Fantasia 2017, Day 18, Part 2: Invasions Past, Present, and Yet To Come (Mumon, Bushwick, and S.U.M.1)

Friday, December 15th, 2017 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

MumonI ran up the steps in the Hall Building, hurrying from the basement where I’d just seen Geek Girls in the D.B. Clarke Theatre to reach the big Hall Auditorium in time to catch my second film of the day. The doors of the auditorium were still open, and I raced in and found a seat just as the movie began. It was called Mumon: The Land of Stealth (Shinobi no kuni), and I settled in knowing I had two more movies to see afterward. Mumon was a period film about ninjas fighting an invasion, and following that would come Bushwick, about residents of a Brooklyn neighbourhood fighting an invasion, then S.U.M.1, a German movie about people in a dystopian future fighting a (possible) invasion. A theme appeared to be emerging. (Two notes: one, Bushwick is now on Netflix in Canada and the US, so for those looking for a quick take on the film I’ll say that it’s a good enough movie I wish it were better; two, S.U.M.1 has now been given an expanded title, Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1.)

Mumon: The Land of Stealth was directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura (whose previous film The Inerasable I quite liked) and written by Ryou Wada based on Wada’s novel Shinobi no Kuni. It’s the sixteenth century, and Nobunaga Oda is trying to unify feudal Japan. Standing in the way is the Iga Province, home to the Iga ninjas who will kill anyone for hire. Most prominent among them is one Mumon (Satoshi Ohno), who is as lazy as he is skilled. But his amoral actions lead to a revenge-driven betrayal, setting up a battle between Oda’s forces and the ninjas of Iga. But who is one to cheer for in a battle of soldiers and contract killers?

There are some weighty elements to Mumon, posing questions about morality and loyalty and community spirit. Ninjas kill people for money, and being purely mercenary, the ninjas of Iga don’t immediately come together to make any kind of effective resistance to Oda. Mumon’s no exception, except perhaps insofar as his drive for financial reward comes about in part to keep his beloved wife Okuni (Satomi Ishihara, Hange in the live-action Attack On Titan films) in the style to which she is accustomed. The overall challenge, then, is for Mumon to grow as a person and rally his people as a community to fight off their invaders. That sounds like a fairly lightweight, if not simple, theme; but the movie goes some unexpected places.

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A Complete List of Coverage of the Fantasia International Film Festival

Saturday, August 4th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge


The Fantasia International Film Festival is one of the largest genre film festivals in North America, typically drawing more than 100,000 viewers each year. Fantasia plays movies from around the world, across any number of genres: fantasy, science-fiction, horror, crime, western, and many more. Matthew David Surridge has covered the festival for us each year from 2014 on. Below is a list of Black Gate’s reviews from Fantasia:




