Fantastic Fest

In the world of genre film, it’s usually kill or be killed. As we descend upon Austin, TX and the world famous Alamo Drafthouse for another year of coverage at the United States’ largest genre film festival, we once again choose to kill.

Follow along with Neil Miller (@rejects), Scott Beggs (@scottmbeggs) and Rob Hunter (@fakerobhunter) as they chronicle their journey into darkness and emerge covered in blood or some other, slightly less savory goo.

Drafthouse Films

A young man arrives at a new boarding school, but his attempts to fit in are thwarted by the criminal element ingrained in his classmates. A brief initiation brawl leads to his inclusion into the family and soon he’s stealing, scamming and mugging alongside his new friends. It’s not long before he’s promoted to the role of pimp and guardian to two female students who bump and grind for cash at truck stops, but when he falls for one of the girls his job grows a bit trickier, leading to an unavoidably violent conflict with his partners in crime. The story at the center of the new Ukrainian film, The Tribe, is as basic as they come, and the characters fare no better as they lack depth, show no growth and fail to make an emotional connection with viewers. The film is also a slog at times as the director’s penchant for long takes results in dull stretches of repetitive, inessential action. Oh, and all of the characters are deaf, they communicate through sign language, there’s no spoken dialogue and there are no subtitles. This conceit — and let’s be honest, it is a conceit — forces viewers to look beyond the expected dialogue to comprehend behaviors and lives that at their core are very human. Even with its numerous issues though, the film remains a must-watch for movie lovers and anyone who appreciates filmmakers who take bold steps in uncharted directions to tell stories in unconventional ways.

read more...

Astron-6

Rey Ciso (Adam Brooks) was once the most celebrated film editor in the world, but ever since a lapse in judgement while working on the longest film ever made left him four fingers short he’s been relegated to cutting trashy genre movies for no-talent hacks. When cast members on his latest project start turning up dead the cop investigating the crimes, Det. Peter Porfiry (Matthew Kennedy), immediately sets his sights on Rey forcing the editor into a race against time to identify the real culprit before it’s too late. His efforts are complicated by several factors including the possibility that he may be the murderer after all. The list of suspects is as long as Dario Argento’s Giallo is terrible and includes Rey’s wife Josephine (Paz de la Huerta), an actor named Cal (Conor Sweeney) who’s benefiting from the newly available roles, Rey’s eager new assistant (Samantha Hill) and the head of a nearby asylum played by Udo Kier. To be fair Dr. Casini is a very small role, but anytime Kier’s in a movie it’s only common sense to consider him a suspect. Astron-6 is a Canadian collective of genre filmmakers who lean toward the ridiculous, and the results are not for everybody. They’re not even for most people. Hell, judging by their budgets and audience numbers they’re barely for anyone, and that’s a damn shame because The Editor is not only their best film yet but also one of the best comedic horror films to dirty up the screen in years. It’s […]

read more...

MondoCon_logo

If you’re putting on a film festival in Austin, Texas, you can’t just be a film festival. In order to capture the attention of the tech-friendly, music-loving, attention deficit-inflicted audiences of Central Texas’ cultural oasis, you have to be more than a one-trick pony. Take, for example, South by Southwest. It’s film, music and interactive conferences that could all exist on a large scale by themselves. Even Austin Film Festival, the most specifically named of all yearly events, is known for being both a film festival and a screenwriting conference. This is something Fantastic Fest has known for a while. Beginning as simply a great genre film festival, the Alamo Drafthouse’s signature yearly event has slowly but surely expanded to meet the needs of a diverse audience. A few years back they launched Fantastic Arcade, an excellent diversion for filmgoers and a must-see for fans of the independent gaming arena. This year, Fantastic Fest expanded even further, spinning off Drafthouse’s popular boutique art division to create MondoCon: a celebration of art direction, movie posters and cult favorites. And while it may be the third leg of Fantastic Fest’s ever-growing empire, it certainly held its own. It also got us drunk.

read more...

