20 Must See Films of Fantastic Fest 2010

By  · Published on September 20th, 2010

With the exception of Gentlemen Broncos, we were spot on with our Must See Films of Fantastic Fest 2009 list last year. While we’d love to take the credit for it, the truth is that it’s Fantastic Fest that came through with a large slate of winners from the weird world of genre.

Fantastic Fest is the movie festival for movie lovers, and as the FSR Death Squad assembles yet again, we’re gearing up to attack the event with a renewed fervor by shining the spotlight on the films we’re anticipating the most. We’re pleased to have Adam Charles, Robert Fure, Brian Salisbury, Rob Hunter and Cole Abaius (led by the slightly inebriated and deep fried Neil Miller) comprise the Squad this go ‘round.

As for the Must See movies, this year, we’re enlisted four members of the Squad to choose 5 films each, and the result is a list full of blood, Hong Kong action, gritty Santa Claus stories, geriatric Kung Fu, Dystopian societies, ninjas from Norway, slasher follow-ups, mental trips, creepy clowns, and little girl vampires.

A truly sprawling feast for the eyes and ears. Hopefully you’ll be sitting next to us, but if not, we aim to make you feel that way with our coverage. It’s time to get excited. Here are the 20 films that have got us running to the famous Alamo Drafthouse for Fantastic Fest 2010.

Hunter’s Picks

Fire of Conscience

Directed by: Dante Lam

Country of Origin: China

The Pitch: There’s been a fantastic resurgence in recent years of the Hong Kong action genre finally climbing back to a place of prominence. Stars like Donnie Yen and directors like Dante Lam and Benny Chan are making exciting, (relatively) smart, fantastically choreographed action films again that grab and hold your attention all the way to the end credits. This flick from the director of Beast Stalker and Sniper sees two cops, one bad and one badder, go head to head. Car chases, foot chases, gun fights and brawls ensue as the two battle wills. Lam weaves heavy melodrama throughout his films, but the man knows how to shoot an action scene, and this flick looks to be filled with them.

Golden Slumber

Directed by: Yoshihiro Nakamura

Country of Origin: Japan

The Pitch: One of the best films to play at last year’s Fantastic Fest was Fish Story. Of course, I didn’t actually watch the damn thing until two months ago so I’m a little late to that particular party, but director Yoshihiro Nakamura is back again this year, and I don’t plan on making the same mistake twice. Golden Slumber is about an innocent man framed for assassinating the Prime Minister and forced to go on the run. The film promises a mix of action and suspense alongside a twisted, time-hopping narrative exploring the power of friendship, shared memories, and music. And yes, I realize that sounds like a strange mix of things that really don’t belong together, but Fish Story proved that Nakamura can make it work beautifully.

The Housemaid

Directed by: Sang-soo Im

Country of Origin: South Korea

The Pitch: This remake of the classic 1960 film makes a few changes, but the story’s core stays the same. A well-to-do family brings a new maid into the home and soon dramatic infidelity, lustful intrigue, and more begin spreading throughout the household. The trailer for the film is absolutely stunning, and it sets up a dangerous tableaux of class warfare, sexual politics, and abusive manipulation. And sex. I’d be lying if I claimed part of the appeal for me wasn’t the incredibly attractive Korean women engaged in naughty antics. But I’m also a big fan of adult thrillers of the kind they just don’t make very often anymore. This isn’t about car chases and gun fights, but instead is about the evils of adult immorality. And sex.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Directed by: Jalmari Helander

Country of Origin: Finland

The Pitch: The films at Fantastic Fest that I’m excited for are divided into two groups. The ones I have some prior knowledge of, and the ones I know little to nothing about. This Finnish flick falls into the latter category. An international group of archeologists makes a surprising find in the ice… Santa Freaking Claus. Only the reality doesn’t quite match the legend, and instead of a jolly fat man hoping to spread cheer throughout the children of the world this Santa is something altogether different. And caging him and offering him up to the highest bidder probably isn’t the brightest thing to do next. The trailer is impressively dark and fantastical and reveals just enough childish wonder and Grimm fairy tale reality.

Red Hill

Directed by: Patrick Hughes

Country of Origin: Australia

The Pitch: Like Rare Exports above, I know absolutely nothing abut this Australian thriller aside from the presence of True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten. I haven’t even seen a trailer of any kind. The plot follows a young police officer trying to survive his first day on the job… which unfortunately coincides with an escaped convict’s quest to slaughter the entire Red Hill police department. Australia has had a resurgence of late when it comes to thrillers with films like Animal Kingdom, The Horseman, and Van Diemen’s Land, and I’m hoping that trend continues here. Kwanten’s Jason Stackhouse is continually one of the best characters on True Blood, and it should be interesting to see him take on a different kind of role.

