This rundown of the best movies, characters, and moments from Fantastic Fest 2022 is part of our ongoing press coverage of the Fantastic Fest Film Festival. Here are the winners of our Fantastic Fest 2022 superlatives.
We’re barely recovered. Fantastic Fest always hits hard, but the two of us (Brad and Lisa) have been out of the film festival game for a few years. Diving back into the genre event, stuffing our eyeballs with as many movies as possible over eight days nearly turned our brains to mush, especially considering the grotesquely, frequently bonkers content.
This year’s experience held echoes of previous fests but felt electric in a way no other prior FF did. The usual highlights were present: the Fantastic Feud, the Fantastic Fest Debates, and the Secret Screenings. Most movies felt aligned with the festival’s passion for outrageousness. If you found yourself wandering out of a showing and your head wasn’t a little dizzy from what you saw, then consider that round a bust.
We had not attended since 2019. Returning to the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and simply breathing in its unique musky corridor odor triggered a tremendous hankering for the weird. And, damn, the movies delivered. A few flicks, like The Banshees of Inisherin, Decision to Leave, and Triangle of Sadness, played to great acclaim at other festivals and will certainly catch attention come award time. With Fantastic Fest, however, the films that burn into this crowd’s memory are the ones those old Oscars voters would most likely never consider.
Our cohorts Meg Shields and Anna Swanson absolutely slayed with their TIFF Best of the Fest superlatives, and we wanted in on their good times. What you’ll find below are our Fantastic Fest winners. It’s an odd collection, blending outlaw and mainstream delights. You’ll be able to catch most of the movies in the near future, and a few others you’ll have to hunt to capture. Whatever the case, the chase is worth it.
A Howling, Hungry Homage
Winner: Werewolf by Night
Rationale: In previous years, by the time the secret screening comes around, folks in attendance have a pretty good notion of what movie they’re about to witness. This year, to the best of our knowledge, no one predicted the Marvel Studios’ “Special Presentation” of Werewolf by Night. When its poster hit the screen, a bewildered murmur went through our theater. A Disney+ sneak peek at Fantastic Fest? That doesn’t seem to vibe with this particular rabble. The waitstaff sent a message through the crowd: order fast, eat fast; we only had minutes to scarf down our food before the next cinematic showcase.
Director/composer Michael Giacchino premiered his short film Monster Challenge at the 2018 festival. He knows what these maniacs want, and, for the most part, Werewolf by Night supplied the goods. The fifty-two-minute outburst does not behave like other MCU operations. Giacchino is looking backward, honoring the Universal monster movies and Hammer horror flicks that staved off boredom throughout his youth. Werewolf by Night is a campy, splattery fright with heavenly high performances to match its loud, boisterous energy. If you stripped the Marvel Studios banner from its intro, we’d wager even more Fantastic Fest fanatics would have eaten up its nostalgic-heavy, spooky presentation.
Honorable Mention: Kids vs. Aliens
A Remake Swerves into a Reboot
Winner: Final Cut
Rationale: Neither of us has ever hated on remakes. Quite the opposite, actually. We love seeing a filmmaker take a stab at another filmmaker’s masterpiece, or better yet, total failure. With that in mind, oof, a French take on One Cut of the Dead? So much of the original film’s genius was going into it without knowing its second-half twist. Michel Hazanavicius, the Academy Award-winning Best Director of The Artist, doesn’t get that luxury. Certainly not with the Fantastic Fest audience. We sat in our theaters with our arms crossed, practically refusing to believe his Final Cut could deliver an inch of originality or surprise.
Final Cut dodges those complaints by calling its shot earlier than One Cut of the Dead. It’s less interested in playing a trick on the audience. Instead, Hazanavicius’ film leans into its filmmaking celebration. While Final Cut contains the hallmark moments from One Cut of the Dead, it also injects many silly and distinctly French gags into the proceedings. The remake also cleverly acknowledges the original, folding its success into the new zombie one-cut horror show’s backstory. As the film progressed, the arms uncrossed in our theater, and quickly you could hear the theater buzzing as they anticipated Final Cut‘s interpretation of their favorite One Cut of the Dead sequences. It’s a helluva thing to hear a crowd, and your own cynical heart won over.
Honorable Mention: Hellraiser (aka Huluraiser)
The Deepest Shade
Winner: The Breadless Bread Course in The Menu
Rationale: Chef Slowik’s (Ralph Fiennes) career has reached its apex, and he’s found to his dismay, that it is a point of diminishing returns. As a craftsman, his mastery is unmatched; as an artist, his concepts are transcendent; as a chef, his food is delectable. The Hawthorne is his haven, his pure expression of ideals as a maker of superb, foraged, farm-to-table cuisine. The crisis? At $1,250 a plate, his restaurant has priced out the clientele who still retain the humility to appreciate his plates truly. Frankly, his diners are insufferable, and he despises them.
Hence, his Breadless Bread Course. With the rapt attention of his vulturous patrons, Slowik broadly describes the history of bread – how it is prevalent in all cultures because the ingredients are readily available and cheap. He refers to bread as the food of the “common man,” and since the seated diners are hardly common, the bread course will have no bread. Just an empty plate with dollops of accompaniments. When some customers balk, Slowik insists that they will “eat less than they desire and more than they deserve.” That’s some deep shade.