Orion Pictures

The people of Texarkana — two towns with a shared named and a shared border — have known terror before. Sixty-eight years ago a masked killer stalked and murdered five people, wounded a few others and left a community scarred with terror. A dramatized documentary (of sorts) was released in 1976, and now 38 years later the killer has returned. Well, a killer anyway. Teenagers gather at a drive-in theater watching the town’s annual screening of the ’76 film, but when a young couple cuts out early for some hanky panky they discover a man in a sack cloth mask watching their car from the woods. He attacks leaving Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) dead and Jami (Addison Timlin) traumatized, and soon the town is forced into a new nightmare as the killings continue along a similar path to the ones captured in the film nearly four decades prior. The Town That Dreaded Sundown is titled like a remake, but it’s actually a sequel that opens in present day with a voice-over informing viewers that what we’re about to see happened in Texarkana one year ago. The characters’ awareness of the original film adds a meta element, but at its core the film is little more than a slickly produced slasher. That’s not a bad thing on its face, but it would have been a lot better if the script tried to be anything other than a retroactively aware and highly generic rehash of events we’ve seen before.

read more...

TWC

Genre fans know the drill. If you have sex, you’re going to die. It will usually be at the hands of a machete-wielding madman, but whatever the case you will be dead before the post-coital bliss is rinsed away from your bathing suit area. Relatively recent horror flicks have played around with the concept by allowing their final girl protagonists to do the dirty and still survive, but the tradition remains as some kind of subconscious puritanical judgement. It Follows takes that conceit and gives it a freshly paranoid and frequently terrifying new twist. Jay (Maika Monroe) finds out the hard way after giving it up to her new boyfriend one warm summer night only to wake up in a condemned building tied to a wheelchair. Her boyfriend (well, her ex-boyfriend now probably) begins his explanation with an apology. Having sex is the only way to pass “it” to someone else. What is it exactly? Well, it takes the form of a human, one that can look like a stranger or someone you know and is only visible to you and others who’ve been infected, and it walks steadily toward you. They’re slow but persistent, and if they reach you they bend, batter and break your body until you’re dead. The bright side — aside from the hopefully awesome sex you just had — is that you can pass it to someone else by the same means and tell them to follow suit. Sharing doesn’t mean you’re free and clear though […]

read more...

Princess Kaguya

One of the most impressive things about The Tale of Princess Kaguya is its dual nature as a delicate epic and a powerful slower burn that’s never dull. It’s like watching a feather turn to stone over two hours before being knocked down by it (and those who know Grave of the Fireflies won’t be surprised that Kaguya has that kind of strength). This is a fine followup for Isao Takahata, who brings a half-century of animated storytelling and the tearfully hopeful Fireflies legacy to this ancient folktale. As the cultural ambassador for Japan, it’s fitting that Studio Ghibli is the one sharing “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” — the country’s oldest surviving narrative — on this scale with the rest of the world. The story features an older man who discovers a tiny princess growing out of a bamboo stalk, who he takes home and raises as his own daughter. He also finds a hefty amount of gold, which allows him and his wife to bring the little bambina to the city to grow up in a mansion as a proper lady. The princess, who spent her earliest days skinning her knees and climbing trees with close friends in the country, rebels at every turn.

read more...

Fantastic Fest

Boy Scouts, amirite? Always hating on atheists, gays and random sticks they find in the woods. But in Belgium at least they’re far from the worst thing hanging out in the forest. Cub follows a gaggle of scouts along on a camping trip meant to engender team-building and survival skills, but the truth behind a local legend threatens to impede the former — by killing off members of the team — while creating a sink or swim scenario with the latter. A feral boy said to live in the woods is rumored to be behind a series of disappearances, but even if he’s real he may not be the biggest threat wandering the wild. Sam (Maurice Luijten, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Belgian River Phoenix) joined the scouts with the baggage of a mysterious and violent past trauma, and the constant bullying he suffers at the hands of others does nothing to calm his inner turmoil. He’s dismissed after trying to tell the others that he saw a boy in the woods and instead forms a strained and silent relationship with the muddied and masked child. And then they all start earning merit badges in death.

read more...