Fantasia 2018

Five Fingers of Death, the Shaw Brothers kung fu classic
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, a wondrous high-fantasy anime; and Unity of Heroes, a historical kung fu film
Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana, a documentary about an American comics artist put on trial for obscenity
Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura, a whimsical urban fantasy; and Aragne: Sign of Vermillion, a horror anime
Cold Skin, a period horror-suspense film; and L’Inferno, a 1911 adaptation of Dante’s Inferno screened with a musical accompaniment by Goblin’s Maurizio Guarini
The Scythian, a medieval Russian sword-and-sorcery film
Neomanila, a bleak neorealist neo-noir
Mega Time Squad, a time-travel comedy; and I Have a Date With Spring, a surreal metafiction with aspects of horror
Room Laundering, a comedy-drama ghost story
Cam, a thriller about the world of webcams
The Fortress, a character-focussed historical war movie about Korea’s Joseon dynasty fighting against an invasion from Qing China
Under the Silver Lake, a surreal and intricate mystery-satire; and Laplace’s Witch, a science-fiction film with mystery elements
A Rough Draft, a blockbuster adaptation of Sergey Lukyanenko’s novel of hidden alternate worlds; and The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot, a meditative film with occasional action elements
The Travelling Cat Chronicles, a ruthless tearjerker; and Da Hu Fa, an animated martial-arts fantasy
The 2018 Born of Woman showcase of short genre films by women
Fireworks, an animated time-twisting romance; and Lôi Báo, a low-key super-hero story
Wilderness (parts one and two), a near-future boxing epic; and Parallel, a science-fictional suspense thriller with elements of social satire
The Dark, a graphic horror story with fairy-tale aspects
I Am a Hero, a zombie-apocalypse manga adaptation; Bleach, a blockbuster supernatural-action manga adaptation; and Inuyashiki, a super-hero thriller manga adaptation
Comments from Shinsuke Sato, director of the three films above
Violence Voyager, an ironic animated horror story
The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion, a super-hero suspense film; and Blue My Mind, a film mixing realism and body horror
Blood and Black Lace, Mario Bava’s classic surreal giallo horror thriller
The Witch in the Window, a classic and humanistic haunted-house tale; and Ajin: Demi-Human, a violent super-hero action film
Laughing Under the Clouds, a historical fantasy manga adaptation; and the Afromentum showcase, presenting short films of the fantastic by Black filmmakers
Punk Samurai Slash Down, a surreal and occasionally metafictional historical satire
Penguin Highway, an anime feature about a boy investigating the appearance of penguins in his small town; and the International Science Fiction Short Film Showcase 2018
One Cut of the Dead, a surprisingly uplifting comedy about moviemaking, with horror elements
Reviews of short animated films from the My First Fantasia showcase, by Eva May Surridge, age 8
Buffalo Boys, an Indonesian martial-arts Western; Luz, an experimental horror film; and Crisis Jung, a transgressive animated webserial
Cinderella the Cat, an animated reworking of a fairy tale into a crime-sf story
Pourquoi l’étrange Monsieur Zolock s’intéressait-il tant à la bande dessinée?, a 1983 documentary about European comics; and Tokyo Vampire Hotel, a frenetic action-horror film
Mandy, a psychedelic revenge-horror movie
The Brink, a Hong Kong action movie; and The Outlaws, a Korean crime film based on a true story
Tigers Are Not Afraid, an urban fairy-tale of the Mexican drug war
Heavy Trip, a comedy about metal music; and Madeline’s Madeline, an experimental film about a talented teen struggling with mental illness and controlling adults
Five Fingers For Marseilles, a twenty-first century Western set in South Africa
The Vanished, a Korean mystery-thriller based on a Spanish original
Lifechanger, a character-oriented horror film
Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings, a special-effects blockbuster set in Tang China
Lords of Chaos, a darkly comic biographical drama about the pioneering black metal band Mayhem

A look back at Fantasia 2018



Fantasia 2017

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, a live-action SF-adventure manga adaptation
Atomic Blonde, an action-espionage movie
Tilt, an arthouse suspense film; A Ghost Story, a quiet film about death and what’s beyond; and Museum, a live-action adaptation of the crime-thriller manga
SpectrumFest, a collection of short films by young filmmakers on the autism spectrum; and the International Science Fiction Short Film Showcase 2017
Mohawk, a historical action-horror film
Final Master, a historical kung fu film; and Tokyo Ghoul, a live-action adventure-horror manga adaptation
The Honor Farm, a coming-of-age horror film; Shock Wave, an action movie; and Free and Easy, an ironic small-scale crime film
Animals, a German horror-suspense film; Wu Kong, a blockbuster based on the classic Chinese character; and House of the Disappeared, a Korean remake of a Venezuelan magical realist film
The Laplace’s Demon, an Italian horror film in a classic style
Napping Princess, a near-future fairy-tale anime; and Welcome to Wacken, a VR documentary
Born of Woman, a showcase of short genre films by women; and A Day, a time-loop thriller movie
The H-Man, a classic Japanese science-fiction film; Bastard Swordsman, a Shaw Brothers adaptation of a wuxia novel; and Gintama, a live-action comedic SF-historical manga adaptation
An interview with Grady Hendrix, who presented his book Paperbacks From Hell, examining the horror paperback boom of the 1970 and 1980s, at Fantasia
Junk Head, a visionary stop-motion horror-SF film
Death Note: Light Up the New World, a Japanese live-action manga adaptation
78/52, a documentary about the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho
November, a folklore-rich historical fantasy from Estonia; and Tokyo Idols, a documentary about fandom and Japanese pop singers
Town in a Lake, a surreal crime film; and Let There Be Light, a documentary about nuclear fusion
Fritz Lang, a historical crime film; and The Crazies, George Romero’s classic horror film
Attraction, a science-fiction epic; and three animated short films from three different Asian countries, “Valley of White Birds,” “Scarecrow Island,” and “Cocolors”
Geek Girls, a documentary about women in fandom
Mumon, a Japanese historical action-comedy about ninjas; Bushwick, about a mysterious invasion of a Brooklyn neighborhood; and S.U.M.1, a SF-suspense film
Night Is Short, Walk On Girl, an animated adaptation of a novel about Japanese university students; Deliver Us, a documentary about exorcism in modern Italy; and Blade of the Immortal, a live-action adaptation of the historical-fantasy manga
Lu Over the Wall, an animated children’s fantasy; Spoor, a drama with elements of mystery; and Nomad, a post-apocalypse fable
Indiana, a surreal story of ghosts and family; Fashionista, a surreal suspense film; and Suspiria, a classic giallo horror fairy-tale
Japanese Girls Never Die, an adaptation of a satirical novel; Broken Sword Hero, a Thai historical martial-arts film; and God of War, a Chinese historical epic

