Film festivals are often a conumdrum for me because I sometimes wonder how they get started and, more to the point, who picks the films that get shown at them. My problem is that the films selected for many of the festivals don’t usually seem all that appealing (at least to me) and are often a collection of “art for art’s sake” films overwhelmed by their own sense of self-importance.
Fortunately, I don’t have this problem with the Fantastic Fest in Austin, which runs from September 24th to October 1st. The films selected for this festival represent an eclectic mix of genres and filmmakers and what I consider to be some of the most interesting, innovative and creative films being produced today. Sure, they’re not all potential Hollywood blockbusters, nor are they for everyone, but they are all pretty much guaranteed to be interesting, entertaining and in their own way, artistic and provocative. Plus, they’re just so darn fun to watch.
Besides, any festival that kicks off with Director Jared Hess’s (Napoleon Dynamite) film Gentlemen Broncos, starring Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame, is aces in my book.
Here’s the first list of the films announced today that will be showcased at this years Fantastic Fest:
42nd Street Forever Volume 5: The Alamo Drafthouse Edition
The hugely popular Synapse trailer compilation series 42nd Street Forever is featuring the Alamo Film Archive for it’s fifth volume. Here’s your chance to check out a sneak preview screening of the actual 35mm trailers which are featured in the DVD compilation
(dir. YANG Ik-june, 2009, South Korea)
Breathless is a foul-mouthed drama that delivers an unlikely mix of pathos, brutality and humor. First-time director Yang Ik-June plays an angry thug named who gets involved in a dysfunctional relationship with a high-school girl. It eventually becomes apparent that the pair are linked in ways that neither of them realize.
(dir. Nicholas Winding Refn, 2009, UK)
The criminal career of Britain’s most violent and notorious prisoner is the subject of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. Originally sentenced to 7 years for a post office robbery, he reinvented himself into Charles Bronson, superstar, whose crimes behind bars have led to 34 years of incarceration (so far).
Buratino: Son of Pinocchio
(dir. Rasmus Merivoo, 2009, Estonia)
A space-born magic seed initiates the virgin birth of Buratino, the Estonian son of Pinocchio who quickly forms a rock band, commits terrorist acts, falls in love and gets embroiled in a maniac’s plot to conquer the world. And yes, it’s a musical.
(dir. Tom Shankland, 2008, UK)
Three families meet up at a country estate to celebrate the winter holidays together. Everything starts out idyllic but as the day wanes, the rambunctious playfulness of the kids takes on a sinister edge, and soon the freshly fallen snow is soaked in blood.
Clive Barker’s Dread
(dir. Anthony Diblasi, 2009, UK)
Graduate students are making a thesis film called Dread, videotaping fellow students talking about their innermost fears. The experiment turns into a nightmare when one of the team decides it will be therapeutic for the subjects to truly face those fears. Participants will be asked to reveal their innermost terrors on camera.
(dir. Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman, 2009, USA)
Cropsey is a documentary about a real-life murder case in Staten Island, New York. A disturbed transient named Andre Rand was convicted of murdering two kids, but did he actually commit the crimes? Cropsey digs deep into the case, and in the process, exposes the weird, secret underbelly of Staten Island.
(dir. Pieter Van Hees, 2009, Belgium)
A head injury resulting from a disastrous film stunt gone wrong transforms shy, socially inept Diego into the confident, womanizing daredevil Tony T. Although his new personality captivates family and coworkers, Tony is unable to impress Jaana, an attractive and ambitious young neurosurgeon who wants him to undergo an experimental treatment that will restore him to his original self.
District 13 Ultimatum
(dir. Patrick Alessandrin, 2009, France)
With the wealthy and powerful once again looking to eliminate District 13 – and turn a tidy profit while doing so – it is up to supercop Damien (Cyril Rafelli) and vigilante Leto (David Belle) to once again save the district and the residents, a task they can only complete with the help of five rival gang leaders.
(dir. Thanakorn Pongsuwan, 2009, Thailand)
Freshly released from prison, Tai must go underground and infiltrate the shady world of Fireball to take revenge on the gang that put his brother into a coma. And what is Fireball? No holds barred, to-the-death, full contact combat basketball. Bring your lead pipe, ’cause you know the other guy is going to.
(dir. Yoshihiro Nakamura, 2009, Japan)
In 1975, the year before the Sex Pistols released their first album, a Japanese punk band called Gekirin recorded their single, “Fish Story” and then they broke up, never to record again. Thirty-seven years later, in 2012, their song saves the world.
(dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977, Japan)
A bevy of young girls are swept up in a massively unearthly spazzride by the maniacal forces of the unknown in the craziest goddamn movie Japan has ever unleashed. Filled with airborne autonomous limbs, sinister house pets and other hell-born impossibilities, this lawless exercise in insanity plays like a psychotic’s brain melting across your eyeballs.
House of the Devil
(dir. Ti West, 2009, USA)
House of the Devil is an occult shocker that is not only set in the 1980s but invokes horror films from that era. In Ti West’s latest film, a simple babysitting job turns into a long night of terror for a college student.
Journey to Saturn
(dir. C. Frank, K. Vestbjerg Anderson, T. Christoffersen, 2008, Denmark)
Denmark sends a team of astronauts to Saturn and start an intergalactic war in the process in this rude and crude CG-animated comedy from the directors of Terkel in Trouble.
