Ten films to see at Fantasia 2023

July 16, 2023 – Montreal, Quebec
Fantasia Festival returns for its 27th edition, with a whole new batch of genre film delights.

In less than a weeks time, the phenomenal Fantasia Festival will be returning to the Concordia University campus in Montreal for its 27th edition, and as always, there are a lot of gems to uncover. We as film fanatics know that it will be virtually impossible to see everything and with so many intriguing titles to select from, and before tickets sell out – and they will sell out, so we’ve had a round-table chat to come up with our list of ten films that are must see for this years edition of Fantasia.

Of course, film is an art form and as such, tastes will vary and what might be one person’s trash, could well be another’s gold. Yet, we feel that the following ten titles are blue chip flicks that even the hardiest of diehard genre film lovers will appreciate.

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It is worth noting that due to the actors guild joining the writers on strike, some of the scheduled guests, such as Nicholas Cage, will not be in attendance as previously planned. None the less, this year’s edition looks to be fantastic and we truly struggled to reduce this list to but ten selections. Maybe we should have made it twenty-five? We didn’t though, so without further ado; we present our top ten picks for Fantasia Festival 2023!

The Modern Free Press Staff Picks List:

10. Hundreds Of Beavers

Paying homage to silent cinema and cartoonality, Mike Cheslik’s feature debut HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS opens with an epic animated sequence introducing us to our trusty hero, a drunken applejack salesman whose supply of Applejack Cider is ruined due to the work of some hungry beavers. To recover his fortune, he must become the greatest fur trapper the continent has ever seen by defeating hundreds of beavers. HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS is a no-dialogue heroic epic that is endlessly inventive, embracing the innovative spirit of cinema’s first decades while using animation to reimagine natural laws in creative and compelling ways. The film captures zany and anarchic energy by featuring a new gag every few seconds. It has many one-offs but similarly builds momentum with slower build-ups and call-backs that keep the experience fresh and surprising. A man-versus-nature narrative about overcoming the cruel and unforgiving landscape of a northeastern winter, HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS is an uproarious and dynamic theatrical experience.

09. Empire V

In modern-day Moscow, disaffected former journalism student Roman (Pavel Tabakov) follows a cryptic invitation to join “the elite” and finds himself forcibly transformed into a vampire. But not your typical creature of the night. Thanks to a parasitical worm known as the Tongue, Roman (now called Rama) has become part of a ruling class of vampires who exercise an “anonymous dictatorship” over humans based not on a thirst for blood but the hunger for money. As various instructors school him in the ways of their elite breed, and Rama explores his new supernatural abilities, he begins a tentative relationship with another newly turned vampire, Hera (Taya Radchenko). His desire for more knowledge about this intoxicating new world also leads him into potentially deadly conflict with Mithra (Miron Fedorov), his mentor who becomes his nemesis

08. The Primevals

Deep in the Himalayas, a group of Sherpas subdue and kill a towering humanoid creature. Its remains — including a brain that appears to have undergone some kind of surgery — wind up under the supervision of Dr. Claire Collier (Juliet Mills), who believes it to be one of the legendary Yeti. Joined by her former student Matt Connor (Richard Joseph Paul), a longtime believer in the creatures’ existence, big-game hunter Rondo Montana (Leon Russom), and others, Dr. Collier leads an expedition into the mountains to track down more of the abominable snowmen. Their trek results in an encounter with a tribe of primitive hominids — which in turn leads to the far more frightening discovery of beings they never could have expected or imagined.

07. Satan Wants You

In the ’80s and ’90s, an immediate fear swept North America. Satan was everywhere, sullying everything from music to movies and the daycare around the corner. Satanic ritual abuse was frequently reported — parents, clergy, and political officials rang the alarm every chance they could. But where did this Satanic Panic start? Award-winning directors Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams take us on a never-before-seen journey, launching from the 1980 book Michelle Remembers, a memoir written by Michelle Smith, a Canadian woman, and Dr. Larry Pazder, her psychiatrist. Under the care of Pazder, she infamously recalled suffering childhood ritual abuse at the hands of her Satanist parents. Using archival footage of talk shows, new reports, and in-depth interviews with those closest to the controversy, Horlor and Adams break into the mystique of these reports of ritual abuse and the fervour it created.

