Fantastic Fest 2014

Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the U.S. and features horror, science fiction, action, fantasy, Asian, and cult or anything else that strikes Tim League’s fancy.  This was its tenth year since being founded by Tim League (Alamo Drafthouse ), Harry Knowles (Aint it Cool News), and others.  Since this festival is held in Austin at the newly reopened Alamo South Lamar (except for special events), I decided to give it a try.

In addition to the movies with directors, producers, and actors in attendance, there were several events and parties at the neighboring The Highball, including an event with Leonard Maltin and a taping of the  Doug Loves Movies podcast with Doug Benson.   The Alamo Drafthouse theaters serve food and drink, so there is no need to leave  the premises once you get there for your first movie…except eight days straight of Alamo Draffthouse food is not a very healthy diet.

I had a great time and will probably attend Fantastic Fest again. There were generally five slots of movies a day with 4-5 films to pick from.  I usually made between 2-4 showings a day.  Not all of these movies were totally up my alley, but here are a few that  I really enjoyed (not in any specific order):

As Seen By The Rest: A Bollywood film noir that at times reminded me of Roshomon, Pulp Fiction, and Sin City.  As with all good Bollywood movies, this breaks into song and dance several times,  planned for an intermission, and inexplicably and frequently switches between an Indian dialect and English,  even in mid-sentence.

Man From Reno: A Japanese mystery writer gets involved and helps to solve a real mystery in San Francisco.  Good plot with good twists.

Duke of Burgundy: Avoid this at all costs.  A lesbian love story that almost put me to sleep.

Kung Fu Elliott:  One of my favorites of the festival.  This is a documentary about a guy who wants to become the biggest action star in Canada.  This movie follows him as he is shooting his latest,  Blood Fight (his first film was titled They Killed My Cat).  Unfortunately he is not good at making movies nor at Kung Fu.  This started out as a ligh-hearted look at a guy whose aspirations exceed his skill set, but midway through takes unexpected turns and gets much darker.  This is both funny and disturbing.

Bros Before Hos:  A very funny, politically incorrect, raunchy film from the Netherlands about two brothers who fall in love with the same girl.

Lost Soul: An excellent documentary about the 1997 disastrous making of The Island of Dr. Moreau starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer.  The original director, Richard Stanley, was fired early on and participated in the documentary and was at the screening.  He has very strong opinions as this had a big negative impact on his career.  The movie turned into a disaster for a lot of reasons, and the documentary is fascinating.

Master Pancake mocks The Island of Dr. Moreau:  Master Pancake mocks movies, ala Mystery Science Theater.  I always enjoy Master Panacke, but after seeing Lost Soul I was interested to see their mocking of this movie. While they hadn’t prepared as well as they normally would, this movie was very easy to mock, and it was a very funny show.  Even during the mocking,  you could tell what a bad movie this was.  Richard Stanley participated.

Goodnight Mommy: The original Austrian versions title translates to I See, I See, but for the American release, it will have this terrible name.  This was Tim League’s pick for the secret screening, so I had no idea what to expect. It’s a mystery about a mother and her two sons.  She is recovering from an accident and they are having relationship problems.  It’s not clear exactly what is going on until the end.  I liked it a lot, but be warned: it gets pretty violent along the way.

In Order of Disappearance: Another one of my favorites.  When a man’s son is wrongly killed by drug dealers, he seeks revenge.  This was much funnier than I expected.  You also get to see the serious snow clearing machines that they need in a country like Norway!

The Tribe:  I’m not sure this will appeal to many people.  This is a Ukranian film set in a boarding school for the deaf.  It’s a 2+ hour film with just Ukranian sign language and no subtitles.  But it’s not hard to follow the plot.  The film is about a new student at the school trying to adjust.  He gets involved with a group of thugs.  This is very gritty and gets very violent at the end.

The Tokyo Tribes:  This film was quite a contrast to that previous 2+ hour one with no dialogue. This movie was the story of gang warfare in Tokyo told totally via hip hop (plus lots of action).  My son always makes fun of West Side Story.  I wonder what he would think of this!