K-20: The Fiend With 20 Faces
(dir. Shimako Sato, 2008, Japan)
The fearsome Fiend With 20 Faces – a master of disguise and thief without peer – is terrorizing the wealthy of Teito, striking at will and taking whatever strikes his fancy. But the police net is tightening and to escape the fiend frames a young acrobat to take the fall, leaving the young man no choice but to take on the Fiend’s identity and challenge the villain directly.
(dir. Esther Gronenborn, 2009, Germany)
Marc appears to be having a breakdown, the stern man now plagued by visions and prone to walking in his sleep, a situation that set in when he arrived in the village of Kaifeck with his young son. But could there be truth to Marc’s visions? And is history about to repeat?
Kamogawa Horumo – Battle League in Kyoto
(Dir. Katsuhide Motoki, 2009, Japan)
A group of freshmen at Kyoto University join the Azure Dragon, a perfectly ordinary social group, nothing unusual about it. But when the club meetings runs late into the evening, the beer starts flowing and the trousers start to come off, something distinctly out-of-the-ordinary happens.
(dir. Carl Astrand and Mats Lindberg, 2009, Sweden)
A Swedish sci-fi comedy about a moronic Galaxy Hero in training (Kenny Starfighter) and his quest to avoid becoming a hairdresser in the family business. Kenny has the charm and attitude of Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber, the mullet of MacGyver, and nonsensical catchphrases that you’ll be repeating for days! A Swedish Spaceballs for the ages, this is not to be missed for anyone who loves fun!
(dir. Marco Kreuzpaintner, 2008, Germany)
What price is attached to power? This is the lesson that Krabat must learn, a lesson learned while apprenticed to a grim Lord training Krabat and a select group of other orphans in the dark arts of black magic. But magic leaves no room for love and a beautiful village girl has caught Krabat’s eye…
The Legend is Alive
(dir. Huynh Luu Luu, 2009, Vietnam)
Dustin Nguyen (The Rebel) plays a mentally challenged martial arts expert who is hell-bent on breaking every dirtbag face, back and flower pot that stands in the way of saving a young girl from the clutches of a human-trafficking gang.
(dir. Sion Sono, 2009, Japan)
A devoutly religious young man masters the art of upskirt photography in an effort to save his father’s soul, and meets his true love in the process in this new four hour long epic from Sion Sono, director of Suicide Club and Exte: Killer Hair Extensions.
(dir. Aleksey Balabanov, 2008, Russia)
A vastly inexperienced rural doctor develops an unquenchable thirst for the morphine in the hospital medicine supply room. Morphine is another dark tale from Aleksey Balabanov, director of last year’s Fantastic Fest critical sensation Cargo 200,
(Dae-min Park 2009, South Korea)
A medical student in 1910 Korea discovers a corpse in the woods and secretly takes it for dissection practice. When he discovers that the body is the son of the city’s most powerful gangster he enlists the help of a shady private detective to find the killer before the murder is pinned on him.
(dir. Uwe Boll, 2009, Canada)
Fed up with his dead-end life, Bill constructs a full-body kevlar armor suit and rampages through the streets of his hometown killing everyone in sight, particularly the barista that failed to make him a proper macchiato.
(dir. Kerry Prior, 2009, USA)
An Iraq war casualty makes the best of returning from the dead as a blood-sucking vampire by reveling in the power of infallibility and feasting on the dregs of humanity.
(dir. Noboru Iguchi, 2009, Japan)
This geisha army can transform into tanks, their nipples can squirt acid or propel rapid-fire bullets, their mouths can contain chainsaws or frog-tongue samurai swords and they are aided by a giant shinto temple robot. The war of the Geishas is beginning, and I’m getting a front row seat!
(dir. Lawrence Gough 2009, UK)
On Christmas eve in a sleepy Liverpudlian suburb, terror strikes without warning. Paramilitary forces start gunning down the residents, but it’s unclear whether they are hunting the citizens or protecting them, and if protecting… from what?
(dir. Cory McAbee, 2008, USA)
In order to earn back their freedom, two cowboy space-convicts must accept a dangerous mission to save an innocent young girl from a self-obsessed ruler in this one-of-a-kind science fiction serial musical comedy from the director of The American Astronaut.
Trick ‘r Treat
(dir. Michael Dougherty 200, Canada/USA)
Four interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the one guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband.
(dir. Kim Nguyen 2008, Canada)
Charles is the undisputed champion of Montreal’s truffle miners, a man with an incredibly sensitive nose. And that nose makes him valuable, especially to the sinister pair of furriers plotting to seize control of the local truffle industry with the help of their furry, mind-controlling creatures. Note: one of the screenings of Truffe will feature a 5 course Truffle feast created by Alamo executive chef John Bullington.
Vampire GIrl Vs. Frankenstein Girl
(dir. Yoshihiro Nishimura 2009, Japan)
Fantastic Fest 2008 winner Yoshi Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police) is back with the craziest, bloodiest spin on the high school love triangle ever, bursting with mad scientists, dismemberment, black-face comedy, hallucinations and lots and lots of arterial blood spray.