REVIEW: Western [2017]

“What are you searching for here?” When a group of Germans enter rural Bulgaria on an assignment to divert water towards a new power plant, those unversed in the area and its history wouldn’t think too much about it. Those like me would assume whatever conflict at this story’s back would arise from differing languages […]

FANTASIA18 REVIEW: ペンギン・ハイウェイ [Pengin Haiwei] [Penguin Highway] [2018]

“I might be too amazing for my own good” Adapted from Tomihiko Morimi‘s Nihon Science Fiction Taisho Award-winning novel from 2010, Penguin Highway takes us into a world barely unlike our own. Directed by Hiroyasu Ishida from Makoto Ueda‘s script, the film centers upon a Japanese fourth grader on the cusp of self-proclaimed greatness. With […]

FANTASIA18 REVIEW: 소공녀 [So-gong-nyeo] [Microhabitat] [2018]

“Seems like you’re living a fantasy” What do you need to survive? It’s a common question we all ask ourselves—one that goes beyond the basic tenets of food, water, shelter, and human interaction. I’m talking about the things we cherish enough to put them before everything else. It could be freedom, hobbies, love, or art. […]

FANTASIA18 REVIEW: Pengabdi Setan [Satan’s Slaves] [2017]

“Have pity on the children” It wasn’t until 2006 that cult Indonesian horror film Pengabdi Setan [Satan’s Slave] finally received a DVD pressing after accruing its mystique without subtitles courtesy of a Japanese VHS. The 1980 release from director Sisworo Gautama Putra has been called an unofficial remake of Don Coscarelli‘s Phantasm, its supernatural haunting […]

REVIEW: האופה-מברלין [Der Kuchenmacher] [The Cakemaker] [2017]

“I’m not alone” A romantic drama wielding nationality, sexuality, and religion as crucial dramatic themes without giving into their rigidity atop a backdrop of delicious baked goods sounds more than ambitious—it sounds foolhardy. But writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer set out and accomplished exactly that with his acclaimed Der Kuchenmacher [The Cakemaker]. He travels between a […]

FANTASIA18 REVIEW: Nommer 37 [Number 37] [2018]

“Even a one-legged beggar can lose his other leg” It was a calculated risk lock-picker Randal Hendricks (Irshaad Ally) was willing to make. Borrow twenty-five thousand dollars from a loan shark he’s known since childhood (Danny Ross‘ Emmie) and flip it to some gangsters willing to give him a deal on drugs. Sell the drugs […]

FANTASIA18 REVIEW: 打ち上げ花火、下から見るか? 横から見るか? [Uchiage hanabi, shita kara miru ka? Yoko kara miru ka?] [Fireworks] [2017]

“If …” In a nation of repressed emotions, three young teens find themselves confronting their feelings at what might be their last opportunity to do so. Shy Norimichi (Masaki Suda) can’t stop himself from starring at Nazuna (Suzu Hirose) while his more confident best friend Yûsuke (Mamoru Miyano) admits to wanting to declare his love […]

FANTASIA18 REVIEW: BuyBust [2018]

“People die from following orders too” Police director Alvarez (Nonie Buencamino) and his prized team leader Dela Cruz (Lao Rodriguez) are finally making headway with their war on drugs throughout the slums of Filipino capital Manila. They’ve already cleaned sections long-thought lost to crime and currently have one of kingpin Biggie Chen’s (Arjo Atayde) mid-level […]

FANTASIA18 REVIEW: Vuelven [Tigers Are Not Afraid] [2017]

“We forget who we are when the things from outside come to get us” You know things are bad when the art coming out of an area reaches a point where “dark, metaphorical fairy tale” becomes a necessary style to wield as intense catharsis. There’s probably better markers to highlight when a community’s abject horror […]

FANTASIA18 REVIEW: ルームロンダリング [Rûmu rondaringu] [Room Laundering] [2018]

“Don’t cry. Smile.” According to Kenji Katagiri‘s debut feature Rûmu rondaringu [Room Laundering]—and I have no reason to disbelieve him—Japan has a law stating that landlords must divulge whether a previous tenant died or suffered a violent crime within any newly vacated property to all prospective replacements. But while this rule makes sense considering people […]

FANTASIA18 REVIEW: Sankt Bernhard Syndikatet [The Saint Bernard Syndicate] [2018]

“I call it the panda of the west” There’s something profound about Danish director Mads Brügger‘s documentaries due to his entering dangerous countries under false pretext to capture a result. Whether it’s heading to North Korea as a vaudeville act or the Central African Republic as a Liberian ambassador attempting to infiltrate the illegal blood […]