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Fantasia 2024 1st wave: “WITCHBOARD” remake and terrors from around the world

Thursday, May 9, 2024 | Events, Fantasia International Film Festival


Exciting talents and newcomers to the genre will be showcased at the festival’s 28th edition.

The 2024 Fantasia International Film Festival runs July 18-August 4 in Montreal, principally at the Concordia Hall and J.A. de Sève cinemas, with additional screenings at the Cinémathèque québécoise and Cinéma du Musée. The first batch of movies has been revealed, along with the poster (seen below) by local artist Donald Caron.

From A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS and the beloved 1988 remake of THE BLOB to THE MASK, ERASER, and THE SCORPION KING, director Chuck Russell has no shortage of imaginative fantasy/horror classics under his belt. Now he returns to the genre he’s marked so brilliantly with a radical reinvention of Kevin S. Tenney’s 1986 Canadian cult favorite WITCHBOARD (pictured above). Emily (Madison Iseman, ANNABELLE COMES HOME) and her fiancé Christian (Aaron Dominguez, Hulu’s ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING) discover an ancient Wiccan artifact, a pendulum board, as they prepare to open a bistro in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Emily becomes obsessed with the board’s powers, exposing her to the ancient spirit of the Queen of Witches. Desperate to help his fiancée, Christian seeks the advice of occult expert Alexander Babtiste (Jamie Campbell Bower, Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS, the TWILIGHT saga), but Babtiste has dark secrets of his own. Shot in Montreal by cinematographer Yaron Levy (UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING). Also starring David La Haye (TRUE NORTH), Charlie Tahan (Netflix’s OZARK), Antonia Desplat (AppleTV+’s SHANTARAM), and Mel Jarnson (MORTAL KOMBAT). World Premiere.

A woman’s desperate search for her long-lost sister, a famous YouTuber who investigated paranormal happenings, falls into obsession upon realizing that the imaginary demon from their childhood may have been real. After a successful Kickstarter campaign that broke records across the platform, the highly anticipated debut feature from YouTube creator Chris Stuckmann is finally here and ready to scare the pants off the world. SHELBY OAKS delivers in all departments. Starring Camille Sullivan (HUNTER HUNTER), Brendan Sexton III (DON’T BREATHE 2), Sarah Durn (RENFIELD), Keith David (THE THING, NOPE), and Michael Beach (AQUAMAN). Produced by Aaron B. Koontz, Cameron Burns, and Ashleigh Snead, and executive produced by Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy, among others. World Premiere.

Estonia-based Miguel Llansó (CRUMBS, JESUS SHOWS YOU THE WAY TO THE HIGHWAY) is a singular gift to cinema. Fantasia is proud to be bringing the visionary iconoclast back to Montreal for the world premiere of what may be his most compelling creation yet: INFINITE SUMMER, a trippy transhumanist sci-fi exploration vibrant with humor, poignancy, and gonzo invention. On a summer break, Mia and her friends try a meditation app that that’s somehow related to the operating system of the Tallinn Zoo, changing the body chemistry of its users into something between pollen and cosmic dust. Mia will need to choose between saving her friends or joining them. An astonishing film, produced by legendary U.S. producing partners Allison Rose Carter and Jon Read (EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, AMERICAN HONEY), Rain Rannu (CHASING UNICORNS, THE INVISIBLE FIGHT), Tõnu Hiielaid (KRATT), and Llansó himself, starring Hannah Gross (Netflix’s MINDHUNTER), Johanna Rosin, and Teele Kaljuvee-O’Brock. World Premiere.

Every winter since Sayuri’s tragic disappearance sixteen years ago, Asai and Jiyong climb the mountain where it happened to honor her memory. However, an intense blizzard and a catastrophic injury convince Jiyong he’s done for and, before forcing Asai to leave him to die, he shares a devastating revelation. Asai returns, however, after finding a nearby cabin and now, isolated for the night, the two have to deal with Jiyong’s not-so-last words…the hard way. With CONFESSION, two award-winning Fantasia legends, director Nobuhiro Yamashita (LA LA LA AT ROCK BOTTOM) and actor/writer/director Yang Ik-june (BREATHLESS), along with superstar Toma Ikuta (THE MOLE SONG trilogy), team up to adapt a beloved manga into a narrative and technical achievement, one of the best single-location thrillers ever created. With stellar performances and masterful direction using every inch of his set to generate maximum tension, CONFESSION flirts with perfection at every level–and must be experienced in a theater. North American Premiere.

Following up on the international success of his brilliant LA LLORONA (2019), director Jayro Bustamante’s RITA fuses mythical fantasy and whimsical imagery with themes of childhood innocence and the potent emotional register of a story based on a harrowing real-life event, wherein 41 young women needlessly burned to death inside a Guatemalan orphanage in the midst of a protest about inhumane conditions. At its core is the powerful performance of Guiliana Santa Cruz, who speaks for all the young women who suffered. As a result, the story speaks much to the power of female anger, and yet, not once does the director lose sight of the fact that at its heart, Rita’s tale is one of girlhood, of dreams, of an innocence lost, and regained within the bosom of female solidarity. World Premiere.

