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Fantastic Fest Review: Snowtown

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Snowtown

Earlier this year, I heard about a potentially cool horror film from Australia called Snowtown. My next-door neighbor had just returned from Down Under and had seen advertisements for this film. He thought Snowtown was my kind of movie and boy was he right.

Snowtown is a film based on real-life serial killer John Bunting. Bunting was the ringleader of a group who perpetrated a series of murders that became known as the Snowtown Murders. The murders took place in a town near Adelaide in Southern Australia and were also known as the Bodies in Barrels murders, as this is how the bodies were stored.

The movie starts with a single mother who leaves her children with a male friend, who proceeds to take nude pictures of the boys, it is also implied that he abuses them while they're in his care. It doesn't take long for the mother to realize something is wrong with her children and she quickly calls the authorities. When the pedophile is released quickly on bail she enlists people to help her carry out vigilante justice against the pedophile. Ultimately she finds John Bunting, who harasses the neighbor, eventually convincing him to leave.

'You're Next' Sweeps Fantastic Fest Awards

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Fantastic Fest Awards

It's amusing to me that the movie that won the most awards at Fantastic Fest during the Monday night ceremony is one that screened the least. Because You're Next has just been picked up for theatrical distribution by Lionsgate, the studio cut the number of times the Adam Wingard-directed film would play the fest down to one, a screening that proved very popular even up against Fantastic Debates. The movie picked up jury awards for Best Horror Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actress. It was also a runner-up for the Audience Award.

I was pleased to see the delightful movie A Boy and His Samurai won the Audience Award -- look for a review from me soon. Bullhead won three awards in the Next Wave competition -- Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor -- and if you're at Fantastic Fest, a screening has been added for this film on Thursday at 12:45 pm. And as I mentioned in my review of Milocrorze, A Love Story, the movie won Best Picture in the Fantastic Features category.

A full list of awards is after the jump, along with some video footage, but I want to mention the one Austin-connected winner, who wasn't on the list. The Best Fantastic Fest Bumper award this year went to Nick Robinson, a former Austinite who occasionally contributed to Slackerwood when he lived here. Nick's bumper was one I watched with my fingers over my eyes, and I know I'm not the only one ... it's the one that played opening night and showed vasectomy surgery. You can watch it on YouTube but it is not for the squeamish (or even the unsqueamish, really) and probably not something you want to watch in public either. However, I'm happy to share a completely work-safe photo below of Nick getting his award.

Fantastic Fest 2011, Day Six: Pass the Caffeine, Please

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Dominic Monaghan and Elijah Woods, all rights reserved

Are we there yet? Despite skipping midnight screenings and limiting my alcohol intake to free beer in the Shiner Theater, I've hit the wall more times than I can count this year at Fantastic Fest 2011. Special guests Dominic Monaghan and Elijah Wood (seen above) recuperated with the requisite caffeine after a late night of Fantastic Feud. For those who missed the annual hosted event by Scott Weinberg of FEARnet, Monaghan captained the international team that was thoroughly trounced by the American team led by Wood. 

I can only blame my festival fatigue on the Fantastic Fest programming which has kept me in the theater for 4-5 movies a day. Despite thoughts of "I really should sit this screening out," I've stayed the course and not been disappointed in my decision. Find out after the jump which films confirm my selection of Todd Brown of Twitch as my all-time favorite Fantastic Fest programmer.

AFF Updates: TV-Related Events, Film and Food Gala

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Marfa Film Fest 2010

In the middle of one film festival, it's challenging to switch gears and write about another big festival that will engulf my filmgoing life in October. But Austin Film Festival has just announced its television-related programming for this year's fest, and I didn't want to wait to share the info. Several of the TV writers and showrunners who will screen and discuss select episodes of their shows have Austin ties, too. You can get all of the details via the fest's full panel schedule, which has just been published.

Here are the TV screening events announced for AFF:

  • Local writer Kyle Killen (The Beaver) will talk about and show an episode from his new TV series, Awake.
  • Native Texan and Former King of the Hill writer/producer Jim Dauterive will be at the fest with Loren Bouchard to show an episode of the animated show Bob's Burgers, followed by a Q&A.

