The most magical time of year is once again upon us as Austin prepares to open its doors, coffee houses, bars, and RV-based donut shops to visitors from around the world coming to celebrate wonderful and the weird in international cinema with Fantastic Fest. This year’s roster is a bit lighter compared to recent years, but a reduction in quantity has no bearing on quality. The fest will also be taking place in a new Alamo Drafthouse this year at the Lakeline location, and if it’s anything like every other Drafthouse it’s going to be awesome.
Two of the titles I can already vouch for as being incredibly entertaining slices of cinema include the blackly comic thriller from Israel, Big Bad Wolves, and the beautifully executed action/suspense Korean film, Confession of Murder. Both are so damn good that I may actually be visiting them for a second time.
FSR’s team coverage this year will be in the mostly capable hands of Adam Charles, Neil Miller, Michael Treveloni, and me. We’re excited about the entire fest and just about every movie playing, but we decided to highlight our most anticipated by picking three films each to share below.
Noir films aren’t nearly as common these days as they should be be, but this entry from Norway sounds like as good a return to the genre as we could have hoped for. The elements are all in place including a trench coat-wearing private eye, a missing person, double crosses, and a femme fatale at the center of the mystery. Also, in an incredibly unique turn, the detective has Down Syndrome. The question isn’t why this is on my most anticipated list, the question is why it isn’t on everyone’s. – Hunter
What’s more disturbing than a school shooting? A movie about a group of marginalized high school nerds making what essentially amounts to a snuff film out of their own school shooting. It looks like the comedic romp of the year, has been selected as part of Kevin Smith’s movie club, and has been called “frightening” and “powerful” by people who have seen it at other festivals. So two out of three ain’t bad, all Kevin Smiths considered. – NM
Escape From Tomorrow
The film looks like a mashup of childhood fantasy crashed head-first into adult nightmares, never mind the roped off scene being an unsuspecting Disneyland. Its surreal glimpse into what lurks in unsuspected areas made Sundance audiences swoon earlier in the year. Ambition is Escape From Tomorrow’s ground floor while its roof appears to be blown off. – MT
A Field In England
Ben Wheatley’s star has risen viciously after his last couple of films. Riding high on Kill List and Sightseers it is hard not to look forward to what A Field in England has to offer. The hallucinatory trailer promises more of his cool, calm and unnerving style as a bunch of wayward Brits are lured into madness by an alchemist. Shot in black and white, it looks like another fine offering from a director who is constantly challenging and evolving his palette. – MT
At the apex of his career Alejandro Jodorowsky was eyeballs deep adapting Frank Herbert’s Dune for the big screen. Needless to say A LOT of things were planned and ultimately none of them came together to form the film. However, many documents were made of the pre-production process and now almost forty years later the full story can be told of just how epic his telling of an epic was to be. From collaborations with Pink Floyd to Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles and the fantastic artist Moebius( to name a few), Jodoroswky’s Dune puts his spectacle front and center as a chronicle of imagination gone into hyperdrive and the repercussions such creativity can have. – MT
Journey To the West: Conquering the Demons
It’s been almost 10 years since Kung Fu Hustle, and while Stephen Chow threw in a less-than-desirable E.T.-like sci-fi picture in between then and now, it wasn’t nearly enough to hold us over throughout the decade. If Jackie Chan is the closest thing we have to a modern-day Buster Keaton as a performer, Stephen Chow is the closest we have to a modern-day Chaplin as a comic auteur (who can also kick your face). If Journey to the West is half the film Hustle was it may still be enough to satisfy for another 10 years. – AC
There’s a special unit among the Tokyo police responsible for fighting the toughest, cruelest, and most nefarious criminals, but when the evil organization called Red Venus strikes them with a chemical weapon the battle appears to be lost. Except the chemical’s only effect was to turn these hard-ass cops into children. Pissed-off children with guns, badges, and the gritty desire to kick bad-guy ass. Part Dirty Harry, part Bugsy Malone, and all incredibly awesome-sounding. – RH
Robert Rodriguez’s sequel to the “it was better as a trailer” experience Machete may not end the festival as one of the best movies we’re going to see, but it does feel like an appropriately big event to kick off the festival on opening night. The mind wanders toward what kind of on-stage shenanigans Tim League and his Fantastic Fest staff will come up with to introduce the latest project from a hometown hero. Hopefully no one is killed. Maimed is okay, but killed is probably too far. – NM
Nightbreed – The Cabal Cut
42 minutes. That’s how much footage has been added back into Clive Barker’s incredibly ambitious, admittedly flawed, and consistently entertaining 1990 film, Nightbreed. This is no studio restoration, and the the additional scenes are reportedly in rough form, but after hearing for more than two decades about Barker’s extended vision for the film, what got forced onto the cutting room floor, and the possibility that the footage still existed, this is easily my most anticipated of the fest. Hell, it may be my most anticipated screening of the year. – RH
In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a series of events – battles, natural disasters, etc. – that bring about the death and rebirth of the world. Yet unlike Christian mythology’s Rapture, this one has serpents and dragons and a bunch of blonde people. Based on its trailer, director Mikkel Sandemose’s film brings the end of the Norse world to modern day, fills it with wild adventure and (perhaps, hopefully) some badass dragons. – NM
Why Don’t You Play In Hell
A film crew gets caught in the grips of a Yakuza crime lord’s demands to get his daughter put in a movie. It sounds like the filmmaker of Love Exposure, Cold Fish and Suicide Club wanted to make Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway. I can’t see how that isn’t interesting. – AC
Terry Gilliam’s first feature in 4 years finds Christoph Waltz as a computer wiz hellbent on programming a system that’s able to calculate or determine the meaning of life. When Gilliam is on target he’s one of the few filmmakers who can be unique while not sacrificing entertainment for oddness. When he’s off-target he hits the audience with discomfort. However, in both cases the results are, while sometimes shocking, never boring… something Theorem doesn’t sound to be in the slightest. – AC
Fantastic Fest runs September 19–26, 2013
Trailers thanks to Noahphex’s hard work gathering them all into one location. Check out the trailers for the rest of the films playing this year right here.