Thursday, 1 December 2016

Female Filmmakers Continue to Take Centre Stage in Canada: THE SUN AT MIDNIGHT - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Whistler Film Festival 2016

The Sun at Midnight (2016)
Scr/Prd/Dir. Kirsten Carthew
Pre. Amos Scott
Eprd. Anne–Marie Gélinas

Starring: Devery Jacobs, Duane Howard

Review By Greg Klymkiw

When Lia (Devery Jacobs) is forced to live with her grandmother in the subarctic town of Fort McPherson, she's ill-prepared for the sun which never seems to set. It's a world she doesn't know and as such, she's as caught between two worlds, not unlike the glistening orb that seems to hang, so strangely to her eyes, so ever-present in the sky. She'd prefer to stay in the city with her Dad, but alas he must go off to work the mines and she needs to be with the only family she has.

There's a price to be paid for returning to roots she never felt in the first place. She carries herself with the air of a stranger and is bullied for her big-city ways. Without giving the town a chance, she makes the unwise choice to flee.

The Sun at Midnight is a sensitive, poignant, beautifully acted portrait of a young woman trying to find herself. She feels like a stranger in a strange land and yet, as the film progresses, we see her blossom into her own person in a world she comes to know as her own.

It's a survival story, after all.

Lia jumps into a boat and attempts to find civilization. What she finds is a whole lotta trouble in the middle of nowhere. The elements and nature are formidable forces. So too are the less-than-friendly country-cousin hunters with an eye only on her youth and beauty.

Happily, she makes the acquaintance of Alfred (Duane Jones), a wise, old caribou hunter who takes her under his wing. They develop a deep friendship and through the course of their journey, that sun that hangs so ever-presently, becomes as natural to her as the world she rejected.

Of course, no survival tale would be complete without an ultimate challenge and when it comes, it's a lollapalooza!!! As is the film, of course.


The Sun at Midnight plays at the Whistler Film Festival 2016

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Spotlight on first-rate independent Canuck Cinema by female directors at the visionary Whistler Film Festival 2016 - THE DEATH (AND LIFE) OF CARL NAARDLINGER by Katherine Schlemmer - Review By Greg Klymkiw

The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger (2016)
Scr/Dir. Katherine Schlemmer
Prod/Ed. Carl Laudan

Starring: Matt Baram, Grace Lynn Kung, Mark Forward
Anand Rajaram, Beatriz Yuste, Ryan F. Hughes

Review By Greg Klymkiw

For a schlub who spends eight hours a day taking telephone complaints under the glare of fluorescent lights in a nondescript office-cum-hovel, the geeky, gawky Carl Naardlinger (Matt Baram) lives a very charmed life. With Pam (Grace Lynn Kung), a babe-o-licious, uber-real-estate-seller of a wife who loves him madly, this is a guy who seems to have it all. And so, he thinks he does, until his birthday celebrations are interrupted by a doorbell ring of fate. A detective (Anand Rajaram) has appeared at the front porch of the lovely suburban bliss of Chez Naardlinger to investigate a missing person's case. And just who's missing?

Carl Naardlinger, of course.

The only problem is that Carl is not missing. An even bigger problem, is that there appears to be someone bearing his unique appellate who is missing. Carl, should leave well enough alone, but he slowly becomes obsessed with investigating the disappearance of the other Carl Naardlinger (Mark Forward), a pudgy, schlubby baker who roomed with an almost insanely schlubby married couple (Beatriz Yuste, Ryan F. Hughes).

Oh, and to add to the morass, it appears as if the baker Naardlinger has a doppelgänger.

Katherine Schlemmer's sprightly directorial debut yields a queerly delightful comedy of coincidence which leads its characters and the audience on an odyssey into the very heart of what it means to be human in a seemingly apportioned world that, below its surface, roils with crises of identity. Much of the film is delivered by its superb cast in perfect deadpan, so much so, that at one point, when the film explodes into a volcano of mad, manic overlapping dialogue, the effect is as jolting as it is hilarious.

One of the fascinating elements of the film is that much of its running time is set within a ravine cutting its way through the cold, cement of the city and we get a real sense of two physical solitudes which mirror those of the emotional variety. This is both clever and oddly moving.

Given the importance of coincidence within the framework of the narrative, there is a point during the final third of the film where one wants the picture to soar into a kind of reverie that goes well beyond the simple coincidence of the story. It almost gets there when we follow one of the Naardlinger doppelgängers though a kind of natural fantasia amidst the greenery of the ravine. Reality, however, rears its head. This is hardly a flaw, though, as it forces us to soar on a completely new plane.

It defies expectations and if anything, this is what makes this delicious ugly duckling of a movie both loveable and irresistibly piquant.


The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger plays at the 2016 edition of the Whistler Film Festival.

Saturday, 26 November 2016


The Sublet (2015)
Dir. John Ainslie
Scr. Alyson Richards, John Ainslie

Starring: Tianna Nori, Mark Matechuk, Krista Madison,
Rachel Sellan, Liv Collins, Mary-Elizabeth Willcott

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There are many creepy things about The Sublet. One of the creepiest is the sublet itself and everything it represents. When a young couple (Tianna Nori, Mark Matechuk) and newborn baby move into a mysterious walk-up flat, they should in all likelihood, have figured out that something wasn't quite right.

Sometimes in life and almost always in the movies, such ciphering proves elusive.

Besides, the price and location are right and the place itself is so spacious and comfortable that eccentricities like communicating with a landlord by note might be weird, but what's a bit of eccentricity when everything else seems so perfect?

But that's not all. The place is graced with furniture and tchockes from the previous longtime tenant. Most of it seems just fine, but some of it clearly belongs to someone (or, God forbid, something) that's completely and utterly bunyip.

Queerly, it turns out the flat's address is not even registered as an address with any of the local cable, phone and internet companies. Yeah, that is weird, but it could also be seen as a blessing in disguise.

One of the ickier elements in the flat is the one locked door and no key to go with it. Our couple assume the room is storing private property. Curiosity will, however, eventually rear its ugly head. And curiosity, as we all know, is what killed the cat.

All of this aside, what might really worry me, is the disturbingly ghoulish homeless woman who always stands outside, looking up and drilling holes of both fury and despair into the flat's windows. One might always be wondering, fearing if the lady's acquaintance will be made. If so, will it be benign? Or something unimaginably horrifying?

