Fantastic Fest 2012 Day One: Slow Burn

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After almost a week of cooler than usual weather, Austin returned to the upper 90s just in time for the first official day of Fantastic Fest. Badgeholders lined up at 9:30 am to pick up their tickets for the day's shows, and travellers continued arriving throughout the day.

The Mondo pop-up store opened at noon, with new posters for festival films as well as the infamous "flat file" stuffed with goodies as well as a preview of the gallery's October show, which will feature Universal monsters.

Well before its 6:00 pm showtime, Frankenweenie had drawn crowds of festival-goers as well as dozens of dog owners dressed to the nines with their dolled-up pooches. Frankenweenie was followed by a Q&A with Director Tim Burton as well as stars Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau and producer Allison Abbate. Read Rod's review to find out more about the movie.

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Following the opener, the crowds split up for several shows, but the main event was Dredd 3D, including director Pete Travis and stars Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby (pictured above) live. Look for Debbie's review on Saturday. Brandon Cronenberg and actor Caleb Landry Jones were also at the fest for the U.S. premiere of Antiviral.

The midnight timeslot included three selections. The first of these celebrated with a champagne toast, as it was announced Magnet Releasing had acquired North American distribution rights for Here Comes The Devil. The second available choice was Memory of the Dead, but my schedule was set for American Mary, directed by twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska.  

I found it interesting, but a strong beginning was stymied by a second half that moved ever more slowly, with self-indulgent edits and an abrupt ending that fails to satisfy on several levels. The most common complaint was poor sound editing, and several of the male actors' performances were stiff and unnatural. The bright spot, however, was Katharine Isabelle's performance as Mary, which at times reminded me of Zooey Deschanel with a scalpel. In spite of its problems, American Mary admittedly did give me something I wanted: originality in premise.

[Photo credit: "FF Day One: Frankenweenie Pet Screening" and "Olivia Thirlby at Fantastic Fest" by J. Kernion, all rights reserved. Please ask first if you want to use these photos.]