I have been to a whopping….one year of Fantastic Fest, but it is probably THE festival for both genre fans, genre filmmakers, and people who like karaoke. Rather than gush and gush about how amazing the festival is, you can click here to find it out for yourselves. Instead, I’m going to highlight my favorite films that have premiered at the festival in some way, shape, or form. Some of these were world premieres, other were North American, others were American, some were…well, you get the point. I’m excluding films that were re-released and wanted to highlight the incredible programming that the fine folks at Drafthouse do every year and remember how many amazing, contemporary classics that made their premiere here.
Feast – Although it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, I remember enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humor of it, Henry Rollins being a real asshole, and a scene where Krista Allen punches out a monster’s teeth and shoves her entire arm down its throat to choke it. That’s pretty badass.
Hostel – Although Cabin Fever is still my favorite Eli Roth movie, his follow-up gave us a more focused narrative about a bunch of asshole Americans thinking they’re awesome for backpacking through Europe. The gore effects combined with the awful portrayal of American youth culture still holds up well.
Wolf Creek – The gritty Australian thriller that unfortunately inspired more gritty slashers. Although I do prefer the Wolf Creek 2, the success is attributed to John Jarratt. He got to let loose in the sequel, seeing the subtle glimpses of just how wild this guy could get was my favorite part about the original.
Hatchet – In his ode to ridiculous, gore-filled slashers from the 80’s, writer/director Adam Green made a gore-filled slasher. There was also a lot of humor in the movie and I really wish I had gotten to see it with a crowd and I’ll bet that the Fantastic Fest crowds ate it up.
Pan’s Labyrinth – Admittedly, I haven’t seen this movie since it was in theaters. SO WHAT?! CAN I NOT STILL THINK IT WAS AWESOME?! Guillermo Del Toro makes terrifying fairy tales like no other, and this film is no exception. Great job, buddy!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – HEY, WATCH IT. No, this movie isn’t perfect. It’s far from perfect. However, there are a lot of things I really liked about it, especially in comparison to the 2003 remake. Also, by my count, it’s the only movie at Fantastic Fest that year that Diora Baird was in so it automatically gets a top spot.
Inside – Hyper-violent, hyper-stylish, and hyper-awesome. Is that a word? Probably not, but the French Inside came from out of nowhere and proved there was more blood in the human body than scientists had previously thought. Holy shit, I mean, seriously, WHERE DOES ALL THAT BLOOD COME FROM?! This movie was awesome.
The Orphanage – Although this was only executively produced by Guillermo Del Toro, it’s the scariest movie I’ve seen with his name attached to it. I guess I have a weakness for ghosts and haunted houses, but this movie blew me away when I saw it and it is still one of my favorite haunted house movies of all time.
Timecrimes – Time travel is real, REAL hard to do. Why does it have to be so confusing? Probably because time travel is confusing. Confusing and stupid, that’s why I never do it. Never has time travel been explained so simply as a drawing scribbled on some notebook paper in Nacho Vigalando‘s Timecrimes, about a man who stumbles into time travel and keeps trying to correct his mistakes. AND IT’S FUN! Fun and not confusing time travel movie? Who woulda thunk it!
There Will Be Blood – As a movie, I’m not sure any other movies this year could compete with a cinematic masterpiece like this. I dare to say that this movie is nearly flawless, so the only reason it is relegated to being an honorable mention is that it’s not so much “genre,” unless that genre is “amazing movie.” Then it would definitely be numero uno. (That’s Spanish for “the best,” dummies!)
Fanboys – Do you have ANY idea how long I had been waiting for this movie? A REAL LONG GODDAMNED TIME. I feel like it was at least three years between the time I saw the trailer and the time I got around to actually seeing the movie, and boy oh boy, it was worth it. Not only does Fanboys appeal to the Star Wars fan in me, but themes of losing touch with friends and death make this movie more than just a one-note amalgam of snappy references.