The aforementioned comprise some of the more familiar, though delightfully oddball genre elements of the screenplay by Alison Richards and director Ainslie, but where they really come into play is in the areas the picture excels in. This is, in many ways a story of deep loneliness and how it manifests itself into sheer, unrelenting horror.

Our stay-at-home Mom grapples with her feelings of postpartum worthlessness and body image as her self-absorbed, pretentious actor husband provides plenty of reasons for wifey to be jealous, suspicious and downright angry. In retaliation she grasps out for any reality beyond the mundane, even if said reality is either a manifestation of mental illness or something altogether paranormal, or perhaps even both.

As a director, Ainslie is clearly playing in the Roman Polanski sandbox of horrific delights, bringing an atmospheric, measured pace, thick with dread and dappled with unexpected bursts of thick liquid crimson during moments of sickening violence which may or may not be real.

His mise-en-scene brings to mind Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant with dollops of Don't Look Now for good measure. None of this, however, is derivative, nor is it displayed in geek fanboy homage. It's designed to deliver jolts that are rooted specifically in the dramatic elements of the screenplay and if anything, to provide a springboard for what Ainslie learned from the Masters to offer-up chills and thrills that are all his own.

There are a few trifling problems with the film. One of the supporting performances is so godawful that you can't believe the performer wasn't fired after uttering one clunky line reading after another. Luckily there is a little pot of gold at the end of this otherwise wretched rainbow that no matter how mind-numbingly incompetent the performance is, you're distracted by the exotic sex-drenched look of the thespian in question.

There is one story element involving the discovery of a secret diary and the readings from it are annoyingly on-point, exemplifying audience hand-holding of the most egregious kind. Worse yet are elements in the tail end of the picture which you'll occasionally realize are distinct possibilities for how it'll all tie up, but you hope and pray the picture won't go there. When it does, the heart sinks.

It is possible, however, that most audiences these days are so stupid they won't see it coming, but even so, it's never a good idea to shoehorn such obvious elements into what is mostly a very unique experience. It gives short shrift even to the dribbling idiots of the Great Unwashed.

I've seen enough movies in my life to sense in cases like this where filmmakers have been forced to compromise their vision by one or more of the following: boneheaded producers, boneheaded financiers, boneheaded distributors and/or broadcasters, boneheaded government funding mavens and all the other boneheaded holders-of-purse-strings types.

All I dare add to this most learned assumption of mine is that the lack of artistic acumen amongst the aforementioned head honchos does indeed place them on the same level as The Great Unwashed.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***1/2 3-and-a-Half Stars

The Sublet is the Closing Night Gala at the 2016 Blood in the Snow Film Festival (BITS)

Friday, 25 November 2016


The Unseen (2016)
Dir. Geoff Redknapp
Starring: Aden Young, Julia Sarah Stone

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The first time I encountered the astonishing Australian-Canadian actor Aden Young was in the late, great Paul Cox's 1994 Tasmanian-set classic Exile. In that film, Young plays a man exiled for stealing a few sheep, which not only embodied his character, but did so in perfect tandem with the director’s trademark humanity. Young's performance in the film left me a shuddering mass of tears, as well as a kind of transcendent elation.

British Columbia-based Canadian writer-director Geoff Redknapp has chosen Young to star in his very odd blend of thriller and family drama (with dollops of Cronenberg-like body-decimation horror). Young's performance binds the picture's disparate mélange of genre elements together. When he's on-screen, which thankfully is a lot, the picture transcends some of its more TV-movie-esque family drama elements.

Young plays Bob Langmore, a northern British Columbia laborer estranged from his wife and teenage daughter, Eva (Julia Sarah Stone). When she goes missing, he must re-assess his responsibilities as a man and father, as well as his ties to a criminal underworld. Adding insult to injury, Bob’s cursed - as is Eva. To reveal the nature of this curse, or rather, affliction, would spoil the picture, but it's worth mentioning that first-time feature director Redknapp is a highly acclaimed and sought-after special effects veteran. Use your imagination here until you see the film.

The film, in spite of its thriller/horror elements, is not especially thrilling, nor is it even scary. It is, however, occasionally creepy, and that’s always a good thing.

The picture works its magic best when it focuses on the working class/crime elements of the story as they impact the father-daughter relationship. Again, Young proves why he's one of the world's greatest actors - we can't take our eyes off the guy and he continues his Paul-Cox-enflamed ability to move us deeply. That said, he's given a run for his money by the compelling performance of Julia Sarah Stone as his daughter. The camera loves her and she's got definite star potential.

Redknapp’s picture feels like his screenplay, especially with the domestic issues, was been worked over one too many times by a few story “experts,” but, as a filmmaker to watch, he’s got the potential to go the distance.


The Unseen makes its Toronto Premiere at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival 2016.

Thursday, 24 November 2016


Kidnap Capital (2016)
Dir. Felipe Rodriguez
Starring: Paulino Nunes, Johnathan Sousa, Michael Reventar, Pedro Miguel Arce

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Canadian-born filmmaker Felipe Rodriguez and a top-tier ensemble cast deliver a riveting "horror" film rooted in the horrendous reality of an Arizona Drop House. Ruthless, organized criminals kidnap Latin American illegal immigrants who are tortured, raped and even murdered. The goal of the mobsters is to secure ransom money. Alas, many of those they kidnap are forced into begging for their lives to friends and family members who are hardly equipped to fork over cash and must, in turn, go into deep debt to rescue their loved ones.

The film focuses upon a basement full of victims, and Rodriguez directs his claustrophobic thriller with a blend of neo-realism and straight-up, nail-biting tension. That the stories are rooted in factual accounts is sickening enough, but the reality of the film's expertly-delivered mise-en-scene is what keeps our jaws agape.

What we experience in Kidnap Capital as mere viewers is happening to people each and everyday. Hats off to Rodriguez and team for making a movie that represents the exploited in a film, one that is not only exposing a terrible injustice, but does so with the highest levels of artistry.


Kidnap Capital enjoys its Toronto Premiere at the Blood in the Snow (BITS) Film Festival 2016.

Thursday, 20 October 2016


I tried Netflix for the free one-month service. It took one day to realize I would never pay for it. Shudder launched today (in Canada, the UK and Ireland). It took about one hour to decide it would stay with me forever.

