Great cinema knows no boundaries and this year’s slate of films at Fantastic Fest continue to prove that by bringing the best in genre film from around the world to one very full week in Austin. The world’s most eclectic film fest will once again return home to the flagship Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar for a week of insanity. In addition to screenings from some of the most inventive and audacious genre film auteurs of the world, Drafthouse emperor supreme Tim League lets cinephiles cut loose with raucous karaoke parties, live comedy performances (including special Fantastic Fest editions of The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail and Doug Loves Movies), epic Nerd Rap Battles, an indie focused arcade and the crown jewel of the fest, the Fantastic Debates.
With over 70 features spread across 7 days, Fantastic Fest is mind-expanding entertainment in concentrated form. It’s near impossible to catch every movie at Fantastic Fest, and that’s definitely part of the appeal. I’ve got a list of movies I desperately want to see at the fest this year, but for the purposes of this article, here are the 13 films that top my must-see list.
Kevin Smith’s second foray into horror also appears to be a return to form for the indie auteur. Justin Long plays a podcaster in search of the strange and unique for his show. Little does he know his latest guest (Michael Parks) is in the market for something strange and unique as well. Red State had enough tension to convince me Smith could handle darker fair, but infusing that tone with more of his signature witty dialogue should deliver a film that general audiences and Smith fans alike can love. For more on the Tusk’s origins give a listen to Kevin’s latest appearance on the Nerdist Podcast.
There should always be a place in our society for offensive, baudy comedies like Bros Before Hos. The Dutch comedians behind New Kids Turbo set their sights on making an American-style sex comedy in the vein of There’s Something About Mary and the American Pie films. It’s impossible to know whats in good taste unless someone occasionally crosses the line, and in this case Bros Before Hos‘ bad taste looks absolutely hilarious.
What could an upper middle class family on a ski trip in the Alps really have to worry about? In the Swedish film Force Majeure, we’ll find out as the family is ripped asunder based on the response, or lack there of, to a perceived danger to their existence. While the family walks away unscathed, it doesn’t stop the parents from playing out the what if scenarios to detrimental effects.
Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata directs his first film in fifteen years with what looks to be a sweet and sincere adaptation of a classic Japanese folk tale. When a forest nymph is taken from her home and raised as a princess she must wade through other people’s plans for her as she yearns to return to her life in the woods. With a striking watercolor visual style and namesake Studio Ghibli storytelling, it would be a crime to pass this one up.
If you haven’t watched the awesome insanity that is the John Wick trailer yet, I highly encourage you to pause reading this article and do so now. It’s fine, we can wait… Badass Keanu is badass. After last year’s subdued but still slick Man of Tai Chi, Keanu is delivering some serious id overload with explosions, gun fights, assassins and one sweet, sweet ride. We think you’re back too, Keanu! Though in our estimation you never left… our hearts.
Even our Walking Dead-loving selves are starting to feel the over saturation of the zombie genre, but it’s only when the genre feels played out that you find something truly remarkable. Looking to ratchet up the insanity and cross genre lines akin to Neil Marshall’s Doomsday, Wyrmwood‘s anticipated thrills come from unhinging the zombie apocalypse from the usual genre expectation that calmer heads will prevail. The gorgeous looking hijinks have me counting down to when I can bounce on the edge of my seat with enthusiastic elation.
Based on the trailer, this Antonio Bandares vehicle is the marriage of Blade Runner and District 9, and I’m totally on board with that conceit. Forced to retreat behind walled cities to protect themselves from a radioactive desert wasteland, humans lean on their robots for their existence. Playing on themes conceived in classic sci-fi and debates that have existed since the beginning of organized thought, the film looks to be a lasting meditation on existence and humanity. TL;DR – Automata looks both pretty and deep.
Another voyage into the apocalypse, this time the film is kept light by the inclusion of mutant-Panda humanoids that must venture into the wasteland to bring back a human girl for breeding. Do I need more of an excuse to see this after that description?
Dealing with kids can be hard, especially if they’re yours. When it seems a single mother can’t handle the stress of her out of control child, fate decides to add fuel to the fire by introducing a demon into her life. Part Exorcist, part Problem Child, the movie looks to be all kinds of creepy. Don’t be a Babadick and get excited for The Babadook.
When two Israeli cousins invaded Hollywood, the landscape of the motion picture industry would be forever changed. Cannon Films was the prolific purveyor of some of the B-moviest films of all times. But bad reviews, bad box office returns, and bad temperaments didn’t stop Cannon from creating one of the most notorious film catalogues of all time. In this documentary about the company’s meteoric rise and asteroid-sized fall, we’ll find out how films like The Apple, Breakin‘ and Masters of the Universe all came to be.
Salma Hayek fights off assassins with style in this pulp-action film from Joe Lynch. Everly is a call girl that becomes a police informant and as we all know, snitches get stitches. But when hit men come to knock off her and her family, they get more than they bargained for. I’m all about a good siege movie, especially when it’s got a lead as solid Hayek.
Daniel Radcliffe steps out of the shadows of Harry Potter in this adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel of the same name. In a sort of Twin Peaks: Horns Edition premise, Radcliffe’s Iggy wakes from a bender after his girlfriend’s death to find he has grown horns on his forehead. In addition to his horns, Iggs has also been granted considerable powers of persuasion, powers he’ll use to track down his girlfriend’s killer and get revenge.
Held from release in China for four years after it finished production, No Man’s Land gives an unflinching look at the underworld that has taken root in the Chinese desert. When a lawyer agrees to defend a poacher on murder charges, he quickly finds himself out of his element and in over his head. Car chases, gun fights, prostitute sidekicks, this is the greatest tourism video ever!
That’s just a sampling of the amazingness we’ll be covering at Fantastic Fest. For a complete list of the films playing this year’s festival you can check the Fantastic Fest schedule. Stay tuned to Nerdist.com for reviews and coverage from Austin throughout the fest!