTMAS (Dir. Craig Anderson)

A family gets together to celebrate Christmas and instead of just bickering with each other, they end up having to fight for their lives in this slasher film with heavy messages behind it.

Led by E.T. and THE LORDS OF SALEM star Dee Wallace, RED CHRISTMAS has a lot going for it. Great lighting, some awesome practical effects and some good performances involved as well, but right from the beginning, it feels like something is off. A slasher film is only as good as its killer, and that’s where RED CHRISTMAS hits a snag. While the special effects and kills are top notch, the film’s killers feels put together by a child, leaving the film uninteresting at times, which is unfortunate because it’s not all that bad, save for one incredibly uninteresting antagonist, something that leads to bringing the film down.

Wallace is, as always, on top of her game and the supporting roles are filled quite well (the actor playing Wallace’s son is a real standout and he’s very entertaining and  fun to watch, the guy’s got chops to say the least), but with blood splattering all over, hooks being dug into people, animal traps locking up on legs and every other gore hound’s excitement being realized, we’re eventually left with an underwhelming killer and what ends up being a very preachy film whose messages aren’t subtle whatsoever.



3.) WE GO ON (Dir. Andy Mitton, Jesse Holland)

A film really shining the light on the eternal question of what happens to us when we die, WE GO ON, is an excellent example of a great story and idea being translated perfectly into a film that resonates deeply with its audience. Following a car crash which almost leads to his death, Miles Grissom (Clark Freeman) is absolutely terrified of death. He won’t drive again and for the most part, doesn’t do much aside from talking to his overbearing, outspoken mother (played excellently by IT and Smallville star Annette O’Toole). Intent on getting over his fear, Grissom puts out an ad offering $30,000 to anyone who can provide him solid proof that there’s something waiting after we die, whether it be ghosts, demons, etc.

It’s such a strong film, led by great performances and offers something that is rarely seen in the genre: heart. With every individual who answers the ad, you can see the excitement in Miles (and frustration in his mother), hoping and wanting to believe each person who is eventually proven to be a phony.

Like so many other films with stories of trying to entice the afterlife to reveal itself, WE GO ON goes into dark territory when things begin to happen and Miles becomes very much a part of a larger story and the afterlife most definitely comes his way.

A breathe of fresh air for the supernatural subgenre, WE GO ON is a film which will not be topped for years to come, it’s a rare treat and a horror drama with a lot of heart.




4.) THE UNSEEN (Dir. Geoff Redknap)

Helmed by Geoff Redknap, who is typically known for his special effects work in films like DEADPOOL and son, THE UNSEEN takes the Invisible Man angle and injects into a gritty drama, making it such a unique treat for fans of something different and those who are looking for a film which is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Bob Langmore is a man who seems to be falling  apart, his skin disappearing, his life crumbling. He wears a beanie and hood, gloves to hide his hands and works at a mill, keeping a small profile and for the most part, stays alone from day to day…it just happens that this gritty and dark drama of a broken man happens to coincide with the fact that he’s slowly becoming invisible. It’s already a tragic story as a setup, and that’s only made more tragic and emotionally strong when Bob gets a call from his ex-wife, asking him to come visit his estranged daughter. Upon arriving, Bob finds his daughter to be missing, gets involved with crooked drug dealers (aren’t all drug dealers crooked?) and we’re giving a noir-like mystery that just happens to have a protagonist who is slowly disappearing. As he falls apart, he has to find his daughter, so it becomes a race to find her before his’s gone for good.

A beautifully dark and well written/directed drama with touches of horror here and there, THE UNSEEN is a very unique and resonant film that like THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK and LET US MAKE YOU A MARTYR, shows how great the group at Fantasia is at picking out such wonderful films. I could see THE UNSEEN becoming a cult classic or one of those genre films that just takes off with fervor, a completely enthralling tale, and a triumph for director Redknap)



5.) THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (Dir. Nicolas Pesce)

One of the most shocking and eerily original films playing this year at Fantasia, THE EYES OF MY MOTHER is a great examination of what evil truly is. Are people born evil or are they taught?

Upon witnessing her mother being murdered, Francisca captures the killers and keeps him in the barn, while her father buries the body of her mother. It’s such a beautifully dark opening of a film and feels like something that would have been used in a Terrence Malick film, but with an examination of death and how it affects people differently.

When we then see Francisca grown up, she’s quiet but obsessed with death and has various ways to cope with her past tragedies and her actions lean toward violence, allowing us to see an individual who we know will eventually go off the rails (and does) and while it can be quite bloody and graphic, we’re entranced and devoted to watch, loving every minute of it. Beautiful black & white cinematography, a quietness to the film and an excellent performance by Kika Magalhaes as Francisca really makes THE EYES OF MY MOTHER a shocking yet beautiful look at a woman’s obsession with the violence growing inside of her, all stemming from witnessing her mother being murdered years before.

It’s impossible to forget THE EYES OF MY MOTHER, it’s power to bring you in and set its hooks deep inside of you are impressive, showing how completely on top of his game Nicolas Pesce is as a director. His style and willingness to let each scene breathe, when many other directors would stuff everything AND the kitchen scene into their films, Pesce knows exactly what he’s doing, showing restraint, even in the bone-chilling scenes of violence. Great great stuff.

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  1. […] time. One of the many reasons for that, beautifully shocking film titled THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (mini review) is just one of the examples of a film that transcends any labels, gives its viewers a gorgeous […]

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