25 Feature Films to Look Out for at Fantasia 2020
Updated: Jan 7
Tomorrow marks the kick-off of Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, which will run from Thursday, August 20 - Wednesday, September 2.
This year, however, I can enjoy their always-stellar lineup of horror and thriller flicks without ever setting foot on a plane. In-person festivities may be cancelled but that has not stopped Fantasia from forging ahead with an entirely digital program. Below, you'll find links to purchase tickets for individual films, but keep in mind, Fantasia is geo-locked to Canada. But not to worry, there are plenty of panels and masterclasses that are open to anyone, anywhere in the world, including this free John Carpenter Maserclass. Here are the 25 films hailing from 14 different countries I have on my Fantasia Favorites list, to keep on your festival radar.
1. Alone (USA, International Premiere)
Jules Willcox stars as Jessica, a grief-stricken widow who flees the city in an attempt to cope with the loss of her husband. When Jessica is kidnapped by a mysterious man and locked in a cabin in the Pacific Northwest, she escapes into the wilderness and is pursued by her captor. Directed by John Hyams and starring Marc Menchaca and Anthony Heald.
Ticket info & trailer for Alone can be found here.
2. Bleed With Me (Canada, World Premiere)
Director Amelia Moses invites us on an intimate cabin trip where boundaries and relationships collapse. Rowan (Lee Marshall), a shy and awkward young woman, struggles to integrate herself on a weekend getaway with her best friend, Emily (Lauren Beatty) and her unfriendly boyfriend, Brendan (Aris Tyros). Feeling like a third wheel, she drinks to calm her nerves, pushing her body and mind deep into a hazy trance, where she begins to witness nightmarish late-night visions that make her feel increasingly unwelcome, unsure and unstable. A slow-burn thriller with arresting visuals, Bleed With Me captures a vulnerability and discomfort as it explores issues related to self-harm and social isolation. Set against a wintry backdrop, Bleed With Me uses the limits of a small budget to its full potential. Written and directed by Amelia Moses and starring Lauren Beatty, Lee Marshall and Aris Tyros.
Ticket info & trailer for Bleed With Me can be found here.
3. The Block Island Sound (USA, World Premiere)
A mysterious force lurks off the coast of Block Island, influencing its residents and wildlife. Dead fish roll up on shore, birds drop from the sky, and fisherman, Tom Lynch, hasn’t been the same in weeks. It’s not the blackouts or hallucinations that worry his family the most, it’s his sudden violent outbursts. It won’t be long before the family discovers there’s one ominous thread that ties everything together, putting all of them in grave danger. Directed by the McManus Brothers, Kevin and Matthew McManus and starring Chris Sheffield, Michaela McManus and Neville Archambault.
Ticket info and trailer for The Block Island Sound can be found here.
4. Bring Me Home (South Korea, Quebec Premiere)
Jung-yeon is a respected nurse who dedicates all of her time to searching for her son Yoon-su, who's been missing for six years now. One day, she receives an anonymous tip that leads her to a remote , fishing village unaware of the horrors she’ll discover there, and the dangers she’ll have to face. Written and directed by Kim Seung-woo and starring Lee Young-ae, Yoo Chea-myung, Park Hae-jun and Lee Won-keun.
Ticket info and trailer for Bring Me Home can be found here.
5. The Columnist (the Netherlands, North American Premiere):
Columnist and author Femke is flooded with anonymous nasty messages and death threats on social media. One day she has enough and decides to take revenge. Directed by Ivo Van Aart and starring Katja Herbers, Genio de Groot and Rein Hofman.
Ticket info and trailer for The Columnist can be found here.
6. The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw (Canada, World Premiere):
Young Audrey Earnshaw (Jessica Reynolds) and her mother, Agatha (Catherine Walker) live clandestinely as occultists on the outskirts of a remote Protestant village. Having gone to enormous lengths to hide Audrey’s existence from the community over the years, in part due to her having been born in secrecy, in a context that would never have been accepted by the superstitious townspeople, Agatha kept her close and guarded at home. As a consequence, a controlling relationship has developed. One day, a mourner from town catches sight of Audrey, and whispers begin. The community has recently been left reeling from a series of inexplicable tragedies and hardships. Now, livestock and crops are falling prey to an unknown disease. Somehow, the Earnshaw farm has remained unaffected. Suspicions grow. Hysteria mounts. Meanwhile, Audrey’s upbringing around ritual magic has borne fruit. Her abilities are blossoming, becoming stronger and more forceful by the day. Alongside her anger. Written and directed by Thomas Robert Lee and starring Catherine Walker, Hannah Emily Anderson, Jared Abrahamson and Don McKellar.
