Movies & TV / Reviews

Fantasia 2023 Review Roundup: #Manhole, Home Invasion, Transylvanie

August 8, 2023 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
#Manhole Image Credit: Fantasia IFF

We’re in the home stretch of Fantasia International Film Festival 2023 with just a couple of days left to go, and this year’s iteration has had a number of films that will certainly become favorites when they arrive in general release.

I’ve been busy with watching films from the festival and you can check out some of my coverage here including the Satanic panic documentary Satan Wants You, the time travel-themed films Aporia and River, and more. There are a couple of reviews still coming to look forward to, in addition to the capsule reviews below.


Image Credit: Fantasia IFF

There’s nothing quite like a good single-location thriller to ratchet up the tension. Whether it’s Ryan Reynold stuck in a coffin Buried, a trio of skiers stranded on a chairlift in Frozen or a couple of extreme climbers at the top of a massive radio tower in last year’s Fall, a good set-up can lead to a white-knuckle viewing experience.

#Manhole achieves that tension through a number of twists and turns and its ability to make the viewer question everything and everyone. Michitaka Okada’s script centers on Shunsuke Kawamura (Yûto Nakajima), a realtor who drunkenly leaves a surprise party for him the night before his wedding and falls into an open manhole. Stuck at the bottom with an injured leg with his phone and no way to escape, he creates a false identity on social media to get help and quickly trends.

Okada’s script relies on the audience’s willingness to go along with the concept and see where things go, revealing new details about Shunsuke and others who factor into the story. There’s a bit of commentary about social media here, but the film is more interested in its mysteries and Shunsuke’s obstacles to escape than the deeper themes. And that’s fine because there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri makes effective use of the social media aspects and crafts some nicely built tension sequences, building sympathy for Shunsuke and setting the stage for a wild third act. It’s a tightly paced thriller that doesn’t outstay its welcome, the kind of film that rewards a second viewing and should have claustrophobics gripping their armrests.

Rating: 7.5

Home Invasion

Image Credit: Fantasia IFF

Greame Arnfield has a strong argument in his visual essay Home Invasion, but he loses its way a bit the film’s experimental approach and scattered focus. Arnfield charts the history of the doorbell on a course to explore how paranoia, capitalism and a lax attitude toward surveillance has brought society to a point where Ring cameras have become a sort of spy tool both for their users and law enforcement.

There’s a compelling argument to be made from that thesis, but this surreal viewing experience isn’t taking the best approach. Comprised largely of Ring camera footage in the first half or so, Arnfield eschews talking heads or other forms of interview and instead makes his point through text on the screen. That experimental approach leads to a surreal, sometimes silent viewing experience that is commendable in its audacity but doesn’t find enough on screen (viewed through the fish-eye lens of a peephole) to keep attention from drifting.

The film makes some very valid points at times and is ingenious in how it connects the doorbell and the first home security system to fears of the outside world, but it also loses its way when it tries to bring in the 19th century Luddite revolution and the rise of home invasion thrillers on screen. Some will appreciate the experimental approach here and its willingness to defy conventional documentary style is impressive. But it gives up much of the strength in its argument in favor of its methods and its attempts to be too expansive in its themes. Home Invasion is an uneven first feature that will turn a lot of people off early on, but nonetheless shows plenty of Arnfield’s potential.

Rating: 5.5


Image Credit: Fantasia IFF

There’s nothing quite like a vampire when you want to center your horror film around a singular character. Vampires have stood the test of time because they’re compelling figures who can be monstrous, charming, sympathetic, horrifying, or repellant – and when it’s done well, they can be all of those at any particular moment.

Writer/director Rodrigue Huart taps that vein in his short film Transylvanie. Young Katell Varvat is fantastic as Ewa, a lonely 10 year-old living in an apartment complex who believes that she’s a vampire and is searching for someone to share immortality with and sets her sights on a neighborhood teenage heartthrob. Varvat is able to draw us into Ewa’s world and make us feel her isolation and vulnerability, while never betraying whether Ewa is truly supernatural or just a girl with a defense mechanism against the bulling inflicted by an older girl.

Huart’s film makes the most of its 15 minutes and puts together a complete, well-thought out story for that running time. He captures Ewa’s lonesomeness in heartbreaking detail, framing her lone in shadows or surrounded by the gorgeous but cold buildings and parks outside. There’s just enough blood to keep this on the visceral side of the genre, but the horror comes out most strongly in how it explores Ewa. This is not the most original take on the young vampire tale, but it packs a punch in its economical runtime.

Rating: 8.0

The Fantasia International Film Festival takes place in Montreal from July 20th through August 9th.