Fantasia 2023: Curtain Raiser – 10 Movies to Watch

Fantasia — one of the world’s foremost genre festivals — returns to Montreal during a transformative moment for the film industry. Amid the WGA & SAG-AFTRA strikes, there are a lot of questions about how festivals can and ought to proceed. One of the best things we can do, perhaps, is to continue honoring the work these guild members have created and although they cannot show up for public promotions of their films (sadly Nicolas Cage is no longer able to make his honorary awards for this year’s festival edition), we can still do our best to highlight the very best work of a festival that always highlights the best in outsider and vanguard filmmaking. Here are ten films we’re looking forward to from this year’s Fantasia:

Sand Land

Sand Land. Dir. Toshihisa Yokoshima.

Twenty-some years after the arrival of Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama’s manga of the same name, Sand Land is having a multimedia moment. A sheriff, a prince called Beezlebub, and a grumpy demon called Thief walk into a desert. In the short one-book run from 2000, Akira Toriyama made yet another enduring story, for which we are getting a new anime film and even a videogame. The art style is so bespoke, you can cleanly trace the lineage that precedes it in the offroad vehicle design and Dragon Ball-looking characters. The film is premiering in a variety of big-screen formats in Japan and in North America, Fantasia offers a look inside this highly anticipated adaptation.

Deep Sea

Deep Sea. Dir. Xiaopeng Tian.

Chinese animation is in a formative moment, bursting with creative options and Deep Sea glows with an abundance of color and a unique undersea aesthetic. Animation fares better than most mediums in film but it is always a delight to see movies using color with a concentrated and controlled eye for style. This heavily stylized reinterpretation of the great Spirited Away (2003) is a great aesthetic opportunity for Chinese animation to continue expanding its audience during this time of rapid growth.


Booger. Dir. Mary Dauterman.

In her debut feature film, Mary Dauterman blends genres for a curious story about personal transformation and the act of processing grief. A woman’s friend dies, so she watches after her cat, who bites her and then runs away out her window. This isn’t the end of her grief! She begins turning into a cat herself, slowly developing strange new habits while processing one of the greatest losses of her life. Have you seen the wonderful poster? The one of the cat crawling out of the woman’s mouth like a hairball? You’ve just got to see the movie if you’ve seen the poster.

Red Rooms

Red Rooms. Dir. Pascal Plante.

French-Canadian director Pascal Plante brings his third feature to Fantasia. Red Rooms is about our cultural obsession with serial killers, as our main character gets so wrapped up in this case that she begins to insert herself into the story. Cutting between courtrooms and her journey for the truth, her obsession becomes her nightmare in this psychological thriller.

We Are Zombies

We Are Zombies. Dirs. François Simard, Anouk Whissell, & Yoann-Karl Whissell.

What a delight when regional genre filmmakers show up at their local festivals. The Quebecois collective Roadkill Superstars (RKSS) are back with a grisly new comedy called We Are Zombies. These ain’t your ordinary zombies. The movie, unfortunately, refers to them as the “living impaired,” and they’re not the ordinary brain-eating cliche, they just live shallow zombie lives and apparently still need to be dispatched by chainsaws. Based on the cult comic Les Zombies qui ont mangé le monde (running: 2014 – Present). The collective was also responsible for Summer of ’84 (2018), a teen horror comedy in service of terrific effects work. The closing film for the festival.


Aporia. Dir. Jared Moshe.

The consequences of time travel unravel in Jared Moshe’s grief-strewn movie Aporia. Starring Judy Greer, the film is about her process of grief over her late husband who has died in a car accident. She’d do anything to get him back, but should she? When her neighbor builds a time-travel device, her actions in trying to bring the family back together result in some terrible consequences. The film has been picked up by Well Go and looks to be a nice acting centerpiece for the festival.

A Disturbance in the Force

A Disturbance in the Force. Dirs. Jeremy Coon & Steve Kozak.

Can you imagine a time when there was only one Star Wars movie? Only one movie and while the burgeoning fanbase was unprecedented, it was also a total uncertainty that all of the same people, and more, would then show up for the second Star Wars movie. So George Lucas & Co. did what anyone with a terrible franchise idea would do and made a Star Wars holiday special, now infamous within and outside the fanbase, as one of the most chaotic pieces of media that shows off a freeform time for television, where no standards and best practices for making shows were in place. It feels like a galaxy far, far away these days, but this troubled second blotch on Star Wars was, of course, soon replaced by the weight of one of the greatest franchise sequels of all-time. This documentary explores the holiday special and the relationship fans have to this cursed media.

Sympathy for the Devil

Sympathy for the Devil. Dir. Yuval Adler.

While Nicolas Cage will not be able to attend the 27th edition of Fantasia to receive the presentation of the Cheval Noir award, his new movie, Sympathy for the Devil, will still be showing at the festival. We have a big Nicolas Cage-centric plot here. In a reckless night on the Las Vegas strip, Cage’s character enters the car of a driver who he will hold at gunpoint in a game of cat mouse, where more is revealed as the journey expands. The Las Vegas setting ought to provide a neon-streaked setting for a fun car-based bottle thriller. We’re excited to see where this one goes.

Empire V

Empire V. Dir. Victor Ginzburg.

Empire V is a Russian vampire story based on the Victor Pelevin novel of the same name. The story utilizes science fiction constructs to examine layered social themes. We follow a journalist in Moscow who is brought into a group of elite vampires who thirst for money and not for blood. The film traces his transformation and relationship with another newly turned vampire as he enters a dark and greedy organization hellbent on controlling the future of mankind for their own profits.

Shin Kamen Rider

Shin Kamen Rider. Dir. Hidaki Anno.

The must-see genre movie of the moment, Hideaki Anno is reinvigorating the Japanese genre cinema with outwardly stylish action movies with precedence on fun. Shin Kamen Rider promises to introduce a new generation to the totally rad motorcycle-riding bug-eyed superhero. Releasing as a 50-year anniversary of the Kamen Rider brand, the film is a celebration and a totally new approach on a really cool franchise. The best thing about these movies coming back is how they invigorate a fanbase to go check out all the past movies, thus canonizing them, in a way with a whole new generation of Hideaki Anno fans.

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