In just a matter of days the Fantasia International Film Festival will be upon us, this year celebrating its 20th Anniversary in Montreal from July 14 through August 2, and I’m excited to share with you some of its must-see films! The three-week-long festival—featuring over 130 new films from all over the world—is one of the largest of its kind, so it’s no wonder that it attracts filmmakers and fans from every corner of the planet each and every year. With such a fantastic lineup hitting the fest this year, narrowing it down to only 10 was slightly painful, but here it is anyway—hope you enjoy!
If you want to know more about Fantasia just head over to their website for dates, trailers, tickets, general happiness and a hell of a lot more! And one last thing before I kick this list off: make sure to keep an eye here throughout the month because I’ll have some reviews from the fest! You can find all coverage of Fantasia right here.
10. Rupture (USA, World Premiere)
Director: Steven Shainberg
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Chiklis, Peter Stormare, Kerry Bishé, Ari Millen
Single mom Renee Morgan (Noomi Rapace) has learned to be strong by necessity. One day, after dropping her son off at school and going about daily chores, she’s suddenly abducted and locked away in a truck that drives off — and continues driving for days. Wherever she’s being taken, it’s very far away. The truck finally arrives at a large, mysterious facility that could be pharmaceutical, could be governmental, could be anything. A mysterious man begins to question her about her medical history. He then starts asking about her fears. Renee realizes just how irrational and frightening a situation she’s in. Others arrive, observing her. Why Renee? What could these people want? The answers to both questions lie far from any scenario she could possibly imagine.
9. Trash Fire (USA, Canadian Premiere)
Director: Richard Bates Jr.
Cast: Adrian Grenier, Angela Trimbur, Fionnula Flanagan, AnnaLynne McCord, Matthew Gray Gubler
Longtime couple Owen (ENTOURAGE’s Adrian Grenier) and Isabelle (THE FINAL GIRLS’ Angela Trimbur) are hatefully in love. The survivor of a horrific family tragedy in his childhood, Owen has always had issues with intimacy and trust, shielding himself beneath an armour of spiteful sarcasm and casual contempt, often directed at poor Isabelle, who’s well past her breaking point. Yet, a couple they remain — and they’re going to have a baby! Determined to see if Owen can be a family man, Isabelle insists a road trip so that she may finally meet his surviving relatives, eccentric grandmother Violet (Fionnula Flanagan) and horribly burned sister Pearl (EXCISION’s AnnaLynne McCord), opening a rotting Pandora’s box of secrets, lies and murder that may prove to be the undoing of them all.
8. Demon (Poland, Quebec Premiere)
Director: Marcin Wrona
Cast: Itay Tiran, Tomasz Schuchardt, Andrzej Grabowski, Adam Woronowicz, Wlodzimierz Press
Londoner Peter (Itay Tiran) arrives in the Polish countryside, set to marry his best friend’s sister Żaneta (Agnieszka Żulewska) at their parent’s beautiful (if slightly creepy) country house. They’ve generously given the young couple the residence as a wedding gift, but it needs a lot of fixing up. Digging up the yard one day, Peter stumbles upon what seem to be… bones. He puts this out of his mind, gets suited up and ties the knot. Things are going well, the night is exuberant and boozy. Yet, as it progresses, Peter’s health starts to deteriorate into increasingly frantic misbehaviour. First attributed to nerves, then alcohol, his attitude slowly, but surely gets out of hand, however, to the point where the possibility of a supernatural cause cannot be dismissed…
7. Under the Shadow (Iran, Quebec Premiere)
Director: Babak Anvari
Cast: Narges Rashdi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian, Hamidreza Djavdan
Tehran, 1988. Eight years into the devastating Iran-Iraq conflict. Amidst the ever-present threat of sudden destruction, Shideh (an incredible Narges Rashidi) is desperately trying to keep her family sane, a difficult task which becomes nearly impossible when her husband is conscripted into battle and sent directly into the front lines. Alone with her daughter Dorsa, Sideh’s strength is challenged even further when a missile crashes through the ceiling of their apartment, killing a neighbour yet miraculously failing to detonate. It soon becomes clear that the projectile’s arrival has brought something else with it. A terrifying djinn may be stalking Sideh’s building, its possession-hungry sights set firmly on her terrified daughter. More neighbours flee by the day, leaving Sideh and Dorsa increasingly on their own, trapped inside their apartment as their world spirals deeper and deeper into absolute horror.
