Fantastic Fest Days 2 & 3 Recap

On Day 2 of Fantastic Fest, I realized how old I really am.

Day 2 got the best of me. Maybe I’m old. Maybe I just don’t have what it takes to hang with the cool kids anymore. I suppose it’s possible getting up after six hours of sleep to catch a press screening is to blame, but in the end, the good money is on me being a boring old man (I’m only 35, but I sure FEEL old).

But I digress.

The morning kicked off with Applecart from director Brad Buhar. Beautifully shot and featuring some great performances from genre stalwarts Barbara Crampton, Brea Grant, and AJ Bowen, it ultimately did very little for me. The film follows Grant and Bowen, a loving couple who head to the secluded snowy mountains with their two kids and daughter’s friend in an attempt to “realign his energies” (or something of the sort) following his terminal cancer diagnosis. On their very first night they come across an unconscious woman in the forest (Crampton), whose presence portends the carnage that will soon befall the family.

I’m aware that’s not a very…clear description of the film. As the story progresses, we’re shown a faux-true crime show called “Inside Crime,” which relates the story that is unfolding. It’s an odd approach, one that routinely takes the viewer out of the actual events of the film, despite it all being insufficiently explained at the end. There’s a solid 80’s throwback buried in Applecart somewhere, but it’s unfortunately buried in some poor, albeit interesting, narrative choices.

Following the screening I came home and made it my mission to work out a little bit. The key to survival at Fantastic Fest is pacing yourself, especially in the food and drink department. Since I have that, “Fuck that shit I’ll eat and drink what I want when I want” mentality, I offset a little bit of the damage by going for a run and lifting some weights.

After that, much of my day was spent writing and working and writing and working and occasionally drinking a beer. Covering a film festival isn’t all parties and movies, sometimes it’s boring work and staring at yourself shirtless in the mirror, questioning every decision you’ve made since you first arrived two days prior.

I…I don’t exhibit very good discipline.

Anna and the Apocalypse Q&A | Dread Central at Fantastic Fest

Brad and Jonathan with the Cast and Crew of Anna and the Apocalypse.

I eventually made my way back to the theater and partook in the magic and sheer wonder that is Anna and the Apocalypse (review). The Christmas-themed zombie musical you didn’t know you need, it features consistently good songs, a killer score, and remarkable performances from start to finish, Anna and the Apocalypse should serve as a reminder that a little bit of joy can render even the most tired of subgenres an utter delight.

By now the lack of sleep was starting to get to me. By the end of Anna and the Apocalypse, a fierce headache had consumed my mind, and I while I wanted to stay for a screening of Mon Mon Mon Monsters, enjoying a beer then hitting the sack early was the adult thing to do.

 

Day 3 of Fantastic Fest started with a Brawl in Cell Block 99 and ended with gluttony.

I’m starting to hear the snoring when I’m awake. Those sounds….those sounds shouldn’t be coming out of a human body. I’m beginning to suspect my roommate is not who he says he is.

Either way I’m alive, but tired, having only banked 3-4 hours of sleep last night so I could get up and see S. Craig Zahler’s follow up to Bone Tomahawk, the brutally violent Brawl in Cell Block 99 (review). Vince Vaughn stars as Bradley, a stoic tow truck driver and former boxer who is laid off and forced to return to work as a runner for a drug dealer. After gaining some semblance of balance in his life and fixing his rocky relationship with his wife, a grab gone wrong results in a seven year jail sentence where he’s compelled to fight his way to the infamous Cell Block 99 at a maximum security prison to protect his wife.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Screenshot | Vince Vaughn Stars in this thriller from S. Craig ZahlerVaughn is a commanding presence throughout the film, his 6’5” frame and bald, tattooed head dominating every frame it’s in. It’s a marked departure from his previous comedic works, and a welcome one at that. He brings to the character a measured control that persists even when he’s brutally beating the crap out of someone. Like Bone Tomahawk, Zahler goes heavy on the violence, doling out hand-to-hand combat in small bits before unleashing near Mortal Kombat-like fatalities on anyone who gets in his way.

Following this, myself and Jonathan hopped in an Uber and made our way down to the J.W. Marriott where we were greeted with an interview with the lovely Udo Kier. Now, I am not a very good speaker and, unless it’s a joke, I’m not very adept at coming up with questions on the fly. Jonathan, however, is masterful at it and you can see his wonderful interview with Mr. Kier and learn all about his love of gardening and rescuing dogs. I think there’s only one mention of abortion and cutting off fetus limbs, though.

After that, Jonathan stuck around for an interview with Vince Vaughn and S. Craig Zahler while I took off to get some work done then catch a screening of Super Dark Times. Director Kevin Phillips plunges us into the lives of Zach and Josh (Owen Campbell and Charlie Tahan, respectively), two best friends who struggle to come to terms with an unfortunate accident they committed. Set during the pre-Columbine era, Super Dark Times equates the horror of their act with the horrors of adolescence, principally the “We both like the same girl” issue many young teenagers dealt with. This is slightly reductive, I admit, but I’m still grappling with the themes and concepts Phillips and the incredible performances of Campbell and Tahan allow to unfold organically throughout the film.

Next, I decided to hate myself a little more and gorge at Maudie’s, a local Tex Mex restaurant that, every year, lures me in with its free chips and salsa. Needless to say, I ate a shitton and lost a little bit of dignity during dinner.

This downward spiral into shame continued as I skipped my final screening of the night and the Fantastic Debates in favor of drinking a ton of beer and eating my weight in Whataburger by the pool with good friends.

Now it’s the start of Day 4, I feel like Hell, and I think I’m losing my grip on reality.

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Brad McHargue

Brad is a digital marketing specialist and screenwriter based in Denver, CO. He serves as programmer and host of the Telluride Horror Show, a 3-day genre festival in Colorado.

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