Marko Zaror in Redeemer

Sometime after making the highly entertaining, ass-kicking spy spoof Mandrill, martial artist and budding action star Marko Zaror wasn’t sure what to do with his time. He had begun considering going into real fighting — MMA style bouts that could help pay the bills. Then Robert Rodriguez called and asked him to make a memorable appearance in the otherwise unmemorable Machete Kills . It was back to acting and in the end, back to Austin where Kills debuted at Fantastic Fest 2013. It was in this moment, Zaror explains, that he decided that he wanted to come back with another movie. It was later that night, in Austin, over drinks with the two ladies in his life — his girlfriend and his mom — that Redeemer was born. Now here he is, back in Austin. Still kicking ass on the big screen.

read more...

The Zero Theorem

Editor’s note: This review was originally published on September 30, 2013 as part of our Fantastic Fest 2013 coverage. A bald man, one without hair seemingly anywhere on his body, calmly sits naked in front of his computer screen as he watches what appears to be either a simulation or video of the awesome action of an outer space black hole. It sucks in all of the space circling around it like an endlessly flushing toilet bowl of stars, matter, and time. Our hairless hero is Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz). Qohen is neither the cunning villainous type nor the quick-witted heroic type, and his emotional characteristics are as bald as his head. We’re exposed to only a handful of states out of Qohen as we follow with him in his daily routine through a comically crazy and colorful future where he seems as physically discomforted by the assaults of this world as a prisoner released from Shawshank prison after fifty years. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry to do something; or probably nothing as I understand it. Welcome to Terry Gilliam‘s The Zero Theorem.

read more...

Magnet

The idea behind the original ABCs of Death anthology film was a good (and risky) one — 26 directors, each given a letter of the alphabet as inspiration for a short film involving death — but the execution was severely lacking. The actively bad ones far outweighed the good and mediocre combined resulting in a painful slog of a film with minimal highlights. The announcement of a sequel was met with understandable trepidation by many who still can’t shake the memories of the first film’s overabundance of juvenile humor and unchecked talent, but happily ABCs of Death 2 is an entertaining and frequently engaging collection of ideas and imagery. And it’s 100% free of farts. It seems immediately clear that the filmmakers, while still given freedom in regard to their finished shorts, were also given a guiding hand sorely missing from the scattershot first film. There are ideas at play here beyond simple gags or special effects shots, and while most remain contained one-offs, many others use their time to comment on social ills or highlight the art and craft of filmmaking. The shorts still feature some laughs along the way, but it’s a recognizably more somber and serious collection than its predecessor.

read more...

Mandalay Pictures

This year brings us the 10th edition of Fantastic Fest, the biggest and boldest genre film festival in the United States and the creation of the minds who brought the world the wonderful Alamo Drafthouse theater chain. As longtime FSR readers will note, we’ve been covering this thing for a number of years. We’ve seen blood spilt, psyches tortured, evils emerge from the depths and heroes triumph. We’ve seen the festival’s founder dress up like Kim Jong-Un and a number of in-person roundhouse kicks from legendary action stars. Fantastic Fest brings out the best (and creepiest) of genre cinema. Action, suspense, horror and a commitment to the everlasting weird. We’re excited to send the team back into that dark environment, where audiences are terrorized, energized and stuffed with delicious fried foods. It’s our favorite time of year and we’re excited that we get to take all of you along for the ride. So stick with us over the next week as we report on the movies of Fantastic Fest X. First, we take a look at the most fucked up things we expect to see down in Austin this week.

read more...

cong

When it comes to independent films and major releases, animation is fairly underutilized medium. There are exceptions, but for the most part, it’s generally used for kid-centric stories or to paint a lush, if slightly more adult, world. That’s why movies like A Scanner Darkly and The Congress are so special. They use animation for drama and to express ideas that go beyond a few pretty shots. Both films shouldn’t be compared past that point, but they are both emotional, visual, and mental exercises — rides that you either go along with from the start or don’t. If director Ari Folman‘s The Congress grabs you from its first frame, then expect a rich science-fiction film packed with commentary, ideas, laughs, tears, and beauty.  Speaking of beauty, Robin Wright (played conveniently by Robin Wright) has lost it, at least according to some slimy agist studio executive we meet working at Miramount. She’s now 44 years old. That usually means for actresses their careers are winding down, but after years of “bad” choices and choosing family over work, Robin isn’t the big deal that she once was. The offers aren’t coming in, at least not the offers she’s interested in — she wouldn’t ever dare to take part in a science-fiction film.

read more...

