We have been busy on the festival circuit in 2023, but we love a genre festival above all else. Like SXSW earlier this year, it’s time to enjoy one of our premiere genre festivals. Fantasia Festival 2023 kicks off next week (July 20th) and is poised to make noise with some extremely exciting titles. Combining East Asian filmmakers, horror spectacles, and experimental features makes the Fantasia Fest one to watch. Below are some of our most anticipated films of the festival. We will also highlight some of our favorite titles from previous festivals later in the week.
Femme – Directed by Sam H. Freeman & Ng Choon Ping
The young Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarett) emerges as one of London’s most exciting drag queens. However, the increased visibility also makes them a target. When revenge against an attacker becomes possible, Jules finds a way into the lives of those who took away their joy. Femme drew raves out of the Berlinale. With Stewart-Jarett and George McKay leading the way, we get to watch two stars continue to grow. Directors Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping might be debut filmmakers, but their storytelling instincts are already on point.
It Lives Inside – Directed by Bishal Dutta
Demons, scary jars, and a young girl torn between worlds. It’s a basic setup, but it has resulted in incredible results. One of the big winners at SXSW was one that we’ve been dying to see since March. Frankly, it is quite frustrating it took this long for another opportunity on our end. Could It Lives Inside be one of the sleeper hits of 2023? It’s poised for that distinction and could be one of the year’s best horror films.
The Primevals – Directed by David Allen
It’s rare to see independent animation on a stage like Fantasia, and the story behind The Primevals makes it even more exciting. The stop-motion came from legendary visual effects animator David Allen. He first stepped into the director’s chair in 1991 but passed away in 1999 from cancer. After his death, colleagues and family stepped in to finish the picture. The quality of The Primevals does not matter when you look at the big picture. However, since it looks so incredible anyway, we are very excited to celebrate this achievement.
My Animal – Directed by Jacqueline Castela
A high school LGBTQ+ woman has a lot to worry about in life. Beyond playing on the men’s hockey team as the goalie, her dad passed on some genetic trouble: lycanthropy. There are not enough werewolf movies around, and this alone made My Animal pop on our radar. It’s been a while since we’ve had an excellent werewolf film, and Jacqueline Castela assembled quite the team to help deliver her debut. Star Bobbi Salvör Menuez gets a chance to deliver a big break, and Amandla Stenberg‘s involvement bodes well.
Blackout – Directed by Larry Fessenden
Speaking of Werewolves… Mr. Larry Fessenden – hot off performances in Brooklyn 45 and Killers of Flower Moon – gets back behind the director’s chair. Fessenden is one of the underground directors responsible for the excellent genre and monster fare. Featuring a murders row of character actors, we know Blackout will have some great performances before the camera starts rolling. Fessenden’s latest is poised to deliver as both an examination of sociopolitical issues and of course, a bloody good time.
The First Slam Dunk – Directed by Takehiko Inoue
Who would guess that a basketball anime would become one of the breakout hits of Japan in 2022? Most will not realize this, but The First Slam Dunk not only won Japan’s equivalent of the Best Animated Feature Oscar last year, but it is the fifth highest-grossing anime film of all time. It is an absolute phenomenon worldwide and deserves to be treated like one as it makes its Canadian debut. Rave reviews and incredible popularity could make this a low-key contender on the critic’s circuit for animated feature.
We Are Zombies – Directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell (Roadkill Superstars)
Roadkill Superstars (Simard & the Whissells) get a chance to adapt a high-concept comic (Les Zombies Qui Ont Mange Le Monde). To say we’re excited is certainly an understatement. Turbo Kid rules. Summer of ’84 is one of the most underrated horror films of the last decade. We’ve signed up for season tickets to anything Roadkill Superstars does. Yet this feels like the one that is going to break through in a big way. With some promising, but unofficial images circulating the internet, we know this team is ready to step into the big time.
Tiger Stripes – Directed Amanda Nell Eu
A young girl’s body begins to go through changes. Yet her changes may not be the ones we’re used to. Amanda Nell Eu‘s debut feature not only feels relevant but has an awfully intriguing premise. We simply do not get enough body horror, and framing it through this lens makes us hopeful that Tiger Stripes could be the next Raw or Let The Right One In.
Sympathy for the Devil – Directed by Yuval Adler
Nicholas Cage is in rare form this year. He’s already played Dracula and he’s got enough energy in the trailers of Sympathy for the Devil to power Sin City. Allowing Joel Kinnaman to play the straight man, we’re guessing there are more layers here than being reported. Oh, and the devil imagery (and stories) could be a misdirect. But how lucky will we be if they are not.
Lovely, Dark, and Deep – Directed by Teresa Sutherland
Few elements can whip up a horror film into shape like forcing our protagonist to go deep into the woods. Yet for Georgina Campbell‘s Lennon, the trip into the darkness has always been part of the plan. As she descends into a landscape away from the world, any semblance of time and sanity comes into question. After The Wind in 2018, it was only a matter of time before Teresa Sutherland returned to the director’s chair. Lovely, Dark, and Deep feels destined to send a chill down our spine.