Adam’s Picks


Directed by: Eugenio Mira

Country of Origin: Spain

The Pitch: Spain has been one of the most well-represented countries at the festival in prior years bringing offering up some considerably strong lineups with Pan’s Labyrinth, The Orphanage, Timecrimes and The Cold Hour (a film still in desperate need of stateside distribution). Agnosia has the pedigree to be one of the most cherished films with a screenplay by Antonio Trashorras (co-scripter of The Devil’s Backbone) and the filmmaker is an FF veteran who has often collaborated on many of Nacho Vigalondo’s short films, as well as composed the music for Audience Award Winner Timecrimes.

Guillermo Del Toro claims that the script is one of the most impressive he’s ever read, and if the photos are any indication of a consistent visual splendor then this may be the film I am expecting the most out of. I’m sorry, but the Spaniards have done it to themselves. They’re basically the Pixar Studios of Fantastic Fest.


Directed by: Guy Moshe

Country of Origin: USA

The Pitch: In the Fantastic Fest film guide the word “hyper” shows up three times in the first sentence for this film’s description. It’s categorized as a melting pot of genre faves combining the samurai film, spaghetti western, and the Dystopian society with an exceptional cast of fun actors such as Ron Perlman and Woody Harrelson. Sukiyaki Western Django was one of the more entertaining pictures I saw the year I saw it and if this film is even relatively close to containing the energy and vibrancy of that samurai/western homage then this could be the kind of film to help keep the party goin’ after midnight.


Directed by: Clement Sze-Kit Cheng and Chi-kin Kwok

Country of Origin: China

The Pitch: Described as “Cocoon with Kung Fu!” this film stars a handful of elder actors who were most prominent during the popular days of the Shaw Brothers martial arts films. Essentially, it’s about a group of old-timers being pushed off their property by a greedy landowner. Unbeknownst to the landowner, the property used to be a martial arts studio and the elders do what they can to fight off the businessmen until their master awakens from his 30 year coma.

If there are two things I completely trust the Chinese to do well it’s kung-fu and comedy (also choreographing an opening ceremony for a worldwide athletics competition, but I don’t expect that at Fantastic Fest despite Tim League’s capabilities) and if the filmmaker was able to entice Andy Lau to give him money to make this then he’s enticed me to give him money to help pay him back.

Norwegian Ninja

Directed by: Thomas Cappelen Malling

Country of Origin: Guess

The Pitch: How do you see a title like that and not become even remotely aroused? Norwegians are sexy and ninjas are awesome, but combine them together and you get stealth Viking assassins. Actually, it’s nothing like that (I don’t think), but what really piques interest is that this is an alternate telling of a true story involving a man convicted of high treason in 1982 Norway. After reviewing the claims surrounding the case the filmmaker considered everything to be ridiculous and thus is telling a story potentially as ridiculous as the thought of an 8 foot tall blonde ninja.

Stake Land

Directed by: Jim Mickle

Country of Origin: USA

The Pitch: The latest film from the helmer of Mulberry Street (one of the After Dark Film Fest features from 2006) this is one of the ‘smaller’ pictures that intrigue me based on the work from director Jim Mickle. I honestly know very, very little about this film other than some inhabitants of a world of vampires and cultists are struggling to find sanctuary. I tend to be most pleased by the films I don’t know much about going in and am pleasantly surprised coming out, so I’m hoping that this film has that kind of effect. I know the filmmaker is capable of making something that I like. Hopefully, this film can further push his career forward to continue offering up strong independent horror films.

Fure’s Picks

30 Days of Night: Dark Days

Directed by: Ben Ketai

Country of Origin: USA

The Pitch: While I wasn’t a huge fan of the first film (it moved at a frozen pace to me), the basic idea fueling the 30 Days of Night world is intriguing enough to always hold my attention. In this follow-up, survivor Stella teams with a band of humans intent on hunting down and doling out some vengeance against those responsible for the massacre at Barrow. In addition to what should surely be a blood bath, we also get some hotties including Diora Baird.

