Fantasia 2023 Reviews: New Life, Booger, Stay Online, and Deep Sea

Check out four reviews from 2023's Fantasia International Film Festival.

The 27th edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival is coming to a close and has one more batch of reviews out of the festival's genre and international film premieres. We've got four more reviews from this year's event, ranging from the horror-thriller New Life to the indie body-horror Booger, plus the Chinese animated epic Deep Sea and the Ukrainian screenlife thriller Stay Online. Here are four quick reviews of some of the films from this year's Fantasia.    

New Life

Writer/director John Rosman comes out of the gate with a tremendous horror-thriller in New Life. As the movie begins, we meet Hayley Erin starring as a young woman with a black eye who is on the run from men with guns. Hot on her trail is Sonya Walger's unidentified agent who is clearly a great one-woman hunting party. New Life continues to evolve and confirm the unique ways its title can be understood as the film unfolds, though sometimes drops its biggest reveals in a piecemeal way that undermines some of its unique mystery. Rosman has an amazing ability to keep the audience gripped, however, eventually tying all of these elements together in a way that's really satisfying. If there's a fault to find, it's that the "thriller" elements (the chase of it all) really are noticeably more interesting from a filmmaking standpoint than its "horror" elements. To divulge further would be spoiler-y, but the film does make it all work in the end.

Rating: 4 out of 5



Another impressive feature debut hails from Mary Dauterman, who writes and directs Booger, a unique new take on the body-horror subgenre. Actress Grace Glowicki anchors the film, playing a young woman whose roommate has died and whose cat has gone missing. Navigating her grief and a bite from the titular cat, Anna finds herself compromised by big life decisions, her own sadness, and the sudden urge to begin acting like a cat. What's especially impressive about Booger is that the filmmakers are channeling the classic indie film ethos of "What do I have?" What they have is a New York City apartment, some unique locations to film in, and a cat, and they make it all work. Equally as funny as it is horrific, Booger is going to become an indie darling for film fans that are eager to find a new take on a well-worn path.

Rating: 4 out of 5


Deep Sea

This animated film out of China, hailing from Monkey King: Hero Is Back filmmaker Tian Xiaopeng, is a true spectacle to witness. With stunning visuals that combine photo-real animation and a jaw-dropping color palette, Deep Sea is the kind of movie that is very easy on the eyes and boldly plants its flag in the larger lexicon of modern animation because of its visuals. Where Deep Sea stumbles, though, is in its basic narrative, which borrows heavily from the likes of Spirited Away or Wizard of Oz. Though it has a fresh cast of new characters (its tiny sea otters would instantly become iconic if shown to American audiences), the story beats are familiar and simple. For all the new ground it seems to break visually, the story just doesn't hold up to the same scrutiny, despite having a gut-punch of an ending. Even with that being true, however, there is no denying how appealing it is to just watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Stay Online

The latest film to try the "screen life" format, Stay Online is a movie created by Ukrainian filmmakers and starring Ukrainian actors, all shot amidst the backdrop of the actual Russian invasion of the country. Set within the confines of a laptop, the film tells the story of Katya, a young woman with heavy ties to the front lines of the conflict but also a lone point of contact for a young boy whose parents are missing. Director Yeva Strelnikova's style is one that's unique from the likes of Searching or Missing, wherein sometimes the camera shows our lead character typing or even the reaction on their face. It's a unique way to handle the format, but it does frequently break the illusion. Though the film itself has a unique place in the larger landscape of modern politics, it does stretch itself very thin by frequently inventing new reasons for the story to keep going rather than resolve. Part of this comes from the reality of the conflict, and the importance of online communication and how it has changed warzones, and the film's place in telling this kind of story is maybe more important than any faults that one can find.

Rating: 3 out of 5