Honorable Mention: Colm (Brendan Gleeson) giving Pádraic (Colin Farrell) the finger in The Banshees of Inisherin.
The Most Generously Gory Slasher
Winner: Terrifier 2
Rationale: Terrifier‘s second serving (well, third serving if you consider Damien Leone‘s All Hallows‘ Eve segment) is as vicious as it is long. Clocking in at two hours and eighteen minutes, the film devilishly lingers on its violence. Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) finds bliss and joy in his killings, as does the film, and the assumption is so, too, does the audience. In that regard, Terrifier 2 is an astonishingly generous movie.
Gorehounds salivating over practical effects are delivered a wet, sloppy feast by Leone. More polite movies would have the decency to turn away from their atrocities, but Terrifier 2 knows you’re here for the meat. Heads are popped, torsos are sawed through, and bodily fluids from every color in the rainbow are spilled. Leone builds on every kill, climaxing the film with a catastrophic atrocity.
Honorable Mention: Project Wolf Hunting
Most Flamboyant Fontage
Winner: Medusa Deluxe
Rationale: Even with the post-murder mayhem, Cleve (Clare Perkins) displayed incredible determination and dedication to her craft and completed her showpiece – a diaphanous, impeccably erected 18th-century-inspired masterpiece. Despite the competition being canceled due to the mysterious scalping of hair competition organizer Mosca (John Alan Roberts), Cleve executed her vision. With the exquisitely featured Angie (Lilit Lesser) as her model-muse, Cleve coiffed cottony feathers of platinum blonde around a delicate cage creating a heavenly, gossamer dome haloed with an incendiary haze of Aquanet. Atop the luminous, inflammable bouffant, she placed a neon ship, a playful nod to the coiffure ornaments of fashion icon Marie Antoinette.
Honorable Mention: Sissy St. Claire’s (Sophie von Haselberg) voluminous auburn ‘do for her opening number in Give Me Pity! It is wondrously vast but does not reach the height and spark of Cleve’s accomplishment.
Creation Mythmaking Done Pornographically
Winner: Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters
Rationale: Fandom documentaries are thorny tasks. The filmmakers wander into their endeavors knowing they already have an audience thirsting for their content. Frequently, they cannot deliver something that the obsessed viewers have not already consumed in smaller, bite-sized capsules (whether through articles, behind-the-scenes material, or previous documentaries). As Hellboy obsessives ourselves, we doubted whether Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters could deliver. Blissfully, directors Jim Demonakos and Kevin Konrad Hanna jam their doc with information and interviews, providing several familiar tales while also throwing in some shocking revelations. Did Mike Mignola help create Fizzball???
Every talking head you could imagine in a Mike Mignola celebration is present: Art Adams, Guillermo del Toro, Ron Perlman, Patton Oswalt, etc. They’re fans like those watching. They mostly say the things you would say. Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters elevates itself in its investigation of the artist’s earlier days. The Hellboy stuff is well-traveled. Too often, his time wallowing in the Marvel Comics offices is less explored, and it’s exhilarating to hear Mignola somewhat pressured into examining that agonized time by the filmmakers. Mike Mignola created his masterpiece cuz he was going to rot into oblivion without one.
Honorable Mention: Lynch/Oz
Outstanding Achievement in Pernicious Menace
Winner: Michael Organ in Mister Organ
Rationale: “That’s his trademark. Soften them up, poison them off, and then shoot them down in flames.” That is the testimony of one of the former roommates and embittered victims of unmitigated scoundrel and con man Michael Organ. Journalist/documentarian David Farrier (Tickled) became aware of Organ when writing an exposé about his arrangement of Bashford Antiques in suburban Auckland, New Zealand. Owner Jillian would allow him to troll her private parking lot for unsuspecting night parkers. While they enjoyed their evening, he would clamp their tires and extort hundreds of dollars to set them free. A little digging proved Organ was a sheisty individual who would often pose as a crowned prince or lawyer, hoping to ingratiate himself into people’s lives to suck their bank accounts and trust in humanity dry. What started as a bemused curiosity on Farrier’s part quickly devolved into frustration, paranoia, and regret as he is ensnared in Organ’s web of trolling, gaslighting, and ambiguous threats.
Honorable Mention: The demon from Smile. Frankly, we wouldn’t want to be alone in a room with either of these villains.
The Most Sneakily Comic Book Obsessed
Winner: Unicorn Wars
Rationale: Two brothers go to war with each other while serving in the teddy bear army. All their lives, they’ve been told the unicorns in the woods are demonic beings who stole their land and will eventually bring about an apocalypse. Whoever kills the last unicorn and drinks its blood will not only ascend into legend, the rest will worship them as the one true teddy bear. Motivating Azulín is a long-held love for his favorite superhero action figure, a character he attempts to emulate after his face is brutally marred in combat. On goes the mask and cape, but the uniform drapes his frame like a mad fascist instead.
Unicorn Wars fills its runtime with copious amounts of the red stuff. The gore clearly results from righteous religious, cultural, and military indoctrination. Azulín and his younger brother Gordi soak everything up equally, but bitterness only clings to the kid who loved spandex heroes. The movie doesn’t linger too much on the comic book element, but it’s hard to ignore how vigilantism appeals to the kid who believes he knows best for everyone else.
Honorable Mention: Garcia! (Captain America minus the America)