Fantastic Fest Review: Milocrorze, A Love Story

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Milocrorze, A Love Story

Sometimes my favorite Fantastic Fest movies are the ones I pick on a whim because the description sounds interesting and contains no words that worry my squeamish self like "torture" or "bloody violence." Milocrorze, A Love Story (Mirokuroze) was one of those movies, and I didn't even realize that its lead actor was Takayuki Yamada, whose performance I enjoyed so much in my unexpected favorite film from Fantastic Fest 2010, 13 Assassins. (He played nephew Shinrouko.) It's a delightfully surreal and even downright silly movie, a great upbeat alternative if you spent a previous festival day watching some of the more downbeat selections. Apparently I'm not alone in liking this movie, as it won the Fantastic Features award at the fest this week.

Yamada plays three roles in Milocrorze, A Love Story, which is divided into four acts that are more or less connected. He's not in the first part, which stars a very cute child in a fairytale-like story about the title character. The child is actually portraying a grown-up man -- kind of -- whose mundane life is transformed when he encounters the beautiful Milocrorze. Yamada first turns up in the second act, playing a bizarre and obnoxious world-famous "youth counselor" who shouts incredible advice over to the phone to love-struck teenagers, and who travels (and dances) with an entourage of scantily clad women. This is the goofiest part of the film -- it's almost jarring in contrast to the other sequences -- but it works beautifully. The audience could not stop laughing, at least not after they picked their jaws up from the floor.

Fantastic Fest Quick Snaps: A Look at 'Julia X 3D'

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Kevin Sorbo Skype

The filmmakers behind the black comedy Julia X 3D hosted a press meet-and-greet event at the Highball yesterday as part of Fantastic Fest 2011. Producer and writer P. J. Pettiette (Bad Dreams, Jennifer's Shadow) made his directorial debut at Fantastic Fest 2011 with this film starring Kevin Sorbo (Andromeda, Hercules) and Valerie Azlynn. Co-producer Claudie Viguerie and director of photography Jason Goodman were also on hand to answer questions about Julia X 3D, which debuted in the Sunday night midnight screening and runs again today at 12:15 pm.

Due to a health emergency, lead actor Kevin Sorbo was unable to attend in person but participated via Skype as seen above. Sorbo attributed his visit to the emergency room Sunday night to too much work and travel, but is expected to be well enough to arrive in time for today's screening. Although he seemed rather exhausted, he was in high spirits and shared some of his personal memorabilia as he spoke from his home office.

Check out more photos from the Julia X 3D meet and greet after the jump.

Fantastic Fest 2011, Day Five: The Second Half Begins

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Day Five marks the beginning of the second half of the fest. Many of the filmmakers and industry people have left, and new fans arrive attending with second-half badges. The tone of the festival becomes more relaxed, but unfortunately, the FEARnet-sponsored free ice-cream truck has departed. Some of the better parts of the fest are still yet to come. As I'm writing this, the awards are about to begin, hosted by Devin Steuerwald. Jette will be covering the results separately. I'll end the day with the signature party, Fantastic Feud.

I began the day with movie film that has made waves at the fest this year, earning a runner-up in the Fantastic Fest Audience Award category. Juan of the Dead (Juan de los Muertos) is a unique interpretation of the zombie apocalypse. Set and shot in Cuba, Juan pokes fun at the same films that serve as its inspiration and includes several jabs at the political situation. Juan, the titular character, is an affable screw-up who spends his days fishing from a raft and sneaking into his lover's boudoir while her husband is away. When zombies start to appear (the state media reports the phenomenon as political dissident attacks sponsored by the U.S. government), Juan and his friends decide they're better at zombie killing than the government and attempt to turn a profit by starting a business exterminating for their neighbors. As the zombie plague grows out of control, their plans must evolve from control to escape. This was a lot of fun, full of surprises and interesting kills.

