20 Must See Films of Fantastic Fest 2009

By  · Published on September 21st, 2009

If you’re not going to come to Fantastic Fest, you’re only lucky because you’ll still have your eyeballs by the end of the month. We here at FSR on the other hand will definitely lose the damned things along with most of our spinal column and our sanity.

While we can’t prepare for going blind, we can practice losing our minds, so we’re taking a look at the 20 film we’re most excited to see this year at Fantastic Fest. Blood, boobs, gore, nonsensical plots from the Far East, more blood, A.D.D. children’s toys, zombie attacks, strange and unexplained occurrences, and more blood. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It was tough narrowing down the field, and we probably did a crap job of it, but it’s the best we can do when faced with the intensity of a film festival such as this.

Looking forward to seeing you on the other side:



It’s ten years from now and a plague has swept through mankind… only instead of killing us it’s turned 95% of humanity into vampires. The world goes on only now the last humans on Earth have become a primary food source. Ethan Hawke plays a vampire scientist who joins forces with a group of human survivors in the hopes of finding a cure and saving the human species before it’s too late. Michael and Peter Spierig (the writers/directors) have taken the extremely over-done vampire genre and given it an awesome-looking action twist… with a little bit of ethical debate thrown in for good measure. And Hollywood had nothing to do with it. ‐ Rob Hunter


At Fantastic Fest III I saw an incredible film called Mirage Man about a man working as a bouncer who wanted nothing more than to become a super hero. Marko Zaror, the lead, is an amazing martial artist with the fastest kick I have ever seen. But beyond the kick-ass action sequences, this low-budget Chilean superhero flick has so much heart it became one of my absolute favorites of that year. I am therefore ecstatic to see the new Ernesto Diaz Espinoza/Marko Zaror vehicle that has been described as doing for spy films what Mirage Man did for superhero films. Marko will be in attendance, as he was for Mirage Man two years ago, and I am interested to see if he will kick over the top of a man’s head……again. ‐ Brian Salisbury


Danish filmmaker (I see a trend) Nicolas Winding Refn switches gears from the shaky camera realism of his drug-themed Pusher trilogy to a gloriously haphazard, allegedly Clockwork Orange-esque biopic of larger-than-life British prisoner Michael Gordon Peterson (aka Charles Bronson). Bronson’s trailer makes the film look like it brings substance back to style-heavy cinema, and rumors of excellence surround Tom Hardy’s method performance as the title character. Even if the film turns out to be lacking on any of these levels, the chaotic stylization and unremitting violence are more than enough to compel me to see Bronson. ‐ Landon Palmer

Solomon Kane

Armed with a rapier and flintlock pistols, Solomon Kane sets out on a mission of pillage and plunder in war-torn North Africa… Okay, stop right there. You had us at flintlock pistols. Director Michael J. Bassett brings to life the story of sword-and-sorcery from the legendary Robert E. Howard, and we’re going to be there. From the looks of things, Solomon Kane is a dark, bloody affair full of action and adventure. And not to sound cliche, but sign me up ‐ dark, dirty and full of death and destruction? That’s why we come to Fantastic Fest in the first place. ‐ Neil Miller


I’m still looking for the pants that were scared off of me when I saw REC. Even the American remake, Quarantine, was pretty solid. Now directors Jaume Balaguero and Paca Plaza return with something that promises to be even scarier. The story picks up immediately after the first, so we’re still dealing with the same creepy building, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that the two filmmakers have a few tricks hidden up their sleeves and around some dark corners. ‐ Cole Abaius

Paranormal Activity

Love them or hate them, ‘shakey cam’ movies (think Blair Witch) are here to stay. This is actually the second of two such pics at this year’s fest (the other is [Rec]2 (see above)), and both are reportedly shit-your-pants-cry-for-your-mama scary. Paranormal Activity finds a troubled young couple who set up security cameras in an attempt to see what’s happening around their house after they’ve gone to sleep. What they find is an invisible spirit moving things around, crawling under their sheets, and getting a taste of the lady’s thigh meat. Time to call the Realtor… ‐ Rob Hunter

