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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Fantasia Serves Up Ghoulishness, Gore, and Guffaws with Its Retro Fare

- by Joseph Perry

North America’s largest genre film fest, the stupendous Fantasia International Film Festival, celebrates its 26th anniversary in Montreal this summer, running from July 14—August 3. Fantasia has a tantalizing array of more than 130 feature films and more than 200 shorts from around the globe. Although the main focus is on new releases, Fantasia always outdoes itself with selecting a stunning lineup of older films, too, most of which hit right in the Uphill Both Ways wheelhouse.

Number one on my must-see list is not a new film, but its subject is one of my favorite TV heroes since childhood. Shin Ultraman reunites the filmmaking pair behind 2016’s Shin Godzilla, which I had a lot of fun with. This should be an intriguing take on the iconic Japanese superhero.

Think you have seen all of the old-school giant-monster movies out there? Think again, as Fantasia presents the restored version of 1967 South Korean movie Space Monster Wangmagwi. As a lifelong monster kid, I can’t wait to check out this creature feature. Also in the film restoration department, Blue Sunshine blew me away when I saw it for the first time, and it should be even wilder with Fantasia’s newly restored version. I have only read about the insanity of The Deadly Spawn, so I’m glad that my initial viewing will be the restored version on offer.

Fantasia is celebrating Kier-La Janisse’s book House of Psychotic Women — billed as “an autobiographical topography of female neurosis in horror and exploitation films” — with a section of shockers both classic and seldom seen. Having recently reviewed the terrific Italian folk horror possession outing Il Demonio for Uphill Both Ways, tops on my radar for this section are the Polish vampire film I Like Bats and Italian Elizabeth Taylor vehicle Identikit.

There’s plenty more to drool over, so have a gander at what classics and clas-sicks Fantasia has on tap for this summer! All descriptions are from the fest’s official press announcements. And keep eyes and ears out for reviews from yours truly right here on the Uphill Both Ways site and on our podcast!


Following its enormously successful release in Japan, Fantasia unleashes the highly anticipated SHIN ULTRAMAN. Directed by Shinji Higuchi, famed for the special-effects work on 1990s GAMERA revival and for directing the live-action ATTACK ON TITAN films; and scripted by Hideaki Anno, the genius behind the hit anime NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. SHIN ULTRAMAN reunites the pair, who co-directed 2016’s astounding SHIN GODZILLA, to reimagine another essential icon of tokusatsu, Japan’s science-fiction TV and cinema. Debuted in 1966, Tsuburaya Productions’ giant, shiny superhero from space—and the wild array of alien monsters he confronts—have embedded themselves in the nation’s popular culture for generations. With auteur flair, unprecedented visual impact, and genuine affection for the Ultraman franchise, Anno and Higuchi now renew, as only they could, the action-packed cosmic saga of Ultraman, his alter ego Shinji Kaminaga, and his colleagues in the science police force battling endless extraterrestrial threats. North American Premiere

Fantasia is proud to announce the following old school gems, resurrected to the big screen with stunning new transfers and restorations. Titles with an Asterix are screening in our Fantasia Midnights series, sponsored by Synapse Films.

ACCIÓN MUTANTE (Spain, 1993) – Dir. Álex de la Iglesia
In a futuristic Spain lorded over by the rich and surgically-enhanced good-looking, a group calling themselves Accion Mutante (Mutant Action) starts a violent uprising. Álex de la Iglesia’s outrageous debut, produced by Pedro Almodóvar, changed Spanish genre cinema forever. Witness the beginning of one of cinefantastique’s great careers. World Premiere of Severin Films’ new 4K restoration.

BLUE SUNSHINE (USA, 1978) – Dir: Jeff Lieberman
Bad acid taken years ago sees people suddenly losing their minds across the USA. Director Jeff Lieberman (SQUIRM) takes the premise of delayed reactions to ’60s drug-taking and runs with it, through a scenario that blends moments of brutal violence with political commentary and social satire. Fans can flash back to their discovery of this acid-horror opus, and newcomers can take their first trip at our screening, hosted by Lieberman in-person. North American Premiere of New 4K restoration, courtesy of Jeff Lieberman and Synapse Films.

