Daily | Fantastic Fest 2014

Fantastic Fest 2014

This year’s poster

Fantastic Fest 2014 opens tonight with Kevin Smith’s Tusk, immediately followed by the world premiere of the 26 dark tales that spell out the ABCs of Death 2. As red-letter reviews appear on through and perhaps even beyond the closing night party on September 25, we’ll be making note of them here.

For now, previews are popping up all over, and genre fans know to turn first to the Austin Chronicle. We begin with Marc Savlov: “‘A film festival with all the boring parts cut out.’ That’s what the fledgling Fantastic Fest’s original mission statement promised way back in October 2005. Ten years on down that cinematic backwood road, littered as it has been with hundreds of the most disturbing, magical, bizarre—and to borrow a phrase festival founder and Alamo Drafthouse movie maven Tim League has often used, ‘batshit crazy’—films ever to play on the big screen, ‘FF’ is now the top genre-fest dog in the U.S., rivaling Barcelona’s famed Sitges and Montreal’s Fantasia fest.”

Richard Whittaker talks with twins Jen and Sylvia Soska about contributing to the ABCs anthology and with artist Mike Mignola, who, at this weekend’s inaugural MondoCon, will be “discussing his career in film as a designer on movies like Blade II and Disney’s Atlantis. But for many fans, the real topic of discussion will be demon turned demon fighter Hellboy and the slate of interlocking comics that Mignola, Allie, and writer/editor John Arcudi built around his creation.”

MondoCon is, of course, a convention being hosted by Mondo, creators of limited edition screen printed movie posters; Dan Gentile previews the highlights. And, ever so briefly, James Renovitch spotlights the need-to-knows about the free four-day independent gaming party, Fantastic Arcade.

The Editor is a “knowing tribute to giallo from the crazy minds at Astron-6!”

Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn has put together an oral history of Fantastic Fest and, at austin360, Melissa M. Martinez looks back on ten “fantastic moments” from over the past ten years. Similarly, the Chronicle‘s Marc Savlov.

Lists? They’ve got lists. Twitch presents its “12 Most Anticipated Films From Our 12 On-Hand Contributors.” At Indiewire, Ryan Lattanzio‘s picked out “10 Must-See Films.” At, Peter Hall has decided to skim over the headliners and focus on “the movies you may not even know exist yet.” Neil Miller for Film School Rejects: “The 15 Most Fucked Up Things We’re Looking Forward to at Fantastic Fest.”

Updates, 9/20: First, as noted in the Toronto wrap-up, the place to find out about Kevin Smith’s Tusk is Critics Round Up. And now there’s an entry on Fabrice du Welz’s Alleluia as well.

The ABCs of Death was a success inasmuch as its ambitious concept was surely executed; tap into the creative potential of 26 emerging yet established filmmakers to each create short films showcasing a unique death, each one represented by a different letter of the alphabet.” Rachel Fox: “The sequel’s conceit is the same, but with far, far better results.”

Also at Twitch, Peter Martin: “Skipping over the procedures and processes that would be involved, Closer to God goes directly to the creation of a clone and then asks, ‘What now?’ As opposed to the army of movies that imagine clones in the future, writer/director Billy Senese wrestles with the essence of the issue, right here, and right now…. [I]t’s a smartly-executed film that exercises a good deal of restraint, which makes its accomplishments seem more modest than they are.”

Dead Snow (2009) was a “funny, action packed suspenseful gorefest,” writes Dave Canfield. “Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead is even better.”

“For those familiar with Eskil Vogt’s screenplays for the Joachim Trier directed Reprise and Oslo, August 31st, Vogt’s own feature directorial debut Blind, is sure to be a highly anticipated, and for good measure,” writes Ben Umstead. “It carries with it the same sensitive, melancholic touches of Trier’s work, with a greater penchant for the narrativelly byzantine and bizarre: a full-on embrace of the more unique tricks one can find in the cinematic language.”

At the Playlist, Drew Taylor gives Chad Stahelski’s John Wick a B-: “Ostensibly it’s a B-grade action movie about a hitman’s quest for (bloody) revenge, but in [Keanu] Reeves’s nimble hands, it becomes a much more joyous experience. It’s a comic book fantasy of how the criminal underworld works, anchored mostly by Reeves’s raw charisma.”

The Dissolve‘s Tasha Robinson talks with Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett and Dan Stevens about The Guest, which has a current CRU rating of 75.

Updates, 9/21: Peter Martin at Twitch on Whispers Behind the Wall: “Making his feature debut, which he co-wrote with Robert Dannenberg, director Grzegorz Muskala displays a good knowledge and command of genre conventions.” Also: “Wildly apocalyptic with dollops of silliness, Wyrmwood proves to be a splendidly gritty affair, a tale that feels like it’s being told from the back of a jeep as it races away from doomsday on a very bumpy road in Australia.”

“The fact that no one’s attempted a Die Hard with a female heroine seems like some kind of cosmic impossibility, but it’s never happened,” writes Drew Taylor. “Until now. With Everly, the basic Die Hard formula is rehashed with a female lead in mind, and the results are surprisingly spectacular. The shtick still works 26 years later.” That lead is Salma Hayek and the Playlist grade is a B.

Also at the Playlist, Rodrigo Perez: “Trafficking deeply in nostalgia, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, is an entertaining look at the maverick distributors that penetrated Hollywood, but in doing so elicits complicated feelings about its motives, its filmmaker, the easy lay-up of reminiscence and the familiar form of talking-head documentaries.”