Trick ‘r Treat

I have been waiting to see this film for two years. It’s been languishing in development hell since it was announced it would play Fantastic Fest III and then vanished into the ether. The idea of using Halloween as a catalyst for evil and examining how it manifests in three different stories within one town whets my horror geek appetite. I honestly believe this should have been the plot of Halloween 3 if they were deadset on doing a Halloween film without Michael Meyers; instead we got killer children’s masks?! Plus this may be my only chance to see it on the big screen as it is slated for a direct-to-video release next month. ‐ Brian Salisbury


The always-provocative Danish filmmaker’s latest was both beloved and reviled at Cannes this May (probably more of the latter), receiving boos and unintentional laughter alongside some rare but fervent critical support upon its notorious French premiere. But then again, the same thing happened to L’Avventura (1960). I’m not expecting Antichrist to approach anything anywhere near the greatness of Antonioni’s modernist classic, but a reaction as polarized as this from such a major world filmmaker is all I need to be intrigued. I’m also interested to see how this dense, über-serious (likely pretentious) art film plays alongside the comparatively escapist genre fare characteristic of most of the festival. ‐ Landon Palmer


We’ve been tracking this odd little movie. With a tone that will look familiar to those who’ve read Kafka (a little bit of depression and hopelessness to say the least) and an innovative computer animation style, Metropia delivers a dark and beautiful tale of a man who is caught in an oppressively consumerist future where he’s almost ready to give up. That is, until he meets a beautiful, vibrant woman who takes him on a wild adventure deep into the heart of a vast conspiracy. If you’ve seen the trailer for this one, you know what we mean when we say that it has a fascinating visual style. If director Tarik Saleh’s full movie is as alluring and engaging as the trailer that has already been released for it, we’re in for another adult cartoon treat. — Neil Miller

Under the Mountain

I’m a sucker for coming of age movies, but there are two major reasons that I won’t miss Under the Mountain. The first is seeing the transition for director Jonathan King from massive gore to kid-friendly adventure. The second is that it’s been described as Escape from Witch Mountain meets The Goonies. Just thinking about a telepathic Chunk has my interest peaked. Plus, I might need to calm down after my third day in a row of insane Japanese people blowing heads off with swords. Just a quick break, though, I swear, and then I go right back to people having sex with intestines. ‐ Cole Abaius

Private Eye

A medical student in early 20th century Korea finds a body in the woods, and med school costs being what they are he decides to take the corpse home for extra credit work… until he realizes the dead man is the son of a prominent citizen. Fearing he may be considered a suspect, Gwang Soo enlists the help of local detective Jin-ho in solving the crime. And when another body appears the duo find themselves on the trail of a serial killer, and Jin-ho finds his first real case. Dae-min Park combines mystery, suspense, action, and comedy with a healthy budget in this beautiful-looking noir thriller. ‐ Rob Hunter

Ninja Assassin

Do I really have to explain my excitement for this? The movie is called Ninja Assassin, people! The trailer is unrelentingly badass and sets up Ninja Assassin to be the pitch perfect Fantastic Fest film. Will it be an auteur journey into the depths of the human condition? No! But there will be swarms of shuriken stars and ninjas getting hit by cars! I will not pretend that the twelve year old in me isn’t squealing with glee at the thought of slow motion sword fights and deadly karate chop action. I anticipate a terrifically fun genre action piece and a good deal of popcorn consumption during its screening. ‐ Brian Salisbury


Sure, he’s only listed as producer on this film, but I’m an unapologetic Hellraiser fan and Clive Barker’s name on any movie immediately draws me in. Based on one of Barker’s short stories (and adapted by one of his former interns), Dread concerns a group of grad school students who engage in a project that involves videotaping subjects who describe, in disturbing detail, their worst fears. The stories get more and more messed up and things begin to wind out of control. That’s all the information I can get about this movie right now (without reading the short story), and I’m avoiding finding out more because I want to experience the creepiness this plot synopsis promises to its fullest extent, and I trust that the Barker name brand will deliver. ‐ Landon Palmer

