Regular readers of the site will know that we are huge fans of Fantastic Fest, and it’s entirely possible that the festival is part of the reason why our headquarters are located in Austin. We love genre movies, and this is one of North America’s absolute best genre fests. Between the people and the programming, this is among our favorite weeks of the year.
2019 is actually the fest’s 15th year — a celebration we’re honoring with a separate look at the great movie memories we and others have made over the years — and they’re showing no sign of slowing down when it comes to offering a terrifically curated selection of films from all over the globe. Horror, action, comedy, drama, something called Butt Boy… Fantastic Fest has it all.
Four of us will be immersing ourselves into the fest’s festivities this year, and while we’re hoping to see as many films as possible we each have a few that we’re particularly excited about. Keep reading for a look at 12 movies we can’t wait to see at Fantastic Fest 2019.
New Zealand’s finest, Taika Waititi, is the opening act of this year’s fest. His movie is about a 10-year-old German boy named Jojo who is part of the Hitler Youth. In its long history of showing Nazi’s get what’s coming to them, Fantastic Fest follows the likes of Overlord and Green Room with a young boy and his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, played by, again, Taika Waititi. And we’d watch Taika do pretty much anything. Even Silly Hitler. (Neil Miller)
Like all of you, there are certain things about a movie that will draw my interest. It’s usually talent or genre-related, but sometimes it comes down to a simple premise. Night Drive features a mix of these things starting with a rare lead role for the eternally charismatic but continually under-utilized AJ Bowen. Here he takes center stage as an average guy who finds himself experiencing the worst night of his life, and that conceit — think After Hours (1985) / Into the Night (1985) types of shenanigans — is wholly my jam. What should have been a simple evening instead becomes a series of misfortunes building bigger and bigger troubles, and I am here for it. (Rob Hunter)
Our appreciation for Takashi Miike’s films is well-documented, and while his legendary productivity has slowed some in recent years he’s still managing a new film every six months or so. His latest combines my love of stories that unfold over a single night and pairs it with Miike’s signature style to deliver a tale about a hooker, a boxer, and their violent journey towards dawn. The result looks to include plenty of brutality, high energy, and heartfelt cynicism, and Miike’s a master chef when it comes to that recipe. (Rob Hunter)
If you ever lucky enough to visit Dublin, it’s not a bad idea to stop by the National Leprechaun Museum of Ireland. While the tour itself errs a bit on the silly side – one room is comprised only of giant furniture, allowing you to feel what it would be like to be the size of a leprechaun – you will emerge with an appreciation for how thoroughly Irish culture blends the folkloric with the historical. This blend is also central to the Irish film industry; aside from the occasional McDonagh production, many internationally recognized Irish films fall within the horror genre and explore similar intersections of the mythical and the actual. If Sea Fever can follow less in the shoes of Grabbers and more in the shoes of The Hole in the Ground – a standout horror film released earlier this year – it promises to be one of the best horror films of the year. Besides, who wouldn’t want another standout entry in the aquatic horror subgenre? (Matthew Monagle)
Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson make peanut butter and chocolate kinda movies. Two great tastes that taste great together, and basically ruin each flavor as a solo treat going forward. What wants Jif after experiencing Reese’s? Resolution mixed uncomfortable buddy comedy with cosmic dread. Spring jammed international romance with slippery, tentacled horror. The Endless spiked sibling rivalry with a Kool-Aid cult. These guys are not happy with marketable definition, and neither are their audience. Synchronic begins with a pair of paramedics (Anthony Mackie and Jaime Dornan) battling a mysterious drug epidemic in New Orleans, and who knows where the hell it will ultimately end or what genres it will bounce against? Whatever the result, I gotta see it. (Brad Gullickson)
Random Acts of Violence
