Fantastic Fest

Fantastic Fest Review: Besties



If Fantastic Fest screens a movie made by women with females in the lead, I'll be there. (Okay, unless it screens at midnight or is excessively violent/gory. They don't call me the Film Festival Wuss for nothing.) So Besties was on my radar from the start, and it did not disappoint.

Sandy (Olivia Crocicchia) is a lumpish 14-year-old girl, teased mercilessly by classmates, who idolizes the girl next door -- her former babysitter Ashley (Madison Riley), a senior, blonde and perfect. When Sandy's dad goes out of town for the weekend, she asks if Ashley can "babysit" so she can hang out with the most popular girl in school. Ashley agrees, because what girl wouldn't want access to an empty house for the weekend? She parties, she ignores Sandy ... and then Ashley's ex-con ex-boyfriend Justin turns up, bad news personified. Ashley overreacts, and next thing we know, the girls have to deal with a dead body.

Fantastic Fest Photos: Miami Connection


Miami Connection Tae Kwon Do Grandmaster Y.K. Kim Watermelon2During my recent interview with Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson, we spoke about the American Film Genre Archive (AFGA) and some of the found films that  volunteers that support this nonprofit have saved. One of those titles is the zany 1987 martial-arts film Miami Connection, directed by ninth-degree black belt/philosopher/author/inspirational speaker Grandmaster Y.K. Kim, seen above demonstrating his skills before the movie screened during Fantastic Fest. The story's plot revolves around the members of the synth-rock band Dragon Sound, adult orphans and martial artists who fight criminals -- especially hated ninjas -- in the streets and back alleys of Orlando, Florida.

The special screening at Fantastic Fest 2012 included demonstrations by Grandmaster Kim as well as a reunion of the band Dragon Sound. Attendees at the afterparty pumped their fists and chanted with the band, many of them wearing sleeveless Dragon Sound t-shirts. See more photos after the jump.

Fantastic Fest Photos: The Dutch Invasion


Dutch Filmmakers at Fantastic Fest 2012

The Norwegians may have landed at Fantastic Fest with world premieres of the television series Hellfjord and the documentary The Exorcist in the 21st Century, as well as the North American premiere of Øystein Karlsen's feature directorial debut Fuck Up, but it was the Dutch who left a lasting impression with their film offerings featured in this year's "No Clogs or Tulips" Dutch spotlight.

Several filmmakers and cast members of films premiering at this year's fest traveled to Austin from the Netherlands, including Fantastic Fest 2011 Best Director awardwinner Steffen Haars (New Kids Nitro) -- seen above second from left with director/writer Arne Toonen (Black Out), fellow New Kids Nitro cast members Wesley Van Gaalen and Huub Smit and writer/director Max Porcelijn (Plan C). New Kids Nitro was awarded the Jury Prize for Best Film in the 2012 Fantastic Fest Awards. See more photos after the jump.

Fantastic Fest Review: Cloud Atlas


Cloud Atlas

"Scene. Scene. Scene. Scene. WTF?"

Those are the notes I took in the first 5 or 10 minutes of Cloud Atlas, the latest movie from Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, which was the Wednesday night secret screening at Fantastic Fest. I felt like every time I blinked, the movie shifted to another scene in another setting that I didn't quite understand.

But the scenes grew longer, and I was swept away by the multitude of stories taking place at various points in time, all illustrating the same themes. I stopped taking notes and stopped wondering if I was lost because I hadn't read the David Mitchell novel from which the movie was adapted. I surfaced more than two hours later, completely dazzled. And whether I can explain why to you -- we'll see.

Cloud Atlas incorporates six stories from different times in the past, present and future. The stories are simple but compelling: A mid-nineteenth century man on a voyage, suffering from a mysterious ailment. An aspiring composer in the early twentieth century, writing letters to the man he loves, from whom he is separated. An investigative reporter in 1973 who may have landed her most serious (and dangerous) scoop. A contemporary literary agent trying to get back on his feet. A rebellious clone retelling her story while in prison. A man in a primitive post-apocalyptic land visited by a woman from a more advanced society.

Fantastic Fest Photos: The American Scream


THEAMERICANSCREAM MannyHome haunt documentary The American Scream premiered at Fantastic Fest 2012 to a sold-out audience, and the audience applause lasted longer in the initial screening than any other film I attended. Therefore it came as no surprise when the film won Best Picture in the Documentary category in the 2012 Fantastic Fest Awards -- read my review of this award-winning documentary that captured the audience and awards jury's hearts.

Several members of the cast and crew were in attendance and participated in a Q&A after the premiere, including director Michael Stephenson (Best Worst Movie) and film subject Manny Souza (pictured above).  After the Q&A the audience was informed that due to a spill in the hallway, attendees would need to exit through an alternate route. We were then ushered out and into a darkened makeshift alcove, where we were greeted by The American Scream producer Zack Carlson -- read my recent interview with Carlson -- who sent groups through the haunted house created exclusively for this year's Fantastic Fest. At the end of the haunt attendees were treated to Halloween candy, cans of SILLY STRING, and complimentary sponsor beer and cocktails.

Check out Fantastic Fest 2012 The American Scream Q & A teaser and see more photos from the event after the jump.