Ticket info and trailer for The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw can be found here.
7. The Dark & the Wicked (USA, International Premiere)
Ensconced deep in rural seclusion, there is a farm. On this farm, there is a house. In this house, there is an elderly man. This man is slowly dying. His adult children, Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.), have both put their lives on hold and returned home to be with him in his most difficult hours. The house holds terrible energies. Palpably horrific. Louise and Michael both sense it. They initially try to ignore what their guts are screaming to them, but soon, waking nightmares make that an increasingly difficult thing to do. One freakish happening follows another. Something evil is taking over the household. Written and directed by Bryan Bertino of The Strangers and starring Michael Abbott Jr., Xander Berkeley and Marin Ireland.
Ticket info and trailer for The Dark and the Wicked can be found here.
8. Detention (Taiwan, Canadian Premiere)
We’re in Taiwan in 1962, during the time of the White Terror, and martial law is in force on the island. In this context of extreme repression, all ideas considered to be dissident are banned, and the culprits are tortured or executed. Tsuihua Secondary School is not an escape from oppression. Despite close surveillance by the military police, Professor Zhang runs an underground literary club where Wei and his fellow students learn about banned books and dream of freedom. While the teacher is appreciated by his students, young Fang is madly in love with him. The usually shy teenage girl living in a violent home manages to open up like a book in his presence. Then Zhang disappears. One night, Fang wakes up at her desk, but the school has changed. As she wanders through the sinister corridors and other dilapidated rooms in search of her teacher, she meets Wei. Together, they must confront the ghosts and deformed monsters that have taken over the school, to find out what happened there. Directed by John Hsu and starring Gingle Wang, Tseng Chin-Hua, Fu Meng-Po and Cecilia Choi.
Ticket info and trailer for Detention can be found here.
9. La Dosis (Argentina, North American Premiere)
Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi) is a night-shift nurse at a palliative care ward. Everyday, on his dinner break, he peacefully eats raw peas that match his emerald uniform, and lives to the not-so-constant rhythm of beeping devices. Marcos loves his comforting routine. Every day the same can of peas, every day cleaning his bed-ridden patients, every day trying to catch a dying man sneaking one last cigarette. What’s the difference for him at this stage anyways? The difference is one drop, one little dose given in the middle of the night by their caregiver. At the doors of life and death, Marcos is the self-appointed gatekeeper. Euthanasia is his preferred practice. Newly arrived nurse Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers) threatens to uncover his secret deadly procedure, yet he may himself hide a sinister motive. Directed by Martin Kraut and starring Carlos Portaluppi, Ignacio Rogers and Lorena Vega.
Ticket info & trailer for La Dosis can be found here.
10. Free Country (Germany, Canadian Premiere)
Löwitz, Germany, 1992. Just two years after the reunification of Germany, this remote area by the Szczecin Lagoon and the Polish border is now home to the brutal homicides of a pair of teenage sisters. Placed in charge of the investigation are two out-of-town detectives, Patrick Stein (Trystan Pütter) and Markus Bach (an unforgettable Felix Kramer), teamed up by government officials eager for a quick arrest to prove the new Germany can carry out swift justice. Berlin detective Stein is more refined than former Stasi detective Bach, but the two soon begin to uncover the dark secrets of a lawless backwoods area where a serial killer can run rampant for years before anyone notices. Directed by Christian Alvart and starring Felix Kramer, Trystan Puetter and Nora Waldstaetten.
Ticket info and trailer for Free Country can be found here.