06. Emanuelle In America

Fearless investigative photojournalist Emanuelle (Laura Gemser, EMANUELLE IN BANGKOK) goes undercover to expose the depraved sex lives of the wealthy elite. Chasing her latest scoop, she uncovers a Zodiac-themed brothel, illegal arms trafficking, an art forgery racket, and more. Her investigation will take her from the streets of New York to the canals of Venice to Caribbean beaches as she tracks down corrupt government officials and — most shockingly — a ring of perverts peddling snuff films.

05. The Roundup: No Way Out

The brawny yet sympathetic Sergeant Ma Seok-do (Don Lee, TRAIN TO BUSAN) is back with a vengeance, ready to let his fists remind the thugs who cross his path of every bad thing they’ve done since they were children. A double agent is shot dead during an undercover operation to blow the lid on the proliferation of a new drug that is ravaging local youth. Worse still, the man responsible is a crooked policeman aiming to rip off a yakuza gang for the benefit of Chinese interests with a large shipment… which he has stolen. The whole mess involves a lot of criminals to deal with, but the murder of a colleague and the chaos in motion make the case very motivating for Ma and his team. With a host of adversaries to contend with, including a Japanese assassin wielding a katana with surgical efficiency, our hero will be doing plenty of interior redecoration, using hapless gangsters!

04. Ride On

Famous stuntman Luo (Jackie Chan) was once renowned for some of craziest stunts committed to celluloid. Recovering from an injury and heavily in debt, he isn’t as active or sought after as he was once was, and he’s making ends meet by doing cheap events with his trusty horse Red Hare. One day, after a fight with a loan shark involving Luo and his horse goes viral, fate reunites him with his estranged daughter, and some new opportunities and wild adventures come knocking once again. To complicate matters, his beloved horse is being pursued by its former owner. Are Luo and his buddy ready for one last ride?

03. The First Slam Dunk

All Ryota Miyagi ever wanted was to be a great basketball player like his older brother. He has loved the sport ever since he was a kid, and he’s now carrying on his brother’s legacy by playing for the Shohoku High School basketball team as their point guard. He may be small, but don’t let his size fool you — he’s full of speed and energy on the court. Filled with determination and passion, he and his team are ready to take on the challenge of the Inter-High School National Championship. To claim the highest victory in the tournament, they have to go up against the Sannoh Kogyo High School team, the current ruling champions. Basketball has always given them a sense of purpose, and they’ll do whatever it takes to win the game.

02. Shin Kamen Rider

College student and motorcycle enthusiast Takeshi Hongo was kidnapped by an evil organization called SHOCKER, bent on world domination using an army of transformed mutant cyborgs, artificial hybrids of human, insect, and machine. Takeshi is a prime subject, being a great athlete and very intelligent — but just before being brainwashed into a killing machine, he’s rescued by Dr. Midorikawa, a Shocker scientist with a guilty conscience. Takeshi now has superhuman powers, but has retained his human soul. He teams up with Midorikawa’s daughter, and together they embark on a rampage of destruction to stop the Shocker invasion. No longer quite human, Takeshi is cursed to fight and fight again for justice, perhaps forever…

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01. Sympathy For The Devil

Yuval Adler, the acclaimed director of BETHLEHEM, gives new meaning to “cruise control” as we follow two men one fateful night in Sin City, aka Las Vegas. On the shadowy, neon-lit streets where anything goes, we find a driver (Joel Kinnaman, THE SUICIDE SQUAD) at the end of his day, and he’s got a lot on his mind. His wife is in labour, and as he makes his way to the hospital, a passenger (Nicholas Cage) gets into his car with a gun. Dressed in a red satin jacket with matching fiery hair, this man has a serious agenda, and as the tension builds between passenger and driver, so does the danger.

Tickets to these shows and many, many more can be found at the Fantasia website. Enjoy the festival! Meow!