“With a seemingly economical and swift production, the first V/H/S was an unexpected hit, and has now spawned two sequels,” writes Bill Graham at the Film Stage. “For the third film, V/H/S Viral, the ‘found-footage’ emphasis has been mostly dropped via the throughline between them all. Like any franchise, a third outing is difficult to pull off yet, and such is the case here, with few ample rewards to be found.”

Updates, 9/22: Aik Karapetian’s Man in the Orange Jacket “is not a horror movie,” writes Twitch‘s Peter Martin, “nor is it a character study, at least of the type that might be expected from a low-budget independent drama. Instead, it is largely an exploration of the effect that sudden, stolen wealth has upon a cracked psyche.” Also: Hans Herbots’s The Treatment “trods a similar path to many other dark crime thrillers. Nonetheless, it snakes and coils its way, sneakily, into the psyche.” And: “A wonderfully exhaustive documentary, Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD argues pointedly that the British comic book deserves more recognition for its influence on modern popular culture.”

Also at Twitch: “While some could shrug Felt off as horror ala Miranda July (which to me sounds awesome, by the way), it’s again too open of a movie to [be] pigeonholed,” writes Ben Umstead. James Marsh on Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau: “One of the more notorious production debacles in recent memories, the maelstrom behind the scenes of New Line’s The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) is the subject of this candid and entertaining documentary from David Gregory.” And Pierce Conran: “Building to a bloody, frenzied climax, which sees characters pushed to the brink and capable of anything to save their own skin, [Brian O’Malley’s] Let Us Prey remains visually interesting, but by the final reel it has long since lost the sense of mystery it introduced early on, failing to harness it by introducing a humdrum backstory and uninspired motive behind the visitor’s presence.”

“What’s astonishing about The Babadook and It Follows,” writes Jacob S. Hall at, “is how they don’t need your pity or your half-assed appreciation. These are two horror movies so confident in their basic storytelling that they could function as unforgettable dramatic experiences with compelling characters if they weren’t singularly terrifying experiences. The fact that they’re the two scariest films of 2014 is just a bonus.”

For Drew Taylor at the Playlist, “while Town That Dreaded Sundown is ambitious and supremely weird, it fails to cohere into something more resonant. For much of the movie it feels like what would have happened if Charlie Kaufman had written Scream. Then it becomes another dumb slasher movie.”

Updates, 9/23: “As a horror film, a fairy tale or a dark comedy, [Alexandre Aja’s] Horns just doesn’t work.” But John Gholson doesn’t just say so; he’s turned in a review in comic form at

Leonard Maltin’s been presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award and, at Twitch, Peter Martin has the full list of all the awards handed out late last night. The highlights:

Audience Award presented by Maxwell Locke & Ritter: Isao Takahata’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

Next Wave Spotlight Competition presented by Dell Precision:

  • Best Picture: It Follows, directed by David Robert Mitchell, who’s also won Best Screenplay.
  • Best Director: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky for The Tribe.
  • Best Actor: Lou Taylor Pucci for Spring.
  • Best Actress: Amy Everson for Felt.

Fantastic Features:

  • Best Picture: Alleluia, directed by Fabrice Du Welz, who’s also won Best Director. Alleluia also scores Best Actor (Laurent Lucas) and Best Actress (Lola Dueñas).
  • Best Screenplay: Tetsuya Nakashima, Maiko Tedano and Nobuhiro Monma for The World of Kanako.

Horror Features:

  • Best Picture: The Babadook, directed by Jennifer Kent, who’s also won Best Screenplay. The Babadook also takes Best Actor (Noah Wiseman) and Best Actress (Essie Davis).
  • Best Director: Martín De Salvo for Darkness by Day.

Gutbuster Comedy Features:

  • Best Picture: Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead, directed by Tommy Wirkola. Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead also wins Best Screenplay (Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen and Tommy Wirkola).
  • Best Director: Hans Petter Moland for In Order of Disappearance.
  • Best Actor: Pål Sverre Hagen for In Order of Disappearance.
  • Best Actress: Sylvia Hoeks for Bros Before Hos.

Documentary Features:

Updates, 9/25: “Victoria Cocks’s post-apocalyptic saga of an anthropomorphic panda trekking across a great barren wasteland in search of redemption is remarkably restrained in its treatment of this absurd concept,” writes J Hurtado at Twitch. “Wastelander Panda: Exile‘s greatest asset is, without a doubt, its commitment to world building, as well as its uncanny ability to remove any but the slightest hints of acknowledgment of its own insanity. I can’t say for sure that I am 100% sold on the project, but it is that same commitment that gives me pause and keeps me from dismissing the thing out of hand.”

Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn presents “5 Reasons Fantastic Fest Deserves Your Respect.”

Update, 9/26: Fantastic Fest’s “mix of machismo, nostalgia and high-fructose hedonism is endemic to Austin,” Jordan Hoffman explains to the Guardian readers. “The pride a Fantastic Fest-goer feels comes from seeing something so twisted and deranged the Chinese government won’t let it out of the country without strings attached…. The extra-cinematic activities… similarly run the gamut…. While the organized trip to go off and fire shotguns may have just been pure Texas, most of the zany tie-ins have a thematic connection. An organized pie-fight after the repertory screening of Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone makes perfect sense in context, as the 1976 film, which cast kid actors like Scott Baio and Jodie Foster as 1920s gangsters, swapped bullets for pie cream for the shootouts.”

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