Sept 23–30, Austin, TX……Sept 30 — Oct 3, at Home!
After the resounding success of SXSW Online earlier this year, we started to see an uptick in vaccinations, and many festivals start to move towards restoring some in person components, including one of our favorites, Fantastic Fest. Conditions in Texas the last few weeks prompted a pivot from the full plans to something more cautious. A move away from the badge system and back to back screenings dominating the Alamo S Lamar. Instead, a festival over several locations in town, fewer screenings, and a ticked system per screening.
Even with this pared back approach, the majority of screenings already seem sold out. Interested in going, I’d keep an eye on those screenings in case some tickets open up/get returned. What is new this year is the creation of Fantastic Fest at Home which is exactly what it sounds like. Showcasing films from this year’s Festival, as well as from previous Fests, dropping each day with a 48 hour viewing window. A Fantastic Fest experience on your own sofa!
As to the Fest proper, Cinapse will have a team on the ground providing coverage throughout. You can see the full schedule here, but for now, read on to see some of the team’s most anticipated features, and check back over the next week as cover what unfolds. Chaos Reigns!
Dan Tabor: @danthefan
Fantastic Fest is the festival I spend the year counting down to, and to be honest canceling my ticket this year for the second year in a row, due to the change up in screenings wasn’t easy. That being said I will however be partaking in Fantastic Fest at home and these are the films I am looking forward to most, some will be screening virtually and some will not.
After Blue (Dirty Paradise): “On a mysterious new planet populated entirely by women, teenager Roxy and her mother undergo a fantastical journey in pursuit of a murderous criminal”. Based SOLELY on the still I keep seeing online and the synopsis, I kind of need to see this.
Agnes: “Fantastic Fest favorite Mickey Reece is back with his most ambitious production yet, the story of a headstrong young nun accused of possession and her best friend who’s left to grapple with the aftermath”. Climate of the Hunter one of my favorite surprises of the fest last year. It felt truly original in its Lynchian soap opera-esque take on vampires in a way I didn’t feel was possible. Needless to say I am up for his latest.
Black Friday: “A ragtag group of toy store employees get more than they bargained for when Black Friday shoppers mutate into violent monsters”. I worked retail for five years, so I am here for this. Sounds more reality than fiction to me.
The Exorcism of God: Mexican possession movies are one of my favorite obscure subgenres I catch at Festivals. Thanks to the high percentage of Roman Catholics south of the border, there’s a real reverence and authentic fear in these films that you haven’t seen in the US since The Exorcist. So whenever I see one I have to check it out.
Last of the Wolves: “A hard-won truce between rival yakuza gangs threatens to erupt into bloody violence when a psychopathic hoodlum is released from prison and vows to avenge the death of his boss”. You had me at “Yakuza” and “Bloody Violence”.
Limbo: Limbo has actor/director Soi Cheang returning to his roots to tell a gritty detective story that sounds right up my alley.
Titane: Julia Ducournau, the director of one of my favorite films in the last few years, the coming of age cannibal masterpiece RAW is back, and I honestly can’t wait. The film won the The Palme d’Or this year and leads me to believe this may be the mainstream breakthrough for the young director.
V/H/S/94: Hopefully with Barrett returning to the series he will make good and finish the story arc from the first two films he was building toward. Also, with that roster this , should be an amazing entry to say the least.
David Delgado: @daviddelgadoh
If we’re talking about the movie I think I’ll like the most — Titane, from a newer director who had an astounding debut with Raw, and I’ll be excited for everything she makes. But that’s coming out soon and it’s less of an unknown quantity, having already played at film festivals.
In contrast, there’s something like V/H/S/94 with a world premiere at Fantastic Fest. I’m usually not a fan of anthology pictures but I’ve really liked both of the previous entries, and it’s been quite a white since the last one with V/H/S Viral in 2014. Add that up with the roster of directors (Chloe Okuno, Jennifer Reeder, Ryan Prows, Simon Barrett, and Timo Tjahjanto) and I’m anticipating some surprises and a solidly good time.
Ed Travis: @Ed_Travis
The Beta Test: To be honest, Jim Cummings is simply event cinema to me after Thunder Road and The Wolf of Snow Hollow. They’re wildly different films anchored by vulnerable performances from Cummings. I don’t even know what genre Beta Test might fall in, or really even the plot for the film. I don’t need to.
Titane: Filmmaker Julia Ducournau frightens me. And with the one-two punch of her previous film Raw being a brass-knuckled punch to the soul and her Palme d’Or win at Cannes, Titane looks like the ultimate bad time at the movies and there’s no better place to see it than with a Fantastic Fest crowd.
Dynasty / Master of the Flying Guillotine: I’ve spent the last several years of my life digging deeper and deeper into my action cinema roots and really prioritizing my writing and viewing around that, my most beloved genre. Action cinema wouldn’t be what it is today without kung fu films, and I’m thrilled to check these both out. A 3D screening of Dynasty feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience and while I’ve seen and loved Master Of The Flying Guillotine many times before, watching it with a RZA commentary track with a crowd feels like something I can’t pass up.