6. Before I Wake (USA, Special Screening)
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay, Annabeth Gish, Dash Mihok
From the moment that Jessie (SUPERMAN RETURNS’ Kate Bosworth) and Mark (THE MIST’s Thomas Jane) adopt eight-year-old Cody (ROOM’s Jacob Tremblay), they realize that something’s not quite right with the mostly happy child. What they don’t know is that he’s been doing everything possible to prevent himself from falling asleep. You see, Cody is simultaneously blessed and cursed with a supernatural gift that allows for his dreams to become physical in reality while he sleeps. At first, Jessie and Mark feel as if they’re participating in a miracle when they experience his subconscious imaginings draped across their home. They soon realize the terrible downside to the situation, and the reason why Cody can’t bear to be asleep around those he loves. His nightmares manifest every bit as physically in reality as his dreams.
5. The Unseen (Canada)
Director: Geoff Redknap
Cast: Aden Young, Camille Sullivan, Julia Sarah Stone
Everyone knows the tale of the Invisible Man, but have you heard the one about the slowly-turning-invisible-man? That’s just one twist making THE UNSEEN an unforgettable entry in this year’s Fantasia lineup. Aden Young, star of TV’s RECTIFY, plays Bob Langmore, a struggling mill worker in a small northern town. But barely making ends meet isn’t his biggest problem, as he’s also hiding the fact that he’s gradually going invisible. And Bob’s not simply fading away but disappearing in chunks, which makes him look like the victim of a hideous flesh-eating disease. When his ex-wife, Darlene (Camille Sullivan of THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE) asks him to visit his rebellious daughter Eva, he takes a driving job for a local drug dealer and returns to the city. Shortly after his arrival, Eva (Julia Sarah Stone, THE KILLING), goes missing and he suspects the teen has been taken because she shares his affliction. With the drug dealers threatening him and his condition worsening, Bob must find his daughter before they’re both gone for good.
4. Shelley (Denmark, North American Premiere)
Director: Ali Abbasi
Cast: Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Cosmina Stratan, Peter Christoffersen, Bjorn Andresen, Kenneth M. Christensen
Elena is a broke single mother on the verge of a burnout, looking for a break from her daily obligations. A change of scenery would be welcomed, especially one involving a small country house far from the city. When she learns of a couple looking for a maid to take care of their forest dwelling, she jumps on this seemingly fortuitous opportunity. Upon arrival, Elena realizes that her employers have a somewhat unusual lifestyle. They don’t eat meat or use electricity, and they keep contact with the outside world to a minimum. With an unbreakable three-year contract, the young woman complies without complaint. At least she found the peace and quiet she’s been looking for. But her bosses have one more favour to ask of her. Unable to conceive, they want Elena to be their surrogate birth mother — for a handsome sum, of course. Flattered by her employers’ kindness and generosity, she accepts, unaware that her life has just capsized into unspeakable horror. Elena starts to notice signs suggesting that whatever it is she may be carrying inside her, it’s far from human.
3. The Devil’s Candy (USA, Quebec Premiere)
Director: Sean Byrne
Cast: Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Kiara Glasco, Tony Amendola
Struggling artist Jesse, his wife Astrid and their daughter Zooey buy a dream home – that they never could have afforded were its price not brought down significantly due to the horrors of its past. Shortly after moving in, Jesse’s art begins to… change. He begins to hear voices. One day, the unstable son of the home’s former owners shows up at their door, electric guitar in hand, insisting on being allowed to return home. They refuse to let him in. The voices start getting louder. The prodigal son is coming home, come literal hell or high water. The devil has a claim to collect. Bodies will break.
2. Lights Out (USA, Special Screening)
Director: David F. Sandberg
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke, Maria Bello
From producer James Wan (THE CONJURING and INSIDIOUS franchises) comes a tale of an unknown terror that lurks in the dark. When Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) left home, she thought she abandoned her childhood fears. Growing up, she was never really sure of what was and wasn’t real when the lights went out… and now her little brother, Martin (Gabriel Bateman), is experiencing the same unexplained and terrifying events that had once tested her sanity and threatened her safety. A frightening entity with a mysterious attachment to their mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), has reemerged. But this time, as Rebecca gets closer to unlocking the truth, there is no denying that all their lives are in danger… once the lights go out.
1. Don’t Breathe (USA, Canadian Premiere)
Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Stephen Lang
A trio of friends break into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong…
I could have easily added another 10 films to this list (maybe next year I’ll just create a top 20 to make my life easier!), but there you have it, my picks for some of the must-see horror films at Fantasia 2016.