NETFLIX is poo, SHUDDER is gold.
Netflix was stuffed with unimaginatively programmed product: bad television, (mostly) awful mainstream movies, a lame selection of classics, indie and foreign cinema, plus the most cumbersome browsing interface imaginable.

Shudder, on the other hand, is overflowing with a magnificently curated selection of classics, indie, foreign and mainstream cinema, plus a first rate browsing and navigation interface which allows for simple alphabetical listings as well as a handful of very simple curated menus.

Yes, Shudder is all horror, all the time, but a vast majority of the product is first rate and, depending upon your definition of horror, there is plenty to discover here that's just plain great cinema!

This terrific Val Lewtonesque modern horror film disturbs us with what we CAN'T see, and WHEN we see what we're SUPPOSED to see, we become NUMB with pure terror!

Absentia (2011) ***1/2
dir. Mike Flanagan
Starring: Katie Parker, Courtney Bell,
Dave Levine, Morgan Peter Bell

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There are horrors - everyday horrors we all hear about. If we've never experienced them ourselves, all we can do is try to imagine what they must feel like. But that's all we can do. Imagine. When movies delve into the horrors we hear about everyday, the best of those pictures probably come as close as any of us would want to get to experiencing the real thing. Perhaps the one thing that's worse than knowing a loved one has died - especially in a fashion of the most heinous variety - is the horror of a loved one disappearing without a trace. If we discover that the death has come about in a foul, painful, reprehensible and senseless way, it's ultimately knowing the truth that offers the most meagre shred of solace, or at least, acceptance. Not knowing is the real horror. Not knowing is what haunts us forever. Absentia is a micro-budgeted independent horror movie by Mike (Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil) Flanagan that plays on these fears. Read the full Film Corner review HERE.

Harrowing portrait of mental illness
against a chilling supernatural backdrop.
Anguish (2015) ***1/2
Dir. Sonny Mallhi
Starring: Ryan Simpkins, Amberley Gridley,
Annika Marks, Karina Logue, Cliff Chamberlain, Ryan O'Nan

Review By Greg Klymkiw

One mother, Sarah (Karina Logue), loses her daughter, Lucy (Amberley Gridley) in a horrific freak car accident. The other mother, Jessica (Annika Marks), feels like she is losing her daughter, Tess (Ryan Simpkins), to the child's lifelong mental illness which appears to be getting worse. Sarah's guilt is rooted in an argument which led to the accident. Jessica, hoping a change of environment might have alleviated the mental illness, now feels like their move to a new home is contributing to her child's increasing withdrawal. Sonny Mallhi's deeply moving feature directorial debut is a sensitive, telling exploration of teen ennui and the powerful bond of mothers and daughters. That the story plays out against the subtle, but clearly apparent backdrops of America's financial crisis, as well as that of so many fathers separated from their families to fight a spurious war against terror, are elements which deepen the experience of seeing the film. Read my full Film Corner review HERE.

Antichrist (2009) Dir. Lars von Trier *****
Starring: Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg

Review By Greg Klymkiw

With Antichrist, Lars von Trier has made a horror film – pure, though not so simple. It's a movie that burns its reflection of pain into your memory like a branding iron – plunging itself through your cranium and searing your brain matter, creating that sickeningly sweet stench that only burning flesh gives off and remaining in your nostrils for (no doubt) a lifetime. The pain and by extension – the Passion – also stays with you. A first viewing renders you drained, immobile, and numb and yet, paradoxically there are feelings of profound excitement – that you have witnessed an expression of emotion in ways that only cinema, of all the art forms, is capable of delivering. You are also breathless, and in spite, or maybe even because of the horror you’ve witnessed, you’re almost giddy with the desire to recall every beat, every image and every soul sickening moment of the experience. It’s a movie that demands to be seen more than once – it is a movie to be cherished, savored and devoured as ravenously and gluttonously as possible. Read my full Film Corner review HERE.

A Turkish Delight. A Wad of Depravity.

Baskin (2016) ****
Dir. Can Evrenol
Scr. Evrenol, Ercin Sadikoglu, Cem Ozuduru, Ogulcan Eren Akay

Starring: Gorkem Kasal, Ergun Kuyucu, Mehmet Cerrahoglu,
Sabahattin Yakut, Mehmet Fatih Dokgoz, Muharrem Bayrak

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Baskin is a dense, scary, hilarious, nastily yummy-slurp world of viscous-dribbling mega-perversion that comes to us courtesy of Turkish director Can Evrenol, who has expanded an earlier short film into a pulse-pounding feature-length horror-fest. Though most of the proceedings (insanely thrown into the pot by no less than four screenwriters) are a dream-like blur that sometimes makes little sense, it seems not to matter too much and is probably part of the grand design.

I think.

It matters not.

The film is a supremely entertaining freak-show extraordinaire from a director with talent, style and filmmaking savvy oozing from every conceivable orifice. Read my full Electric Sheep Magazine review HERE.

CITADEL: The face of fear
Electric Sheep Magazine review

Citadel (2012) *****
Dir. Ciarin Foy

Starring: Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Wunmi Mosaku, Jake Wilson

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Numbing, gnawing and sheer unrelenting fear is the primary element driving this creepy, terrifying dystopian shocker. Ciaran Foy’s Citadel, which without question was one of the best films of 2012, trains its lens upon the fears of the disenfranchised – those eking out their existence amidst poverty, crime and societal indifference in blasted-out housing projects – Citadel plunges us into a reality that is as recognizable as it is fantastical. Indeed, given the constant state of bleakness brought about by financial crises and war, these could well be all our fears.

This is one mighty mo-fo of a scary-ass picture. The mise en scène is dazzling and the tale is rooted in both a humanity and reality that will wallop close to home for many. There’s nary a misstep in any of the performances and as the movie inches, like Col. Walter E. Kurtz’s ‘snail crawling along the edge of a straight razor’, Foy plunges us into an abyss at the top of the stairs. In Apocalypse Now (1979), Kurtz (with Marlon Brando’s expert nasal intonations) summed up the image of the snail on the straight razor thusly: ‘That’s my dream!’

Frankly, Citadel is MY dream of one great horror movie.

Fuck it! It’s no dream. Citadel is a bloody nightmare! Read my full Electric Sheep Magazine review HERE.

