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Fantasia 2020: LAPSIS, THE COLUMNIST, MINOR PREMISE, FEELS GOOD MAN & HAIL TO THE DEADITES [Capsule Reviews]

By Marina Antunes [09.08.20]


In our final batch of Fantasia Film Festival coverage, we have an assortment of titles including a pair of fascinating sci-fi movies, a pair of documentaries and a tale of social media obsession taken too far.





Lapsis

Set in a near-future where quantum computing is an emerging technology, Ray (Dean Imperial) takes a job laying cable for one of the major companies as a way to make a quick buck to pay for his brother's treatment for an illness that some don't even believe exist.


Writer/director Noah Hutton's Lapsis is a smart indie-drama that taps into a number of ideas in a movie set in a near-future reality that only lightly skirts science fiction. Led by a fantastic lead performance from Imperial, Hutton's film explores concepts of the gig-economy, the replacement of the workforce with robots, the rapid expanse of technology with little regard for its effects on humanity and the environment, mental illness, relationships, family obligations...


Lapsis is an unassuming little movie that entertains on the surface but Hutton crams a load of information into the subtext that will stay with you for days after seeing it.








The Columnist

At some point in our lives, we've all had it: that moment when we're so fed up with someone or something that we fantasize about doing damage but in the case of The Columnist, fantasy turns into reality.


Katja Herbers stars as Femke Boot, a once-respected columnist in the midst of writing a book, whose cache is dwindling. The social-media obsessed Femke reaches a breaking point and when she discovers that her neighbor is one of the people who is criticizing her on twitter, she makes a split-second decision that makes her feel amazing in the moment but leads her down the path of murder and mayhem.


I love a good revenge story and The Columnist certainly plays hard into the fantasy aspects of this story, at times leaning too far into the comedic. I did appreciate writer Daan Windhorst's excellent observations on our fascination with social media, our shifting self-presentation in person vs online, and how we tend to feel emboldened to hide behind the anonymity, however fleeting, provided by an avatar. Overall, the film manages to stay on track thanks to a captivating performance from Herbers and a truly spectacular finale that works as both part of the story and as poignant social commentary.








Minor Premise

Things never end well when you become the subject of your own experiment but when your propelling force is eclipsing your father's legacy, the pressure to do things right take a backseat leading to, you guessed it, disaster.


Such is the case in writer/director Eric Schultz's feature film debut which stars Sathya Sridharan as Ethan, the brilliant and reclusive neuroscientist determined to supersede his father's accomplishments by mapping out various aspects of his consciousness. When the experiment goes sideways, Ethan enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend Allie (Paton Ashbrook), the only person he trusts to help him through the unfolding disaster.

Minor Premise works exceptionally well in that the science actually feels like it has basis in reality; add in a great paranoid lead performance from Sridharan and an effective, single-location premise, and you have a really effective thriller.








Feels Good Man

By this point, you've probably heard of Pepe the Frog. What you might not know is the history of the character and how it became associated with the alt-right because, surprise!, that's definitely not the association that the character's creator had in mind.

This fascinating documentary explores artist Matt Furie's fight to win-back ownership of his creation while at the same time, providing a deep dive into art, and specifically art which is distributed on the internet, that can easily be co-opted by outsiders for nefarious usage. Along the way, director Arthur Jones makes some interesting observations about everything from fair-use to the difficulties of changing perceptions of something that has taken on a life of its own. When does one claim defeat and simply walk away? For Furie, that answer might be never.








Hail to the Deadites

The Evil Dead films have been amassing a cult following since pretty much the release of the first film in 1981 but over the years and the advent of the internet and rise of horror conventions, fans now have an easier time than ever before to meet their icons, meet each other, share their stories and their collections.

Writer/director Steve Villeneuve, who previously directed the horror doc Under the Scares, delves into the world of Deadites, as Evil Dead fans refer to themselves, to speak with superfans, cosplayers, cast members and production crew, to share stories and memories of the films and wax poetic on the franchise's enduring pull.

Hail to the Deadites isn't nearly as inside baseball as I would have hoped. Instead, it's a loosely stitched together series of interviews of fans sharing their love for the movies, their collections, and on occasion, really heartfelt stories about what the franchise means to them. Worth checking out for Evil Dead fans but doesn't offer much in the way insight for anyone curious about the fandom.



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