The next part of the day was the Short Fuse: Horror Shorts program, which included nine short films from around the world. One of the highlights of this program was Austin-produced No Way Out (read Rod's interview with writer Eric Vespe and director Aaron Morgan). Fest regulars Dennis Widmyer and Justin Duprie, who hails from Corpus, wrote and produced the exceptional horror-comedy short Curtain, which makes The Exorcist look tame by comparison. Other great shorts included The Unliving and How to Rid Your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused by You!, the runner up and winner of the Fantastic Fest Horror Shorts Award, respectively.

Quick Snaps: Shiloh and Rider Strong Summon 'The Dungeon Master'

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Shiloh and Rider Strong

Screening before the delightful Icelandic movie Summerland at Fantastic Fest this week is a clever short film by actors -- and brothers -- Shiloh and Rider Strong. The Dungeon Master features a nerdtastic performance by Alexander Polinsky of Charles In Charge as a wizard/dungeon master who turns the tables on a group of bullies. Both of the Strong brothers were at the fest on Friday to present their short, and during the Q&A they revealed they have acquired funding to turn the Dungeon Master concept into a full-length feature.

The script was light and funny, relatable to gamer nerds and regular mortals alike. In addition to Polinsky, stars included Adam Busch of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Travis Schuldt of Scrubs and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Jason Marsden. You might recall Busch was at Fantastic Fest last year with the comedy Drones.

The Dungeon Master screens again at Fantastic Fest in tandem with Summerland on Wednesday, September 28 at 6:45 pm.

Fantastic Fest 2011, Day Four: From 'Corridor' to Coscarelli

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Doug Jones and Don Coscarelli

I'm one of the "Sleep is the enemy" festival attendees that Jette mentioned in her Fantastic Fest 2011, Day 3 dispatch, although this year I paced my first couple of days by leaving before midnight movies. After a day away from Fantastic Fest on Saturday for the Texas Craft Brewers Festival, I was ready to kick it into high gear.

Unlike Rod's report in Fantastic Fest, Day 2, I'm still working out the kinks of using the online reservation system and almost missed getting into the screenings on my wish list. Thankfully the Fantastic Fest staff work wonders in meeting attendees' needs by remaining courteous and flexible -- note the new line for Super Fans to pick up their boarding passes, and the added screenings.

At the fest's halfway mark, Sunday was fueled by tasty coffee and an overstuffed breakfast burrito at a brunch screening of The Corridor. Filmed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this film was a good fit for Fantastic Fest as it balances a psychological thriller with survival horror and science fiction sprinkled on for good measure. The film's strengths -- character development, art and sound design, and casting -- outweighed the final scene that left some viewers disappointed. The filmmakers treated the sensitive subject matter of mental illness very well while bringing humor and suspense into the mix. Not vilifying the mentally ill protagonist while demonstrating the bonds and unmanning of the lead characters was a refreshing change.

Slackery News Tidbits, September 26

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Here's a roundup of Austin film news over the past week as well as some details on upcoming screenings and film-related events.

  • Renowned recluses Terrence Malick and Christian Bale were spotted last week at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Christian Bale has signed on to star in one of Malick's three active projects. The untitled film is scheduled to begin production sometime next summer.
  • In celebration of the Austin Teen Book Festival on October 1, David Levithan, author of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, will be in attendance for the screening of the movie version at 10 pm on Friday, September 30 at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. A Q&A with the author will follow the screening. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, starring Michael Cera (Superbad) and Kat Dennings (Charlie Bartlett), is a comedy about two people thrown together by their love of music.
  • Fantastic Fest and the Austin Film Society Present: Ti West's Fantastic Fest Hangover. The horror writer/director will be in attendance for screenings of all three of his films (The Roost, The House of the Devil), including his latest, The Innkeepers, at 7 pm on October 2 at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. The Innkeepers, starring Sara Paxton (The Last House on the Left), tells the story of the last two employees at a haunted hotel that is scheduled to close. The film premiered at SXSW 2011. Check out Jenn's Fantastic Fest preview for Ti West movie details.
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