Klymkiw interviews Citadel Director Ciarin Foy
at Electric Sheep Magazine

Greg Klymkiw interviews

Citadel director

Ciarin Foy

Klymkiw: I was so lucky to see Citadel on a big screen at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. For me, it’s definitely a Big Screen experience and even though so many independent genre films get relatively modest big screen exposure at festivals and in limited theatrical runs for an eventually larger life on the small screen via DVD, VOD, etc., I can’t help but assume you crafted the picture with Big Screen at the forefront.

Foy: That’s very true. I think especially so in terms of the soundscape. Sound was an important big screen element when you’re going into a 5.1 sound mix.

Yes, the aural landscape, if you will, is alternately subtle and jarring, but it seems to me that your visual design always felt bigger than life and yet, in so doing, captured life and reality so much more powerfully than many similar genre films.

Yes, we had a fairly extended series of preparatory discussions about the aspect ratio and at first I was thinking in terms of the aesthetic and practical pros and cons between a 2:35 landscape or something closer to 1:85. Trying to capture Tommy’s agoraphobia was a big part of this and my initial feeling was to go wider. At the same time, I really wanted to build in much longer, more extended takes to capture Tommy’s condition. However, working within modest means you begin to realize that cinemascope-styled frames need more lights, more art direction, and that extended shots take longer to plan and shoot, especially with actors getting their marks and so on. We eventually settled on the 16:9 aspect ratio. Read my full Electric Sheep Magazine interview with Ciarin Foy HERE.

There is a light at the end of the CITADEL tunnel,
and it's a drawer-fillingly scary as it is positive.

CITADEL (2012) *****

Dir. Ciarán Foy

A New Appreciation

By Greg Klymkiw

Welcome to this special edition of the Greg Klymkiw Film Corner where I will be presenting an all-new in-depth review and analysis of Ciaran Foy's contemporary masterpiece of horror CITADEL. This article is a preview of a chapter I'm adding to my book about the visual techniques of cinematic storytelling. Entitled "Movies Are Action", my book has been a culmination of over 30 years in the movie business - producing and/or co-writing numerous independent features, seeing and studying over 30,000 motion pictures, covering cinema as a journalist in a wide variety of publications and teaching for 13 years at the Canadian Film Centre (founded by Norman Jewison) wherein I had the honour to serve as the producer-in-residence and senior creative consultant for over 200 screenwriters, directors, producers and editors.

It's become very clear to me that Mr. Foy's astounding first feature film CITADEL is not only one terrific movie that introduces the world of cinema to a genuine original with filmmaking hard-wired into his DNA, but that his film can and should also serve as a template to all young filmmakers on the precipice of diving into the breach. It's lonely out there, kids, and there's nothing better than using such a mature, accomplished and extraordinary work by someone who is, for all intents and purposes, your peer. Here on this site, you'll be reading a reasonably polished first draft of the chapter to appear in my book, but I'm confident you'll find, thanks to Mr. Foy's great film, a few nuggets to take with you onto the battlefield. -- Greg Klymkiw

Read my full in-depth Film Corner analysis of Citadel HERE.

Only Canucks from Collingwood
would think to unleash Civil War Zombies
Exit Humanity (2011) ***
dir. John Geddes

Starring: Mark Gibson, Dee Wallace,
Stephen McHattie, Bill Moseley, narrated by Brian Cox

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Exit Humanity, a zombie western from the visionary psychopaths at Foresight Features in Collingwood, is certainly one of the strangest and more compelling movies I've seen in some time. In fact, while it clearly belongs in the horror genre (there are zombies, after all), the picture feels a lot more like it's rooted in a tradition of magic realism and fairy tale. It doesn't quite gel, but in spite of this, it's a solid feature debut for a director who will have a long, fruitful career ahead of him. His film begins with an all-out, no-holds-barred brutal battle sequence twixt the opposing blue and gray forces of the American civil war. As the carnage heats up, a third fighting element creeps into the madness - zombies. Even though the war soon ends, a dark cloud appears over the land and during the reconstruction period, a plague spreads across the once-divided, but now tenuously-melded nation. The living dead, you see, rise to eat the living. Read my full Film Corner review HERE.

SHUDDER is the all-new streaming service devoted to horror. Available in Canada, UK and USA, SHUDDER is expertly CURATED by programmers who know their shit (and then some), including TIFF's magnificent Midnight Madness king of creepy (and head honcho of Toronto's Royal Cinema, the best goddamn repertory/art cinema in Canada), Colin Geddes. It's fucking cheap and notably, cheaper than that crapola Netflix. Get more info and order it RIGHT FUCKING NOW by clicking HERE!!!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

UNDER THE SHADOW - TORONTO AFTER DARK 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Horror film against the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s will knock you on your ass!

Under the Shadow (2016)
Dir. Babak Anvari
Starring: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Living in Tehran during the eight long years of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s was terrifying enough with endless bombs dropping. Eventually, with the threat of missiles from Iraq, the city emptied to ghost town proportions. Against this backdrop is one of the most creepy, harrowing and heart-stoppingly scary movies of the year.

Shideh (played by the intense and babe-o-licious Narges Rashidi) lives the life of a housewife and Mom to hubby Iraj (Bobby Nederi) and daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) respectively.

After unceremoniously being booted from medical school for her "political" leanings, she's disappointed to learn that after years of repentance, she will still be barred from completing her studies. Iraj is sympathetic, but he is a practising doctor himself and tries to placate her with taking solace in the good life they have together.

She's having none of it. Even in the repressive world they live in, she yearns for independence and self-fulfilment - perhaps, even, to a fault. When Iraj is drafted into military service, she refuses to leave Tehran with Dorsa and into the relatively safe harbour of her in-laws. As bombs and missiles strike the city with more frequency, Shideh gets frantic telephone calls from Iraj, begging her to leave.

Infused with the similar kind of Dustin Hoffman from Straw Dogs ethic of "This is our home", Shideh digs her heels in.

However, other than a war waging, there's another problem which creepily, insidiously begins to plague the family's home. Is it a ghost? A demon? A Djinn?

If it's an evil Djinn, this is definitely not a good thing.

Shideh is, however, a woman of reason, of logic, of intellect. She refuses to believe in old Arabic superstitions. But soon, the horror visiting upon her is far too real to ignore.

