Stretching from July 14-August 7, Montreal's marathon genre-film lovefest the Fantasia International Film Festival kicked off with the Canadian premiere of "Red State" (without Kevin Smith) and featured other festival favorites like "Another Earth." The closing film screens tomorrow night with the Guillermo del Toro-produced "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" and the world premiere midnight screening of the fifth installment in the "Final Destination" series.
However, in a festival with a lot to love, they weren't the best things about Fantasia. These were.
The Trost Bros. Brandon and Jason Trost's Dance Dance Revolution-inspired battle film, "The FP," was acquired at the festival by Drafthouse Films, but at their high-octane Montreal screening they were already stars. Set in their Southern California hometown of Frazier Park, "The FP" follows two warring factions as they fight for dominion over the area and its liquor laws. (The gangs are organized by area code and dance in "beat-offs" to an arcade game called Beat-Beat Revelation.)
The film alternately riffs on 80's cult classics and takes its cue from white suburban kids trying to be urban and the brothers admitted that "75% of this dialogue came from douchebags from our hometown." However, the Trosts assured the audience that despite the Bon Jovi hair and eye patch on our hero JTRO (portrayed by Brandon), this is an exaggerated portrait of Frazier Park today. After the screening, Brandon Trost took on audience members to a series of DDR competitions at a local arcade.
The brothers got bonus points for sporting colorful Montreal T-shirts (Jason's sported a magic-marker "Fuck Yeah" surrounding the name of the city) and for cheering on three members of the crowd in a maple syrup-eating contest.
The audience. A high-energy screening of something as silly and light as "The FP" provided a good chance to view the spirit of the Fantasia Festival audience -- a trait that many of the festival's filmmakers and filmgoers repeat as chief among the reasons to bring a film to the festival or to attend it at all. The Korean sci-fi sex comedy farce "The Invasion of Alien Bikini" also had moments that got the audience going; the denouement to Spanish thriller "Kidnapped" had audiences riled up (though the last few moments left the audience a bit divided).
Not all of the films met with enthusiasm; Michael Axelgaard's convoluted "Hollow," a world premiere at the festival that takes its cues from "The Blair Witch Project," dropped with a thud. Filip Tegstedt's Swedish lost-love horror film "Marianne" (also a Fantasia world premiere) didn't garner the laughs its director had hoped for and was the victim of an overly intricate premise.
The documentaries. The festival's stellar choice of documentaries were a pleasant surprise. These included Don Argott and Demian Fenton's "Last Days Here," an unconventional rock doc about the search to re-invigorate the career of Pentagram lead singer Bobby Liebling; and Juan Manuel Biaiñ's "Article 12," which takes a look at the violations of Article 12, the privacy clause in the UN's Declaration of Human Rights in the digital surveillance age.
John Landis. One of the original genre-film champions did double duty -- premiering his new film "Burke and Hare" for Canadian audiences and receiving Fantasia's Lifetime Achievement Award. Best of all, the director of "Animal House" "The Blues Brothers," "An American Werewolf in London," and the "Thriller" videosurprised everyone by staying far longer than expected for a spirited Q&A and meeting with all of the fans who lined up to see him.
Here's a video crafted by the festival of Landis accepting his award and talking about his career: