SFFF Day 1 Report – An Apocalypse, a Dystopia, and a Hyperreality Walk Into a Film Festival …

The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival has upgraded the apparatus with its 2018 edition. That means fewer midnight screenings in favour of an extra day of programming, a 3-hour cartoon and cereal party, a snazzy new booklet, new voting ballots, some clever bumpers running before the screenings, sponsorships and promotions from Vinegar Syndrome and Shudder, and even an after party with cast and crew of Supergrid. And with turnout for Day 1 looking robust, Festival Director John Allison and his team must be feeling positive about the prospects for this year. There’s always a desire to find a theme to a given day’s program but finding a common thread between Anna and the Apocalypse (John McPhail, 2018), Rock Steady Row (Trevor Stevens, 2018), Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983), and their supporting short films is something of a challenge. At best, it might be said that most of these films attend to breakdowns in community and some very unlikely ways to reassemble them.

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Eyeslicing Three Ways! – Ithaca Fantastik 2018

Our latest MMC! proposal is an art-horror favourite around these parts and will arrive tomorrow, just in time for Halloween. In the meantime, let’s get a jump on the 2018 Ithaca Fantastik with a trio of short films that screened as part of The Eyeslicer Halloween Special!

First up is Laura Moss’s Fry Day (2017), an atmospheric and disturbing film about a young woman who finds herself in uncertain circumstances when she joins three young men one evening. Fry Day occurs on the night of Ted Bundy’s execution, located on the pasture across from the Raiford prison where revelers celebrated, and the spectre of Bundy’s crimes adds a particularly oppressive air to an already unsettling situation. This is a gorgeous and crushing short film. Director Laura Moss has two films in The EHS, the other being the equally disturbing but decidedly more unusual Allen Anders – Live at the Comedy Castle (2018).

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Tigers Are Not Afraid (Issa Lopez, 2017)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Tigers Are Not Afraid.

Issa López’s festival-favourite is a darkly magical tale set in the real world tragedy of Mexico’s violent drug war, where thousands of murdered and missing people result in countless orphaned children forced onto the streets to fend for themselves. When her mother disappears, a young girl named Estrella uses one of three wishes granted to her to ask for her mother back and finds herself haunted by a vengeful ghost. Estrella takes up with a quartet of street kids led by Shine but the boys have their own problems, pursued by a vicious gang intent on reclaiming a lost iPhone. Blending artfully immediate handheld cinematography and convincing fantastical digital effects, López creates a realist fairy tale that stands as a prescient statement on Mexico’s deadly drug cartels and a hauntingly magical fairy tale.

Disc Features:

  • 2K digital transfer, approved by director Issa López, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with López, acting coach Fátima Toledo, and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
  • Tan Callando, López’s 1994 student film made at Mexico’s National University, with introduction by the director
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by novelist Stephen King

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SFFF Day 4 – Go Big and Go Home

The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s final day was even more massive than expected. With a packed program and an extra short film (moved from the previous day due to a technical issue), there was little downtime between screenings and the Festival’s final midnight show started late and wrapped well past 2:30 a.m. Those that saw the marathon day of screenings to its bleary end enjoyed without question the SFFF’s best block of films (plus some welcome giveaways for lucky attendees).

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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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Baxter (Jerome Boivin, 1989)

BEWARE OF THE DOG THAT THINKS

Jérôme Boivin’s faithful adaptation of Ken Greenhall’s novel Hell Hound takes viewers into the coldly logical mind of a bull terrier, creating a uniquely dark twist on the boy-and-his-dog story.

The inner thoughts of a brooding canine named Baxter reveal the animal’s unhappy search for an ideal master. Dissatisfaction with his elderly and afraid owners lead to the dog plotting their demise and it is not long before the ingenious Baxter finds the perfect guardian – a lonely, introverted boy with a macabre interest in Hitler’s personal life and a strategy to turn the pet into a thoroughbred killing machine.

Both chillingly satirical and bitingly terrifying, Baxter is an under-appreciated art-horror masterpiece that resembles American Psycho starring a sociopathic dog and set in a French suburb.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand-new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original French mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
  • New English subtitles
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand-new appreciation by John Waters
  • New interview with director Jérôme Boivin
  • New interviews with actors Evelyne Didi, Catherine Ferran, and Sabrina Leurquin
  • Theatrical trailer
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring writing on the film by Bruce Cherry

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