Fantastic Fest 2014: Review Wrap-Up; 10 Years of Madness, Mayhem, and Movies - Dread Central
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Fantastic Fest 2014: Review Wrap-Up; 10 Years of Madness, Mayhem, and Movies

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Fantastic Fest 2014

If there was ever an unofficial theme for the films that played the tenth anniversary of Fantastic Fest, it would be “dead animals.” An odd way to kick off an article recapping the greatest genre fest in the world, but Fantastic Fest is anything but ordinary.

For eight days hundreds of people crammed into the newly reopened Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar in Austin, Texas, to witness some of the best genre film from around the world while shoveling endless cups of queso and pints of beer down their gullets.

While some films did indeed feature our unfortunate feline and canine friends receiving an untimely demise at the hands of feral children, Russian mobsters, immortal beings, and everything in between, they were easily offset by documentaries on fungi, Japanese rap musicals, and apparently a two-hour drama told through sign language without the benefit of subtitles. Toss in killer karaoke, filmmakers debating the merits of found footage and then punching each other in the head, a raucous game show, and a killer closing party featuring free tattoos and mohawks, “slap shots,” and a God damned donkey show, and the theme invariably becomes “chaos.

But chaos abounds at Fantastic Fest every year and always in the best possible way. It reared its head early this year, causing insurmountable stress caused by numerous failed attempts at making a halfway decent schedule to ensure the chance to see every horror offering. While horror is typically well represented, this year saw it and the thriller genres take over, offering a wide variety of festival hits and under-the-radar indies alike. As such, making a schedule become one of the more daunting tasks an attendee must endure; within the first day or two the lineup begins to evolve, press screenings are added, and the specter of sleep begins to haunt your every waking hour. This results in films being missed, slept through, or skipped in favor of recharging the body’s batteries. Also beer.

Fantastic Fest is an exceedingly frustrating festival for that very reason. There is so much to see and do, so many wonderful people to engage in conversation with, and so much to simply experience that one will inevitably walk away with a lingering sense of failure. “How could I miss X film?!” is a common refrain following the fest’s closing night party, wherein everyone discusses what they liked and disliked in a drunken stupor. But this is a good thing. The fact that you can walk away after eight days of movies and parties and feel like you didn’t see enough is a testament to just how impeccably programmed the festival is. This extends beyond films and into the parties and special events. There was something to do every night, forcing many to make the tough decision of seeing a midnight screening or attending a party such as Chaos Reigns Karaoke (named so after Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist  and yet another reminder of the fest’s recurring theme) or the Fantastic Debates (see my 2013 appearance and beat down here). Given that most midnight screenings fall under the banner of horror or thriller, you can imagine the frustration this would cause.

As a regular attendee of multiple genre fests throughout the year, I was blessed enough to view a number of the films that screened this year. Festival darlings such as Housebound (review), The Babadook (review), and Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (review) were all seen in late April at the Stanley Film Fest, thus freeing me up for the lesser known titles, as well as the non-horror offerings like Keanu Reeves’ John Wick, which is without a doubt one of the most insanely awesome action films I have seen in recent memory. Lean, tight, and efficient, it’s a bare bones story propelled by some of the best on screen violence and action you’ll ever see. It should be called Head Shot: The Movie. Another non-horror film that blew me away is Blind, a slow but engaging Norwegian drama about a blind woman who becomes lost in her thoughts and imagination.

Buzz for some films aside, the wildly diverse opinions on horror keeps things interesting throughout the duration of the festival. Most films screen twice, with the reactions from the first screenings serving as a major factor in schedule changes. One such example is It Follows, the first screening of which I skipped for reasons I can’t recall but ultimately saw due to the overwhelming praise. Dubbed smart, original, and outright scary, I was one of the few people who found it to be mostly “okay,” which drew the ire of those who felt it to be not just the best horror film of the fest, but the best film overall. (For more on this, read Peter Hall’s wonderful write-up on Movies.com here). The same can be said for Cub (review), the Belgian thriller about a group of cub scouts who run afoul of a feral child in the woods. Exemplifying the fest’s unofficial theme, I found it to be a well-made and extremely fun thriller, even if the themes became a little muddied toward the end.

Conversely, a number of films were subjected to overwhelmingly bad word-of-mouth, including Horsehead (review), my most anticipated film of the festival. I settled in on Day 2 of the fest for what I hope to be a harrowing journey through the world of sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming, two subjects I hold very near and dear to my heart. What I got was an hour and a half of style over substance and an overwhelming desire to simply give up and walk out. In retrospect, I wish I had. It was easily one of the worst of the fest, earning a place alongside the Eli Roth-produced The Stranger (review), which felt like a made-for-TV movie, and the teen-centric The Hive (review).

Despite many films serving as an endurance test, I’m better for having experienced them. While celebrating the films you love with others (like Spring (review)) is enjoyable, it’s weirdly fun to engage in heated discussion with those who enjoyed something you truly hated. You have to take the good with the bad at Fantastic Fest; yet, even when something is bad, it’s not hard to discover the good it inspires.

I could sit here and discuss each and every horror film that played the fest, but to do so would be a Herculean task and this piece is long enough as it is. As such, I’ll just leave you with these parting words: Fantastic Fest is more than just a film festival; it’s a celebration. A celebration of film and how it binds us all together. A celebration of friends new and old. A celebration of chaos. Let it reign.

