FANTASIA19 REVIEW: 8 [2019]

I am the wanderer and you are mine forever. It’s a chicken and egg conundrum. Does a demon named Utuli roam the earth in search of souls to consume, feeding on the weakness of those who’ve endured lost to serve as its host? Or does it create turmoil and tragedy precisely to enlist those willing to give themselves over to its quest for satiation—causing the pain it feeds on rather than opportunistically finding the pain we create for ourselves? No matter which choice proves to be correct, we are left…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: Sator [2019]

He will make you pure. Writer/director (and pretty much every other behind the scenes position a feature-length film demands) Jordan Graham‘s grandmother used to hear voices and write the words being spoken down as though they were messages she needed to both understand and follow. She called the orator Sator, “his” name scrawled upon the pieces of paper that ultimately gave these trances permanence through physical form. I can’t imagine how it must have felt for Graham to experience the phenomenon—especially considering June Peterson wasn’t the only one in his…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: 白蛇:緣起 [Baishe: Yuanqi] [White Snake] [2019]

Do you ever have to do what you don’t want to do? Filmmakers Amp Wong, Ji Zhao (directors), and Damao (screenwriter) have taken the Chinese fable Legend of the White Snake and reformatted it into a prequel/remake with sequel possibilities (if a mid-credits sequence is any indication). The concept of reincarnation keeps the characters the same despite letting them meet five hundred years in the past. That’s how long snake spirit Blanca (Zhang Zhe‘s Xiao Bai) has practiced Taoist magic while waiting to achieve Immortal status alongside her sister Verta…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: Homewrecker [2019]

I love drama. Leaving your home always risks an encounter with someone too pleasant and boundary-averse to rebuke. You want to point to the headphones in your ears that aren’t actually playing anything as a means to avoid conversation, but they don’t get the hint because you’ve unwittingly enamored them. Or maybe you accidentally engaged them first in some desperate need for a favor—turning an anonymous acquaintance into a potential friendship you simply don’t have time to foster. What then are your choices when he/she seizes upon that brief window…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: 우상 [Woo-sang] [Idol] [2019]

You take the fault. Two fathers and two sons are embroiled in the aftermath of a cover-up wherein one boy winds up dead and the other imprisoned. Su-jin Lee could have spun his tale with little else since the perpetrator’s (Jo Byeong-gyu‘s Yo-han was behind the wheel, drunk and speeding down a quiet service street) father (Han Suk-kyu‘s Koo Myung-hui) is a political messiah running for governor while the victim’s dad (Sol Kyung-gu‘s Yoo Joong-sik) possesses just enough desperation and desire for retribution to go to court and make certain…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: Black Magic for White Boys [2019]

It won’t be like last time. In a world where white Americans start feeling unjustly marginalized as the stranglehold of power they’ve possessed in this country since its inception begins to show cracks in a bid for true equality that they continue fighting tooth and nail against, they’ll steal whatever advantage they can to retain the status quo. They must since their success arrives from exploitation of labor from the lower class. They accrue a nest egg of profit, keep employees under thumb with the threat of firing them, and…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: Knives and Skin [2019]

I actually don’t want to see what’s about to happen. When Laura Palmer is found dead and wrapped in plastic, her tragic end ripples throughout David Lynch‘s “Twin Peaks” to devastating effect. An outsider in Agent Cooper enters the town to decipher the circumstances surrounding her demise with a cheery disposition that never fades—a direct contrast to the idyllic scene of nature and diner pies soon torn down as though a curtain clenched by the former homecoming queen’s hands, her final wish being the exposure of what lies beneath. It’s…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: The Wretched [2019]

Poked the bear. A witch that feeds on forgotten children has taken hold of a sleepy lakeside village in Michigan. It’s because its victims are “forgotten,” however, that nobody ever seems to notice. Not only do the adults assist it by either providing themselves as vessel (it steps into the skin of women) or servant (men are turned to drones with a whisper), they have no reason to fight back since what they would be fighting for no longer exists to them. Maybe this “dark mother” will infiltrate a target’s…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: Jesus shows you the way to the Highway [2019]

Duty calls for the last time. All Agent D.T. Gagano (Daniel Tadesse) wants is to retire from the CIA and help his love Malin (Gerda-Annette Allikas) open the best kickboxing joint the world has ever seen. Maybe he’ll hone his pizza-making skills and put a pizzeria next door too if all pans out. Before that dream can come to fruition, however, he’ll need to complete his most dangerous mission yet: securing the so-called “substance” from a computer virus known as “Stalin” (Guillermo Llansó) who’s using it to take control of…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: The Deeper You Dig [2019]

Every gift is its own twisted curse. It’s funny where the mind can go when you only know a few details at first. That John Adams and Toby Poser‘s latest family-fueled film The Deeper You Dig is horror was enough to convince me that a line spoken by Ivy’s (Poser) daughter Echo (the filmmakers’ own child and co-director, Zelda Adams) about going hunting meant their game was humans. Was it a wild leap of my imagination? Sure. But here’s a woman dabbling in the occult who tells her goth kid…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: DreadOut [2019]

Don’t you dare say those words. Malignant forces within Catholic tales of evil generally seek to create Hell on Earth by finding a host willing to read the ancient words serving as their key. It’s therefore rare to receive scenes of demonic possession wherein a writhing body with black fluid spewing from its mouth screams for a portal not to be opened. But that’s exactly how writer/director Kimo Stamboel opens his cinematic adaptation of DreadOut—an indie survival horror videogame from Indonesia. He introduces a group of men holding the demon…

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