The Fantasia International Film Festival recently announced the first wave of programming for its 25th edition of the festival, which will take place online from August 5 to 25, 2021. You can find the full list of titles in the first wave here, and one interesting aspect of this year’s festival is featuring a focus on Japanese cinema as Japan’s culture has played a key role across Fantasia’s history.
24 feature films were announced in this first wave (and, again, a link to that full lineup can be found here), but I’m highlighting 10 of the titles below and their first-look images directly from the press release:
STEADY YOUR GAZE FOR THE LAST THING MARY SAW (pictured in the featured image, courtesy of Fantasia)
Brace yourself for The Last Thing Mary Saw, a breathtaking period occult drama set in an isolated farmhouse in the winter of 1843, where a young woman is under investigation following the mysterious death of her family’s matriarch. It soon becomes apparent that ageless forces are at play, from within and without. An eerie and hypnotic nightmare vision from debuting writer/director Edoardo Vitaletti, starring Stefanie Scott (Insidious: Chapter 3), Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan), Judith Roberts (You Were Never Really Here), and Rory Culkin (Lords of Chaos). WORLD PREMIERE.
GO ALL-IN WITH KAKEGURUI 2: ULTIMATE RUSSIAN ROULETTE
Welcome back to Hyakkaoh Academy, where the students engage in compulsive gambling to climb the social ladder, but this time around the return of a demented alumni will wreak a new kind of havoc on the school. Kakegurui 2: Ultimate Russian Roulette, written and directed by Tsutomu Hanabusa (Project Dreams), raises the stakes beyond money and clout to a game of life and death. This highly creative, colorful, and thrilling manga adaptation makes a reinvented poker game as engaging as a championship match. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
RICHARD BATES JR. INVITES YOU ON A GONZO SPIRITUAL QUEST
Richard Bates Jr. has been a longstanding member of the Fantasia Family with fest favourites Excision, Trash Fire, Tone-Deaf, and Suburban Gothic. We’re thrilled to announce his return with the outlandish King Knight, an outsider’s outsider comedy starring Matthew Gray Gubler and Angela Sarafyan as Thorn and Willow, husband-and-wife high priest and priestess of a coven of witches in a small California community. When Willow unearths a secret from Thorn’s past, their lives are thrown into turmoil in this kooky, clever treat, decked with a wild cast that includes Nelson Franklin, Johnny Pemberton, Barbara Crampton, Ray Wise, Andy Milonakis, and the voices of Aubrey Plaza and AnnaLynne McCord. WORLD PREMIERE.
DAIGO MATSUI REACHES INTO THE AFTERLIFE FOR REMAIN IN TWILIGHT
Six high school friends reunite for a wedding ceremony in the newest feature from Fantasia favourite Daigo Matsui. They reconnect as if no time has passed, but there’s an unspoken question lingering in the air, as one of them should not be there. Adapted from a stage play inspired by the death of a real-life friend, Remain in Twilight takes audiences on a bittersweet, grief-stricken journey at the crossroads between a buddy comedy and supernatural drama. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
SOUTH AFRICAN GENRE CINEMA EXCELS IN INDEMNITY
The new wave of South African genre cinema continues to astonish in INDEMNITY, the feature directorial debut of Gambit Films’ Travis Taute, co-writer and executive producer of Nosipho Dumisa’s Fantasia-award-winner NUMBER 37 (and director of the originating short) and a writer and director on the hit Netflix series Blood & Water. A subversive, high-tension action thriller that follows a fireman (Jarrid Geduld) with an anguished past who finds himself on the run for a crime he has no memory of, the knockout feature speaks to the horrors of the international arms trade and the use of trauma itself as a weapon. Co-starring Gail Mabalane (Blood & Water), Andre Jacobs (Black Venus), Nicole Fortuin (Flatland), and Tshamano Sebe (8, a Fantasia 2019 breakout premiere). WORLD PREMIERE.
MASASHI YAMAMOTO THROWS THE PARTY OF THE SUMMER IN WONDERFUL PARADISE
Punk iconoclast Masashi Yamamoto is back with WONDERFUL PARADISE, a demented spin on the unwanted-guest scenario that builds and builds until all notions of cinematic realism are thrown out the window and social constructs – of family, class, and Japanese decorum – are skewered by mayhem. Moving out of their house in the wealthy suburbs of Tokyo, the Sasayas find the transition made all the more complicated after their daughter posts an open party invite online for anyone to join, inviting a parade of estranged family, jilted lovers, and supernatural surprises into their lives. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
A SPANISH-BASQUE MASTERPIECE TAKES VAMPIRE CINEMA TO POIGNANT NEW HEIGHTS – STARE INTO ALL THE MOONS
Spain. 1876. A young girl (Haizea Carneros) is severely injured when a religious orphanage is bombed during the third Carlist war. On the verge of death, she is healed by a mysterious woman (Itziar Ituño) whom she perceives to be an angel. They are soon separated, the child left to fend for herself – for decades upon decades. With ALL THE MOONS, director Igor Legarreta masterfully employs the tenets of vampire lore as the basis for an intimate epic dealing with themes of life and death, love and loneliness, devotion and intolerance. Impeccably crafted, it ranks among the best of vampire cinema. INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.
APPEARANCES CAN BE MISLEADING IN THE ACTION-PACKED CAUTION, HAZARDOUS WIFE
Based on the beloved TV series by the same name, Toya Sato’s CAUTION, HAZARDOUS WIFE stars Haruka Ayase (REAL) as an amnesiac housewife living a quiet life with her perfect husband (Hidetoshi Nishijima, CREEPY). As her memories begin to return, she discovers an unexpected and dangerous side to herself she never predicted. Combining first-rate fight choreography with a winning comedic charisma from Ayase, CAUTION, HAZARDOUS WIFE is an absolute must-see for any action fan. NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE.
A NEW CANADIAN HORROR CLASSIC IS BORN – THE RIGHTEOUS
Actor turned director Mark O’Brien (READY OR NOT, ARRIVAL) makes his feature debut with the slow-burn, character-driven occult chiller THE RIGHTEOUS, one of the year’s most thrilling genre discoveries that takes full advantage of Newfoundland’s maritime otherworldliness while blending timeless themes with an inventive and exciting filmmaking approach. A former priest who left the church to start a family is gripped by tragedy after his child’s death, and the life of him and his wife are thrown into further chaos upon the arrival of a mysterious young stranger. The film is written and directed by O’Brien, who also co-stars in the film alongside his READY OR NOT castmate Henry Czerny and a terrific Mimi Kuzyk (LOST AND DELIRIOUS). WORLD PREMIERE.
A TWISTING AND TRANSFIXING JOURNEY INTO ULTRASOUND
After his car breaks down, Glen (Vincent Kartheiser, MAD MEN) spends one hell of an odd night with a married couple, setting into motion a chain of events that alter their lives plus those of several random strangers. That’s the official synopsis of Rob Schroeder’s ingenious ULTRASOUND and it’s best we don’t say a word more without running the risk of ruining the film’s endlessly twisty surprises that easily make it one of the most engrossing and unexpected genre creations of the year. Co-starring Breeda Wool (MR. MERCEDES), Chelsea Lopez (ARE WE NOT CATS), Tunde Adebimpe (RACHEL GETTING MARRIED), Rainey Qualley (OCEAN’S 8), and Bob Stephenson (LADY BIRD). INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE.