By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Fantasia Fest is the event to keep tabs on about which animations will hit a theatre near you. Between this celebration of genre movies and Annecy, a festival of all things animation, the works featured also means which titles GKIDS & Shout! Factory is likely to pick up for release onto home video.
This year is rife with a lot of Japanese pieces I can’t wait to see. There’s even a very wicked selection of eight shorts in Things That Go Bump in the East 2021 Edition, which tops my list. The most promising is Juan-Diablo-Pablo; It’s a showcase of Asian inspired terror! Also, Circo Animato 2021 should never be missed. It showcases the up-and-coming talents.
On the regular front, I offer my top five picks from the twelve pieces being offered. The titles mentioned in the previous article aren’t included to prevent overlap. I’ll most likely see them all (schedule permitting), and this list is presented in alphabetical order.
Anyone fascinated with Cryptozoology is in for a treat. This film showcases all that’s known, and perhaps introduces something new, about the mythic creatures that lurk in our imagination.
The story here is rather simple, the keepers have to capture a Baku, a dream-eater, and they deal with a problem that Newt Scamander (from Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them) never did. And that’s finding a place for them to safely belong instead of put in a cage.
The Deer King
21 August 13h00
This film by Masashi Ando (key animator at Studio Ghibli) and Masayuki Miyaji is bound to have anime fans excited. It sounds like Mononoke Hime but I feel there’ll be more to the story than what the online film summary suggests.
This epic fantasy is about Van, a former soldier, and Yuna, a young girl, caught in a huge fight between two rival empires. The Zoo and Aquafa represent two extremes, and it not just about a fight over territory. The Black Wolf Fever is a disease plaguing the lands, and there’s known cure.
If folks don’t have time to see the North American premiere here, GKIDS has plans for a theatrical run next year.
Frank & Zed
Two corpses have been given life, and they aren’t too happy about their new station. They’re lonely. As they go out to explore the world, they find they’re the monsters and just how they deal is right out of that classic tale Mary Shelley wrote. Frank’s name makes this connection obvious.
However, for Zed, a different type of beast, has a taste for something else. Their creator is power hungry, and this can make for some bizarre puppet-animated fun. The technique used to tell this story caught my curiosity, and I can’t wait to see how different this product is when compared to The Barbarian and the Troll.
This stop-motion animated piece looks crazy spectacular in the trailer, and the cyberpunk influence may well redefine what people can accept as part of the genre. From the synopsis as published in Japan Times, “Humans have figured out how to prolong their lives through genetic engineering, but lost the ability to reproduce. As a virus decimates the population, researchers hunt for the key to their survival in a network of catacombs beneath the planet’s surface, where a parallel society has evolved, populated by clone workers that rebelled against their masters.”
We’re dealing with a familiar type of tale that sounds like Resident Evil reimagined by del Toro based on my research, but as for how similar or opposite it is to Phil Tippett’s Mad Gods, all I can do is wait until this film screens.
Spine of the Night
14 August 21h00
16 August 09h00
RLJE Films chief acquisition officer Mark Ward describes The Spine of the Night as the “insane love child of Heavy Metal and Mandy,” the attention will be strong for this work. This piece made its premiere at SXSW to high praise. The fact this work owes an enormous debt to the style of talents–namely Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta–fans will no doubt love this work. This film needs a disclaimer, as it’s billed as ultra-violent.
The fantasy deals with the tried and true–an ancient evil to which a sorcerer supreme wants to summon up to destroy the world. The heroes that have to be assembled will have to gather more than courage here to deal with this threat.