Fantasia Festival 2011 Roundup

Posted by on 8 Aug, 2011 in Movie Reviews | 0 comments

Fantasia Festival 2011

The Fantasia 2011 logo - the Cheval Noir, also the name and likeness for a new Fantasia prize, this year awarded to John Landis.

For the last three and half weeks, I have had the pleasure of watching some outstanding movies from around the world at the Fantasia Festival 2011. Ever since I first attended a few films at Fantasia last year I eagerly awaited this event, because the bar they set for the movies they show at Fantasia is so incredibly high.

With the never-ending stream of sequels and recycled storylines that Hollywood churns out these days, festivals like Fantasia are a breath of fresh air. They remind us that filmmaking is an art, that out there skilled and dedicated individuals are pouring their love and creativity into works of real quality. Movies for which telling a good story and taking the audience on a journey, perhaps even changing them a little, is what matters – not the takings at the box office.

If you love movies and have noticed the decline in quality of movies you see in the megaplexes you should really seek out and attend independent film festivals like Fantasia.

At this year’s Fantasia I was lucky enough to see 27 new movies, only one of which I actively disliked. I’d also seen a couple of the films showing before. So, now that the festival has drawn to a close, it’s time to look back at the movies I watched and share with you my opinions, recommendations and rankings. So here they are, arranged in order of how much I loved them, with a one sentence review of each:

Outstanding filmmaking:

  1. Absentia (USA, 2011) – A dark, psychological horror that plays on basic human fears and never resorts to gore.
  2. Rabies (Israel, 2011) – An intelligent slasher with likeable, believable characters that puts Israel firmly on the horror map.
  3. A Lonely Place To Die (UK, 2011) – An ultra-realistic run-for-your-life action thriller set in the Scottish Highlands.
  4. Detention (USA, 2011) – One-of-a-kind un-Hollywood high school movie including time travel, aliens and body swapping!
  5. Attack the Block (UK, 2010) – Hilarious & very British – a bunch of chavs on a council estate take on the alien horde.
  6. Retreat (UK, 2011) – Psychological character drama – A troubled couple face news of a devastating plague. Can they trust the messenger?
  7. Lapland Odyssey (Finland, 2010) – A guys’ road movie with a heart; just how far will our hero go to keep his wife from leaving him?
  8. The Troll Hunter (Norway, 2010) – Four media students discover and film the secretive government ministry that keeps Norway’s trolls at bay.
  9. Wasted on the Young (Australia, 2010) – Sinister drama as rich schoolkids bullying and rivalries descend to rape, murder and vengeance.
  10. You Are Here (Canada, 2010) – An enigmatic, existential jigsaw puzzle that invites you to think differently about how we make sense of our world.
  11. Cold Sweat (Argentina, 2010) – Original, if a little contrived, horror involving two crazy old men who experiment on their victims with nitroglycerine…
  12. Urban Explorer (Germany, 2011) – Explorers of abandoned tunnels below Berlin make a fatal wrong turn when they are discovered by a DDR border guard.

Solid, watchable entertainment:

  1. Burke and Hare (UK, 2010) – Comical biography of Edinburgh’s 19th century Del-boys, who knock people off and sell the bodies to the medical school.
  2. Another Earth (USA, 2011) –  A young woman comes to term with her guilt, while in the background a mysterious parallel Earth has appeared in the sky.
  3. Love (USA, 2011) – An intriguing and epic space voyage chronicling the story of the last man alive and ultimately exploring what makes us human.
  4. Superheroes (USA, 2011) – A documentary about wannabe superheroes who roam the streets in their capes. But maybe they aren’t so misguided after all.
  5. The Corridor (Canada, 2011) – A group of thirty-something guys face their neuroses just as they discover an otherworldly doorway out in the woods…
  6. Foxy Festival (South Korea, 2010) – In private, the residents of one neighbourhood all have their quirks, flaws and fetishes – which they pursue with zeal.
  7. Clown (Denmark, 2010) – A man tries to prove he will make a good father while his friend just wants to get laid – Danish crudeness to the extreme.
  8. Petty Romance (South Korea, 2010) – A touching romantic tale of an adult comic artist who falls for the girl he hires as a storywriter.
  9. The Wicker Tree (UK, 2011) – 38 years on, a born-again Christian from Texas arrives in Scotland with no idea what the villagers have in store for her.
  10. The Catechism Catalclysm (USA, 2011) – A priest, desperately lacking social skills, takes a bizarre, life-changing canoe trip with his sister’s ex-boyfriend.
  11. Exit (Australia, 2011) – In the near future, societal outcasts scour their mysterious, ever-changing city for the mythical door to a parallel world.
  12. Article 12 (UK/Argentina, 2010) – A far-reaching documentary looking at the slippery slope towards loss of privacy and a Big Brother society.
  13. Abolition (Canada, 2011) – Joshua has been given a powerful gift, but can he control it, and what is his destiny? Heroes meets Stigmata.


  1. Phase 7 (Argentina, 2010) – Quarantined as possible plague infectees, the eccentric residents of a tower block form alliances and fight for sanity & survival.
  2. The Divide (Canada/Germany/USA, 2011) – Outside, it’s the nuclear apocalyse. Sealed in a basement, eight survivors gradually lose their humanity.
  3. Battle Royale (Japan, 2000) – A completely ridiculous horror about a competition where schoolkids have to murder each other for survival.


  1. Super (USA, 2010) – A disturbingly misguided film about a loser who tries to be a superhero – his cold-blooded murders are presented as comic-book fun.

Some notable short films:

  1. The Legend of Beaver Dam (Quebec, 2010, 12 min) – A musical horror comedy in a boy scout camp. Uniquely brilliant.
  2. We, Time Machines (Spain, 2011, 8 min) – If you could foresee your entire relationship when you first met, would you still choose that path?
  3. The Suicide Tapes (USA, 2011, 24 min) – A mental patient tells tales of coming back from death with a darkness inside. Is it real?
  4. Death and the Blue-Eyed Boy (USA, 2011, 18 min) – Charlie falls in love on the first day of school, with a girl who may or may not be the spawn of evil.
  5. Myshoes (Italy, 2011, 10 minutes) – Action-packed car-chase drama from start to finish, where nothing is quite what it seems.

I noticed some common themes in the movies I saw at Fantasia, I thought it would be fun to make a visual representation of the films of Fantasia 2011:

A diagram of some movie themes at Fantasia 2011
A diagram of some movie themes at Fantasia 2011

Now of course, the one sentence reviews above don’t really tell you enough about the films, so I want to go into a bit more detail on some of them.

But in order to do that, how about we make this a little more interactive?


I’m going to update this post with a more detailed look at a handful of these films, to explain in a spoiler-free way why you should (or shouldn’t) watch them.

My shortlist to write about are Absentia, Detention, You Are Here, Another Earth, Love, and Super. But please let me know in the comments or via Facebook/Twitter etc which ones you’d most like to know about and I will take that into account before jumping in!

A final note about independent & arthouse films:

I strongly recommend you make the effort to seek out movies beyond the standard mainstream fare. Why watch more sequels and formulaic Hollywood dross when there are such high quality writers and film-makers out there. Check out your local independent cinema or arthouse theatre, and seek out film festivals. You will not be disappointed.

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