Lionsgate

Fantastic Fest may be a festival focused on off-the-radar genre films from here and abroad, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for recognizable Hollywood faces. They’ve just announced their second wave of titles playing this year, and while it’s heavy on unfamiliar foreign titles there are a few heavy hitters in there too. One of last year’s highlights was the presence of Keanu Reeves who there with his directorial debut, the surprisingly fun Man of Tai Chi, but also took time out to participate in the Fantastic Debates. He’s returning again this year, and while he didn’t direct John Wick it promises to be a rollicking action flick all the same thanks to Reeves’ clear love of the genre and the co-directors vast experience in the stunt game. Jake Gyllenhaal won’t be making an appearance, but his fantastically dark-looking new film, Nightcrawler, will be closing the fest. Other known talents include the latest from high-kicker Marko Zaror in Redeemer, Takashi Miike’s return to horror with Over Your Dead Body, Astron-6’s giallo-inspired thriller The Editor, Sion Sono’s hip-hop musical Tokyo Tribe, a documentary about the cinematic glory days of Cannon Films and one of my favorite films from this year’s Sundance fest, Eskil Vogt’s Blind. Keep reading to see the whole announcement and entire second wave of films playing this year’s Fantastic Fest.

read more...

ff septic man

The Canadian town of Collinwood is suffering a serious sanitation problem. Something has come along and gummed up the works. People are getting sick, evacuations are in order, death looms et cetera…basically, something stinks. In a situation as dire as this, when shit’s going down, there’s only one trusted name in the game and that is Septic Man. Jack (Jason David Brown) is thee titular septic man, a chap of few words with a rough edged can-do spirit. Earlier in his career he saved the town from suffering through shoddy infrastructure and prevented a whole bunch of crap from happening. If there’s a problem with the pipes, he’s the man of the hour. Jack is a reluctant fellow though. He has a kid on the way and a wife that just wants him to be home longer than he’s away. But they have bills to pay, responsibilities and all that jazz. To put it square, he’s no slouch. So it’s only fair that when the government comes-a-callin’ (Julian Richings channeling a day-walking Max Schreck), dangling their loonies and toonies in his face, he takes a big bite of that government cheddar.

read more...

Fantastic Fest 2014

This year marks the 10th anniversary of what might just be the world’s best film festival. (I say “might” not because I doubt my own statement, but only because I have yet to attend Spain’s Sitges Film Festival…) And while Tim League and his Alamo Drafthouse friends most assuredly have plenty of surprises and celebrations in store for us this year for now we have to settle for a tease of what’s to come next month with this first wave announcement of movies and events playing the fest. Two anthology sequels are making their expected appearances here as are a few films we’ve seen elsewhere including the wonderfully creepy Australian chiller The Babadook, the surprising documentary Kung Fu Elliot and the French gender bender Jacky in the Kingdom of Women. Kevin Smith’s Tusk is also playing, but the highlight there promises to be seeing how the antagonism between Smith and movie bloggers plays out with Smith in attendance. (My guess is both sides will be super chummy.) The true magic of Fantastic Fest though is in the obscure and previously unknown foreign titles that they share with us each year, and happily the majority of the titles below are ones I’ve never heard of before now. Keep reading to see the first wave of titles that will be playing Fantastic Fest 2014.

read more...

Machete Kills

Editor’s note: Neil’s review of Machete Kills originally ran during this year’s Fantastic Fest, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in theatrical release today. It feels like an odd tradition to have. Just about every other year, Fantastic Fest — the beloved pilgrimage of genre film fans to Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse — the opening night film is a complete dud. The first and most notable example of this came in 2009 when Gentlemen Broncos opened the festival, much to the confusion and displeasure of the always keen Fantastic Fest crowd. Following opening night, that year’s festival went on to produce memorable screenings of Antichrist, Fish Story, Zombieland, Gareth Evans’ debut Merantau and many others. It was a great year. The same came two years later when the festival opened with the overwhelmingly unlikable Human Centipede 2, only to yield the debuts of great flicks like You’re Next, Extraterrestrial, A Boy and His Samurai and the Oscar nominee Bullhead. It could be deduced, based on recent history, that the quality of the opening night film is inversely proportional to the quality of the rest of the Fantastic Fest line-up. With that in mind, 2013 has opened with Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills. By the logic expressed above, that means 2013 is on pace to be the best Fantastic Fest line-up yet.

read more...