THE DEADLY SPAWN (USA, 1983) – Dir. Douglas McKeown
It’s a typical day in the life of a New Jersey family—until Mom and Dad are devoured by a creature with three heads, no eyes, and a million sharp teeth. An exemplar of the kind of practical-effects creature features that thrilled drive-in audiences and VHS viewers in the 1980s, effects creator John Dods’ low-budget bestiary impresses early and often, chomping its way through the cast. World Premiere of Synapse Films’ new 4K restoration.

DR. LAMB (Hong Kong, 1992) Dir. Danny Lee & Billy Tang
An abnormal taxi driver (Simon Yam) lusts for blood every rainy night. The notorious Category III shocker that started Hong Kong's based-on-a-true-story serial-killer craze of the ’90s, DR. LAMB returns to Fantasia where it dumbfounded unsuspecting audiences in 1999. This new restoration includes footage cut from the original Hong Kong release prints. Co-directed by co-star Danny Lee (INFRA-MAN, THE KILLER). World Premiere of Unearthed Films’ new 2K restoration.

THE HEROIC TRIO (Hong Kong, 1993) – Dir. Johnnie To
Three queens of Hong Kong screens—the late Anita Mui (DRUNKEN MASTER II), Wong Kar-Wai regular Maggie Cheung (IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE) and of course Michelle Yeoh (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON)—ignite like dynamite in this bonkers Hong Kong classic from the great Johnnie To. THE HEROIC TRIO mashes up wuxia, superheroics, a Terminator homage, insane stunts, pyrotechnics and a touch of horror into one wild ride. An audience favourite during Fantasia’s first year, this classic is now heroically restored from the original camera negative and ready to thrill a whole new Fantasia crowd. Quebec Premiere of New 4K restoration, courtesy of Janus Films.

KID WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (Hong Kong, 1979) Dir. Chang Cheh
The merciless Golden Arm and his kung fu buddies are wreaking havoc in old China. Imagine Sam Peckinpah meets John Woo with loads of blood and hints of Chinese opera brilliantly infused. Director Chang Cheh (FIVE VENOMS), a pioneer in Hong Kong action cinema, elevated the wuxia and grindhouse kung-fu genres to new levels of innovation during the Golden Age. World Premiere of Arrow Films’ new 2K restoration.

MERCENARIES FROM HONG KONG (Hong Kong, 1982) – Dir. Wong Jing
An avalanche of non-stop gunfire, pyrotechnics, wild motorcycle stunts, and barrels of bloody excitement from Wong Jing, in true 80s style. Starring some of the most famous Shaw legends: Ti Lung (THE DUEL), Lo Lieh (FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH), Wong Yu (DIRTY HO), and Wang Lung-Wei (HONG KONG GODFATHER). Unseen on Canadian screens for over 35 years. World Premiere of Arrow Film’s new 2K restoration.

SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (USA, 1974) – Dir. Michael Findlay
"On the prowl, hear him howl, here comes the Yeti now!" This gem of ’70s exploitation sees a group of college students heading into the woods with their crackpot professor in search of the Yeti. Much carnage ensues. His wife, infamous filmmaker Roberta Findlay (TENEMENT, A WOMAN’S TORMENT), serves as the film’s DOP, guiding the camera through dense woods and electric bathtubs while Michael Findlay directs through furry twists and turns. Monster hunters and conspiracy theorists alike won’t want to miss it. World Premiere of Vinegar Syndrome's new 4K restoration.

SPACE MONSTER WANGMAGWI (South Korea, 1967) – Dir. Gwon Hyeok-jinn
Alien attackers drop a gigantic, remote-controlled cosmo-creep through our stratosphere in South Korea’s oldest surviving homegrown kaiju flick! All but unseen outside of archival screenings for decades now, WANGMAGWI (“Big Devil”) has a legendary reputation. Its Seoul-stomping B-movie delirium is now unleashed on the world once again. North American Premiere of SRS Cinema’s Restoration.

WHAT’S UP CONNECTION (Japan/Hong Kong, 1990) – Dir. Masashi Yamamoto
When Hong Kong teenager Chi Gau Shin wins a trip to Japan, he unleashes a chain of events that bring him from his secluded fishing village of Po Toi O to Tokyo, by way of the so-called slums of Osaka... and finds his family of resourceful counterfeiters on the verge of expropriation. from director Masashi Yamamoto, this is a rarely seen bilingual Japan-Hong Kong co production from 1990 that unfolds as part unhinged globalization mini-epic, fringe documentary and portrait of a crazy family. International Premiere of new 2K restoration.


