Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fantasia Film Festival 2015: Horror & Metal, The Perfect Mix

Emilie Noetzel launches into her second day of the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival ...

I started my second day in Montreal with a long walk down Sherbrooke, McGill, and Ste-Catherine Street, from my hotel to Atwater metro station, slowly going about my day and taking photos of random things as I tend to do when left to own devices in any city. This was once my city, but I never used to take many photos around town, so I intend on correcting this. My obsession with lighting fixtures continues! I have taken far too many photos of them and will keep on doing so until I have ALL of them.

My quest to Atwater was so I could stock my fridge at the hotel for this week and avoid costly food outings during the day and late at night if snacky got to me. I was on a hunt for a few fruits that I have not had the chance of finding yet...  They may not be in season. I shall try again later this week by going to the biggest farmers market in town, Jean-Talon. Some people miss the local junk food when they move away from a part of the world, I miss fruits. Maybe it makes me a bit nutty, or fruity.

After a little food shopping, I walked back to my hotel avoiding the main crowds on Ste-Cath while trying to get back as fast as I could since it was sweltering hot and insanely humid and I didn't want my food to go bad IN THE BAG. In retrospect, I probably should have taken the metro...

Back at the hotel I checked my schedule and headed out to go have dinner. Rain had started coming down, not heavily but enough to be annoying. I stopped by a Thai place and had dinner before getting to the Fantasia Film Festival way too early, so I picked up a programme for a friend back in San Diego and proceeded to ready the whole thing cover to cover. I'm an expert on it now. Go ahead. Ask me anything. This book is like a bible for genre film lovers, and it comes out every Summer.

After a while, I got in line for a screening of "We Are Still Here", met fellow press nerds, which I had already seen at the Digital Gym in San Diego, but given the involvement of Idle Hands fiend Heather Buckley, I had to be there in support. Also present was the lovely Barbara Crampton, Director/Writer Ted Geoghegan, Cinematographer Karim Hussein, and Producer Travis Stevens. All four were on hand after the film and were very personable during their Q and A and during the signing afterwards. How was the movie? Glad you asked!

We Are Still Here:
We Are Still Here follows the story of Anne and Paul who have recently lost their son and move into a quaint house in a quiet little town in Norther New York. Soon after their arrival, it is clear that not all is not right within this house. Anne wants it to be their son's spirit making itself known and invites friends May and Jacob to visit so that May can tap into her psychic abilities and confirm their son's spirit has followed them. They quickly discover something much darker is at play. Anne and Paul have been warned... this house needs a family. From there, things get spooky, scary, and downright gory. We Are Still Here quickly turns up the creep-factor and doesn't let you go until the film's finale. What separates this film from most gorefests is the heavy atmosphere and a sense that something could be there there to harm our heroes around any corner. This element created a very effective horror movie without any cheap jump scares. The few fleeting moments that could be considered "jump scares" are used to build up the story and tat sense of dread, so they don't come off as pointless.

It's clear the writing and directing were carefully plotted by a true horror fan and someone who appreciates a well crafted movie. The effects seem mostly practical and look very believable. CGI is used sparingly to enhance that practical effects and add another layer to the spirits in the house. As this was my second viewing of this movie in a few weeks, I can tell you that it holds up very well to repeated viewings. I knew what was coming and still felt a sense of dread.

After the screening, the guys and Barbara signed autographs, met fans, and posed for pictures. To their credit, they all stayed until everyone who was there got their signatures and photos. I had the honor of meeting Miss Crampton and i'm pleased to report she is a sweetheart. Love her even more now.

 With the "We Are Still Here" fun completed, it was time for a screening of the documentary "I Am Thor",  about the 80's metal band THOR with Jon Mickl Thor and Steve Price in attendance. After seeing Mr. Thor at the Deathgasm screening, I had to attend.  It did not disappoint.

I Am Thor:
I Am Thor follows the life and career of Jon Mickl Thor, from teen years training to be a body builder to his attempt at a comeback in the last couple of decades. It come along for the ride as he moves to Vegas, where he was a part of the Naked Waiter show, and then back to Canada, starting his band THOR with multiple band members changes, 2 marriages, 1 divorce, and his attempt at bringing it all back in 1998. This comeback is inspirational; the story of a man who never gave up and did everything he possibly could to get back to his glory days, to his best days, and to keep on rocking. The film uses a lot of previously shot footage and many interviews with people who were involved in his life and his career, peppered with Thor himself explaining what happened. Parts of it are quite sad while others are disarmingly hysterical.  Thor has a personality that makes you want to know more... to see more.

Once the movie was over, Thor and Steve Price came on stage and did a Q and A and played some of their most popular songs. This was predictably loud and crazy, but in the best ways. And I got hurt (which is generally the sign of a good Metal show, but maybe not at a film festival). I haven't shot concerts in a long, long time (besides 2 small rap concerts in clubs in San Diego and LA), and backing up while shooting coupled with my cheap shoes lead to me slipping, knee locked and I'm on my ass on the edge of the stairs. It's still sore, to say the least, and now I have battle scars on my behind which keeps me from sitting comfortably for other screenings and in the car. This may be a problem...

After the set, Thor and Price went into the lobby and signed autographs, took photos, sold merchandise to fans old and mainly brand new. A lot of people there didn't know who they were before the screening and were now die hard fans. I took advantage of the opportunity and met Thor, who is adorable and extremely nice. Thor and Price stuck around until everyone got all the pictures they wanted and every item was signed, again, a sign of good people. Many guys took their shirts off to recreate some of Thor's past poses with him. The atmosphere in the lobby was overwhelmingly happy and energetic, even though it was about midnight at that point. The late hour meant that as soon as all of this was over, I had to go back to my hotel and directly to bed, as the next day is for mom and she was scheduled to pick me up at 9am. Early mornings are fun. Fun fun fun. I will keep repeating that as I slip into a coma.

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