An inexplicable wave of tragic deaths plunges two investigators into the heart of a fateful whirlwind, where logic and facts have no value as a far-fetched urban legend seems to come true. A mother plagued by terrifying dreams, seeing her friends and colleagues disappear one after the other, and her family witness the horror unfold. Director and screenwriter Tomojiro Amano (TRAPPED IN MAKYO) skillfully fuses the styles of Eastern and Western classics in THIS MAN, referencing RINGU, IT FOLLOWS, and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET among others, to create an intimate, oppressive work that constantly keeps viewers on the edge of their seats as it slowly and subtly unveils the pandemic-like slaughter outside. At the crest of the international horror-film harvest of 2024, already a banner year, THIS MAN is sure to lodge itself in viewers’ memories. With such potential, a Hollywood remake wouldn’t be surprising. International Premiere.

After his success with the WOLFCOP films, Canadian filmmaker Lowell Dean switches it up and takes horror to the ring! When small-time wrestlers get a big payday for a private gig, they jump at the chance for fame and fortune, but the event, run by a mysterious leader who calls himself “The Prophet,” demands plenty of blood on the mats and involves a sinister, demonic deal! Set in the wrestling heyday of the ’80s, DARK MATCH is an action-packed rumble on the ropes shot by acclaimed cinematographer Karim Hussain (INFINITY POOL, POSSESSOR). Starring wrestling legend Chris Jericho as the charismatic leader of its bloodthirsty cult, Ayisha Issa (TRANSPLANT), and Steven Ogg (AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD), you’ll get more than your share of intrigue, action, and gore inside this ring! Septentrion Shadows section. World Premiere.

In A SAMURAI IN TIME, an Edo-period swordsman is flung into the future, arriving in modern Kyoto to confront utter confusion—and an acting career. The medieval warrior transported to modern times is a variant of the time-travel subgenre that has been explored many times around the world. Award-winning writer/director Junichi Yasuda (GOHAN), however, offers a take on the theme that’s not only clever, funny, and distinctly Japanese, but remarkably poignant. Shot on location at Toei Studios Kyoto, A SAMURAI IN TIME is held together by the subtle and convincing performance of lead actor Makiya Yamaguchi. More than just a fun fish-out-of-water fantasy, it’s an homage to samurai cinema as it wanes as surely as the shogunate once did. International Premiere.

A young woman, lost in a series of meaningless connections through dating apps, falls in love with a charismatic man who is hiding a dark secret that turns her affair into a dangerous obsession. Smart, tragic, and unsettling, Pure Cinema host Elric Kane’s first solo-directed feature THE DEAD THING is a character-driven supernatural nightmare that explores the demons of modern dating in ways that are both horrific and disturbingly relatable. Swipe right on this profound piece of genre cinema that is destined to become a horror classic. Staring Blu Hunt (Netflix’s ANOTHER LIFE), Ben Smith-Petersen (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD), Katherine Hughes (ECHO 3), and John Karna (SCREAM). Co-Written by Webb Wilcoxen (THE FRONTIER). Produced by Monte Yazzie, Matt Mercer (BLISS), and Rebekah McKendry (GLORIOUS). World Premiere.

Someone has died after drinking the bootleg liquor brewed by Se-jong and his two younger brothers. While on a mission to retrieve their deadly booze before another person perishes from it, they come across two homicidal cultists who are terrorizing the villagers. In MASH VILLE, the love that director Hwang Wook (LIVE HARD, DOG EAT DOG) harbors for the Western, action, and comedy genres shines through from start to finish with stylish cinematography, quirky characters, and an incredibly entertaining screenplay. Most importantly, pitch-black humor abounds. Hwang and company commit to their absurdity, and it’s an absolute blast, a genre-mashing crowd-pleaser sure to be a Korean cult classic as time goes on. World Premiere.

A woman wakes up from a coma six weeks after being struck by lightning and finds herself compulsively drawn to electric currents as her body’s workings begin to change. She soon joins an underground support group of strike survivors led by a dangerously charismatic doctor, opening a doorway into unexpected new explorations. A gripping, sensorial experience with a visceral emotional core, ELECTROPHILIA is the latest creation from Cannes-award-winning Argentinian filmmaker and novelist Lucía Puenzo (THE FISH CHILD, XXY). Reminiscent of CRASH-era Cronenberg, it is a subversive and beautiful genre work, a different kind of self-discovery tale, and a new breed of dramatic thriller. Starring Mariana Di Girolamo (Pablo Larrain’s EMA), German Palacios (EL RAPTO), and Guillermo Pfening (THE GERMAN DOCTOR). North American Premiere.

Left bereft by the wanton and inexplicable murder of his girlfriend in PENALTY LOOP, Jun chooses his own justice, carefully planning the perfect murder of the man who led him to become what he wants to eliminate. Once the vengeance is consummated, he wakes up with a confirmed sense of déjà vu and his target alive and well, repeating the same routine as the day before. Offering a breathless, dark, and innovative variation on the time-loop concept, writer/director Shinji Araki (THE TOWN OF HEADCOUNTS) establishes himself as a sure thing in contemporary Japanese genre cinema with this unpredictable, shocking narrative that constantly twists and turns toward a conclusion that’s as satisfying as it is devastating. Carried by a convincing duo of actors in perfect sync, PENALTY LOOP is an accomplishment condemning Araki to return to the forefront with each of his future projects. North American Premiere.

