The Fantasia International Film Festival, now entering its 21st year in Montreal, is the largest and most influential genre festival in North America.  Since its inception in 1996, the popular fest has displayed an emphasis on all varieties of genre offerings from Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and many of our favorites have debuted at Fantasia.

The festival runs several weeks, jam packed with over 150 full features and over 300 short films. While the selections this year are amazing, and this is by no means the comprehensive list, here are 10 of films that we’re absolutely stoked to see:

“Anna (Birgit Minichmayr, seen in Maren Ade’s EVERYONE ELSE) and Nick (Philipp Hochmair, of THE EXPERIMENT) are going through a rough patch. The latter is having an affair with their neighbour Andrea (Mona Petri), while the former is faced with her partner’s infidelity, on top of suffering through a severe creative drought delaying her new novel. Both think they could use some time away, so the couple heads to the Alps in Switzerland, in the hopes that a nice stay at a vacation home might fix things. But what they encounter is stranger than anything they could have imagined: a collision with a sheep unleashes a series of unsettling experiences, and soon, neither Anna nor Nick are able to tell fact from fiction, night from day, jealousy from reality. Talking animals, rekindled frustrations and strange doppelgangers soon become the new norm…”

Co-written and directed by Greg Zglinski, Animals makes its Fantasia premiere July 16.

“Familiar with the phrase “eat local”? Well, zombies aren’t that picky, like the ones in DEAD SHACK, for example, which are fed a steady diet of townies and passers-through – really, anyone unlucky enough to be baited, drugged and served up fresh by the shufflers’ caring, and still living, matriarch. Played by Lauren Holly (DUMB & DUMBER), and known only as “the Neighbour,” she seems unstoppable once she dons her homemade armour and grabs the ol’ pump-action shotgun. But never underestimate a trio of curious teens. Tough girl Summer, her smartmouth younger brother Colin and his pushover best friend find themselves in a cottage in the woods when the siblings’ dad and his girlfriend take them on a low-budget getaway. As the adults get drinking, the kids go exploring and come across a ramshackle house in the woods where they witness the Neighbour serving up a couple local yokels to her hungry brood. When she discovers the intruders, they become next on the menu.”

Written by Philippe Ivanusic, Davila LeBlanc, Peter Ricq, and directed by Peter Ricq, Dead Shack debuts at Fantasia on July 22.

“When friends decide to get together and celebrate the New Year in a remote mansion, they plan on making it a memorable occasion, even if it means being cut off from the outside world. The festive mood turns sour soon enough when one of them disappears. It rapidly descends into a nightmare when their search for him leads to this discovery of Djamal’s corpse hanging by his penis. Trapped in the middle of nowhere, they’ll have to learn how to work together if they want to survive the night.”

Ok, plot, you had us at “corpse hanging by his penis.” If you need more than that to be sold, though, this horror comedy looks to push the envelope all while balancing humor with the macabre. Directed by Tony T. Datis, Le Manoir debuts at Fantasia on July 21.

“Meet El Monstruo (Ricardo Adam Zarate), a beloved luchador widely seen as a hero for the oppressed. Unfortunately, El Monstruo secretly lives in disgrace, employed by a brutal cartel organ smuggler (Quentin Dupieux regular Mark Bunrham) who regularly victimizes the very people that look towards our masked fighter for help. His young wife Kaylee (Santana Dempsey) is his sole beacon of hope, eight-months pregnant (there will be a Son of El Monstruo!) – and dealing with a serious heroin addiction. Next, meet Crystal (Nicki Micheaux), a middle-aged recovering addict desperately trying to help her husband attain a kidney transplant by any means necessary. Their paths – along with those of a pair of ex-cons (Jon Oswald, Shaye Ogbonna) – will intersect in extraordinary ways as their lives go from dire to… something far more extreme.”

The insane trailer already had us pumped. Written by Ryan Prows, Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson, Shaye Ogbonna, Maxwell Michael Towson, and directed by Ryan Prows, Lowlife makes its mark on Fantasia on July 21. And we can’t wait.

“The War of 1812 has revived violent hostilities between the British and their erstwhile American colonial subjects. The powerful Mohawk nation of the New York region is divided as to whom they should stand by, and so they maintain a position of neutrality. They want no part in the killing – but the killing is coming to them. An impulsive attack on an American encampment has drawn the vengeful attentions of a ragged band of American military renegades, led by the vicious, racist Hezekiah Holt. Oak, Calvin, and their British lover Joshua flee into the woods so familiar to them, but the murderous musketeers on their trail will not be deterred. Not without the spilling of blood.”

Co-written by Grady Hendrix and Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here), Geoghegan’s sophomore directorial effort is not to be missed. Lucky Fantasia attendees can catch the world premiere on July 21.

