The first thirty minutes of hanging out in line or around the Alamo Drafthouse on Day One of Fantastic Fest is reserved for excited greetings, hugs you only get one week out of the year and a discussion of what’s been going on with family. It’s a community coming together just like any other, and that means baby photos and inside jokes.
The week after those thirty minutes features a lot of topics, but it’s anchored by discussion about what the secret screenings will be. Amid conversations about how fast Donnie Yen really is and what sex with an octopus might yield, the active guessing of the unnamed movies perforates, growing in waves of disinformation and speculation as the time slot grows closer.
The thrill of waiting in a packed theater (with a bucket of beer), filled with anticipation (and a bucket of beer from earlier) is one of the unique emotions the festival offers, and a big part of that is trying to fit uneven puzzle pieces together. This is pure speculation – borne from my years of experience with Fantastic Fest and a look at the forthcoming release calendar – so take it only as that.
We already know what movies will be there, but here are 10 that just might show up in a TBA slot.
What it is: The new meta-ish movie from Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) where a writer’s blocked screenwriter trying to finish his script for Seven Psychopaths gets his hands dirty in a Shih Tzu-napping and lands on the wrong side of a gangster.
Why it might screen: It’s perfect for the audience, it’s got genre appeal as a crime film and it’ll be in theaters two weeks after the festival so the timing is solid.
What it is: Another display of a particular set of skills.
Why it might screen: Timing is a factor here as well, considering that the sequel hits October 2nd, but it’s also a no-brainer when it comes to fan love. The only way this could be more ideal for Fantastic Fest is if Liam Neeson was fighting zombies with a machine gun for a hand.
What it is: Ben Affleck’s forthcoming flick about a CIA ex-filtration expert staging a fake movie shoot in order to bring six Americans home during the Iranian revolution.
Why it might screen: Although this has screened at other festivals, it would be a great get for Fantastic Fest because it sounds uniquely weird and fiercely clever. The movie-making angle is a nice touch as well.
Resident Evil: Damnation
What it is: There’s another Resident Evil? Yup, and it’s completely Jovovich-less. The animated project was directed by Tokyo Gore Police actor and Biohazard: Degeneration director Makoto Kamiya.
Why it might screen: It’s one of the long-shots on this list, but secret screenings are a surprise for a reason. It could be a cool way to achieve the anime quotient, and the movie hits DVD and Blu-ray on September 25th.
What it is: It’s E.T.
Why it might screen: Fantastic Fest has never had a retrospective secret screening, but with a re-release for the Amblin classic imminent, it might be a great time to start. This same theory applies to Lawrence of Arabia, and both would make excellent screenings for the festival, but this choice seemed just slightly more perfect (if that’s a thing).
What it is: The story of a video game villain who wants to break free from his role and define himself – a task that takes him through a host of other video game environments filled with classic characters.
Why it might screen: It would make an early premiere in a friendly geek environment, and it would bring John C. Reilly back to the festival.
What it is: New era-jumping insanity from the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer.
Why it might screen: Imagine settling in for a mystery screening, maybe everyone has been given a coaster that reads “Papa Song’s Diner” to place their beverage upon, and then Tim League announces that, yes, Cloud Atlas is their secret screening and, yes, the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer are there to answer questions afterward. How huge would that be?
FDR: American Badass!
What it is: Barry Bostwick as our Nazi werewolf killer-in-wheelchair-in-chief.
Why it might screen: Fantastic Fest has a streak of playing schlocky stuff in one of the secret slots. While there’s a handful of exciting premieres, there’s almost always one low-budget flick that sneaks in, and since Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is officially listed on the schedule, this might be a solid choice, although a better candidate might be…
What it is: The story of a baseball prodigy who accidentally kills his father with a pitch and eventually turns to a life of crime, depositing him into a prison run by the granddaughter of a Nazi collaborator. Of course, the young man is forced to play baseball again (probably against teams made up of over-the-top Japanese clique stereotypes).
Why it might screen: Sushi Typhoon has a history with the fest, and Well Go USA (which is putting this out on DVD) is a sponsor.
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D
What it is: A new installment in the franchise, directed by Michael J. Bassett.
Why it might screen: There’s a kind of slickness to this choice that doesn’t exactly match up with Fantastic Fest’s usual M.O., but the festival can take credit for pushing hard for Bassett’s earlier effort – Solomon Kane – which is just now getting a limited release after years of languishing for no reason. Plus, it’s a horror film featuring fan-favorite Sean Bean and Malcolm McDowell. It’s doubtful that the audience would revolt if this was announced.
So those are my guesses. You’ll have to tune into our full-spread coverage of Fantastic Fest to see whether I got any right at all, and for those that won’t be going to the festival (or who have never been at all), hopefully this gives a fan’s eye view of one of the things we love about it.
It’s rare today to schedule two hours of time for something unknown, let alone to place your faith in someone else to program a movie for you to watch, so it’s a nice change of pace buried in a mountain of too many trailers and set photos for flicks coming out a year from now. There’s a kind of relief that comes with blindly heading into the theater, and hopefully those fortunate enough to be in the Alamo Drafthouse this week will be rewarded for their faith.