(WKRG) – Curation is the name of the game when it comes to film festivals, and the Fantasia International Film Festival is one of the best in the world when it comes to programming a compelling list of genre releases. The emphasis is on the word “international”. Every year, I find some of my favorite foreign language films at Fantasia: The Incredible Shrink Wknd (2019),divine fury(2019),The columnist(2020) andPunch drunk boxer(2020) to name just a few recent nuggets. At the risk of falling into sports metaphors, the Fantasia International Film Festival has a deep bench when it comes to curation.
In my movie review fantasies, I fly to Montreal every year and stay there for two and a half weeks to experience all the goodness of Fantasia on the big screen. I’m sure the atmosphere on the grounds of this festival is something special. Their passion for cinema is reflected every year in their festival line-up.
Here is the first of several articles on the films offered during the 2022 edition of this fabulous festival.
The killer: Since John Wick Combining martial arts and firearms, inadvertently spawning a new kind of action (“gun-fu”), filmmakers around the world have pulled off its frenzied, stylized violence with mixed results. While the new South Korean film The killer isn’t nearly as groundbreaking as Keanu Reeves’ series of films, this 90-minute thriller is still a worthy riff on the subject.
Eui-Kang (played by Jang Hyuk) is convinced by his wife to “keep” Yoon-Ji, a friend’s high school student, so the two women can go on a Girl Trip overseas together. Things quickly turn dark and gritty when Yoon-Ji falls victim to the world of human trafficking. Luckily for her, Eui-Kang has a “special set of skills” that goes beyond her work in cybersecurity.
The action choreography in The killer belies its modest budget and makes Jang Hyuk a believable action star who perfectly toes the line between sociopathic assassin and heart-of-golden husband. K-Pop fans might be surprised to see GWSN’s Anne portray the teenage girl in peril. The killer is definitely style over substance, but again, that was also the case John Wick. It’s the kind of movie where you catch yourself thinking,Why is this fight in an office building lit in purple neon?And then you’ll wonder why you’re so picky when you’re having so much fun.
Faded away: This Japanese-South Korean co-production is a dark psychological thriller that examines how far people can go to get out of their precarious financial situation. One day, Santoshi tells his young daughter, Kaeda, that he thinks he spotted the notorious serial killer “No Name” on his daily commuter train ride. Santoshi’s comment is more than just chatter. Law enforcement offers a sizable reward for any information leading to the killer’s capture. Kaeda’s reaction is that of a teenager who heard too many get-rich-quick ideas from her clumsy father. When Santoshi disappears without a trace, Kaeda begins to wonder if he might have actually been on the murderer’s trail.
Faded away takes place Rashomon-style with parts of the story presented several times from different points of view. Each portrayal of a pivotal moment changes the audience’s understanding of events and deepens our empathy with the central characters. No one comes out of the film unscathed, including the audience. Faded away is never what you’d expect, and that originality makes it one of Fantasia 2022’s standout films.
The next door: Chan-woo has been trying to join the police academy for years. He failed the entrance exam five times. Everyone from his landlady to his postman knows he’s about to take the test again. In a moment of weakness, Chan-woo agrees to drop out of college and go out on the town with his buddies. The next morning, he wakes up hungover in his neighbor’s apartment with scattered memories of the night before…and a dead body on the floor.
The first eight and a half minutes of The next door take place in multiple locations: Chan-woo’s apartment, local pubs, apartment complex hallways, etc. The remaining eighty minutes take place in his neighbor’s apartment as Chan-woo tries to figure out what happened and how he can avoid becoming the most viable suspect in a murder investigation. Did I mention that’s the same day the landlady is overseeing repairs to the water heaters upstairs at Chan-woo? He cannot leave the neighbor’s apartment without being spotted by many witnesses and she will eventually enter the neighbor’s apartment where he is hiding.
Writer-director Yeom Ji-Ho has constructed a nifty little mystery in a locked room that always seems to find another gear just as the premise threatens to go stale. The next door is all the more impressive as it is the filmmaker’s first film on the big screen. Ji-Ho’s blend of suspense and dark comedy reminds me of fellow South Korean Bong Joon-Ho. I, for one, can’t wait to see what he does next. Clever thriller fans should seek out The next door in the coming months where it will inevitably arrive on VOD platforms and streaming services.