Under the Shadow is a slow burn. What begins as a domestic drama during wartime starts to unravel itself into a full blown horror film. You'll never see the first jump-scare coming, but when it does, you will be gasping for breath and clutching your chest. And it's no cheap jump scare. It's earned and rooted deeply in the psychological, cultural and sociological fabric of both the narrative and world of the film.

Writer-Director Babak Anveri displays such control over the proceedings that the visceral moments have the kind of impact we seldom see in contemporary horror films. The film is dazzling and original and one of the few movies that flirts with being genuinely in the same league as The Exorcist.


Under The Shadow is an official selection at the 2016 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

LA CIEL FLAMAND - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Flemish Heaven? Heaven? Really?

La Ciel Flamand (2016)
Dir. Peter Monsaert
Starring: Sara Vertongen, Wim Willaert, Esra Vandenbussche

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I texted the following note to a pal right after seeing Peter Monsaert's La Ciel Flamand.

"Uh, so I just saw this movie in which a sad sack bus driver attempts to rekindle his relationship with a brothel keeper whose 6-year-old daughter has been molested by the town's Santa Claus."

The response I received was thus:

"OK, that does not even sound like a real movie."

I'll admit my tongue was slightly in cheek with this description of one of the most original and moving experiences I had this year, but the fact remains that it's not an especially improper portraiture.

You see, single Mom Sylvie (Sara Vertongen) runs a tidy little brothel with Monique (Ingrid De Vos), her Mother. Bearing the moniker "La Ciel Flamand" (the almost hilariously oxymoronic English translation is "Flemish Heaven"), the modest house of ill repute, nestled off a grubby highway under the grey Belgian skies, is adorned in red lights and within, it seems an especially cozy refuge for gentlemen seeking womanly release.

Still, it is a brothel and Sylvie's six-year-old Eline (Esra Vandenbussche, Vertogen's real-life child) is never allowed inside and instead, spends her time in the car or in the company of the kindly Uncle Dirk (Wim Willaert), our aforementioned bus-drivin' man of the hangdog schlemiel persuasion.

Uncle Dirk is, of course, Eline's biological Dad. His paternal love for the child is unmistakeable, but so is the torch he carries for Sylvie. When the sweet child is molested by a pedophile, the status quo casts aspersions upon Sylvie's profession and fitness as a mother - as if prostitution was to blame. God knows Sylvie herself feels guilt about it, but she's a great Mom, a powerhouse businesswoman and a first-rate provider of the world's oldest services.

The cops are pretty much useless (as they so often are) and Dirk finds himself on two odysseys; one, to find the pedophile and two, to pursue the joy of familial bliss with Eline and her mother.

In addition to the film's unique, often kitchen-sink exploration of both motherhood and loneliness, writer-director Monsaert never casts an eye of reproach upon the sex trade. Indeed, he pens the delightfully warm description of Sylvie's work as providing "hugs" to gentlemen in need of said hugs. (Eline accepts this explanation from her Mother with the sensitivity and openness only children can bring and her spirit is infectious throughout both the film itself and within the hearts and minds of the audience.)

This film's positive portrayal of prostitution is refreshing in both its frankness and clear-headedness. It doesn't avoid the ugly side of the business, but frankly, all business is replete with a fair share of monstrousness.

Monsaert's directorial artistry extends to every dramatic beat, but no place is his eye of observation more acute in providing Dirk's POV of the town's local Santa Clause (or, in Flemish/Dutch/Eastern Rite and other customs, St. Nicholas). When we see the sordid Santa dandling kids on his knee, Dirk sees what only someone looking for the tell-tale signs will see. We see them too. Chillingly, it reminded me of the several times I witnessed pedophiliac tendencies in men. Remind me to tell you sometime about one guy I knew at a dog park (a fellow beloved by many children) who sported a hard-on whenever he spoke to my own child. Scumbag!

What Dirk observes and corroborates beyond a shadow of a doubt leads to a virtual explosion of mad intensity which knocks you flat on your ass, precisely because of Monsaert's observational eye throughout and the quiet intensity with which he permeates this gorgeous, love-filled slice of humanity.


La Ciel Flamand plays TIFF 2016

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

HELLO DESTROYER - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Blood on the Ice of Prince George

Hello Destroyer (2016)
Dir. Kevan Funk
Starring: Jared Abrahamson, Kurt Max Runte, Joe Dion Buffalo, Paul McGillion, Ian Tracey, Ben Cotton, Sara Canning, Maxwell Haynes, R.J. Fetherstonhaugh, Darren Mann, Shane Leydon, Phil Prajoux, David Lennon

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Prince George, British Columbia is often considered Canada's most dangerous city, but in Kevan Funk's dazzling feature-length debut Hello Destroyer, it's not the criminal element anyone need fear, but rather, Tyson Burr (Jared Abrahamson), the newest recruit of the city's minor league hockey team The Warriors. He's a goon, you see. His job is to provide muscle and he delivers the goods with a cool viciousness. He does, however, seem like a perfectly nice fellow in all other respects. He's soft-spoken, handsome, a loyal hard-working teammate and damn it all, downright introspective.

Egged on by his coaches and fellow players to deliver the goods, he's clearly a rising star-in-the-making; a burgeoning Tie Domi in the world of enforcers on skates. He does what it takes and accepts the meagre accolades of his leaders like a bruised, abused dog will still accept pats on the head from its abusing master.

Alas, there is something far more brutal and dangerous in the world of hockey than fists and lumber smashed into the teeth - it's politics. When Tyson's enforcing results in a horrifying and tragic incident during a game, our hero meets his biggest adversary of all; shame, shunning and aimlessness.

In addition to the most Canadian movie never made in Canada, Slap Shot, Canada itself has yielded a number of terrific pictures about its National Sport (Face Off, Paperback Hero, Goon), but none with the genuine force and power of Hello Destroyer. Writer-Director Kevan Funk paints a veritable portrait of Hell; a stylized blend of expressionism and neorealism that keeps us on the edge of our seats.

With cinematographer Benjamin Loeb, Funk seldom jumps out of the intensity of claustrophobic and downright chilling closeups - keeping us as intimate with Tyson as we'd ever want to be. This adds intensity, to be sure, but it contributes to both the confusion and humanity our hero represents. The compositions are always masterful and I applaud the almost-pitch-black opaque qualities of the images, forcing us to look deeply into the gloomiest pits of the game itself.