Brad’s Top 5 (films seen outside of the fest, like The Babadook, are not included)

Spring (TIFF review)
Closer to God (review)
When Animals Dream
Ich Seh Ich Seh (review)
Shrew’s Nest (review)

Brad’s Bottom 5

Horsehead
The Stranger
The Hive
The Incident
Realiti (not horror, but so bad it deserves a spot on this list)

Other Fantastic Fest Reviews

The Editor (review)

Whispers Behind the Wall (review)

Everly (review)

Over Your Dead Body (review)

It Follows (review)

From the Dark (review)

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (review)

V/H/S/ Viral (review)

The ABCs of Death 2 (review)

Fantastic Fest 2014

 

 

 

 

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Go Christmas Caroling with The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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Given that I personally have gone Christmas caroling with various lunatics hopped up on eggnog, what the hell… why not go Christmas caroling with The Killing of a Sacred Deer? Dig on this latest clip!

Look for the flick starring Colin Farrell (Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, In Bruges, 2009) and co-starring Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (Best Actress, The Hours, 2003) to hit Blu-ray, DVD, and digital on January 23rd. Yorgos Lanthimos directs.

Special features include “An Impossible Conundrum” featurette, and the package will be priced at $24.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Synopsis:
Dr. Steven Murphy (Farrell) is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon presiding over a spotless household with his ophthalmologist wife, Anna (Kidman), and their two exemplary children, 12-year-old Bob (Sunny Suljic) and 14-year-old Kim (Raffey Cassidy). Lurking at the margins of Steven’s idyllic suburban existence is Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless teen he has covertly taken under his wing.

As Martin begins insinuating himself into the family’s life in ever-more unsettling displays, the full scope of his intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter the Murphy family’s domestic bliss.

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Which Monsters May Be Making Their TV Debut in Junji Ito Collection?

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Studio Deen’s highly-anticipated anime anthology Junji Ito Collection has been building buzz, especially since its new teaser dropped weeks ago. Eagle-eyed fans who are well-acquainted with horror mangaka Junji Ito’s body of work will spot some familiar faces in the new trailer, brought to the small screen by showrunner Shinobu Tagashira.

So, who among Ito’s famous menagerie of monsters may be making an appearance in the show when it airs next year?

Oshikiri Toru

Oshikiri is the morally-questionable highschooler who begins to question his perception of reality in Hallucinations, a series of some loosely connected one-shots. Oshikiri’s a little on the short side, with an even shorter fuse. One thing he’s not short on is moneyas evidenced by his impressive, albeit creepy, mansion. We’ve yet to see which of his adventureswhich range from murder to parallel dimensionswill be his television debut.

Yuuko

The once-chatty Yuuko falls ill and sees her worst fears come to pass in Slug Girl, the famous one-shot whose brand of body horror is sure to feel like a distant cousin (or maybe a predecessor?) to Uzumaki‘s “The Snail” chapter. It offers little in the way of answers but is best enjoyed in all its bizarre glory.

The Intersection Bishounen

In Lovesick Dead, one of Ito’s longer standalone stories, an urban legend causes a rash of suicides when young girls begin to call upon a mysterious, black-clad spirit called the Intersection Bishounen. The custom catches on quickly among teenagers, out late and eager for him to tell them their fortune in life and love, since his advice is to die for. Literally.

Souichi Tsujii

A long-running recurring character in Ito’s manga (probably second only to Tomie herself), you’ll know Souichi by the nails he sucks on or sticks out of his moutha strange habit borne out of an iron deficiency. He’s an impish kid whose fascination with the supernatural makes him the odd man out in an otherwise normal family. The morbid pranks he likes to playfunny only to him—don’t do much to endear him to his peers or relatives, either.

Fuchi

The titular character in Fashion Model, Fuchi works as a professional model for her, shall we say, unique look and Amazonian stature. When she and another actress are hired by a crew of indie filmmakers, Fuchi shows them that she doesn’t like sharing the limelight. She also makes a cameo in a couple of Souichi’s stories, and in them he finds her genuinely attractive. Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

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Nemo Rising Signing Happening at Dark Delicacies on December 23

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Author C. Courtney Joyner will be signing copies of his new book Nemo Rising at Burkank’s Dark Delicacies horror store on Saturday, December 23 at 4pm. You can get the full details of the event and directions on Dark Delicacies’ website.

Nemo Rising will be a sequel to Jules Verne’s 1870 masterpiece Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and will see President Ulysses S. Grant recruiting the notorious Captain Nemo to destroy a gigantic sea monster which has been responsible for sinking ships. The gigantic eight-tentacled mollusc can be seen on the book’s cover below, and it looks like Nemo will have his work cut out for him.

Joyner also worked on the screenplays for the Full Moon films Doctor Mordrid and Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys, whilst his previous books include Hell Comes To Hollywood and the Shotgun series. If you can’t make it to the signing, Nemo Rising will be released in the US on December 26, and in the UK on January 13.

Nemo Rising Dark Delicacies Signing Details:
​Nemo Rising will be released on hardcover from Tor Books on December 26th, 2017.

JUST ANNOUNCED: On December 23rd at 4:00 PM, C. Courtney Joyner will sign copies of NEMO RISING at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, California!

C. COURTNEY JOYNER is an award-winning writer of fiction, comics, and screenplays. He has more than 25 movies to his credit, including the cult films Prison, starring Viggo Mortensen; From a Whisper to a Scream, starring Vincent Price; and Class of 1999, directed by Mark Lester. A graduate of USC, Joyner’s first produced screenplay was The Offspring, which also starred Vincent Price. Joyner’s other scripts have included TV movies for CBS, USA, and Showtime. He is the author of The Shotgun western series and Nemo Rising.

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