Posted in Fantasia 2018, Fantasia International Film Festival, Film Festivals

Fantasia 2018 festival in review

Fantasia 2018, total films seen: 23

Although the lineup featured some films I was excited to watch, this ended up like last year where nothing really stood out. In fact, I’d say that I felt even more indifferent about most of what I watched compared to last year. The best thing I can say is that I didn’t really hate anything I watched this year but at the same time I only gave two films the recommended label, this is the lowest total and ties it with 2011, the first year that I extensively covered the festival on this blog. However, due to the schedule and my other personal commitments I missed a lot of the South Korean films but I’m not sure that it would’ve affected my overall impression that much. Many of the South Korean films didn’t appeal to me or appeared to be retreads.

I saw more manga/anime live action adaptations than I normally would since I was surprisingly actually familiar with some of them. Inuyashiki got the recommended label and was pretty much my favorite of the festival. It may have helped that I had read a couple of early volumes of the manga. I thought the live action was well done and it’s genuinely engaging seeing how the older man will defeat the younger, murderous one.  Kasane was another good movie based on a manga with some good acting between the two leads both playing the same dual roles.

Bleach was pretty good if a bit light on world building and back stories of characters but not as light as Ajin. I still found Ajin enjoyable for its action scenes, which were creative even if the characters were one dimensional. Laughing Under the Clouds was disappointing. An underwhelming story and boring action with a lame ending. Destiny: Tale of Kamakura was a nice fantasy movie.

The documentary, The People’s Republic of Desire, also got the recommended label. However, I probably would’ve liked to see it go more in depth but part of that is largely out of the documentary director’s hands since he can’t be following the people he’s filming 24/7 for months straights.

There was a lot of choice in action films but nothing that wowed me in terms of action choreography. However, the action sequences in various films had great intensity, whether it was the Korean crime movie, The Outlaws, or ones from SouthEast Asia like Buybust, Loi Bao, and Buffalo Boys. The fights involving human actors in Ajin were the most creative given its premise of immortal humans who could regenerate after death. The action + SFX in Bleach were respectable.

Quirky Japanese dramas were not bad. Tremble All You Want had a good central performance even if the ending wasn’t convincing. Room Laundering was a quirky understated Japanese comedy. The Travelling Cat Chronicles had some good humor and was the most apropos movie for a Fantasia audience.

There were no super crazy screenings this year although two films had the potential to be just that but both fell short. Those films being: Louder! I Can’t Hear What You’re Singin’, Wimp! and Punk Samurai Slash Down. I was looking forward to the former since I have liked that director’s previous movie a lot. It had a lot of creativity but I just didn’t find it funny. The latter was very random and again just didn’t suit my sense of humor.

Animation was okay but nothing that I really liked. Penguin Highway was enjoyable at least with some fantastical sequences. The Chinese animation Da Hu Fa had potential but just didn’t manage to keep my attention. Fireworks was disappointing but probably elicited the most emotion out of me despite it’s obviously cloying story.

Indie films like Microhabitat and Being Natural just felt kind of boring to me. Although at least the former touched on a social issue.

For unlinked films, see mini reviews.

I’m really starting to sound more and more cynical about East Asian films with each passing year. Perhaps it’s just fatigue although there have been some films at the last two Nouveau Cinema festivals that felt more fresh to me.

I did not see the following: Unity of Heroes, Big Brother, Detective Dee: the Four Heavenly Kings, Five Fingers of Death, The Oily Maniac, Amiko, Aragne: Sign of Vermillion, Hanagatami, I am a Hero, Laplace’s Witch, Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, One Cut of the Dead, Tornado Girl, River’s Edge, Tokyo Vampire Hotel, Violence Voyager, Wilderness,  1987: When the Day Comes, Believer, Champion, The Fortress, Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum, I have a Date with Spring, Last Child, Satan’s Slaves, True Fiction, V.I.P., What a Man Wants, The Witch: Part 1 Subversion, Satan’s Slaves, NeoManila.


Longtime fan and reviewer of East Asian films. Formerly a short segment on the music radio show / podcast "Beats From The East" on Concordia University's CJLO 1690AM radio station in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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