2022 has moved at whirlwind pace, and already Fantasia Film Festival is behind us for another year. With so many great movies to check out, there’s never enough time for them all – but we’ve done our best to catch some of the festival’s best. Stay tuned as we roll out our final coverage of Toronto’s finest genre film festival!
“Special Delivery” is the third feature film from Korean director Dae-min Park, who shifts gears to a contemporary setting for this action-packed vehicular thriller.
“Parasite” star So-dam Park brings her crowd-pleasing charisma to the lead role of Eun-ha, a young woman whose elite driving skills make her the perfect courier for legally dubious deliveries. At her employer’s insistence, she reluctantly takes on the job of helping a man and his son flee the country after his involvement in a major gambling conspiracy puts him in the sights of a corrupt police officer.
When the job goes awry, Eun-ha is stuck with custody of the client’s young son Seo-won, played by fellow “Parasite” alum Hyun-jun Jung. As much as she’d like to drop the job altogether, Eun-ha finds herself unable to suppress her moral compass, and her skills are put to the test as she and the young boy are pursued by a vengeful police force and their minions.
“Special Delivery” has no lofty narrative aspirations: it’s a relatively straightforward story supported by solid performances, well-directed action sequences and a surprisingly dark second half that gradually takes the film from the realms of action-adventure to gritty, violent thriller without dropping the ball along the way.
The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra
Korean cinema continues to excel at the 2022 edition of Fantasia Film Festival with Syeyoung Park’s directorial feature debut, “The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra”.
On the surface, this eerie, minimalist film is a body horror tale following the growth of a bizarre mold that festers on the mattress of an unhappy couple, plucking vertebra from its owners as their relationship crumbles.
It might sound like the premise of a Troma film, albeit far less crude and edgy. But as the mattress is thrown out and repeatedly comes into the possession of various new human owners, the evolving mold begins to form a strange new life, and it becomes apparent that Park is far more interested in exploring the human condition than gross-out gags. The creature isn’t a mindless, violent monster but a lonely entity that wishes to connect with us.
Gorgeous lighting, kaleidoscopic cinematography and a decidedly non-horror approach to the subject matter elevate this film from its midnight B-movie potential, exploring what humanity leaves in its wake in pleasantly artistic fashion.
As the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic set in during 2020, compelling questions were raised about how this period might be reflected (or not) in art. There were definitely a few low-effort exploitative genre films spun out in time, but as is the case in Andy Mitton’s “The Harbinger”, there exists paths to explore collective fears with nuance.
Gabby Beans is well-cast as Monique, who returns home alongside her brother in order to quarantine with their widowed father. Spirits are high despite the pandemic, until Monique receives a call from an old college friend who seems to be hitting rock-bottom.
To her family’s chagrin, Monique cautiously visits Mavis (Emily Davis) in the hopes of returning the favor, having been helped with her own mental health struggles in the pair’s college days. But Mavis’ struggles are above and beyond the capabilities of a friendly shoulder to cry on: she’s haunted by a strange entity in her sleep, trapping her in disturbing nightmares that are steadily increasing in length. And unfortunately for Monique, her condition is contagious.
While it stumbles a little in the third act, “The Harbinger” mostly excels at fusing real-world anxieties with the theatrical shocks and terrors of the supernatural.