Let The Right One In – Man, I sure do hate vampire movies. Even classic vampires movies I don’t see much appeal in. Luckily, Let the Right One In is far from your traditional vampire movie. Sure, there are themes of budding young love and adolescence and all that junk, but most importantly, the movie looks gorgeous. Beautifully shot movie that’s a non-traditionally vampire fare? SIGN ME UP!
Martyrs – To this day, Martyrs remains one of the only movies that physically churned my stomach. To those of you who have seen it, I think you’ll know exactly the scene I’m talking about when I say “cheese pizza scalp.” EXACTLY. IT’S SO GROSS. Even though the film loses me at the end by reaching a little bit too far with its philosophical and religious questions, most of this movie is incredibly intense and incredibly nasty. Not in like the “Damn girl, you NASTY” kind of way, but in the “I think I’m going to puke my guts out” sort of way.
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer – I saw this at a 24 hour horror movie marathon, and even though some people groaned that it was a last minute replacement title, I ended up really enjoying myself. It’s goofy and filled with a ton of practical effects, and even though it pokes fun at the genre, it does so in the most loving way.
The House of the Devil – Cults, Satan, cute babysitters and pizza? THIS MOVIE HAS ALL OF THE THINGS I LOVE. I don’t know what else I can say about this film that I haven’t said a hundred times, so just read my review if you want to know my complete thoughts on the matter. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!
[REC] 2 – Any time the topic of sequels that are better than the original, this movie comes up. The original took a well-worn idea and handled it pretty well, and then this movie came in and went in a different direction with its narrative than I had seen done before while managing to keep all of the strengths of the first film. And there’s that cute skinny lady in her underwear at the end! Someone get her some pants!
Trick R’ Treat – Some movies are growers, some movies are showers, and some movies are both. What does that mean? Yo, I have no goddamned idea. Trick R’ Treat is one of the few movies that I’ve ever gone back and corrected my review. The more years that go by, the more I consider this movie a Halloween classic that encapsulates all of my favorite things about Halloween.
Paranormal Activity – Thought the franchise itself has had its ups and downs, the original still sets the bar for simple and effective found footage ghost movie. Hard to believe that it’s only been five years since the film’s release, considering how many copycats it’s spawned. I still like you, original movie!
I Saw the Devil – I put this movie off for a really long time because “revenge thriller” isn’t so much my genre as “horror,” but boy, I sure am a dummy for putting the movie off for so long! I Saw the Devil is violent, compelling, and has fantastic performances. Stop it with all the “genre” descriptions, Wolfman! Just go see good movies!
Red White and Blue – It’s just…it’s such a bummer! There are some horror/thriller elements in the movie, but it’s ultimately a portrayal of how awful people can be to one another. It’s awful people doing awful things. What a fun ride!
Troll Hunter – Can you imagine just going in to see Troll Hunter and having no idea what it was about, only to see a bunch of Norwegians HUNTING TROLLS?! This movie is so much fun! I wish I was Norwegian. Or a troll. If I was a troll, then Norwegians would hunt me out. CAN SOMEONE TAKE CARE OF THIS FOR ME PLEASE?
Rare Exports – Easily the worst part about seeing Rare Exports in September is that it gets you excited for Christmas but you have to wait a whole bunch of more months for Christmas to come, and you have Halloween in the meantime! Although this is a yearly Christmas movie for me, I don’t know how much I would enjoy it if I watched it an a month that didn’t end with “ecember.”
Melancholia – Is there a better metaphor for depression than an entire planet crashing into Earth, rendering every pointless and everyone worthless? I don’t think so! I love me some depressing movie and I’m glad I didn’t see this at Fantastic Fest because it probably would’ve bummed me out for the rest of the day.
The Innkeepers – Another slow-paced horror movie from Ti West? Cool! I’m in! One of the few horror films in recent years that gives you such charismatic and charming leads that you actually get nervous that something bad might happen to them. Instead of fodder, you get to see an awkward relationship unfold as ghosts haunt a small Connecticut hotel.