A look back at Fantasia 2017




Fantasia 2016

Outlaws and Angels, a gritty western
Report on a master class by Guillermo del Toro; Dark Side of the Moon, a suspense film; Creature Designers — The Frankenstein Complex, a documentary about Hollywood monster makers; and Rupture, a SF suspense film
Parasyte Parts One and Two, a live-action horror-SF manga adaptation; La Rage du Démon, a documentary-style horror film; For the Love of Spock, a documentary about Leonard Nimoy; and Terrarformars, a live-action SF-action manga adaptation
Beware the Slenderman, a documentary about two child killers; In a Valley of Violence, a revenge western; and The Unseen, a SF-horror film about a man slowly becoming invisible
The Love Witch, an ironic film about witchcraft and murder; and The Wailing, a powerful Korean horror movie
The Throne, a historical drama; and The Lure, a fairy-tale horror musical
Momotaro, Sacred Sailors, an animated WWII-era Japanese propaganda film; The Alchemist Cookbook, an independent horror movie; and Library Wars: The Final Mission, the second part of an action-SF light novel adaptation
Psychonauts, the Forgotten Children, a haunting surreal animated film; and Harmony, a SF anime
Shelley, a suspense film; The Inerasable, a Japanese horror film; and Seoul Station, an animated zombie movie
Assassination Classroom: Graduation, the second part of a comedic SF manga adaptation; Revoltoso, a stop-motion animated film set during the Mexican Civil War; Nova Seed, an animated film recalling classic Saturday morning cartoons; and short films at the Samsung Virtual Reality Experience
The first Born of Woman showcase, presenting short genre films by women; Realive, a SF film about cryogenics; and Tank 432, a SF-horror movie
Flame of the Martial World, a Shaw Brothers Studio extravaganza; and the Fragments of Asia 2016 short film showcase
If Cats Disappeared From the World, a Japanese film about death, diabolic bargains, and changed timelines; and Superpowerless, a meditation on heroes, superheroes, relationships, and aging
We Go On, an upbeat horror film; Aloys, a quiet private eye film; and Therapy, an exuberant horror film
Lace Crater, an American horror-comedy; and Under the Shadow, an Iranian horror movie
Collective Invention, a Korean social satire; and Too Young to Die!, a teen comedy about getting out of hell
Battledream Chronicles, an animated YA dystopia from Martinique; the 2016 International Science Fiction Short Film Showcase; and The Dwarvenaut, a documentary about Stefan Pokorny, an old-school D&D miniature maker
Train to Busan, a zombie action film; and Operation: Avalanche, a satirical movie about filmmakers faking the moon landing
Before I Wake, a fable-like horror film; and The Top Secret: Murder in Mind, a sf manga adaptation
Embers, a post-apocalypse film that plays like literary SF; L’Élan, a comedy about an alien in a small French town; and We Are the Flesh, a graphic horror-fantasy
The Arbalest, a dreamlike alternate-history story; and The Piper, a horrific Korean retelling of the Pied Piper story
Judge Archer, an ambitious kung fu film; If There’s a Hell Below, a suspense movie; and On The Silver Globe, a Polish science-fiction classic

