It’s March 2020 and news all over the world report the increasing numbers of those infected with Covid-19 – a virus that causes lung infection. Patient zero is unknown. The first cases began in Wuhan (China) and the disease rapidly spread all over the world at a time when the Chinese were celebrating the New Year. Worldwide panic ensued. Every day there are reports of shortage of masks and toilet paper. Driven by hysteria and disinformation, people are stocking up food, events are being canceled, and schools are shutting down.
That could be the synopsis of one of the films now showing at the 40th edition of Fantasporto.
But it’s not. (Well, actually it’s not too far off the story of “Infection”)
I find it amusing how social media and fake news have amplified the overall (and very human) fear of death. But what should bring us together is actually tearing us apart. In times of panic, xenophobia and racism rise up first and people (quite shamelessly) demand their government to shut down borders and not let outsiders in — if they had watched more horror movies they’d know the killer is already inside.
In times like these, I’m one hundred per cent sure: culture matters now more than ever. It’s what separates humans from distracted-by-fireworks flesh-eating zombies. And lord knows we don’t want the distracted-by-fireworks flesh-eating zombies voting alone again.
Fantasporto 2020 – Fantasy Films Competition
Fantasporto – Porto International Film Festival has been my go-to source of independent horror and fantasy films, from the moment a certain film by a pre-LOTR Peter Jackson fell on my lap.
Every year, the selection of films keeps getting better. Is it lazy of me if I compare the film festival to a fine, aged, vintage Port wine?
Bullets of Justice (Kazakhstan/Bulgaria)
During the Third World War, the American government initiates a secret project code in order to create super-soldiers by inbreeding human being with pigs. 25 years later a breed called “Muzzles” have occupied the top of the food chain, eating and farming humans like animals. A group of survivors hides in a nuclear bunker deep underground. Their mission is to find out how muzzles came to power and destroy them. Don’t let the production origin fool you into thinking this is a film that is less elaborate than many coming from the States, for example. In fact, each scene has enough inventiveness to shock you but also to surprise you. American actor Danny Trejo helps giving an international look to this feature.
In the fifties, a case of possession made the news. The victim is a young woman. The catholic priests choose the best approach to the case which has already caused several deaths and looks quite real. Clarita, the young woman, is an enigma. But the solution may be in her past. With brilliant visual effects, very unusual in Phillipino cinema, this is the new feature by Roderick Cabrido who visited the festival in 2015, winning then the Special Award of the Orient Express Jury with his “Children’s Show”.
Dancing Mary (Japan)
When the City Hall wants to clear some land for new housing, an old theatre with a ghost dancer named Mary stands in the way. After many wounded, they need to find a medium to solve the problem. They ask a clumsy civil servant to find her. He discovers a girl who can see ghosts. The solution may be the ghost of an old yakuza warrior. Sabu is well known from the Fantasporto which has awarded some of his films such as “Miss Zombie” (Best Film in Fantasporto 2014) or “Chasuke’s Journey” Selected of the Sitges Festival.
Dead Dicks (Canada)
After Rebecca receives a distressing call from her suicidal brother Richie, she rushed to his apartment and finds him alive and well- surrounded by copies of his own dead bodies. One of the most original stories where fantasy crosses with a tender relationship between brother and sister, not very far from the influence of David Lynch. Selected by Fantasia festival (Montreal)
In Taiwan still under the communist regime, a school fights repression organizing a book club. Both teachers and students know it as a reality and they also know that, sooner or later, they are going to be caught by the monster. A story of love and death, of repression and freedom. First feature by this director.
Four students, two boys and two girls, study the hypotheses of the existence of other worlds that replicate ours. When one of the girls dies and returns months later, they realise their experiment may have worked. And from the other students, are there any dead ringers? A new film from the director of “Prisoner X”, Critics Award 2016.
Fallen (South Korea)
A world-renowned sci-fi writer as well as a best-selling author. She is now under threat of being stigmatized in society, as her private life and malicious hidden camera of hers were discovered. Soon later she is kidnapped at the bar unconscious. She wakes up in a bloody drum in a strange warehouse. Find herself with her mouth is covered with tape while her hands and foot are tied and her body is branded as FALLEN Scream in terror, she must attempt to escape. Meanwhile, a prisoner in her clothes who call herself as ‘Fallen’, claims she is from the future. As she introduces herself as a Doctor who committed the terrible series of murders, she puts the writer in even more danger. Korean cinema at its best.