Escape from Tomorrow

Editor’s note: Michael’s review of Escape From Tomorrow originally ran during this year’s Fantastic Fest, but we’re re-running it now as the film hits VOD and a limited theatrical release. Childhood is a chaotic sprawl of experiences; an eyelid flutter filtered through emotion, strained and catalogued down to core memories. Often times the way things happened aren’t the way they wind up interpreted. A wave of time passing can be a sticky mess to wade through, especially if going it alone. The day Jim (Roy Abramsohn) lost his job was the day he became a solitary man, stunted in fantasy and regressing to an age of wonder. Rather than spoil his family’s last day of vacation he keeps the news to himself. Herding kids around a theme park while keeping his wife happy is enough of a complication on its own. For Jim, wringing the pleasure out of the day before an inevitable crash comes calling is about all that he has going for him. That is until some young French girls give him a bit of attention on the monorail. For one day he has a new spark, a new reason to smile and a new fantasy to chase.

read more...

Why Don

With digital quickly overtaking 35mm film as the dominant acquisition and distribution format for major motion pictures, it’s no surprise that filmmakers would be moved to reminisce about the magic of film. Martin Scorsese dipped his foot in both pools with his digitally-shot 3D film Hugo, which showcased the artistry of early film pioneer George Melies. And Holy Motors, from French director Leos Carax, touched on the emotion and communal experience of cinema among a plethora of other themes. So it seems only natural that Sion Sono‘s latest film, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, unfolds like a love letter to the format with which we all first fell in love. The Fuck Bombers are the best damn cinema club in all of Japan and they are going to make a great movie…one day. Lead by the enthusiastic director Hirata, the Fuck Bombers make their own movies on 8mm. Tanigawa does the best handheld shots while Miki is the best at dolly shots accomplished by wearing roller skates. But the crew finds their final puzzle piece when a fight breaks out near their film shoot one day and they meet Sasaki, who Hirata is sure will be the next great action star. At the same time, a yakuza feud spills into the urban sprawl when members of the Kitagawa clan attack yakuza boss Taizo Muto’s family in their home. Unfortuantely for them, Muto’s wife Shizue was the only one home and she dispatched her would-be attackers with vengeance. The police […]

read more...

best big bad wolves

Another Fantastic Fest is in the books, and once again we’re left counting down the days until next year. The fest continues to be the best week of the year for fans of the weird and the wonderful from all around the globe, and this year delivered on both counts. From Indian martial artists to detectives with Down Syndrome, from men reincarnated as flies to a blackly comic look at a school shooting, this year saw dozens of films that entertained, challenged, and amazed. Sure, there was also Machete Kills, but they can’t all be winners. Here are 9 that were:

read more...

ff nightbreed cabal cut

I watched Clive Barker‘s Nightbreed three times in theaters in 1990 and several times more after buying it on VHS. (Shut up.) It was a completely different beast from his film debut, Hellraiser, but its creativity, ambition, and roster of all manner of creatures of the night made it a fun and original horror film in a year dominated by genre sequels. Sure it was cheesy and goofy at times in its attempt to tell a love story against a backdrop of serial killers, monsters, rednecks, and rogue priests, but it was also unlike anything we had seen before. But even then, twenty three years ago, there were rumblings in Fangoria magazine and elsewhere about the troubles Barker had dealing with the studio and the cuts he was forced to make, and Barker repeated the tales again and again in interviews that followed over two decades. He requested access to the original film elements on more than one occasion so he could essentially craft his director’s cut, but he was denied time and again. There was finally a change in that narrative in the past couple years though when the discovery of VHS tapes featuring raw, work print versions of the film was announced. A man named Russell Cherrington set out to mesh footage from both sources into a definitive cut based on the author’s original script, and with Barker’s blessing he’s now sharing it with the world. My excitement for the finished product, Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut (named for the source novella, “Cabal”), […]

read more...
NEXT PAGE  
Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
Fantastic Fest 2014
6 Filmmaking Tips: James Gunn
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3