SFFF Day 3 – Actually, They’re All Labyrinths

There’s a running joke in Bill Watterson’s Dave Made a Maze (2017), a film about a man who builds a massive cardboard maze (bigger inside than out) and then gets trapped within it. As Dave’s friend Gordon (Adam Busch) repeatedly points out, the maze is full of traps, making it, in fact, a labyrinth. Day 3 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival offered a disparate collection of films – a comedy recounting a slacker’s epic quest in a DIY fortress; a trippy, coming-of-age, prom night parable; a genre-mixing, science fiction blockbuster; and a dreamy descent into a housewife’s trauma and a cult’s terrifying prophecy. Each offers its own twists and turns, finding new dangers as they progress through corrugated caverns, genre conventions, and layered realities. In fact, they’re all labyrinths in their own ways.

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SFFF Day 2 – Chillin’ with the Villains

The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival went globe-trotting to start Day 2. The “Drawn from Around the World” block of animated shorts offered some enthralling works. Many conveyed a sad or lamenting poignancy. Keiro (Tatiana Jusewycz, Benoît Leloup, Franck Menigoz, Zoé Nérot, and Charlotte Poncin, 2016) traced a girl’s journey to adulthood and its effect on the giant creature that accompanies her, Beyond the Books (Jérôme Battistelli, Mathilde Cartigny, Nicolas Evain, Maéna Paillet, Robin Pelissier, and Judith Wahler, 2017) envisioned the highly detailed collapse of an impossibly immense library, the Spanish short Dead Horses (Marc Riba and Anna Solanas, 2016) revealed the brutality of war from a child’s perspective and amid fabric devastation, and the Indian film Schirkoa (Asian Shukla, 2017) imagined political strife in a world where citizens wear bags and boxes on their heads. Others brought the funny, like Daniel Sterlin-Altman’s Hi, It’s Your Mother (2017), about motherhood, blood loss, and middle class living told in crude claymation, and Deuspi (Megacomputer, 2017), a very short work about a pair of astonishingly inept stick-up men and their hilarious fates.

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SFFF Day 1 Report – Four Killers and a Dog

Even before I arrived in Saskatoon, I felt like Fantastic Film Festival-action was meeting me like a herald of things to come. It had something to do with the man waiting at my flight’s gate conspicuously wearing a black eyepatch that threatened spy movie villainy. It also had something to do with the man behind me in security and his laptop that tested positive for “explosive residue.” Fortunately for me, action-thrillers weren’t slated until Day 2 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival and my flight proceeded without complication, bringing me to Day 1 of SFFF and a block of films featuring some disturbed title characters.

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While the bad news is that our next Arrow Video proposal will be delayed, the good news is that this delay will be due to MMC! attending the 2017 Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival! This year’s edition boasts 17 features and 29 short films, including top prize winners at the Fantasia Film Festival, FrightFest, Fantastic Fest, TIFF, Macabro, Boston Underground, and Calgary Underground. Go to the SFFF’s website to see the full program.

Look out for daily reports at MMC! on each of the SFFF’s four days of screenings. Last year was excellent, with no less than seven films making my TOP 50 for 2016. What surprises does 2017 hold? Check back later this week to find out!

10 on the 10th

Despite it being November, the last ten films I’ve watched exhibit something of a Halloween hangover. Best in class goes to Over the Garden Wall, a Cartoon Network miniseries by Patrick McHale that wonderfully mashes-up Washington Irving, The Wind in the Willows, Van Beuren animation, Hayao Miyazaki, the teen drama, and countless other texts into a fantastical celebration of randomness and colonial Americana. It remains a favourite work of the new millennium and is quickly becoming a Halloween tradition for me.

  1. Five Came Back (Laurent Bouzereau, 2017)
  2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)
  3. Three Tough Guys (Duccio Tessari, 1974)
  4. Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2016)
  5. Over the Garden Wall (Patrick McHale, 2014)
  6. Faces Places (Agnès Varda and JR, 2017)
  7. The Brood (David Cronenberg, 1979)
  8. The Super Inframan (Shan Hua, 1975)
  9. Dead & Buried (Gary Sherman, 1981)
  10. Blood Feast (Herschell Gordon Lewis, 1963)

Dead & Buried has long been a horror-blind spot and it didn’t disappoint when finally screened, being slick in look and surprisingly atmospheric. Five Came Back won with a great title sequence and a timely statement about defending American values without losing the capacity for compassion and humanity. Faces Places exhibited that typical Varda populism and generosity of spirit, while Blood Feast was cheaply alluring in a particularly Floridian way. A close second to Over the Garden Wall was another unusual fantasy, The Lure. This horror-musical about two mermaids coming of age in a Polish nightclub and set in the early 1980s is a wonder, being extravagant and audacious in its approach to genre, narrative, and visual style. Do nastepnego miesiaca!

HADES (Kevin Kopacka, 2015)

The packaged summary for Kevin Kopacka’s HADES (2015) reads:

A woman is caught in an endless cycle of dreams where she has to cross the 5 rivers of Hades, each representing different stages of her relationship.

The short film, based on the short story “Statusbezogen” by H.K. DeWitt, shows a young woman (Anna Heidegger) navigating in space the emotional trauma of a troubled relationship.  HADES is heavily symbolic, abstractly experimental, and colourfully metatextual, feeling like Maya Deren while looking like Dario Argento. MMC! loves its dream cinema and Kopacka provides an entry worthy to cap another spooky October.

Happy Halloween!