FANTASTIC FEST X… Ten years of partnering up with the mighty maestro, Tim League to pull off what genuinely feels unlike anything else on the planet Earth that I’ve been to… and so claims the attendees I’ve spoken with. Even better, FANTASTIC FEST X marks my return to my favorite theater in Austin, the ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE on South Lamar. The once and future home of BUTT-NUMB-A-THON this December 13th & 14th! (Details to drop October 15th as usual) South Lamar has changed, as has the HighBall… There’s 3 additional screens, no Bowling alleys, astonishing Karaoke room! Even better, I get to see all my favorite genre loving folks from around the world that managed to acquire precious limited tickets to this tenth year of cinematic insanity. On the drive down south, Father Geek and I were marking that this was the 7th Fantastic Fest since his stroke, which makes him smile, as it wasn’t that many years ago that he thought he’d have to miss one, but instead he went straight from the hospital to the fest. We tread welled up into the parking garage and went straight to our screening
To kick things off, we had Tim League, followed by Nacho Vigalondo, followed by Kevin Smith… all rapping… then confetti started blowing all over the place – big political sized confetti – then came the crazy… Like, Justin Long in a Walrus costume taking the center ring of an absurd crazy group that included pop&lock dancers… and giant eyeball headed dancers… and Kevin Smith had this look like… “Is this really happening,” that transformed to terror as he was standing too close to what erupted into a flame blast – it was… hysterical and insane. When Justin revealed that he was indeed the Walrus… we all cheered big! The film debuted at Midnight Madness up at TIFF 2014 to the exact word I wanted to hear… That Kevin didn’t pull the punch and instead wallows in the makeup insanity from KNB! Then, earlier in the week, I had an incredibly excited Paul Dini geek out mightily about TUSK after he saw the L.A. Premiere. But this was our turn – and the Michael Parks and transhuman loving audience was ready!
When Tim League introduced the opening film, he pretty much stated that FANTASTIC FEST in some ways could be summed up with a film like TUSK. TUSK is a film that will fuck really normal people up… it could, in fact, improve them… cuz if you love this movie, you might fall down the awesome rabbit hole of extreme rubber horror. Flicks like BASKETCASE and BASKETCASE 2, CASTLE FREAK, FREAKED, MUTATIONS, DEAD ALIVE and BAD TASTE. This isn’t about realism, it’s about crazy what the fuck horror. When you see Justin Long… FULL WALRUS… it is a thing of unmistakable glory. His fight for survival, beyond expectations – as I didn’t follow the SMODcast birthing of this wondrous fevered notion that was hatched goofing off on a microphone for a show. Classic! Michael Parks is a national treasure – and his beautiful freak is let loose and I just couldn’t stop giggling and guffawing – this was aided by a wondrously prepared audience that was there to enjoy the splatter & absurdity. I’m not going to go into the rest of the cast, frankly you ought to go into this only expecting Michael Parks to turn Justin Long into a WALRUS. If that doesn’t sound liked some fucked up shit up your alley, move along.
After the film, Kevin and Justin joined Tim League for a rollicking extended hour long Q&A – during which Kevin announced that he was no longer mining his personal life, he feels… he’s done that enough and that that well is dry. Instead, he’s decided to start making shit up like TUSK!!! He says he’s beginning his RUBBER STAGE for the next two films and I’m so bloody excited for MOOSE JAWS… Killer Bullwinkle does it for me. I’ve seen folks claim that this is Kevin’s best film. For me, this is a different Kevin Smith. A Kevin that is going to try his hand at a different corner of cinema, and it’s a corner that not very many people are playing in – dammit – but if Kevin wants to own a corner of absurdist rubber horror – I’m all fucking for it! Check out TUSK asap! We need to get behind this one!
This is a deliberately paced mind bender… Would’ve been a great double feature with HIVE, which I saw today… but was also concerned with Governmental Experiments upon citizens gone awry and a man struggling to understand his altered state of reality.
This is directed by Jonathan King, he’s that New Zealander that kicked his career off with BLACK SHEEP – the New Zealand killer monster zombie sheep flick that delighted those that sought it out – and would be fun to watch with TUSK btw. Then he did the criminally underseen UNDER THE MOUNTAIN which is a great Sam Neill fantasy mini-epic that I’ve delighted a few people with since it came out in 2009. With REALITI, we have the first film that Jonathan King didn’t write himself.