In 2012, the Fantasia Film Festival hosted the debut of a new book that would go on to canonical status and usher in a new way of writing about film. Kier-La Janisse’s HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN was billed as “an autobiographical topography of female neurosis in horror and exploitation films,” and explored hundreds of films through a daringly personal lens. In this pioneering work, anecdotes and memories interweave with film history, criticism, trivia and confrontational imagery to create a reflective personal history and an examination of female madness, both onscreen and off. Tim Lucas of VIDEO WATCHDOG called it “groundbreaking,” post-punk icon Lydia Lunch called it “a masterpiece,” and Molly Ringwald said she “devoured this compelling, surprising, and moving book.”

To mark its 10th anniversary, Kier-La Janisse and FAB Press have reteamed to produce an expanded edition of HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN, featuring new writing on 100 more films – many of which were inspired in part by the book itself. Coming full circle to the festival that birthed it, the expanded edition of HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN will make its World Premiere at Fantasia.

In conjunction with the book’s release, Severin Films have restored four films that will form the basis of a screening series at the festival: Giuseppe Patroni Griffi’s IDENTIKIT (1974) starring Elizabeth Taylor, Polish vampire film I LIKE BATS (1986), Brunello Rondi’s libidinous folk horror IL DEMONIO (1963), and Luigi Bazzoni’s amnesiac giallo FOOTPRINTS (1975). The Cinémathèque Québécoise will complement the series with a 35mm print from their archive of Marina de Van’s grotesquely transcendent IN MY SKIN (2002).

Screenings will be introduced by Kier-La Janisse, and HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN will be available as a limited hardback edition at all related screenings with Janisse available to sign on request.

About the Films:

IDENTIKIT (Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, Italy 1974)
Based on Muriel Spark’s controversial 1970 novella THE DRIVER’S SEAT, Elizabeth Taylor stars as a hostile woman determined to make her mark, who travels to Rome for an appointment with death. Featuring a surprising cameo by Andy Warhol. World Premiere of new digital restoration.

I LIKE BATS (Grzegorz Warchol, Poland 1986)
Isabella is a female vampire who lives in small town Poland. When she becomes obsessed with a handsome psychiatrist, she checks herself into his palatial country sanitarium under the auspices of seeking a cure for her condition, and romantic absurdity ensues. World Premiere of new digital restoration.

FOOTPRINTS (Luigi Bazzoni, Italy 1975)
In this bizarre giallo from the director of THE FIFTH CORD, Florinda Bolkan stars as Alice, a foreign translator living in Italy who emerges from a mysterious three-day blackout to find an unfamiliar blood-stained dress in her closet and a ripped up postcard from a place called Garma. Drawn to the place in the postcard, she goes to investigate – and finds out some startling things about herself. World Premiere of new digital restoration.

IL DEMONIO (Brunello Rondi, Italy/France 1963)
In this stunning story of obsessive love set in a rural Southern Italian village, Daliah Lavi – best known to genre fans for her role as the tortured protagonist in Mario Bava’s THE WHIP AND THE BODY – plays Purif, who is distraught when her lover (Frank Wolff) is betrothed to another. When she summons the old ways to curse him, her erratic behavior is interpreted as demonic possession, and the villagers turn against her with violence. Canadian theatrical premiere of new restoration.

IN MY SKIN (Marina de Van, France 2002)
The lanky and beautifully aloof Marina de Van stars in her directing debut as an upwardly mobile PR assistant who accidentally slashes her leg at a party and becomes increasingly fixated on the wound. After an initial period of bodily disorientation, she secretly falls in love with her own skin – and wants to see what lies beneath. 35mm Print.

Fantasia’s Frontières International Co-Production Market will be held July 21—24. Screenings, panels and special events will be taking place at the Concordia Hall and J.A. de Sève cinemas, with additional screens at the Cinémathèque Québécoise, Cinéma du Musée and the McCord Museum. Ticket pre-sales will open on July 9, at 1PM.

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