There are no false notes here. The performances range from juicily (appropriately) over-the-top to creepily deadpan. The film captures small-town Canadiana, team spirit and the dregs of its national support with verve and aplomb.


Hello Destroyer, a Northern Banner release, is playing at TIFF 2016.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

ELLE - Review By Greg - TIFF 2016 - Verhoeven manages unimaginable, makes boring film

Elle (2016)
Dir. Paul Verhoeven
Scr. David Birke
Nvl. Philippe Djian
Starring: Isabelle Huppert

Review By Greg Klymkiw

It seems unthinkable that Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Showgirls, Total Recall) could actually make a boring movie. That he could make a film that's repugnant - in all the wrong ways - is equally shocking. He's done it with Elle, though.

Michèle LeBlanc (Isabelle Huppert) is raped by a ski-masked scumbag in her tony Paris digs, but she doesn't report it to the police. She has other ideas.

Michèle happens to be a dynamo in the world of gaming production. Failure eludes her because she makes her designers, colleagues and programmers suffer her sharp-tongued wrath. She knows what her gameboy customers want and, irony of ironies (ugh), the lads living in front of their gaming consoles want big boobs, blood and rape, especially rape.

Yes, she eventually tracks down her rapist, but not before Verhoeven can provide rape flashbacks and rape dreams. And isn't this all going to be oh-so Francais? She may or may not be out for revenge, but mostly, she seems fuelled by the cat and mouse aspects of the rapist stalking the rape victim and vice versa. Super Ugh!

Working with a ridiculous script, his first in the French language (from what must be a dreadful novel), Verhoeven has made a film that's vagina-stuffed with lame satirical jabs, mostly of the easy-poke variety against gaming and gamers to justify what turn out to be the rape fantasies of his leading lady.

The picture's not funny, nor suspenseful and worst of all, it's a mega-bore. I love Verhoeven, but this is a total misfire. I imagine most psueds and/or film critics will defend the picture and applaud its "bravery" and purported nods to "empowerment", but this is the domain of pinheads, not anyone with taste, compassion and humanity.


Elle is a Mongrel Media Release playing TIFF 2016

Monday, 5 September 2016

DOG EAT DOG - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Schrader Nails Bunker Book Bigtime

Dog Eat Dog (2016)
Dir. Paul Schrader
Scr. Matthew Wilder
Nvl. Edward Bunker
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The first few minutes of Paul Schrader's sprightly and downright buoyant film adaptation of Edward Bunker's classic crime novel Dog Eat Dog plunges us into a kaleidoscopic, drug-fueled fantasia via Willem Dafoe (as the appropriately monikered "Mad Dog"). This juicily ramps up to one of the most shocking acts of violence imaginable, at least within the oh-so-tender context of Mad Dog promising his porcine "lady love" some good lovin' and a mess o' delectable short ribs. And then the picture forcibly butt-blasts us raw into an even more appalling "OH-FUCK-NO-REALLY?" salvo of horrifyingly hilarious carnage. At this point, it's obvious how terrific this movie is going to be.

This is no surprise, really. As the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and director of Blue Collar, Hardcore, Light Sleeper, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, American Gigolo, Auto Focus and the insanely brilliant and unfairly-drubbed The Canyons, the very idea of Schrader directing a Bunker adaptation makes the mouth water. The execution goes well beyond anticipatory salivation - he pins us to the floor and fiercely has his way with us. And we cum and we cum and we cum.

Troy (Nicolas Cage) is the snaky, charming mastermind behind the Holy Trinity of ex-cons which includes the aforementioned Mad Dog and the burly Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook). After performing a series of small-money scams, which they pull off by the barely competent skins of their wobbly teeth, Troy decides the time is right for the ultimate crime-fueled payday. The Greek (Schrader himself, in a gruffly funny turn) offers them the job of a lifetime; their lifetime, anyway. A scumbag gangster owes The Greek a whack of dough and the job is to kidnap the thug's baby for a princely ransom.

To say things go smoothly might be an understatement, but the major league fumbles guarantee knee-slappers aplenty and blood-soaked shenanigans of the most lovingly repellent kind.

Screenwriter Matthew Wilder deftly updates Bunker's book (a period piece would clearly have cost a small fortune and might well have been un-financeable given the film's darkly hilarious overtones) and shifting the locale from Los Angeles to Cleveland manages to up the ante on the sleaze factor most succulently. 

Schrader's visual palate is gorgeously achieved by the sturdy, no-holds-barred lensing of Alexander Dynan, and ranges from grimy 70s filthiness to fine-grained monochrome to out-and-out blasts of garishly happy 80s colour - splashing across the screen like Jackson Pollock on crystal meth. The cutting of Ben Rodriguez Jr. appropriately jettisons the action along without resorting to unnecessary wham-bam-thank-you-M'am gymnastics and both the music and design elements add oodles of panache to the proceedings.

Dog Eat Dog is one of the best crime pictures of the year, but most of all, it had me soaring out of the cinema feeling like a helium balloon (especially when Cage delivers a moving Bogart riff).

Oh yeah, and it has plenty of nudity. One can never go wrong with that.


Dog Eat Dog plays Midnight Madness at TIFF 2016

Sunday, 4 September 2016

I, DANIEL BLAKE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Bureaucrats Who Kill With Joy

I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Dir. Ken Loach
Scr. Paul Laverty
Starring: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Dylan McKiernan, Briana Shann

Review By Greg Klymkiw

In a world where it seems that the poor are better off dying than face the indignity of their supposed benefactors, one wonders what's more evil - the government or its vile, petty bureaucrats who coldly implement policies designed to keep people down whilst supporting the greed of the 1%.

Ken Loach, one of cinema's great humanitarians, takes us on a harrowing roller coaster ride of those caught up in the cold-blooded silos of social assistance in contemporary Britain. I, Daniel Blake tells the story of a 59-year-old skilled construction worker (Dave Johns) who suffers a heart-related accident on the job and rightfully applies for benefits. In spite of his serious condition and a desire to get better and return to work, a soulless clerk purporting to be a "medical expert" ticks off a ludicrous series of boxes which deny him basic care.

He is allowed to appeal, of course, but the process to do so is fraught with hurdles clearly designed to keep people like Daniel Blake from getting what's rightfully due to them. He's eventually shuffled into a spurious bandaid program which forces him to look for work even though he is medically prohibited from doing so.