A road trip through Canadian oil fields conjured up fantasies of secrets deep in the dirt for the Adams family, and inspired them to create HELL HOLE, an indie rock ’n’ roll monster movie set at a faraway fracking site. Known for their DIY ethos, John and Lulu Adams and Toby Poser, partnering with Shudder, have joined the team behind THE LAST DRIVE-IN WITH JOE BOB BRIGGS and FX legend Todd Masters to shoot their latest in Serbia with a local cast and crew. Absurd, mutinous, and transgressively comical, HELL HOLE is old-school sci-fi horror, yet in typical family fashion, they subvert the genre with textures of biological and environmental horror in tandem with questions of gender and bodily autonomy. This will be the fourth time that Fantasia world-premieres a work from the gifted filmmaking family, following launches of THE DEEPER YOU DIG, HELLBENDER, and WHERE THE DEVIL ROAMS. World Premiere.

Junior police officers Balraam and Zubeida make a cute couple, but not the most diligent detectives. Called to a posh apartment tower to investigate a reported murder, the seemingly straightforward case quickly becomes a conundrum that would confuse even Sherlock Holmes. When the victim herself returns from the afterlife, matters become even more muddled, and soon enough the question isn’t who killed her…but who didn’t?! With the deadpan delirium of his debut feature DEAD DEAD FULL DEAD, Mumbai-based editor and filmmaker Pratul Gaikwad offers a very odd, otherworldly mutation on the much-loved mystery-comedy genre. Featuring paranormal powers and multiple manias, cosmic wonders and covert class warfare, celestial bureaucracy and dysfunctional love, and even a supernaturally transformed goat, Gaikwad’s surreal whodunit offers a bit of everything…except perhaps proper law-enforcement procedure. World Premiere.

From the moment they exploded out of Jonquière in the early ’80s, Voivod have been widely hailed as one of the most original and influential metal bands in the world. Years in the making and produced with full access to the band’s archives, Felipe Belalcazar’s illuminating VOIVOD: WE ARE CONNECTED brings the story of a groundbreaking 40+ year career to the screen with energy, insight, and a palpable sense of love. The long-awaited doc will be launched in the very province that birthed the band and Fantasia couldn’t be more proud. With appearances by Tobias Forge (Ghost), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), Jason Newsted (Metallica–and brief Voivod member), Zach Blair (Rise Against, GWAR), Tom G Warrior (Celtic Frost, Triptykon), and Ivan Doroschuk (Men Without Hats), among many others. Docs from the Edge section. World Premiere.

After stealing hearts at Fantasia 2019, where FLY ME TO THE SAITAMA won the Audience Award for Best Asian Feature, director Hideki Takeuchi returns to a fantastical version of Japan–“definitely not a portrayal of any actual place”–with a completely original story independent from the ’80s manga from which it takes its name. Japanese music superstar Gackt and co-star Fumi Nikaido are back as Rei and Momomi in FLY ME TO THE SAITAMA: FROM BIWA LAKE WITH LOVE, now supported by an equally delightful cast of new characters as they crank up the genre-bending, highly stylized shenanigans that made the first film so unforgettable. Complete with a boys-love triangle, hilarious parodic references including a wacky Willy Wonka number, and the return of its meta story-within-a-story structure, this sequel is a worthy continuation with even more to offer! North American Premiere.

Lauded following its premiere at SXSW, Annick Blanc’s highly anticipated debut feature finally makes its way home. HUNTING DAZE takes us on a wild trip, following Nina’s (Nahéma Ricci, ANTIGONE) journey as she takes refuge with a rowdy group of men after being stranded in a northern forest. The film plays like a drunken fever dream, exposing a microcosm of masculinity in which one’s desire to belong threatens to upend the group. With dreamy visuals and transfixing performances by a cast of Quebec talent (Marc Beaupré, Alexandre Landry, Bruno Marcil), this is a bachelor weekend unlike any you’ve ever seen. Canadian Premiere.

The second wave of Fantasia 2024 titles will be announced in early June, and the final lineup will be unveiled July 3, with ticket sales opening up shortly thereafter. Keep your eyes on Fantasia’s Facebook page, X/Twitter and Instagram for updates.

Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold (RUE MORGUE's Head Writer) has been covering the world of horror cinema for over three decades, and in addition to his work for RUE MORGUE, he has been a longtime writer and editor for FANGORIA magazine and its website. He has also written for BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH, SCREAM,, TIME OUT, DELIRIUM, MOVIEMAKER and others. He is the author of the AD NAUSEAM books (1984 Publishing) and THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO MONSTER MOVIES (FAB Press), and he has contributed documentaries, featurettes and liner notes to numerous Blu-rays, including the award-winning feature-length doc TWISTED TALE: THE UNMAKING OF "SPOOKIES" (Vinegar Syndrome).