A look back at Fantasia 2016




Fantasia 2015

Miss Hokusai, an anime historical fiction, and Ant-Man, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Un homme idéal, a suspense thriller; Kung Fu Killer, a Donnie Yen action movie; and Wonderful World End, a drama about would-be social media stars in Japan
Therapy For A Vampire, a horror-comedy; Bridgend, a gritty teen drama with horror overtones; Assassination Classroom, a manga-based SF screwball comedy; Ludo, a horror film; and Who Killed Captain Alex?, billed as Uganda’s first action movie
Teana: 10000 Years Later, a SF-Fantasy epic; Crimson Whale, an animated near-future adventure-drama; and The Shamer’s Daughter, a high-fantasy YA film
The Arti: The Adventure Begins, a puppet wuxia film; Director’s Commentary: Terror of Frankenstein, a witty postmodern horror film; (T)ERROR, a documentary about FBI informants; and I Am Thor, about 80s Canadian metal singer Jon Mikl Thor
International Science-Fiction Short Film Showcase 2015, a collection of brief SF films; and Meathead Goes Hog Wild, an indie comedy
Buddha’s Palm, a strange Shaw Brothers Studio wuxia film; Ojuju, a Nigerian zombie movie; The Reflecting Skin, a classic film about strangeness in a small town; and Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory, a surreal fantasy-comedy
Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, a documentary about boys who remade their favourite movie; 100 Yen Love, a comedy-drama; The Royal Tailor, a historical drama
On the White Planet, a grim animated film; and The Blue Hour, a romance with supernatural overtones
Nowhere Girl, a surreal mystery-adventure by the director of the original Ghost in the Shell; and Princess Jellyfish, a manga-adapted screwball romantic comedy
Monty Python: The Meaning of Live, a documentary about the comedy troupe mounting a live show; and He Never Died, an action film starring Henry Rollins as a violent immortal
The Visit, a documentary about how the nations of the world are prepared for an alien visitor; and The Demolisher, a giallo-like violent suspense film
Synchronicity, a science-fiction film about time travel; The Dark Below, a nearly dialogue-free suspense film; Traders, a satirical black comedy; and Méliès et magie, a show that collected several shorts by the creator of fantasy film
Ava’s Possessions, an urban fantasy film; The Golden Cane Warrior, an Indonesian wuxia movie; H., a surreal film about extraterrestrials in Troy, New York; and Turbo Kid, a post-apocalypse movie, 1980s style
Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal, a mythic fantasy film; Remix, Remake, Ripoff, a documentary about Turkish pop cinema; Orion, an artistically-ambitious post-apocalypse film; and Socialphobia, a Korean social drama
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, an animated adaptation; Outer Limits of Animation 2015, a collection of shorts; Experimenter, a cerebral bio-pic about psychologist Stanley Milgram; Ninja the Monster, a historical adventure-horror film; and Strayer’s Chronicle, a film about powerful teenagers fighting to protect a world that hates and fears them
Crumbs, a surreal post-apocalypse film; Marshland, a period crime drama; The Invitation, a suspense mystery; and Cosmodrama, a philosophical SF comedy
Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends, a steampunk-adventure manga adaptation; Assassination, a period historical thriller; and Attack on Titan: Part 1, a science-fictional manga adaptation
Poison Berry in My Brain, a manga adaptation about a woman whose internal moods are personified as individual characters; Anima State, a social satire; and The Interior, a suspense thriller
They Look Like People, a drama with horror overtones; Nina Forever, a black horror-comedy; and Hostile, a horror film

A look back at Fantasia 2015




Fantasia 2014

Ghost in the Shell, the classic cyberpunk anime
Kite, an edgy near-future live-action anime adaptation, and Open Windows, a suspense thriller seen through the screen of a computer
The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow, a Korean animated feature; Demon of the Lute, a Shaw Brothers extravaganza; and Patch Town, a dieselpunk fantasy.
The harrowing story of a Korean schoolgirl, Han Gong-ju, and the dreamlike story of a violent rural love triangle, Thou Wast Mild and Lovely
The Zero Theorem, by Terry Gilliam
Jellyfish Eyes, a children’s fantasy; In the Land of the Head Hunters, a 1914 silent film set among and starring the Kwakwaka’wakw people of what is now British Columbia; and The Reconstruction of William Zero, a science-fiction suspense film.
Guardians of the Galaxy, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Faults, a semi-comic suspense film about cult brainwashing, and Predestination, an adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s story “‘—All You Zombies—'”
The Infinite Man, a time-travel comedy, and Closer to God, a suspense thriller about cloning
Once Upon a Time in Shanghai, a martial-arts period piece, and Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, a French 3D animated film
Hal, a near-future anime, and Giovanni’s Island, an anime about boys on a small Japanese island at the end of WWII
To Be Takei, a documentary about George Takei, and The Creeping Garden, a surprising documentary about garden mold
Cybernatural (later renamed Unfriended), a horror film shown by way of a computer screen; The House At the End of Time, a magic-realist horror story; and Time Lapse, a time-travel suspense story
The Fake, a realist animated film, and the Thermae Romae films, time-travel comedies
Real, a science-fictional suspense film based on a novel; Black Butler, a live-action anime adaptation; and The One I Love, a low-key supernatural comedy
When Animals Dream, an experimental horror film; Space Station 76, a science-fiction pastiche comedy; and Welcome to New York, a political satire
Kundo: Age of the Rampant, a Korean historical adventure film; and The Midnight Swim, a meditative tale of the supernatural

