The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival 2015 – By Jim Morazzini

 

The rain was falling as I started my trek to Saskatoon, a four and a half hour drive into unfamiliar territory. I was venturing into the unknown to catch the last two days of The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival, (formerly known as Dark Bridges). Sadly I hadn’t learned of it until I didn’t have spare vacation days so I had to miss the first two nights. I wasn’t letting the weather make me miss this. I put on some Blue Oyster Cult and headed into the storm.

By the time I was approaching Regina the rain had stopped and I was able to start making up for lost time. I turned up Thor’s Thunder on the Tundra and hit the gas, (sadly I Am Thor wasn’t one of the films booked), letting the car eat up the miles. It was an educational trip, I learned any car gets uncomfortable after about three hours, Saskatchewan actually does have hills and valleys, and seeing the speedometer hit 200 is a great rush, even if it is 200KPM.

Sadly things went a bit downhill when I reached Saskatoon. Traffic was bad and parking worse, it took me so long to get a spot by my hotel I ended up missing A Hard Day. I also found out the hotel’s free parking was very limited. Luckily there was a space and I decided it was staying there, anywhere I was going would be on foot. And after a shower and a sandwich I walked to The Broadway Theater.

The theater was, I was pleased to find, a small cozy single screen place. Just the right setting for something like this. A place with personality, not a soulless multiplex.

I got there in time to get some popcorn and a beer before the start of the next show, the tense and brutal crime thriller The Green Room  Jeremy Saulnier’s follow up to Blue Ruin, featuring a chilling performance from Patrick Stewart as a neo-nazi crime boss. It was preceded by The Stomach, a twisted tale of psychics and gangsters.

Next up was the short The Mill at Calder’s End a brilliant animated mix of Hammer Gothic and Lovecraftian dread, and then the feature We Are Still Here, one of the best haunted house movies in a long time. Since this was my third time seeing it I decided to make a bathroom run near the beginning.  This had the unexpected result of my meeting and chatting with the festival’s organizer John Allison. We chatted about some of the films playing and the festival’s history. I ended up with a t shirt, a pass and the knowledge that Trevor Juras director of one of Saturday’s films The Interior would be attending.

There was a longer wait before the start of the night’s last set, featuring probably the most anticipated film of the event and the most controversial, Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno. The extra time let me do some socializing and ending up with plans to have a few afterward with some of the other attendees. Me being sociable, who would have expected that?

Sadly the night’s films ended on a downer for me, and judging by the crowds reaction a lot of other people. There were two shorts, Recipe, a slight tale of diet taken to extremes and Teeth an odd piece of animation about a very different kind of oral fixation. Granted I’m not a fan of Roth or his films and wasn’t expecting much, but I was still disappointed. Seriously one of the worst films I’ve seen in the past few years.

Things picked up afterward with beer, burgers and conversation with like minded film geeks. This alone was worth the drive living as I do in a rather small town with almost no film buffs of any kind. The time flew by and suddenly we were getting shooed out of the bar. One of the ladies in the group asked if, given the hour, I’d walk her to her hotel which was near mine. Strolling back I was struck with how safe the city felt, and wondered if she wasn’t in more danger from me than anything.

Good movies, good company, good beer and the company of a pretty lass. Who could ask for more?

I had planned to catch the early part of the fest’s Saturday programing but when sleep comes after 5am, getting out of bed before noon can be rough. I showered, dressed and headed out into the rain to find food. I decided on a burger at Stacked, having eaten at one on a trip to CA, it turned out it wasn’t part of the chain just “inspired” by it. But it was still enough to get a few memories to come out and have a look around. Which in turn gave me an idea for a story which for once I made sure to write down. Then I herded the memories back into their lair and did some shopping. I was really coming to like Saskatoon.

I got back to Broadway just in time to grab popcorn, beer and get seated with some of the previous night’s crew for the screening of Cooties, one of the films I most wanted to see. It was preceded by the short Invaders which had everyone howling at it’s tale of a home invasion gone totally wrong. The director has upped it to Vimeo and I recommend giving it a watch. Cooties itself was incredible, probably my new favorite film, (ironically they theater was advertising a showing of my old favorite, Event Horizon later in the month). A horror comedy that respects the genre and delivers genuine scares and tension as well.

Next up was a film I’d planned to skip and go find food, The Interior. But having been told the director was going to be there I decided to stay, and I’m glad I did. It’s a quietly chilling film about a man who tosses everything and goes to live in the woods after being diagnosed with a medical condition. Strange things follow, strange and unsettling things. The Q&A with director Trevor Juras was interesting and Trevor ended up being my first actual interview, (thanks again Trevor). The short that it was paired with, The Vehicle at first seemed pointless, but after a couple of minutes thought the point hit me, and hit pretty hard. This duo may have done better earlier in the day with Felt instead of at night with all the high energy splatstick films.

Heavy metal and horror have gone together from the start and Deathgasm is the most recent fusion of the two. We loaded up on beer for this one and had a blast. What if a song was so evil it really did summon demons? And what if an inept bunch of wannabes did the summoning, and now were the only ones who could undo it? Funny, gory and completely batshit insane this was another that lived up to it’s hype. The shorts A Tricky treat and Point of View were fairly one note though.

And then it was down to the last film, the much anticipated Turbo Kid. We raised our beers in toast as it opened and settled in for a retro ride. And a fun ride it was, (though I will admit to shedding a tear at a certain character’s demise). The short preceding it, Night of the Slasher was a wicked deconstruction of the genre and is deservedly in contention for an Oscar nomination.

And then it was over. A trip to the bar for beer and burgers, additions to Facebook pages and another round of escort duty awaited. And if the colder night made her press closer for warmth well who am I to complain.

I’m looking forward to next year and I will make sure I have the vacation time reserved for the whole event. And I’d encourage anyone in driving range to do the same. Their website and Facebook pages are at the following links:

http://www.skfilmfest.com
https://www.facebook.com/skfilmfest