11. Fried Barry (South Africa, Canadian Premiere)
Barry isn’t the best example of humanity. He’s a bad father, a bad friend, and not particularly good at anything, and it’s an unfortunate turn for our species that – “fried” on heroin yet again – he becomes the first homo sapiens encountered by a visiting alien. Taking up residence in his brain, that alien pilots Barry on a multi-day tear through an apocalyptically shit-stained Cape Town, gaining a profound first impression from its assorted scum and villainy. Getting high, getting laid, and getting kidnapped by human traffickers are just a few of the stops on this mondo-esque rampage – but is there enough light in Barry’s world for the alien to pick up positive behaviour as well? Will Barry’s newfound psychic superpowers be used for good, or just another romp around the red-light district? And is this all just the drugs talking? Directed by Ryan Kruger and starring Chanelle De Jager, Gary Green, Bianka Hartenstein, Sean Cameron Michael and Jonathan Pienaar.
Ticket info and trailer for Fried Barry can be found here.
12. Hunted (Belgium/France, World Premiere)
"The company of wolves is better than that of man.” Once upon a frenzied time, Woman (Lucie Debay) meets Man (Arieh Worthalter). Woman dances with Man. Man kisses Woman. Man grips Woman. Woman escapes Man. Man chases Woman... Nothing new! Or is there? The over-recycled “revenge” story takes an unexpected turn in Hunted. The Big Bad psycho-Wolf, embodiment of patriarchy, and his dummy sidekick engage in a wild hunt, but within mother nature’s protective maze of trees, the Red Riding warrior-Hood’s got killer moves, and won’t surrender so easily. Directed by Vincent Paronnaud and starring Lucie Debay, Ciaran O'Brien and Arieh Worthalter.
Ticket info and trailer for Hunted can be found here.
13. Lucky (USA, International Premiere)
Luck doesn’t seem to be with self-help author May Ryer (Brea Grant) lately. Her books aren’t selling like they used to, and one night, a masked intruder breaks into the house she shares with her husband Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh). To make matters worse, Ted seems strangely unconcerned about the incident, talking about it in matter-of-fact terms as if it’s just something to be accepted, and an investigating cop actually says they’re lucky things didn’t go worse. Then things do become worse as the attacker appears again… and again… and again, continuing to terrorize May no matter how valiantly she fights back. He seems to have supernatural properties, and when May seeks help, she’s met with indifference and condescension. One of her books is called Problem Solving for Staying Alive, and now she’s faced with a dilemma that seems to have no solution, and that may indeed claim her life. Directed by Natasha Kermani and starring Yasmine Al-Bustami, Brea Grant, Kristina Klebe, Kausar Mohammed, Dhruv Uday Singh and Hunter C. Smith.
Ticket info and trailer for Lucky can be found here.
15. The Mortuary Collection (USA, Quebec Premiere)
At Raven’s End Mortuary, Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown) presides over the funeral rites of corpses whose histories he keeps recorded in the countless books on his shelves. One day, a young woman named Sam (Caitlin Fisher) answers his Help Wanted sign, and her curiosity about death and his past “clients” leads him to relate a few of the most bizarre tales. As the stories come to life on screen, we witness a pickpocket receiving her comeuppance; a frat-boy seducer receiving a graphic lesson about the importance of safe sex; a husband serving as caretaker for his catatonic wife who takes a drastic action with very unpleasant consequences; and a variation on the classic horror-movie trope of a babysitter terrorized by an asylum escapee. None of these end as you might expect, and after the last one is over, there’s one more surprise in store. Written and directed by Ryan Spindell and starring Clancy Brown, Caitlin Custer, Jacob Elordi, Barak Hardley, Christine Kilmer and Mike Nelson.
Ticket info and trailer for The Mortuary Collection can be found here.
16. Perdida (Mexico & Colombia, International Premiere)
Eric (José María de Tavira) is a man in crisis. The conductor of a prestigious Mexican philharmonic, his seemingly happy life is shattered by the abrupt breakup with his longtime girlfriend, Carolina (Paulina Dávila), who leaves him with only a goodbye video and nothing else. Now alone in the remote house they shared, he finds himself devastated and unable to focus. But soon he meets Fabiana (Cristina Rodlo), and finds himself returning to life. However, Fabiana soon learns that Carolina's departure is more mysterious than she was led to believe. They're living in a house filled with secrets... and they're not alone. Directed by Jorge Michel Grau and starring Paulina Davila, José María De Tavira and Cristina Rodlo.
Ticket info and trailer for Perdida can be found here.