A look back at Fantasia 2014

Fantasia 2017: Some Thoughts, Looking Back

Sunday, December 31st, 2017 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Fantasia 2017With another year’s worth of Fantasia reviews now finished, I thought I’d take the time once again to look back at what I saw and write a general overview of the films as a whole. Doing so this year, though, leads to thoughts about film on a slightly larger scale than just Fantasia alone.

I saw a bit more than fifty movies this year at Fantasia. That includes films from a range of genres, but I want to write here about the fantasy and science-fiction movies I saw. And more than that, I want to write about what I’m seeing in the cinema of the fantastic in general.

What I want to observe, mainly, is this: it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that we’re in a golden age of fantasy and science-fiction cinema. Obviously there are any number of summer blockbuster films coming out of Hollywood. But there are also epics from China, and lavish manga adaptations from Japan. And more than that, from around the world there are intelligent, gripping and more-or-less independent genre films being made. There’s a flood of work out there to watch. What surprises me, given all this, is how little I hear about it.

Distribution and marketing still play a significant role in determining what films make it to theatres, and, perhaps more important these days, what films get written about online. It’s easy to hear about a Marvel movie, or even about a major Netflix original movie. But there’s a lot out there beyond those things. You can’t help but notice, for example, that Netflix doesn’t carry the Japanese adaptation of Death Note; use that service and you’re stuck with the whitewashed adaptation for American audiences.

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Fantasia 2017, Day 1: The Bizarre Adventure Begins (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable)

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Fantasia 2017The body has a memory, memory activated by the time of year and the weather and the repetition of physical activity. Every year now as summer passes its midpoint, walking through Montreal evokes for me a sense of wonder and anticipation: a physical remembrance of the Fantasia International Film Festival. I’ve covered Montreal’s genre film festival for Black Gate the last three years, walking downtown during the days of the festival and then walking back at night marveling at the things I’ve seen. Last Thursday for a fourth year I set out for the Fantasia theatres at Concordia University’s downtown campus; and so here is the first installment of my Fantasia diary for 2017.

As always, I’m looking forward over the coming weeks to things I’ve heard of and things I’ve never heard of. I’m trying to figure out what movies I’ll have to pass on seeing in order to watch other movies scheduled against them, and then what movies I’ll be able to see on a computer monitor in the Fantasia screening room. This year the recipients of the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Awards are a little outside my immediate areas of interest — B-movie auteur Larry Cohen, luchador and movie star Mil Máscaras, and Cüneyt Arkin, star of over 300 Turkish films including The Man Who Saved the World (Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam, also known as “Turkish Star Wars”). But who knows if I’ll find myself sitting in on a screening of one or more of their varied works?

This year I began my Fantasia experience on the festival’s first night, Thursday July 13, with a viewing of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable. I arrived early, reaching the Hall Theatre at 8:30 PM for a 9:45 screening, and found a line-up of ticketholders already stretching a good 200 feet. The movie’s directed by Takashi Miike, a winner of last year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, with a script by Itaru Era based on the long-running manga by Hirohiko Araki. I happened to watch this showing in the company of the redoubtable Dave Harris of; neither of us had any experience of the manga, but after the movie we were able to speak briefly with some friends of Dave’s who were fans of the comics. “11 out of 10,” said one, while another said that the movie was so faithful it replicated specific panels on the screen. So: if you’re a fan of the source material, you will like this movie. What about those who aren’t?

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