You’re Next – Thanks to its premiere screening at Fantastic Fest, You’re Next became one of the most hyped movies in the horror community for almost a year and a half before it played again at SXSW 2013. Luckily, a bunch of nerd losers reacted with terms like “overhyped” because they let other people form their opinions of it without having even seen it. They never got to enjoy the funny and highly watchable take on the home invasion genre. Oh well, more for me!
Beyond the Black Rainbow – Even though I still find the narrative a little disappointing, the visceral experience of watching Beyond the Black Rainbow has made it one of my most played Blu-rays. I do generally fall asleep shortly into it, but that’s not important! It’s pretty and sounds cool!
Here Comes the Devil – A movie that combines exploitation elements with slasher elements and wraps them up in a possessed children narrative? YEAH, SIGN ME UP. A lot of good things come together in a great way with this film and it was well worth the long wait before it got distribution.
Miami Connection – What I wouldn’t give to have been able to be at Fantastic Fest to see this movie. Instead, I just read all about “friends through eternity” and “against the ninja” all over Twitter for weeks and week. I just like to pretend I was there because I think everyone who has seen Miami Connection are best friends (through eternity, loyalty, honesty).
Sightseers – Having loved Kill List, I was incredibly excited to see Sightseers. Suffice it to say, I left the theater pretty confused. This wasn’t a horror movie! It was like, a weird black comedy! Good thing I watched the movie a few more times and came to respect writer/director Ben Wheatley and the way he can’t be nailed to just one genre or just one type of filmmaking. COming to appreciate the movie, I anticipate every Wheatley movie more than the last one.
The American Scream – This movie really hits me in my heartbone. By the way, hearts don’t have bones. They have guts. Wait, I’m getting distracted. Want to know a surefire way to get me to watch a documentary? Have it take place in New England around Halloween. It instantly conjures up lots of wonderful memories for me and I recommend the movie to everyone I come across who has ever lived in New England.
Big Bad Wolves – I mostly only checked this movie out because it had “wolves” in the title, and that was a good decision on my part. Both thrilling and hilarious, Big Bad Wolves makes for the most entertaining movie about interrogating a child molester that I’ve seen in quite some time. Not including watching home movies. AW COME ON, I’M KIDDING. Goofball Wolferman!
Blue Ruin – Whereas Big Bad Wolves took a dark subject matter and made an incredibly entertaining movie, Blue Ruin took a dark subject matter and BUMMED EVERYONE THE FUCK OUT. In the best way imaginable, of course. Blue Ruin doesn’t pull any of its punches when it shows the impacts of violence and revenge on real people and showcasing the real world ramifications of going on a revenge-filled massacre. Macon Blair is phenomenal in it and I just want to give him a big hug. But only if he takes a bath first, because he looks kind of stinky in the movie.
Cheap Thrills – I am lucky enough to have been able to see this movie six months earlier at SXSW, but with it being one of the best movies I had seen all year, going back to see it with the cast and crew there was just as enjoyable as the first time. Oh yeah, and this time it involved a lady eating a popsicle covered in bugs and Dave Koechner making it rain, so there’s those added bonuses.
The Sacrament – Mr. West, you’ve done it again! You’ve made an effective horror movie that feels completely different than your last film. The Sacrament is deeply unsettling in its depiction of mob mentality and cult persuasion and features some of West’s most disturbing sequences to date. Yeah, I guess you could say I drank the Kool-Aid. Hahaha, get it? Because that’s what people do in cults when they want to die? Oh man, I’m hilarious!
And there you have it! All nine years of Fantastic Fest covered and not a moment too soon! Obviously there are tons of movies that I left out that I would’ve loved to include, but I tried to keep this relatively brief, so thanks to those of you who stuck around until the end. Make sure to follow me on Twitter and on Instagram to get the real-time updates of all the cool things I’m doing at this year’s Fantastic Fest, and say hi, won’t ya?! Some of you might actually recognize my awful face by now!