10 Must-See Films at the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival

Christel Deskins

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Fantasia International Film Festival continues to provide the best in “genre” entertainment. While the “genre” moniker is wide-ranging enough to stir up images of everything from slasher films to kung fu epics, the annual Canadian festival has consistently stretched the concept to embrace all sorts of off-beat features that go somehow beyond the norm of mainstream cinema.” data-reactid=”19″>Few things are as scary as real life these days, but for those seeking more refined thrills and chills, this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival continues to provide the best in “genre” entertainment. While the “genre” moniker is wide-ranging enough to stir up images of everything from slasher films to kung fu epics, the annual Canadian festival has consistently stretched the concept to embrace all sorts of off-beat features that go somehow beyond the norm of mainstream cinema.

This year’s lineup is no different, encompassing not just terrifying horror movies and wild martial arts action, but true stories about unique people, unexpected romantic dramas, even a careful examination of how a cute cartoon frog became a symbol of hate. If it’s weird or wacky, it just might land at Fantasia.

full schedule right here, along with the festival’s robust FAQ.” data-reactid=”29″>This year’s festival runs August 20 through September 2, though it is only available online to Canadian audiences. The program features a mixture of “live” virtual screenings and on-demand offerings as well as special events. You can check out the full schedule right here, along with the festival’s robust FAQ.

Here are a dozen films worth keeping tabs on, even if you can’t tune in.

“12 Hour Shift”

It’s been more than 18 years since Angela Bettis seared herself into the firmaments of modern horror with her singularly demented performance as a modern Dr. Frankenstein in Lucky McKee’s “May,” and to this day her presence in a movie still promises the kind of unhinged (yet ineffably human) swing for the fences that represents Fantasia at its best. Her fraying and fearless performance as a drug-addicted Arkansas nurse in Brea Grant’s “12 Hour Shift” makes good on that promise and then some.

“Crazy Samurai Musashi”

“The Dark & the Wicked”

“Feels Good Man”

It took thousands of years for people to pervert the ancient Eurasian figure of the swastika (often used to symbolize good luck) into the world’s most notorious illustration of hate, and even the German nationalists who first co-opted it as an expression of Aryan power had to wait several decades before it was formally adopted by the Nazi Party. But it only took about 10 years for a harmless frog named Pepe to be radicalized into the internet’s default expression of nihilistic evil, and his actual transition from benign meme to alt-right icon happened much faster than that. And the sweet-natured San Francisco cartoonist who conceived Pepe had to sit there and watch it happen.

“Jumbo”

At heart, Zoé Wittock’s “Jumbo” is a rather conventional European dramedy about a single mother (the great Emmanuelle Bercot) struggling to accept the woman her daughter has become. On its surface, however, this pleasantly delirious feature debut tells the fable-like story of Jeanne, a young loner (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” breakout Noémie Merlant) who develops a deep psychosexual attraction to the tilt-a-whirl ride at the rundown Belgian amusement park where she works. So much that she orgasms at the thought of jet-black oil jizzing out of its metal parts and enveloping her nude body like the symbiote from “Venom.”

“Lapsis”

Noah Hutton’s feature debut takes place in a “parallel present,” but nothing about clever sci-fi dramedy “Lapsis” feels that removed from the contemporary world. Smartly weaving together questions of corporate greed, a cheeky bitcoin stand-in, and social justice issues that don’t feel shunted in just to be “timely,” “Lapsis” is as much about the tightly constructed world Hutton has created as the one his audience lives within.

“Morgana”

Per its official synopsis, the film follows Morgana Muses who, “after 20 years as a dutiful housewife stuck in a loveless, sexless marriage … has had enough of her dreary life. Desperately lonely and starved of intimacy, she books a male escort for one last hurrah before ending it all. Her final night takes an unexpected turn when her relationship with the escort opens up a new world of personal and sexual freedom. Instead of killing herself, Morgana makes an award-winning porn film about their date, moves from suburban Australia to Berlin, and becomes a celebrated feminist porn director and star.”

“The Paper Tigers”

A middle-aged riff on “The Karate Kid” that boasts all the raw heart and roundhouse kicks of a Shaw Brothers’ classic, “The Paper Tigers” is a hugely affectionate martial arts movie about three long-estranged friends (Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Alain Uy, and “Mulan” actor Ron Yuan) who reconnect after 30 years to avenge the murder of the master who trained them as teenagers. They are — as the saying goes — too old for this shit, but Jim, Danny, and Hing aren’t going to let a few sore joints or family obligations stop them from kicking ass and rediscovering the power of their late master’s teachings.

“PVT Chat”

Julia Fox turned a lot of heads with her larger-than-life breakout performance as Howie Ratner’s loyal girlfriend in last year’s “Uncut Gems,” but even in the wake of indie stardom, no one that cool was ever just going to go mainstream. Instead, Fox has dug herself even deeper into the indie New York art scene, as her second movie role finds her starring as a leather-clad cam girl in Ben Hozie’s deceptively sweet “PVT Chat,” a modern fairy tale about an excitable burnout who’s obsessed with online blackjack (Peter Vack, always down to clown) and the imposing dom he meets on the internet and masturbates to during 1:1 web calls every night.

“You Cannot Kill David Arquette”

Twenty years ago, David Arquette took a gamble that may have ruined his career: In an ill-fated attempt to promote “Ready to Rumble,” Arquette became a part of World Championship Wrestling’s ongoing storylines and eventually emerged as its world championship. Diehard fans were pissed: It’s one thing to watch cartoonish musclemen beat each other up under scripted circumstances — but letting the scrawny goofball from the “Scream” franchise dominate the arena was a bridge too far.

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