Fantastic Fest 2017: 26 Films We Can’t Wait to See

As we prepare for the biggest genre film festival in America, our team picks some early favorites.
By  · Published on September 20th, 2017

As we prepare for the biggest genre film festival in America, our team picks some early favorites.

We love film festivals for several reasons — from seeing movies before marketing and other opinions have appeared, to seeing movies with audiences who love cinema too much to talk or use their phone during the showing — and while we’re partial to several around the country our heart belongs to the Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest. Part of it is because our HQ is based here in Austin, and part of it is because the fest was the first many of us attended as press, but the biggest reason remains the same as it has since our very first visit.

The movies.

Fantastic Fest continues to celebrate film better than most others, and it remains the best place to see weird, wild, and wonderful movies from around the world that odds are won’t be hitting another big screen anytime soon. It’s a glorious week of films offering glimpses into imaginations and cultures both local and abroad, and the community sharing this experience is one built on love, shared interests, an affinity for post-movie conversation, and the belief that we’re all the same when sitting in a darkened theater.

We’re movie lovers.

Keep reading for a look at some of the films we’re most excited to see at Fantastic Fest 2017!

Red Dots

Anna and the Apocalypse (UK)
Director: John McPhail

Zombie. Holiday. Musical. From the UK. Even before I’d seen the trailer (embedded above), I was in on the concept of John McPhail’s film. A young woman must sing and survive her way through a zombie apocalypse. It would be too forward to call it an unofficial Shaun of the Dead sequel, but there’s hope yet that the two films might make a fine pairing. – Neil Miller

Red Dots

Applecart (USA)
Director: Bradford Baruh

A weekend away with the family turns deadly when a strange woman is discovered near their remote cabin. I’m an eternal sucker for stories set in remote cabins, but this one ups the ante with a trio of equally appealing genre vets in Barbara Crampton, AJ Bowen, and Brea Grant. I don’t need to know anything else going in. – Rob Hunter

Red Dots

Blade of the Immortal (Japan)
Director: Takashi Miike

An immortal samurai takes on a young woman’s quest for vengeance as his latest cause. How can you not want to celebrate Miike’s 100th directorial feature on the big screen? He can be hit and miss as a filmmaker — making movies at this rate can’t be sustainable — but the trailer for this one teases a terrifically entertaining and wonderfully bloody romp that might just land among his best. Miike’s Ichi the Killer is also playing the fest with a new restoration. – Rob Hunter

Red Dots

Brawl In Cell Block 99 (USA)
Director: S. Craig Zahler

There probably isn’t a movie around the FSR office as divisive as Bone Tomahawk. Director S. Craig Zahler’s on-the-cheap horror Western leaned a lot more on the traditional journey narrative than I was expecting, but when it finally arrived at its lost world cannibal holocaust I delightfully reveled in its grotesque destination. Populating the film with oil and water character actors like Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, and Matthew Fox made the experience all the more engrossing. For his follow-up, Zahler recruits Vince Vaughn into another bloody bout of potentially offensive ultra-violence. Trading one sub-genre for another, Zahler confines his scumbag hero to a prison battleground with plenty of fresh fish to cut through. While some may not have always appreciated the darker roles of Vaughn (Clay Pigeons, Psycho, Domestic Disturbance, True Detective season 2), I’ve never been able to look away. Toss in Don Johnson as an antagonist and you have a catastrophic cocktail born to incite a cinematic riot at Fantastic Fest. – Brad Gullickson

Red Dots

The Endless
Directors: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead

As filmmakers, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead occupy a unique niche in the world of independent cinema. Just look at the suggested genres for Spring, their most recent movie: horror, comedy, romance, and science-fiction? That’s pretty much the IMDb equivalent of a shrug. What we can definitively say about Benson and Moorhead is that they create grounded relationships between complex characters while also telling metaphysical fairy tales. That makes The Endless – a spiritual successor to their breakout first film Resolution – a must-see of the festival on anyone’s list. – Matthew Monagle

Red Dots

Gerald’s Game (USA)
Director: Mike Flanagan

We’re going to get this film on Netflix in just a matter of weeks (September 29th), and while I think Gerald’s Game is the kind of movie that will work perfectly fine on the small screen, I’ve been waiting for this sicko Stephen King adaptation for a long, long time. I first read the book at the back of the school bus, whispering dirty passages to any middle school friend ready to awaken and pervert their puberty. I’m still in recovery. Carla Gugino plays Jessie, a wife willing to experiment between the sheets to make her man happy. When her husband (Bruce Greenwood) expires just moments after handcuffing her to the bedpost, Jessie must combat external and internal horrors to survive. Very curious to see how director Mike Flanagan tackles some of King’s more demented ideas, but I’m sure Gugino is the perfect actress to inhabit and triumph in this plight. – Brad Gullickson