Fantastic Fest 2012: Crushes Are Universal



You've heard it multiple times -- Fantastic Fest is a world unto itself. This year was no different, with everything from dogs in tuxedos to wonder twins boxing over the merits of remakes. Those of us with two X chromosomes enjoy the odd and obscure just as much as our XY counterparts, especially given the sense of team spirit that builds around Fantastic Fest. We're all on this wacky journey together.

This solidarity is no more apparent than in the numerous shared "crushes" that attendees experience when faced with a gorgeous actor or talented filmmaker (not that a filmmaker can't also be gorgeous). It's not unusual to hear "That is a beautiful man" from the very straight guy sitting next to you while the woman on your right decides whether that actor's astrological sign would mesh with hers. Men and women of Fantastic Fest unite over the ogle-able and enviable special guests.

Take, for example, this year's visit by Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings) for the film Dredd 3D. Male and female festgoers flocked to the red carpet for a glimpse of the modern day Adonis. Men (as in the photo at top) saying, "Dude, It's Éomer and McCoy," and women (as in the photo below) proclaiming, "Oh my god, it's Éomer and Cupid." (Any Xena Warrior Princess fans out there?!) Urban's charm and swagger are not lost on either gender.

Fantastic Fest 2012: Fantastic Sounds


Holy Motors

Every year we celebrate the films of Fantastic Fest, awarding prizes for best films in various genres, best actors and actresses and best director. But many of this year's entries, it's safe to say, can be recognized for something that often goes unmentioned at the fest: their music.

Studio films, independents, narratives and documentaries all were well represented in the soundtrack department this year at the fest. One of the audience favorites was a sci-fi musical comedy featuring tunes from a two-man band, Future Folk, who performed live during the closing night party. By the midpoint of the fest, links to a track from one film had already begun circulating on Twitter feeds.

We've collected the following as a sampling of the sounds of Fantastic Fest 2012.

"Strange Love" from Frankenweenie -- This music by Karen O plays as the credits roll.

Fantastic Fest 2012: Mike's Best of the Fest



As I wrap up the last day of Fantastic Fest 2012, I've got my top ten selections that I thought were the best movies from this year's festival.

10. My Amityville Horror -- As a complete stranger to the Amityville story, I thought this would be a great way to learn what it was all about. This documentary covering the untold story of Dan Lutz was an eye-opener. Good pacing and a charismatic subject held my interest throughout. It can be difficult to approach a nearly 40 year-old tragedy from a new angle, but My Amityville Horror did that nicely. (Austin connection: Producer Christine Irons is from Austin.)

9. Sightseers (pictured at top) -- The first of two secret screenings, this dark British road trip comedy from director Ben Wheatley was original and clever. It takes murder from a guilty pleasure to a joyful enterprise. Great character performances ensure the success of a film with sometimes uncomfortable subject matter.

Fantastic Fest Review: The Final Member


The Final Member

Directors Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math follow the final work of the creator and curator of the Icelandic Phallological Museum, the only penis museum in the world, in the documentary The Final Member. Beginning in 1974 when he was 17 as the result of of a joke, Sigurdur Hjartarson has collected specimens from every known species of mammal save one.

Documenting Hjartarson's mission to complete the collection takes the filmmaking team from Iceland to the U.S. to meet a man who wants to donate his own member to the museum. His desire to achieve fame for his penis becomes a large focus of the documentary, which pits him against a famous Icelandic nonogenarian who also wants the honor of being the first donor. The ego battle between them is perhaps more interesting than the museum collection itself.

Fantastic Fest Review: The American Scream


Still Photo from The American Scream"When you are scared, you are most alive. People need that -- they need to feel alive." -- Victor Bariteau, The American Scream

Before sharing my views of the haunted house documentary The American Scream, I must provide two disclaimers. First of all, I've known producer Zack Carlson for several years through his roles at Alamo Drafthouse, which we discussed in a recent interview. Second, I've been involved in a local haunt SCARE for A CURE for several years, although not this year. As a haunter, I am more aware of the inner workings of a haunted house and was fortunate enough to have grown up during an era where haunted houses were as common as Christmas decorations in our community. We knew which houses had the scariest scenes and the best candy selection as we did our Halloween night lap around the neighborhood. 

If it appears that I can't be objective about The American Scream, I must actually admit to being more critical and even skeptical than usual -- my moviegoing tastes often are quite different from Carlson's, but I can appreciate his passion for certain subgenres. However, I often used the film Darkon as a gauge for personal story documentaries and so my expectations were set quite high. My prognosis is that the filmmakers behind The American Scream wholeheartedly captures the soul of those folks who dedicate blood, sweat, tears and energy often year-round for one special night.

Director Michael Stephenson (Best Worst Movie) and the rest of his crew scoured the U.S. for the best home haunts to feature in their documentary, and it would be hard to believe they could have found a better mix than in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Deprived of Halloween celebrations as a child by his parents' religious beliefs, Victor Bariteau compensates by making his home haunt a year-round obsession for his family. His eldest daughter is thoroughly immersed and helpful, and his supportive wife Tina states, "Not too many people know what their dream is -- they might think they do, but if they have a chance would they take it?"

Syndicate content