Admit it – aren’t you at least a little curious to see what Jay Baruchel is up to with all that How To Train Your Dragon fuck-you money? Armed with a solid premise – a comic book artist discovers his graphic novels may be inspiring copycat killers – and anchored by the always-charming Jesse Williams, Random Acts of Violence is the kind of ‘tweener horror film that always catches my eye at festivals. In some ways, the movies with a little bit of money and a recognizable cast are a bigger crapshoot than the movies by first-time filmmakers; for every The Autopsy of Jane Doe, there’s a dozen Belko Experiments with nothing but a couple of half-decent names for the trailer. Plus, given the opportunity for overt political commentary in the premise, there’s also a chance that Violence goes for absolute broke in the relationship between violence and art. If this is from the same Baruchel who made Goon the defining sports movie of a decade, we could be in for quite a treat. (Matthew Monagle)
Color Out of Space
Nicolas Cage has a movie at Fantastic Fest. H.P. Lovecraft has a movie at Fantastic Fest. SpectreVision has a movie at Fantastic Fest. Tommy Chong has a new movie at Fantastic Fest! And guess what, it’s all the same movie. It’s called Color Out of Space and it’s based on Lovecraft’s short story of the same name. It’s a real buffet of things we like. (Neil Miller)
Before Alfred Hitcock was a medium-defining artist, he was just a commercial director with a little bit of panache. So it is with Brad Anderson. No contemporary filmmaker better epitomizes the classic principles of auteur theory – of extratextual authorship – than Anderson. Much like the other directors who benefitted from the scholarship of Andrew Sarris, Anderson is a commercial filmmaker who rarely develops his own stories; the themes that connect his body of work – emotional claustrophobia and a pervasive sense of guilt – are surfaced as much in the directorial choices as in the narrative itself. From Happy Accidents to Transsiberian to Beirut, Anderson’s skill at depicting unhealthy self-destruction is unparalleled in Hollywood. In short? Fractured may be unseen, but it is hardly unknown. (Matthew Monagle)
These kids today. All hopped up on designer drugs. They’re more mutant than human. They don’t deserve the planet we left them. Director Joe Begos gathers the grumpiest bastards off their porches and puts their backs against the wall. In a future not too far off from our present, Stephen Lang, David Patrick Kelly, Martin Kove, William Saddler, George Wendt, and Fred Williamson stand against a horde of junkie mutants with only their grit and a small cache of arms to defend themselves. Begos promises to shed gallons of blood from all participants before the skirmish ends, with no one escaping the nightmare unscathed. Any one of these actors would guarantee my ass in a seat, but the idea of all of them linked together in violent outrage might actually have my molecules buzzing to burst. (Brad Gullickson)
As I mentioned with my Night Drive pick, sometimes it’s a film’s setup that makes it a must-see for me, and this Thai thriller once again fits the bill. This time around it’s my love of single-location thrillers set someplace more obscure than a simple room or cabin, and as the title suggests that place is a pool. Our hero falls asleep in a deep pool, unaware that it’s slowly draining, and when he awakens it’s to the realization that he can’t reach the edge to escape. Oh, and a crocodile is trapped in there with him too because of course there is. Bring. It. On. (Rob Hunter)
In the Shadow of the Moon
Hey, we know what you’re thinking, In The Shadow of the Moon will arrive on Netflix on 9/27, so why should we get excited about its appearance at Fantastic Fest? First off, Netflix tends to bring their A-game to the festival. I’m still reeling from that first Gerald’s Game theatrical experience, and The Night Comes For Us screening was a legendary onslaught of energy. Secondly, Jim Mickle’s movies are vibrant exercises in mood and genre, requiring the darkest theaters to immerse yourselves within. Finally, there is the basic premise of the film, pitting Boyd Holbrook’s detective against a serial killer draped in sci-fi shenanigans. From the genre dripping brain that brought you Stakeland and Cold in July. ‘nuff said. (Brad Gullickson)
The other high-profile mainstream offering of this year’s festival comes from Rian Johnson. He directed a very non-controversial Star Wars film and has moved on to what appears to be an Agatha Christie send up with a copious helping of foul language. Especially from Captain America. You’ve seen the trailer. He kisses Lady Liberty with that mouth? I’m already first in line. (Neil Miller)