Adventures In Fantasia [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

I got started as a critic in 2004 when I covered the Fantasia film festival for Film Threat. At the time I was pretty active on the Film Threat web board and one of the moderators, I believe it was Eric Campos, asked if I could attend the festival and write something for the magazine since I lived nearby. I must have done a good job because he let me stick around to do more stuff, mostly review indie films and write a series called “Versus” where I compared remakes with the original.

It was fun, but eventually I had to slow down because I was burnt out. I realize that “watching movies” doesn’t sound exhausting, but I always felt a deep sense of responsibility to both the readers and the filmmakers. It felt wrong to just go “This film sucks!” or “This film rocks” without exploring every little detail on screen and analyzing every aspect of the production.

Naturally, being who I am, everything turned into an essay that took a month to research and write. So for the last five years or so I’ve been more or less “on vacation”. Meaning lots of sleep and video games, and occasionally doing doughnuts in the sand with my truck.

However, I couldn’t stay away. So now, thirteen years after my first review, I’m covering the same festival for Cinema Crazed and it’s good to be back. So, I want to thank Felix Vasquez Jr for giving me this opportunity, and for believing in me, and for being an awesome friend for all these years. I don’t want to get too sappy or anything, but I’ll never be able to repay him. Thanks Buddy, from the bottom of my heart.

So now that I have a new writing project, I need to make a list. Lists are always useful, if only to visualize the width and breath and scope of the task. Also, with a list you can tick off things you finish, which gives you a nice sense of accomplishment. It’s a good way to boost morale when you get a bit run down.

So what’s my list for the coverage of Fantasia?

1. Get your press accreditation
2. Write introduction (this thing) for Cinema Crazed so people will know who the hell you are.
Review Suspiria since it’s playing at Fantasia on August 2nd in 4k restauration
4. Read and study all of Fantasia’s website: Films, Events, Guests, Special Presentations…
5. Re-Revisit a few old favorites you saw at Fantasia over the years, write something witty
6. Watch some movies from the festival and review them
7. Show off

Seven things? Not too bad. I can do that… probably.

So now that I have “the list” and my introduction out of the way I guess I can talk a little bit about the festival itself and how it and I have crossed paths over the years. I’m from around Montreal, so I’ve known of Fantasia since it first began in 1996. However, I never got around to actually going until 2003. I saw only two films that year: Jeepers Creepers 2 and The Eye, but they both made an impression on me. Jeepers Creepers 2 had Ray Wise in attendance for a Q&A and he’s the first famous person I ever remember seeing with my own eyes, so that definitely is etched into my memory forever. The Eye is also etched into my memory, but for a different reason. After watching the film and being rather unnerved by it, I ended up having to stop to check the backseat of the car while driving home on a dark lonely road because I got spooked that someone/something was back there. I’m normally not that easy to scare. I mean, Jesus, I sleep with a picture of the Communion Alien on my wall staring at me. So I’m not the nervous type, but that movie got to me though. It crawled under my skin so far that I think it still lives there.

The next year I went as a reviewer, and in the decade that followed I only had even weirder and crazier experiences that I’ll cherish forever. Here are a few of the more notable ones over the years:

– The time Sion Sono walked out in the middle of a busy street and peed the word “EXTE”, the title of one of his films playing at that year’s fest, as a form of impromptu advertising while cabs honked and swerved around him.

– Partying with two of the guys from the TV show “Back of the Y”. This was a New Zealand show that was a combination sketch show, mock talk show, with a little bit of Jackass thrown in. It was insane and raw and funny, and the guys had brought a movie based on their show to the fest called “The Devil Dared me To”. We went out to Karaoke with a lot of the Fantasia people and I remember that the highlight of that night was when one of the “Back of the Y” guys stood up on the table to sing and flew off head first into another table mid-song. I don’t remember if we applauded, but if we didn’t we should have!

– When I met Uwe Boll, who shocked me a little by being a really awesome guy. I personally watched him help out a homeless person who’d fallen and hit his head. Boll and I had been walking towards a bar, talking about his movies, when Uwe saw the man fall over and rushed to his aid. Uwe patched him up, called 911, and waited with him until the ambulance came. I don’t care what anyone thinks about his filmography, I’m not exactly a huge fan myself, but I’ll argue anyone at any time that he’s a genuinely decent human being. No wacky story here, just a shout out to someone who really taught me a lesson about pre-judging.

– The time I went to a screening of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 4k and a Leatherface cosplayer stood up in the audience just before the film began and, to be extra authentic in the role, turned on a REAL GODDAMN CHAINSAW. (In all fairness, while this was a stupid act, it didn’t have a chain on and so was harmless. Well… harmless in the sense that it couldn’t have cut anyone. When it came to hearing damage and breathing problems it probably wasn’t so harmless.) He was, probably rightly, asked to leave by security. I felt bad for him though, because watching that movie while still being able to smell the carbon monoxide fumes made for an extra special experience. Showmanship should never be punished too harshly.

So that’s what I got in way of an introduction. Hope you guys found it fun to read. I will be off to the festival to watch a few movies, make a few new friends, and have some fun.

See ya!