17. The Reckoning (UK, Advanced Screening)
England. 1665. The great plague has the country whiplashed into a frenzy of fear, distrust and death. Desperate and terrified, the population turns to superstition, the Catholic Church taking cruel advantage of the grim opportunities this presents. The witch hunts begin. Grace Haverstock (a fantastic Charlotte Kirk) has just buried her husband, the latest in a seemingly endless ocean of unfortunates to succumb to the terrible disease. Now stuck raising their child alone, townspeople watching her with suspicion, she is at her wit’s end. When her landlord, Squire Pendleton (Steven Waddington) attempts to force her into paying debts with sexual favours, she rejects him with well-earned ferocity. He, in turn, accuses her of witchcraft. Grace is taken to prison. She will face horrific interrogations at the hands of Britain’s most ruthless Witchfinder (an equally terrific Sean Pertwee). But she is not alone. And her journey won’t end here. Not without a reckoning. Directed by Neil Marshall and starring Joe Anderson, Charlotte Kirk, Sean Pertwee and Steven Waddington.
Ticket info and trailer for The Reckoning can be found here.
18. Sanzaru (USA, International Premiere)
Evelyn, a young Filipina nurse (Aina Dumlao), has moved to the remote Texan estate of the Regans. Tasked with taking care of the family’s aging matriarch, Dena (Jayne Taini), she also takes in her nephew – suspended from school, and whom Dena suspects of stealing her things. As the symptoms of dementia get worse – especially at night, when the elder’s behaviour becomes truly unpredictable – the relationship of care turns increasingly strained and abusive. Furthermore, Evelyn begins hearing mysterious noises emanating from the intercom, and the family’s cockatiel exhibits its own strange behaviour. Is the nurse imagining or projecting? Or is the dying, remote house trying to tell her something about its secrets? Who, or what is Sanzaru? Written and directed by Xia Magnus and starring Justin Arnold, Jon Viktor Corpuz, Aina Dumlao and Jayne Taini.
Ticket info and trailer for Sanzaru can be found here.
19. Savage State (France, North American Premiere)
Missouri, 1863. As Americans fight out their civil war around them, a family of French colonists turns to mercenary gunslinger Victor (Kevin Janssens) to lead them across the country to a safe port and escape to Paris. But the road to salvation is long, arduous, and fraught with peril, and tensions run high between meek patriarch Edmond, his pious wife Madeleine, their three daughters, freed-slave maid Layla, and their armed escorts. Will they make it to safety before the war catches up with them? What is the significance of Victor’s appearance in the nightmares of defiant young Esther? Will the three daughters find the marriages their parents seek for them? And who is the mysterious black-clad woman pursuing the family (Kate Moran), with a cadre of masked outlaws in tow? Written and directed by David Perrault and starring Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Grégoire Colin, Deborah François, Alice Isaaz, Kévin Janssens, Kate Moran.
Ticket info and trailer for Savage State can be found here.
20. Sheep Without a Shepherd (China, Quebec Premiere)
Li and his family are happily living in Thailand, and his biggest vice is quoting film references non-stop, to people’s annoyance! After all, he indulged into a modest 800 films last year! All hell breaks loose when his teen daughter accidentally kills a spoiled classmate over a blackmail video. The dead boy’s father happens to be a big-shot politician and his mother, a ruthless police chief who manages to solve the most impossible cases with ease. Desperate to ascertain the fate of her son, the Chief will stop at absolutely nothing in her merciless interrogation tactics to extract a confession. Li devises an extraordinary alibi that may not require lying, just merely some exaggeration and manipulation of certain elements. Armed with his film-knowledge arsenal and wits, Li prepares every possible countermove for what awaits his family. Written and directed by Sam Quah and starring Joan Chen, Xiao Yang, Paul Chun and Tan Zhuo.
Ticket info and trailer for Sheep Without a Shepherd can be found here.