Hatchet II

Directed by: Adam Green

Country of Origin: USA

The Pitch: Any fan of 80s slasher fare has to have a soft spot for Hatchet or else they just pretend to watch 80s slasher fare. Adam Green’s feature debut rocked my socks in theaters, and I’m more than pumped to catch the Victor Crowley follow-up on the big screen. If the first is anything to go by, expect a decent smattering of nude females and a dozen bucketfuls of blood spattering. Hell yeah.


Directed by: Jang Cheol-so

Country of Origin: South Korea

The Pitch: Fantastic Fest is really about drinking, eating, and hanging out. I mean “finding movies you wouldn’t normally be able to get access to and watching them.” Bedevilled is a film I hadn’t heard a damn thing about until browsing the Fantastic Fest Films page, but once I read the words “art slaughterhouse” I was in. To tell you the truth, I’m still not sure what it’s going to be about, but it’s going to be bloody. Hey, sometimes you just have to walk in blind and hope for the best.

Cold Fish

Directed by: Sion Sono

Country of Origin: Japan

The Pitch: This Japanese language films sees a meek fish store owner slowly being drawn into the madness and sociopathy of a nearby fish store owner’s lurid business dealings that involve fraud, murder, and elaborately gruesome way of disposing of the bodies.

And since I’m giving love to the shorts, too. Here’s two shorts for the price of one feature length film:

Don Hertzfeldt’s Wisdom Teeth

Directed by: Don Hertzfeldt

Country of Origin: USA

The Pitch: Here’s the deal: Don Hertzfeldt is hilarious and his shorts are always entertaining and often relateably heartbreaking. When you get a chance to see one on the big screen, you take it, plain and simple.

The Astronomer’s Sun

Directed by: Simon Cartwright and Jessica Cope

Country of Origin: UK

The Pitch: As an astronomy nerd, anything about the subject, especially presented in stop motion animation, is going to get my attention. I don’t know much about the film other than the official Fantastic Fest description: “Lovely animated story about a boy and his bear and the secrets of the universe.” Sign me up for the secrets of the universe! And bears!

Cole’s Picks


Directed by: Pablo Trapero

Country of Origin: Argentina

The Pitch: With corrupt cops, unethical lawyers, and scheming doctors, Carancho has all of the professions your mother wanted you to become covered in filth. In an ambulance chasing thriller, an opportunistic lawyer (played by The Secret In Their Eyes’ Ricardo Dar’n) begins a relationship with an ER nurse after seeing her around the accidents he shows up at. Trapero is a seasoned and prolific director who no doubt can deliver a tight story and dark deeds.

Enter the Void

Directed by: Gasper Noe

Country of Origin: France

The Pitch: Noe recently said in an interview that Enter the Void was not for people that wanted to be entertained at the movies, and while I do love being entertained, I also love watching an experiment play out. For me, it’s the mad ones, the movies that might push boundaries in the right and wrong directions. This particular experiment deals with a brother and sister reunited in Japan where one is a drug dealer and the other is a prostitute. That may be the base of the plot, but the rest of the film sounds like a joy ride through someone’s rave-induced acid trip loosely tied to narrative storytelling.

The Last Circus: Balada Triste

Directed by: Alex de la Iglesia

Country of Origin: Spain

The Pitch: Spain is a country of crazy people, and that’s a good thing for the film industry. Director Alex de la Iglesia has chosen to lampoon Spanish politics by playing out a homily of recent history under the big top. There’s a violent silly clown, an orphan who joins the circus, and a beautiful young dancer that the two want for themselves. It promises to be hilarious and unrelenting, kindhearted and brutal.

Let Me In

Directed by: Matt Reeves

Country of Origin: USA

The Pitch: Every trusted source is calling this film a fantastic vision of the novel and a worthy companion to the original film. Even without those reports, I would be curious to see what the Cloverfield director could do with someone else’s story of growing up in the shadow of bullies and the vampire.

Summer Wars

Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda

Country of Origin: Japan

The Pitch: It’s unclear why there aren’t more animated films at Fantastic Fest, but this one looks absolutely stunning. The story involves a young man who takes a summer job in order to follow the girl he likes. She calls upon him to pretend to be her fiance at her grandfather’s birthday celebration, a romance blossoms, and, oh yeah, he unleashes a parallel universe on a collision course with earth while trying to solve a math equation. There’s nothing like that to spoil your picnic.

There are going to be many, many, many more films at Fantastic Fest this year (not to mention a handful of Secret Screenings (we’re holding out for I Saw the Devil) that are still under lock and key). What are you looking forward to this year? Are you going? If you can’t be there, what do you hate to be missing?

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