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Fantasia Film Fest 2021 Review Roundup Part 1 – We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, King Knight, More

August 16, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
We're All Going to the World's Fair

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 is now in full swing, and we have a full explosion of genre offerings whether you’re able to attend in-person in Montreal or virtually. The festival has been delivering some great genre films that are going to be making waves as they get distribution and come to streamers or theaters near you.

I’ve been watching a lot of stuff and you can check out my coverage of films like
like the brutal and intense Coming Home in the Dark and the stellar folk horror documentary Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched here. I have plenty more reviews on the way, and you can check out capsule reviews of a few of them below.

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

Fantasia Review Roundup - We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

Jane Schoenbrun’s timely We’re All Going to The World’s Fair combines body horror, psychological drama, and understated coming of age drama for an unsettling and thought-provoking look at the effects of isolation on us in the internet age. Anna Cobb centers this film with a compelling, often heart-wrenching, and star-making performance as Casey, a lonely and withdrawn teenager who delves into a spiral provoked by her participation in an urban legend-turned online RPG of sorts.

Schoenbrun utilizes a mix of ScreenLife sensibilities and more traditional photography to unspool the narrative, which follows Casey as she watches other people’s documentation of disturbing physical changes after playing the game even as she’s undergoing more psychological changes of her own. The film is a slow build, taking its time with Cobb as she endears us to her character so that the more subtle horror of her progression can really be unsettling. The addition of a second character who contacts her over the internet adds a second, more grounded but no less hackles-raising reason to be concerned for Casey’s well-being. With a minimalist approach, some stellar sound design and a few creepily creative approaches of the online game itself, this will be a deserved hit for fans of bold, psychologically unsettling drama even if it proves challenging for those who prefer their horror big, loud, and faster paced.

Rating: 8.5

King Knight

Fantasia Review Roundup – King Knight

Wiccans don’t have a lot of films about themselves that they can look forward to. Witches are typically portrayed as servants of Satan or, at best, spacey hippies who are utterly ridiculous. Richard Bates Jr.’s comedy King Knight has some of the latter, to be sure. But there’s something deeper in here that makes for a legitimately funny and often heart-warming tale. Matthew Gray Gubler plays Thorn, the High Priest of a coven whose relationship with his lovely partner Willow (Angela Sarafyan) and his coven is thrown into chaos when it’s discovered that he has, what is to these neo-pagans, a dark past. Gubler, a regular collaborator with Bates, shines among a strong cast along with Sarafyan. Both leads are adept comic actors, and they invest their roles with a depth that grounds the movie and allows the comedy to work, and the rest of the cast (including legends like Ray Wise and Barbara Crampton) more than hold up their parts.

Bates is perhaps best known for his 2012 horror film Excision, and this is a very different film than that bloody affair. The vibe is somewhere along that of What We Do in the Shadows with a dash of Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion and Adam McKay’s better comedies. Bates’ script walks a very nice line between poking fun of its subjects and making fun of them; it’s a film that certainly skewers some of the stereotypical traits of new age pagans, but it also feels like Bates did a decent amount of research on Wicca. A couple of the jokes don’t work, to be sure. For example, there’s a scene that tries to deliver sophomoric dialogue for an earnest point that falls flat. But for the most part, King Knight is an incredibly funny comedy that takes a close look at a niche group of people and finds the relatable outsider everyone can relate to for more than a few good laughs.

Rating: 8.0

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break

Fantasia Review Roundup - Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is a film that works better than it should. A satire that lacks focus, Nick Gillespie’s tale of a would-be reality show contest on a revenge streak has some great ideas in it, but it’s not entirely sure what to do with them. That’s a fault of the script by Gillespie, Brook Driver, and Matthew White which feels like it wants to say things about social media and the desire for fame but it doesn’t really know what those things are.

Fortunately, the film is centered by Tom Meehan, whose committed performance as the titular Paul Dood elevates the proceedings. Paul has pinned all his hopes for himself and his ailing mother on winning a talent competition show, but when he is cost his audition by five people on his way there tragedy strikes and he is pushed over the edge. Meehan captures the funny and tragic in this character, making him more empathic than terrifying. Gillespie’s script turns his quest into bloody comedy and the kills work as he bumbles dispatching the odious fivesome, but keeps making his way to the top. A gifted supporting cast including IT Crowd alumna Katherine Parkinson and Kris Marshall (Love Actually) give their all in small roles, giving us a slight but moderately enjoyable film that, with a little bit of focus, could have been more.

Rating: 6.0

Seobok

Fantasia Review Roundup - Seobok

It’s not hard to imagine an Americanized remake of Seobok in our relatively near future. I wouldn’t even complain if it happened. There’s some real potential in this film, which stars Park Bo-Gum as genetically engineered clone Seobok and Gong Yoo as the former intelligence agent assigned to transport him after he becomes a target of sinister forces. Writer and director Lee Yong-Joo does his best to make this more than just a mindless sci-fi action thriller; there are some moments where it touches on some universal themes of life and death, and both lead actors possess some considerable chops in their roles.

The problem, sadly, is a lot of the things around them. Constrained by his budget, Lee’s action scenes feel a bit hollow and a few supporting performances come off poorly. The script hits a lot of the more predictable notes in the high-tech action songbook but fail to stand out, while the road trip that Seobok and Gong’s Ki-han take doesn’t really go anywhere. The climax starts off with some real thrills but peters out under the weight of Lee’s ambition, leaving us with an occasionally exciting but too-often inert film with eyes were just a bit bigger than its stomach in terms of what it wanted to accomplish.

Rating: 5.5

The Fantasia International Film Festival takes place in person and online from August 5th through August 25th