“It’s New Year’s Eve and Nico the virgin is out on one of his desperate hunts for sexual relief. From one failed approach to the next, his gawky moves sentence him to yet another night of solitude. Then Medea appears through the dancing crowd, a mythical vision of red braids and emerald glitter. The mesmerizing cougar has locked her sights on our naïve dork and lures him into her forsaken den. The first time is often clumsy and awkward, but for Nico, it’s the beginning of an endless nightmare.”

Described as John Waters meets David Cronenberg and Lloyd Kaufman, you can bet this is one we’re anticipating. Graphic, vulgar, and more gore than Evil Dead? Yes, please! Written by Guillermo Guerrero and directed by Roberto San Sebastián, The Night of the Virgin makes its Fantasia debut on July 22.

“Blimpo the Clown, a national treasure, has passed away due to a mysterious illness while overseas in Romania (wonder what could have done the ol’ jester in). His body is shipped back to the U.S. and dropped off at a Baltimore newspaper building, where a “deal” is struck to watch the body overnight, before it’s safely transported to the funeral home in the morning. Sounds like a simple task, doesn’t it? Well, you haven’t seen the security responsible for the safety of this particular building – an ex-soldier, his disgruntled co-officer and an Italian hothead with a cold stare – added to which is the newest employee on his first overnight shift. He’s briefed on the duties, such as “watch this camera, play some cards.” It’s not long, though, before ol’ Blimpo hops up out of his wooden casket and takes on his new fang-tastic lifestyle, dispatching workers in the building and turning them into stark-raving bloodsuckers, and it’s up to our bumbling squad of rent-a-cops to try to save the day!”

A vampire clown versus idiot rent-a-cops? Uh. Yes please. This gory horror comedy was written by Dan DeLuca, Jamie Nash, and directed by Mitchell Altieri, and screens at Fantasia on August 2. That it’s already sold out is even more promising.

“Kira (Rebecca Forsythe) is young, beautiful and falling part. Prone to bouts of amnesia, she finds herself slowing starting to rot, her flesh drying up at an alarming rate with no explanation and little help from Dr. Rafaela Crober (Barbara Crampton!) and her revolutionary skin-care centre. Desperate for a solution, Kira discovers her dying skin can temporarily heal itself – with skin from another body. Suddenly, her search for perfect skin takes Kira away from moisturizers and lotions, and on a hunt for the perfect skin on the perfect body, even if it isn’t her own.”

Co-written by genre legend Richard Stanley (Hardware, Dust Devil), and directed by Norbert Keil, this mind-bend is sure to be visually mesmerizing and worth a watch. The talented Barbara Crampton is a fantastic bonus. Replace makes its Canadian premiere on July 16.

“In the center of tranquil, mid-‘90s suburbia, where pleasantly chirping birds co-exist with the sounds of the blossoming Seattle grunge wave, high school-aged best friends Josh (Charlie Tahan) and Zach (Owen Campbell) are each other’s support systems in a universe of challenging social struggles and general goofing around. One day, a terrible accident cuts through their world, forcing them to keep a grisly secret that twists each of them apart in different ways. As they try to maintain a façade of normalcy, compounded by the regular evolutions of personality that came at their age, they begin to change in significant ways, the twilight of their youths shifting into a nightmarish sea of black. We’re being intentionally vague here to preserve impact. Just know that this is a powerful story about adolescence’s end and the darkening of innocence, of friendship, loyalty… and murder.”

Written by Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski, and directed by newcomer Kevin Phillips, Super Dark Times has been taking the film festival circuit by storm with its moody, harrowing coming of age story. And we’re a sucker for the super dark. Super Dark Times screens at Fantasia on July 13.

“Since childhood, Sook-hee (Kim Ok-vin) has learned just one thing: how to kill. After seeing her father murdered, she was taken under the wing of Joong-sang (Shin Ha-kyun), a cold but charming assassin. He trained her to mastery of weapons and martial arts, to kill without mercy — and to be his lover. However, on the very day of the wedding, Joong-sang loses his life while on a mission. Sook-hee sets about wreaking vengeance on those who have widowed her.

After the massacre, she is captured and taken to a strange hospital housing only women dedicating their time to combat skills — and to social reintegration. Sook-hee is informed that she is pregnant, and that she will henceforth act as a sleeper agent for the government. Ten years of service, and she and her daughter are free. But in the field on an assassination mission, peering through her rifle’s scope, she discovers that her target is none other than Joong-sang. Betrayed on all sides, her vengeance will be devastating.”

That this adrenaline fueled thriller is opening the festival is a huge deal, and that it’s co-written and directed by Jung Byung-gil only furthers our anticipation. Violent, vicious, and innovative, we’re extremely excited for this The Villainess to make its North American premiere on July 13.