Mad God: Anytime a filmmaker spends decades on a particular project, my curiosity is piqued. So when someone like visual effects master Phil Tippett creates a stop motion opus, that feels like something that demands my attention. Again, much like with The Beta Test… I don’t really know what this movie is about, or even what genre it might fall into. I simply know I want to experience it on a big screen and I entrust myself into Tippett’s hands.
Lamb: Most of my other highly anticipated picks come from a previous knowledge of who the filmmakers are, or a love for the genre the films fall into. Lamb looks like a total wild card. I’m not familiar with any of the cast or crew beyond Noomi Rapace, and yet the trailer promised something very weird, very European, and possibly devastating. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’ve got a feeling about this one.
Jon Partridge: @Texas_Jon
After her brilliant short Junior, and thoroughly blowing away Fantastic Fest back in 2016 with her debut feature Raw, I’m here for anything Julia Ducournau has to offer. After storming Canne with Titane, it seems a great film to kick-start Fantastic Fest 2021.
Alice Krige has a talent for picking memorable horror roles and She Will looks to put her front and center. A retreat to a remote cabin in Scotland, local lore and history, a bubbling evil presence, a score by Clint Mansell, AND Malcolm McDowell. I’m sold.
It wouldn’t be Fantastic Fest without a mildly absurdist, deeply black comedy from Scandanavia. The Trip, from director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow), seems to tick all the boxes. A couple head to a remote location to fix their marriage, while the husband seems determined to “end things”. Not in a divorce proceedings kind of way, if you get my drift. His plans go awry. Entertainment is assured.
Dinosaur wrangler and stop-motion maestro Phil Tippet finally completed Mad God, his decades in the works apocalyptic adventure and is sharing his imagination (and apparent madness) with the Fest. After bringing to life other people’s vision for so long, it’ll be fascinating to see this long gestating project on the big screen.
Finally, I love when a smart concept overcomes a low budget. Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes looks to deliver just that, featuring a small group of people working in a tea shop, who find that a computer monitor in the apartment upstairs is connected to their future, albeit only 2 minutes forward in time. Shot on an iPhone, seemingly in one-take, this one looks like it’ll charm, entertain, and boggle the mind in equal measure. Described by Fantastia Fest as “One Cut of the Dead meets Tenet”, how can you not be sold.
Julian Singleton: @gambit1138
The Fantastic Fest lineup this year is full of hotly anticipated titles and curious surprises alike–it’s hard to fully gauge which one I’m the most eagerly looking forward to, since each one seems so full of exciting possibility. As a diehard fan of Raw, Sinister, and Thunder Road alike, I’m looking forward to the next films from each of their respective creators. The buzz out of Cannes for Julia Ducournau’s Titane reminds me heavily of how Parasite brought down the house in both Nice and Austin in 2019. Sinister scared the shit out of me — and reuniting star Ethan Hawke with director Scott Derrickson and writer/Austin local C. Robert Cargill can only mean more disturbing visions are on the horizon. With the tender beauty, sheer anxiety, and uncomfortable hilarity brought on by Thunder Road and The Wolf of Snow Hollow, it’s clear fellow Austin filmmaker Jim Cummings can expertly balance whatever blend of genres strikes his fancy–so I have absolutely no idea what to expect from The Beta Test in the best way.
The festival always has a fittingly fantastic selection of animated films each year, too–with The Deer King and Poupelle of Chimney Town providing distinctly wondrous visions from their creative teams. Standing out among the crowd, though is BELLE, the latest from Wolf Children and Summer Wars director Mamoru Hosoda. Having brought social media and human behavior to strikingly new means of representation in his last few films, Hosoda casts a keen eye at the beautiful contradictions in how we represent ourselves in our families, friendships, and the world at large amidst ever-evolving technology and a rich history of Japanese folklore. Referenced as a new take on Beauty and the Beast, I can only imagine how a story of terror, compassion, and transformation will translate to online avatars via Hosoda’s sure hand.
And to just make a point short — Lamb looks terrifying. Chock full of the dread and absurd humor that marks A24’s particular brand of horror in the trailer alone, Lamb also looks stunningly shot and anchored by a fierce and dynamic performance by Noomi Rapace.
Of what I’ve seen in the festival lineup — The Found Footage Phenomenon and Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched are the two of the best horror documentaries out there, covering found footage and folk horror with gleefully intense enthusiasm and utmost respect for their genres. And who can turn down a screening of Master of the Flying Guillotine, one of the most gonzo kung fu competition films out there–with a live commentary by the RZA?
After a long delayed return and all of the re-organization complications to get to this point, it’s amazing to see Fantastic Fest return in such top form.