I’ve been a casual fan and observer of “Death Note” since the mid-aughts and have always been fascinated with its premise and the moral dilemmas it props up for the audience and its characters. It’s almost like “The Box” but with a hit of adrenaline and more complex ideas and philosophies. Director Adam Wingard adapts “Death Note” for a new audience, taking the material from Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, and adding his own quirks, ideas, and dashes of dark comedy. What we get is a stark, entertaining horror movie that is very much a “Death Note” tale, but one that works in its own rhythm for a broader audience, without alienating the core fan base.
This year was a huge year for myself in terms of coverage I was able to do at Fantasia. Having moved back to Montreal (albeit temporarily), I was able to see a huge number of films at the fest, which led to an average of 2 films per day most days with just a few days off to recharge. 2 films per day may not seem like a lot, but when you factor in the reviews being written to publish as soon as possible and networking every night after the fest, the best festival of the year for this reviewer becomes the most exhausting. Your schedule shifts to live between 12noon and 4am most days, waking up then writing reviews, sending reviews, going to the fest in the afternoon or at night, then to the official pub to meet with filmmakers, reviewers, staff, and fans, then bed at 4am-ish most days, the schedule takes a toll. Kudos to the staff of the fest who are up all day working, then all evening and part of the night before doing it all over again the next day, this for 21 days. I know I could never do that for that long. Even with a few full days off to handle life and try to survive, it was an exhausting yet exhilarating experience to be able to be there from the programme launch the week before the fest to post fest goodness with friends.
Written by Victor Mathieu, Shariya Lynn, and Corbin Billings, the film is directed by Victor Mathieu who takes a found footage approach to things, having the show within the movie and the action of the people behind the scenes all being in found footage style, for better or worse. The story here is one found footage fans are familiar with. A team goes into a building with the hopes of filming real monsters and interviewing them. In what looks like something very inspired by ghost hunters tv shows, the crew shoots themselves doing this in night vision on very shaky cam. The monsters here may or may not be real, something the film hopes to blur with its approach and how the characters are brought on.
An actress hoping for her big break takes a part in a horror film being shot in the backwoods by a team of filmmakers who have worked together all their lives. Soon after they begin shooting, cast members begin disappearing. Wanting her chance at stardom, the young actress must make some hard choices.
In the modern social and political climate, Patrick Rea’s “Justice Served” is going to play well and perhaps stir up some much needed controversy. While director Rea delivers his usual slick special effects and morbid tone, “Justice Served” is a brilliant commentary on society and how far we’ve come. Society is nothing but people exploiting people, exploiting people, we’re devils and devil’s advocates. Director Rea creates a backward world where the society we witness is shockingly not that different than what we’re seeing today.
Written by Doug Taylor and director Jeff Kopas, the film works with themes of family, grieving, mental illness, trauma, and related ones. As it delves into the family dynamics and relationships between daughter and father, sister and brother, and others, the film develops characters that all have a connection one way or another and whose relationships are strained to say the least. The characters created seem a bit limited as they pretty much only exist in relation to each other, except for the lead who is a somewhat more fully fleshed character. Her trauma and evolution are central to the story here, so she makes a decent lead. Her story is interesting and the twists keep the attention, however, the story feels like something is missing. But, by the end, things feel more complete in a way.
Director and writer Jeremiah Kipp creates a very stark and somewhat creepy tale of loss, grief, and child abuse with “Slapface,” a short that is destined to grab a lot of people’s attention. At only eight minutes, “Slapface” tells the story of a young boy still coming to terms with the loss of his mother. One day he ventures out deep in to the woods and calls to something in the shadows, goading it to come out of hiding and before long is greeted by a vicious, ugly ogre in tattered clothing and long hair that zealously grasps him to the point of making him lose consciousness.
A prequel to the prequel to The Conjuring films, the story here is that of how the evil doll Annabelle came to be. Years following a tragic accident, a doll maker and his wife take in a group of orphans needing a new place to live with the nun who watches over them. As they are forbidden to go in a specific room, the young girls get curious and something is awakened.