A film crew in action. The assistant director, called Akira Kurosawa, is frequently humiliated by all. But what nobody knows is that in a script he wrote, called “GhostMaster”, there are malefic forces that are going to kill them all one by one. With constant film references, this feature is a “splatter film” in which the high-quality special effects match the liters of fake blood used. Lots of humor, manga influences and a super crazy atmosphere reminds us of Troma productions.
In the future, a repressive society of one party only, that only offers poverty and pills to its population, that forbids music and burns books, the difference between life and death is small. Marcelo is a young boy who challenges the militarized system that exploits him and many other children, many of them hand in to the authorities right after birth to become soldiers. The day he discovers a guitar, Marcelo runs to the woods where life is equally hard. It is there that he is going to grow up and learn to protect his new family.
Matti is driving his car with her daughter in the back and, suddenly, he vanishes. It is not a one only event. For the rest of his life, Matti deals with these mysterious disappearances which lead him to know the world but, at the same time, cause him increasing difficulties with his wife and daughter to whom he always returns. An example of the vitality of Finnish cinema and the first feature by the director.
Howling Village (Japan)
Exploring the terrors of the night, two teenagers venture beyond the forbidden tunnel. When they disappear, strange events start happening and all inhabitants of the village seem to know more than they say. What ghosts are those? What visions haunt an entire village?
I Am Toxic (Argentina)
In the year 2101, the chemical war in the northern hemisphere has caused hunger in the south. A man awakes in the middle of hundreds of corpses. In the sky, the planes drop more dead bodies. The man is saved from the “dry ones” by a man who takes him to a place where there is water. But where is safe? The Argentinian cinema, with a long tradition in terror, faces now the chaos of the future by the hand of director Daniel de la Vega. Selected for the Brussels, Rotterdam IFF, Mar del Plata and Fantaspoa festivals, among others.
In Venezuela, a strange epidemic is spreading. The media start transmitting alarming news. No one is safe. The epidemic is being treated as a deliberate attack with political Intentions. The new pathology has no treatment. A doctor gets in panic, looking for his son. In the meantime, the television announces: The revolution goes on. Together, we will win. This film, disguised as a zombie movie, is a metaphor for the recent problems in Venezuela that spread to neighboring countries. Selected by the Sitges, Raindance, Fantaspoa festivals, among others.
Koko-Di Koko-Da (Sweden/Denmark)
A couple who goes on a camping trip to find their way back to each other, is terrorized by a sideshow artist and his entourage. Variations on terror. Who can beat the infernal circle? Who can stay alive in the end? Or just a story of pain? Selected by the Sundance, Rotterdam or Seattle film festivals.
When you dare time travelling, there are unexpected risks. To revisit the past is not always a great idea and, for Daniel, things may get out of hand and become a nightmare. Produced by Oscar nominee Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”), this first feature has actors Bruno Gagliasso and Branca Messina in the leading roles.
Henry travels to a small town to run an errand for his rock collector father. The task quickly grows into a sprawling adventure that catches the attention of the wealthy heiress Ruby and the ambitious newspaper reporter Clark. A fable set in the ’60s, built like an imaginary dark fairy tale. An original second feature of the director.
The Soul Conductor (Russia)
Surrounded by ghosts all her life, Katya is looking for her missing sister, Larissa. But it seems that no one in the village cares, nor even the police itself. She soon discovers that there are more missing people. Distributed by Fox.
A bruised and beaten wife named Mara (Cristine Reyes) seeks the help of Georgian police against her husband Joachim (Xian Lim). In this he-she said film, truths, lies and the dark past will be uncovered.
Welcome to the Circle (Canada)
A man and his daughter have a car accident. They are rescued by two women and a man who seem to have a language fitting a sect- The Circle. Some strange mannequins are scattered in the woods. Grady has a plan to rescue those I the group. Shot in 2017 but only released now, this Canadian horror film is the director’s first feature.