His journey makes for the stuff of great drama, but screenwriter Daniel Laverty and leading man Johns create a character of considerable humour and warmth. Even as we furiously engage in his plight (to the point of wanting to put our fists into the faces of all the fools on the government side of the desk), I, Daniel Blake is almost endlessly laugh-out-loud funny, often downright joyous.

A concurrent subplot involving Daniel's friendship with Katie (Hayley Squires) a struggling single Mom and her two kids caught up in a similarly infuriating bureaucratic is the source of deeply moving humanity. Though Daniel's character slips into an old-fashioned patriarchal disdain for Katie's tough employment choice to help her kids, Loach allows us to be both angered by his response whilst understanding it completely.

The film creates a rich tapestry of supporting characters, a superb sense of place and small victories which take on the force of tidal wave-like power as Loach plunges us into a world that never feels false. Funny, bittersweet and tear-wrenching, I, Daniel Blake will preach to the converted with aplomb, but should be required viewing for every petty bureaucrat in the world.

Those callous shits need to be strapped into chairs like Alex in A Clockwork Orange and forced to see this film. It will provide a searing mirror image, but also an unflinching portrait of the damage they cause to all those who do most of the living and dying in our world.


I, Daniel Blake is a Mongrel Media Release at TIFF 2016.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MAKI - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Finnish Boxing

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (2016)
Dir. Juho Kuosmanen
Scr. Kuosmanen and Mikko Myllylahti
Starring: Jarkko Lahti, Oona Airola, Eero Milonoff, John Bosco Jr.

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Is it possible for anyone to have a happy day in Finland? Well, amateur boxer and former Olympic champ Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) hopes so. It's 1962 and his friend, manager and former boxer Elis Ask (Eero Milonoff) is not only counting on it, but he comes close to promising that Olli will indeed experience the happiest day in his life - if Olli works for it, harder than ever before. Olli's no slouch in the pugilistic sweepstakes. His record is impressive, but now the stakes are going to be very high because he's been entered into a professional bout in Helsinki against the formidable American fighter Davey Moore (John Bosco Jr.), a lean, mean boxer with over 60 wins behind him.

Can a sweet, young fighter from the sticks really hold his own in a bout touted as Finland's big shot at boxing supremacy on the world stage? For all intents and purposes, Olli is Finland's "Great White Hope" and the pressures placed upon him seem insurmountable.

Worst of all, Olli is severely distracted. He's falling in love.

The love of Olli's life is Raija (Oona Airola), a vivacious, gorgeous, fresh-faced beauty from his hometown. Manager Elis is understandably concerned. The only love Olli should keep in his heart is boxing and the will to win. Olli has other priorities. He's shy, humble and just wants to do his best, but in the world of professional sports, best isn't good enough. He's got to be the best of the best.

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki is one of the best boxing films ever made. Kuosmanen's direction is infused with attention to the smallest details and results in a picture where the stuff of life provides indelible moments of dramatic and emotional resonance far beyond the cliches which litter so many sports films. The love story itself is wildly, deliriously romantic to the point of instilling the most delightful frissons of loving goooseflesh. It's one of the few movies I've seen which manages to create a feeling of butterflies in the tummy which only mad, passionate love can inspire.

Kuosmanen's cast hits all the right notes while cinematographer J-P Passi’s monochrome images carry us back to a time of simplicity, beauty and the promise the early 60s offered, in spite of the Cold-War, which tried to overshadow basic elements of humanity, but lost out to the decency of the hearts and minds of simple men the world over. The period details in the film are first-rate, but never stand out like glistening sore thumbs. They're inextricably linked to character and drama.

And if you don't know the true story of Olli Mäki, avoid looking it up before seeing the picture. Your experience will be blessed with added profundity and joy.


The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, a Norther Banner release, plays at TIFF 2016

Friday, 2 September 2016

TONI ERDMANN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Teutonic Father-Daughter Hilarity

Toni Erdmann (2016)
Dir. Maren Ade
Starring: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller

Review By Greg Klymkiw

If you do the wrong math on Toni Erdmann, you might be tempted to assume a 162-minute running time and its country of origin (Germany) will yield an unbearably dreary slog, so whatever you do, don't be a dumkopf in your calculations; Maren Ade's lovely picture yields one of the funniest, most heartwarming and celebratory experiences you'll have at the movies this year.

Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) is a hangdog retired old schlub who perks up his life (and those around him, when they're so willing) with a seemingly endless supply of practical jokes which he pulls off with costumes (including fake buck teeth) and a totally straight face.

His adult daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller), a public relations executive in the field of international relations is less amused. Her poker face in the joy department matches Winfried's in the gag sweepstakes. There's clearly a deep love between father and daughter, but also an estrangement as she's tried to move on and create a life and career for herself.

When Winfried comes to visit Ines in Romania, unannounced no less, he finds her in the midst of an important campaign involving the outsourcing of jobs (and an attempt to lessen the blow of the optics). Daddy Dearest wastes no time insinuating himself upon Ines and her world. Donning a series of ridiculously cheesy sport coats, buck teeth and a moronic wig (a la Peter Sellers in What's New Pussycat), he assumes the fictional role of "Toni Erdmann", proving to be a blessing and curse to his daughter's business dealings.

This movie is so funny, I needed to constantly gasp for air, but when the picture settles into genuine pathos, tears were shed with equal abandon. Father-daughter relationships have their own unique complexities and writer-director Ade captures this dynamic with considerable artistry.

Toni Erdmann is easily the most joyous experience I've had at the movies in a long time. You laugh, you cry, but most importantly, you soar.

Soaring is good. Trust me.


Toni Erdmann plays at TIFF 2016. It is a Mongrel Media release.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Turgid Tedium Rules Romance

The Light Between Oceans (2016)
Dir. Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander,
Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Early into this historical romance, the two lovers-to-be (Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander) go for an extra-long picnic, walking and talking ad nauseum through hilly, seemingly treeless and wide-open Aussie wilderness until, settling several hours later on a cliff overlooking a gorgeous sunset on the ocean, they kiss and profess their love for each other. As Alexandre Desplat's ludicrously lush score throbs over cinematographer Adam Arkapaw's dull picture-postcard images, all I could think about was when, where and for how long did our lovebirds relieve themselves of waste matter. Worse yet, I wondered about how the two deposited heavier loads with no apparent evidence of toilet paper.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the last thing one should be thinking about in any romance are bowel movements, but think about them, I did - long and hard. And as the film plodded along, I thought about my own need to relieve myself. Thank heaven for tender mercies.