21. Slaxx (Canada, World Premiere)
At Canadian Cotton Clothiers, where the motivating slogan is “Make a better tomorrow today,” the staff is preparing for Monday Madness. Joining the store’s stock of organic, GMO-free, fair-trade, sweatshop-free, ethically sourced tops and bottoms is the eagerly awaited new line of Super Shaper jeans – thermally activated denim that adapts to any body size. Not only that, but hot social-media influencer Peyton Jules (Erica Anderson) will be paying a midnight visit. As if things weren’t tense enough, one pair of Super Shapers proves to have a mind of its own, and can not only think but leap, bite, choke, and otherwise attack unwary members of the Clothiers team. New hire Libby (Romane Denis) is the first to discover that these jeans have jaws, but can she successfully alert her co-workers tonight so they have a chance of living to see that better tomorrow? Directed by Elza Kephart and starring Sehar Bhojani, Stephen Bogaert, Romane Denis, Brett Donahue and Kenny Wong.
Ticket info and trailer for Slaxx can be found here.
22. Sleep (Germany, North America Premiere)
Tormented by vivid nightmares she believes are real, Marlene (Sandra Hüller) starts piecing together her oneiric visions. Assembling nightmarish sketches, maddening notes, and recollections gathered throughout the year, she makes her way to a remote hotel in the peaceful village of Stainbach. There, the pieces of the puzzle start falling into place, and she suffers a nervous breakdown. Worried about her mother’s condition, her 19-year-old daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) heads to the psychiatric ward to find her. Coming from the city, the small town’s atmosphere is immediately uncanny. At the hotel – around which everything seems to gravitate – the staff is friendly and helpful. But soon, a well-kept secret and an old curse are uncovered, which, if awakened, stand to make Mona and her mother’s life a never-ending nightmare. Directed by Michael Venus and starring Max Hubacher, Sandra Hueller and Gro Swantje Kohlhof.
Ticket info and trailer for Sleep can be found here.
23. The Undertaker's Home (Argentina, World Premiere)
We share this world with the dead. Those who have come before us, and have left indelible scars on us, are always there in spirit long after they’re gone. Bernardo (Luís Machín), wife Estella (Celeste Gerez) and stepdaughter Irina (Camila Vaccarini) live with the dead in every sense. As an undertaker, death is Bernardo's business, but it also pervades the home they live in behind the funeral home in the spirit of several ghosts that haunt the property. At first their presence is more of an inconvenience – there are lines you can't walk past; the bathroom is haunted, so they need to use a port-a-potty outside – but it soon becomes apparent there is a presence there that means them harm. And soon this family, already on the edge, must deal with some of the very ghosts who haunted them before they passed on.
Written and directed by Mauro Iván Ojeda and starring Luis Machín, Celeste Gerez, Camila Vaccarini, Susana Varela and Hugo Arana.
Ticket info and trailer for The Undertaker's Home can be found here.
24. Unearth (USA, World Premiere)
Falling on hard times, George Lomack (Marc Blucas) is desperate to save his family. Pushed to the very edge and barely making ends meet, he turns to the one place that can save his home, the gas and oil industry. Not heeding the warnings of his sagacious neighbor (Adrienne Barbeau), it soon becomes abundantly clear that Lomack has made a deal with the devil. A creeping terror has been released from the depths of his fertile land while George’s family become shadows of their former selves. Now the two neighbours fight for survival against a poison that is infecting their soil. Directed by John C. Lyons & Dorota Swies and starring Adrienne Barbeau, Marc Blucas, P.J. Marshall, Allison McAtee, Rachel McKeon, Brooke Sorenson and Monica Wyche.
Ticket info and trailer for Unearth can be found here.
25. Yummy (Belgium, Quebec Premiere)
Heading into surgery is stressful enough, but Alison (Maaike Neuville) has no idea what awaits her when she arrives at Klinika Krawczyk for a breast-reduction operation. She’s joined by her mother Oksana (Taeke Nicolai), who’s in for a procedure of her own, and her boyfriend Michael (Bart Hollanders), who’s not keen on the sight of blood. His hemophobia will be sorely tested after he discovers the result of a “rejuvenation treatment based on experimental skin cell technology” (as Dr. Krawczyk describes it), which soon escapes and spreads a deadly plague throughout the hospital. Pretty soon, Alison, her loved ones, Dr. Krawczyk and a handful of others are the only survivors left, attempting to make their way through a not-very-wellness centre teeming with the blood-crazed living dead. And if these ghouls don’t do them in, their own bad decisions and ulterior motives just might.
Written and directed by Lars Damoiseaux and starring Maaike Neuville, Taeke Nicolai and Bart Hollanders.
Ticket info and trailer for Yummy can be found here.