Red Dots

Jail Break (Cambodia)
Director: Jimmy Henderson

It would seem that every year, the audience of Fantastic Fest gets intimately acquainted with a new style of martial arts from somewhere int he world. This year, Jailbreak will deliver copious lessons in bakator, a style native to Cambodia. The film tells the story of the lone man in a dangerous all-female gang who gets sent to a secure prison and must fend off attacks from all sides. Sounds like a riot. – Neil Miller

Red Dots

Jupiter’s Moon (Hungary/Germany)
Director: Kornél Mundruczó

A refugee develops an extraordinary ability after suffering an injury, but it risks being both an aid and an impediment for the truth he’s seeking. I have no idea what this plot entails, but Mundruczó’s previous film, White God, ensured I’d return for whatever he made next. There’s no reason to think his latest will be any less gorgeous, thought-provoking, or emotionally satisfying. – Rob Hunter

Red Dots

Killing of a Sacred Deer (UK)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Following The Lobster, we are all required to be at the very least interested in the new works of Yorgos Lanthimos. This one has Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and paralysis. ’nuff said. – Neil Miller

Red Dots

King Cohen (USA)
Director: Steve Mitchell

Larry Cohen is a movie maniac and absolute Hollywood royalty who does not get the respect he so deeply deserves. Cutting his teeth in the trenches of television only to burst into cinema with such fantastically sincere Blaxploitation classics like Bone, Black Caesar, and Hell Up In Harlem, Cohen made the movies work for him when nobody was throwing dollars his way. Writer, producer, director — Cohen got the job done. And he didn’t ask for anyone’s permission. Very curious to see how director Steve Mitchell cobbles his narrative together, and I’m hoping for something beyond a simple, sweet love letter to the man that gave us It’s Alive– Brad Gullickson

Red Dots

The Line
Director: Peter Bebjak

Too often lumped together with Soviet cinema, Ukrainian cinema has a long and storied history of its own that dates back to the earliest days of the film industry. Few national film industries can match Ukraine for its dual traditions of art and violence; the country’s many conflicts and atrocities at the hands of Russia have given recent films like My Joy a complex historiographical message. The Line looks to continue in this traditional, blending together genre and contemporary politics in one powerful package. – Matthew Monagle

Red Dots

Mom and Dad (USA)
Director: Brian Taylor

Mass hysteria from some unknown origin causes Mom (Selma Blair) and Dad (Nicolas Cage) to lash out violently towards their two children. 28 Days Later confined into The Purge’s siege-film setting as directed by one-half of the team that brought you Crank 2: High Voltage? Yes. Please. And thank you. We’ve already seen what kind of crazy director Brian Taylor and Cage can concoct, and whatever your thoughts were about Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, they certainly did not produce a safe, sanitized comic book movie experience. This is perfect midnight movie fodder. I want it ugly, uncomfortable, and upsetting. Also, Nic Cage acting to the heavens. – Brad Gullickson

Red Dots

Revenge (France)
Director: Coralie Fargeat

Three men take one woman to the middle of nowhere with malicious intent, but while they think disposing of her will be easy they’re about to discover just how wrong they are. Rape/revenge films can be a tough sell for obvious reasons. Tread too lightly and you’re trivializing something horrendous, but step too heavily and you’re tempting pure exploitation. The latter can sometimes be entertaining as a satisfying slice of brutal catharsis (Ms. 45, Avenged, Irréversible), and by all accounts this French thriller falls into that group. – Rob Hunter

Red Dots

Short Fuse 2017
Shorts Program

It may seem odd to include a collection of short films as one of the most anticipated ‘features’ of the festival, but you really can’t go wrong with a collection of horror shorts, especially ones assembled by the Fantastic Fest programmers. Anyone who’s ever attended a horror film festival knows that the shorts are often the festival’s highlight: these are new filmmakers taking their biggest swings with their boldest ideas, and a sneak peek at the next generation of buzzy indie filmmakers. Do not miss out. – Matthew Monagle

Red Dots

Thoroughbreds (USA)
Director: Cory Finley

This presents an opportunity for me to rectify my most egregious near miss of Sundance 2017. The late Anton Yelchin stars alongside Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke in what has been described as a tense, mysterious psychodrama about two girls, neither of whom are what they seem. There’s also murder involved. There’s always murder involved. – Neil Miller

Red Dots

World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts (USA)
Director: Don Hertzfeldt

Do you have Netflix? Go here and watch Don Hertzfeld’s World of Tomorrow. This is the sequel. End of pitch. – Neil Miller

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