The Light Between Oceans had plenty of potential to be a weepy in the 40s Warner Bros. tradition, but alas it suffers from a horrendously miscast leading lady and worse yet, plods along to a relatively safe denouement.

Fassbender and Vikander play a newly married couple living an Eden-like existence on a remote island - its only practical reason for being is to provide a lighthouse to guide ships from its rocky shores and towards the safe harbours about 100 miles away. We watch them boink like minks, but their attempts to generate progeny result in not one, but two - count 'em - still births. Vikander takes it especially badly. When a small boat washes ashore with a dead man and a living, breathing newborn baby, she petulantly, selfishly insists that Fassbender bury the evidence of the obviously real Daddy and keep the child for themselves.

For what seems like several hours of running time, we watch our couple raise the child as if it were their own. Alas, back on shore, there is the baby's real grieving mother. Rachel Weisz suffers quite magnificently in this role - so much so that occasional sojourns to the mainland by our baby-napping couple inspire Fassbender's guilt to overwhelm him.

Needless to say, things will probably not turn out too well. Unfortunately, instead of some really unbearable suffering, we're dealt the unkindest cut of all, a relatively happy ending tinged with bittersweetness. Some of the melodramatic elements in the movie do indeed work in a rudimentary sledgehammer fashion, but neither the screenplay nor the direction take brave enough steps into completely ludicrous tear-wrenching territory - it's all eventually so bloody tasteful.

Under the circumstances, Fassbender and Weisz acquit themselves nicely and it's great seeing Aussie stalwarts like Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson in top form, but the ubiquitous Alicia Vikander pretty much upends the whole picture. She seldom wipes the dimple-inducing smile from her face and even when she expresses sadness or desperation, there's more giddiness in her visage than anything remotely real or harrowing. In fact, her dimples become so bothersome, one wants to pave them over with cement. Most embarrassing are her line-readings which seem oddly anachronistic. Ultimately, Vikander galumphs her way through the proceedings with such misplaced intensity that the movie galumphs alongside her.


The Light Between Oceans opened the 2016 Venice Film Festival and is now in wide release via Disney.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

I, OLGA HEPNAROVA ***** 5-Star Contemporary Masterpiece - Revised Fantasia 2016 Review By Greg Klymkiw at Electric Sheep Magazine

The astonishing young actress Michalina Olzanska delivers one of the great screen performances of the new millennium.
Dir. Petr Kazda, Tomas Weinreb
Starring: Michalina Olszanska

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A grim, superbly realized feature-length dramatic biography about the last person ever executed in Czechoslovakia. Writer-directors Petr Kazda and Tomas Weinreb have crafted a compulsive, moving and shocking film about mental illness as a genuine affliction. It can result in evil actions, but the perpetrators are, more often than not, sick in mind, body and soul. Healing and caring has escaped them. I, Olga Hepnarová speaks not just for one, but all of them.


Read the full review at Electric Sheep HERE.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Revised and Expanded review of SHE'S ALLERGIC TO CATS - Fantasia 2016 Review By Greg Klymkiw at Electric Sheep Magazine - Link to new review enclosed below

She's Allergic To Cats (2016)
Dir. Michael Reich
Starring: Mike Pinkney, Sophia Kinski

Review By Greg Klymkiw

An all-new expanded review at Electric Sheep Magazine of this endlessly dazzling, deliriously perverse and rapturously romantic comedy about a part time dog groomer who dreams of being a filmmaker by remaking Brian De Palma's Carrie with cats.

Read the full expanded review HERE.


She's Allergic To Cats enjoyed its World Premier at Fantasia 2016

Friday, 26 August 2016

Greg Klymkiw and CFC Media Lab's Ana Serrano flap jaws on VR in Montreal - Virtual Reality at Fantasia 2016 - Includes Magic LINK to Interview by Greg Klymkiw at CFC website

Montreal = FANTASIA, MEAT & VR

CFC MEDIA LAB - VR @ Fantasia 2016

By Greg Klymkiw
With the assistance, sponsorship and programming expertise of the CFC Media Lab at Uncle Norman (In the Heat of the Night, Moonstruck) Jewison's Canadian Film Centre, the 2016 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal hosted The Samsung Fantasia Virtual Reality Experience.

Several of the films in the series proved to be first-rate stand-alone pieces: Remember by Australia’s George Kacevski was a chilling experiential piece involving a woman’s conversation with a computer that is erasing all her memories; Anthony C. Ferrante, famed director of Sharknado 1, 2, 3 and 4 delivered the best of the VR pieces - Killer Deal, a grimly hilarious bloodbath set in a hotel room during a machete salesman convention; and Australia’s Nathan Anderson gave us the wholly immersive and interactive reinvention of the great genre of the 40s and 50s with the post-modern VR NOIR. The Samsung Fantasia Virtual Reality Experience also featured two terrific new productions from the CFC Media Lab: Body Mind Change Redux Teaser and The Closet (both produced by CFC Media Lab Topper Ana Serrano).

As cool as VR is, the technology to deliver the product to its viewers, still needs some modification. The Samsung headsets are comfortable enough, but they are not especially conducive to people who wear glasses, nor are they ideal for those (like me) who sweat like pigs. To the former, I chucked my eyeglasses and used the headset focus to bring the picture into view. This seemed to work fine, only I was seeing a strange mesh-like backdrop which I assume was there because I couldn’t focus to my ideal vision.

To the latter, I was often sweating under the headset and this caused fogging.

Needless to say, this was a tad annoying, especially when immersive interaction was required. The fogging issue is not the end of the world, though. I suggest Samsung build in a de-fogger/defrost system within the viewers. Gentle cold air pumping in would not only clear the screen, but provide a sensual experience for the viewer. This would also add a fetishistic element for those so inclined. After all, who doesn’t enjoy having their eyelids caressed by someone gently blowing upon them?

Ah, but this is mere technology and I suspect the bugs will be worked out (if they haven’t already been). VR is the future and then some. To say the experience was inspirational, wildly entertaining and at times, almost heart stopping, would be an understatement. Participation in the films was to participate on the ground floor of the future and I was mega excited to discuss VR in all its glory with Serrano.

My interview with her can be found on the CFC website HERE.