District 13: Ultimatum

The first District B13 exploded from France and brought a mess of parkour and wild action with it to the United States, creating an overnight cult phenomenon. And now, District 13 is in trouble again ‐ and once again, it is parkour that will save it. Based on what we’re hearing, this sequel from director Patrick Alessandrin and writer/producer Luc Besson is faster, stronger and more fearless as it brings back supercop Damien and high-flying vigilante Leto. Anyone who’s seen the first film knows that this is a must-see, if only for another taste of the intense action that we saw the first time around. — Neil Miller

Gentlemen Broncos

My complete inability to make heads or tails or knees or toes of this comedy has me frustrated enough to check it out. I’m a huge fan of Flight of the Conchords (and the television show of the same name), and seeing all the promotional material with Jemaine Clement has been hilarious/nonsensical so far. That’s a damned good balance for my money. And who wouldn’t want to see Sam Rockwell playing what looks like Rob Zombie’s Mike Myers in a Jesus Christ costume? ‐ Cole Abaius

Hard Revenge, Milly: Bloody Battle

A hot, ass-kicking Japanese chick out for bloody revenge… do I really need to say anything more? Probably not, but I will for those of you in the slow seats. Bloody Battle is actually a sequel to the original Hard Revenge, Milly, but the pair are being shown together as one film because they’re only about an hour long each. Miki Muzuno stars as Milly and we’ll be watching her slice, shoot, kick, punch, and maim her way through waves of bad guys. Pneumatically-powered arterial sprays and other gruesome special effects courtesy of Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police) and a lead actress who’s an actual martial artist make this a must see. ‐ Rob Hunter


I love zombie movies. If you haven’t gleaned my cinematic taste yet, I’m the type of guy that enjoys B-movies just as much as insightful, arthouse fare. I relish watching cult cinema and I’m very forgiving of less-than-stellar filmmaking when it falls back on unbridled entertainment value; enter Zombieland. Like Shaun of the Dead, this is a horror comedy, which always seems remarkably hard to market to audiences. If it’s too comedic, the hard-core horror fans will pitch a fit over it while if it is too horrific, it will fail to be funny. I think Zombieland’s marketing is spot-on as the trailers suggest a balls-out action film dotted with moments of Harrelson hilarity and undead irony. Woody will actually be in attendance along with various other members of the cast so the Q & A should be a riot. ‐ Brian Salisbury

Fish Story

As with many movies playing at Fantastic Fest, I had heard nothing about Fish Story until I read the synopsis and watched the trailer on the fest’s site. Fish Story concerns a mosaic of interwoven narratives spanning across time and space, centered on a pre-apocalyptic moment in 2012 Tokyo and all thematically based around a 1975 punk song that the film’s title is based off of. So far this movie reads like the Japanese moving image equivalent of a Vonnegut novel, and I’m intrigued to see if the film comes across anywhere near as delightfully absurd as its compelling description. ‐ Landon Palmer

A Town Called Panic

If there’s one thing we look for at Fantastic Fest, it is not only the good, certainly not the bad (because that doesn’t show up there), but also the weird ‐ because the weird can and undoubtedly will appear in the festival line-up. In this year’s weird category, we would like to insert A Town Called Panic. It’s almost impossible to describe ‐ animated in stop-motion with clay models of children’s toys, namely Cowboys, Indians and farmyard animals. It is full of silly jokes and bizarre visuals. It is completely manic and way over the top. It is also Belgian and has a cult following based on a short film from 2001. We are completely sold. Bring on that first screening. ‐ Neil Miller

The Children

One of my biggest pet peeves about movies is the inclusion of children. They are either unbelievable because they survive things they shouldn’t or they are realistic and pose a major liability. A very puntable liability. But The Children looks different ‐ it takes a beloved member of the family and grows a sinister murder inside of him or her. Three families all vacationing in a winter wonderland are confronted with their own offspring turning into blood thirsty killers. I’m gearing up for tiny little hands shoving knives into the torsos of confused, frightened adults. Yes, friends, this time the menace wears OshKosh B’Gosh. ‐ Cole Abaius

Editor’s Note: This list was lovingly put together by the Fantastic Fest Death Squad of Rob Hunter, Brian Salisbury, Neil Miller, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius. For more information on Fantastic Fest, the films, or the debauchery that will inevitably take place, check out the official website.

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