As you well know, Fantastic Fest is the one. There are plenty of fine film festivals that take place in many fine locations around the globe. They all show movies, many of which end up on our top ten lists at the end of the year. But no matter what any of those TIFFs and Cannes-fests have, they don’t exactly measure up to the pure, blood-filled experiential goodness that is Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. For a fair number of us, this is the most wonderful time of the year. Great friends come into town, great BBQ is consumed by the pound, and a number of carefully programmed movies are displayed just for us on the screens of the Alamo Drafthouse. It’s high praise, sure. But as anyone who has actually attended the festival might tell you, it’s perfectly spot on.
Our goal for this year’s coverage – this being our fifth consecutive year covering as a site – is to bring you even closer to the experience that is Fantastic Fest than ever before. We won’t just be filing reviews for the big movies like Dredd 3D and Looper, we’ll be providing looks at every single feature film playing this year’s festival. We’ll have spotlights on filmmakers you should keep an eye on. We’ll show you what it’s like to attend Fantastic Fest. We’ve got a crack staff in place, the one we call the The Fantastic Fest Death Squad. Joining veterans Rob Hunter, Brian Salisbury, Luke Mullen, and Adam Charles are two new faces to our team, Austin Cinematic Limits author Don Simpson and fresh-faced wild card Michael Treveloni. They are all extremely excited and from what I can tell, have already begun drinking heavily.
But before we pour our coverage all over your eager faces, we’d like to take a moment to highlight our 12 must see films of Fantastic Fest 2012. Big and small, these are the ones that excite us most. Check out the list below and see why these ended up on the list in the words of our very own team on the ground.
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Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman
Action, Eyeball Violence, Fellatio, Strippers… these are just some of the categories assigned to this movie via Fantastic Fest’s patented (not really) iconography descriptors on the fest’s website, and they’re more than enough get me intrigued. The Chilean film follows the violent adventures of a young man forced to hunt down a mysterious, leather clad assassin named Machine Gun Woman. That’s probably not her given name. Prior to this the only excitement in Santiago Fernandez’ life was found in the video games he spent his days playing, but now he’ll have to apply those thumb skills to the real world if he hopes to survive until tomorrow. Director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza is an FF veteran with both Mirageman and Mandrill on his resume, and this dirty little number looks to be a welcome change of pace. – Rob Hunter
Rian Johnson is exactly what Hollywood needs right now, even if he’s not what they deserve. He exploded out of the gate with Brick in 2005 and proved that low budget and high art can be inversely proportional. His latest film re-teams him with the astonishingly talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt and brings in Bruce Willis for what promises to be a thrilling, smart sci-fi actioner. Time travel has been explored in cinema time and time again, but we’re confident Johnson will breathe new life into this old convention. Our hope is that this is the big break Johnson needs to become one of the power players in the industry, something he richly deserves. - Brian Salisbury
Memory of the Dead
The loss of a loved one can stir many feelings. For Alicia, when her husband departed she found comfort in a nugget of information he left behind: a ritual to bring him back to life. All she has to do is assemble some of their close friends, stay indoors, dabble in some occult stuff and keep alive through the night. Hailing from Argentina, Memory of the Dead looks to be a fun, jittery take on love and reanimation. The trailer suggests a heavy dose of surreal atmosphere and an aversion to letting blood remain inside its hosts. Also something with a teeth-face. - Michael Treveloni