He’s also playing in a world that’s been the domain of someone like Cronenberg. A societal science fiction horror film. Now, it isn’t horror in the bogeyman sense, it’s horror because… the idea of chemicals that can reprogram your perception of reality toward a corporate or governmental agenda is not only terrifying, but ingested intelligence is something that some scientists and tech watchers are predicting as being something that will be in our world in very short order. We’ve heard that the powers that be have figured out how to suppress and alter memories… and this film plays with that disconcerting reality. Nathan Meister does a great job of being off center throughout the film. He’s having colliding realities that are not discernable to his senses, but he’s feeling things are slipping. He’s trying to understand what happened to him, and navigating this bad trip is … well the fun of this film. The more you hang in there, the more you’re rewarded.
REALITI will be a film that divides some folks, but most importantly it is a film that can begin a conversation about a coming reality we’re going to have to deal with in the not too distant future. Good stuff.
On that first day… the film that just blew me the fuck away and is still my favorite horror of the festival so far… well, it’s CUB, a Belgian Boy Scout Horror in the Woods film that is pretty goddamn perfect! There were no filmmakers present, but director Jonas Govaerts is so on target that you’re going to look him up after you see this thing, and this is his first feature. He worked on a Dutch language TV Series called MONSTER! And I find myself wanting to track it down. Cuz… Well, let’s get into it…
First… there’s Maurice Luijten as SAM, a young Boy Scout, who doesn’t quite fit in with the other boys. He’s got one friend, but the Patrol Leader is a bit of an ass, and he’s alienated by the boys and the leaders that are taking them on a camp. Now, I know you’re seeing that poster and thinking… Fucking James Gunn and MARVEL ripped off CUB for GROOT – but that poster, while being DEAD ON – well… just you wait and see.
The film is seeded with little mysteries and exquisitely economical uses of facts that don’t seem important, but when you’re thinking about the film after… if you recall them, the movie just amazes in how tight it is. The Boys are BOYS SCOUT age, but that can run down to as young as 10 ½.
I don’t want to go into details… ruining some of the best and most rewarding IN THE WOODS kills I’ve seen in a long time. The shit that is going down is inventive and FUN! It’s also played 100% straight. The laughs will come out of your, “HOLY FUCK” reactions. But the reason the scares work is an excellent teasing of horrors to come, but even more so, it’s that we get to know these kids, the three adult leaders and if you’ve ever been a BOY SCOUT or done any camping with other kids in your history – this is going to resonate like you won’t believe. There are FLOURISHES of horror here that in unison at MIDNIGHT – 2AM had an audience roaring with approval or making that pained sympathy sound that makes me smile in a theater.
While this may be about Boy Scouts, this is very hard R rated horror. Don’t get attached to anyone or anything in this film. It does the unexpected and it never pulls its punches. Instead it lands them and relishes in the aftermath. But you’ll have a clear opinion and feeling about every character that buys it! Love the Police officer on the Motorscooter! Write this title down – and the moment it picks of any kind of distribution, we’ll let ya know. Cuz this is a High Five Horror Experience. And a fun Boy Scout film for the first 40 or so minutes. Don’t worry though – there’s scary creepy shit throughout! So unrelenting and cheerworthy!
That ended Day 1…
DAY 2 began just 3 hours after I went to sleep, I had to get up way early and head down to FANTASTIC FEST for the FANTASTIC MARKET Award Presentation to Nicholas Lopez and Eli Roth for repeatedly supporting the festival and trailblazing that CHILEWOOD growing empire. I held an hour long discussion with these two partners where they discussed how they met and hit it off… how they both decided that instead of waiting around eternally for the golden ticket to make an enormous budget film, and to instead make the movies they want to make in a fiscally responsible manner, but with no executives riding you. It was a blast. I’m looking forward to checking out THE STRANGER that’s playing at FANTASTIC FEST this year, and Eli is going to have KNOCK KNOCK ready for 2015. Btw, Eli says there is a definite path that OPEN ROAD and He are on for getting THE GREEN INFERNO released theatrically, some business shenanigans went down that are frustrating, but Eli is extremely hopeful for a quick resolution. Nicholas Lopez… he’s unlike anybody I know. He’s hilarious in a room, but when I met him when PROMEDIO ROJO debuted during SXSW, earlier the year that FANTASTIC FEST had its 5 day debut… well, I love his comedies. In some ways I see him as Chilean Edgar Wright. His sense of humor, design and geek sensibilities combined with a consistent ability to make the absurd personal and real. That’s a rare talent – and I feel it is quite fortuitous that these two have found each other… I’m so going to the wedding!
THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA
The first of four films today was THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA from Studio Ghibli and Isao Takahata, the director of POM POKO, ONLY YESTERDAY and the amazing GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES.
The film is taken by an old Japanese Folktale called THE TALE OF THE BAMBOO CUTTER, and by old… I mean 1000 years ago. The animation feels very much like Japanese water color and ink wash styles that have been a part of their culture even longer.
This is just simply some of the most extraordinary hand drawn animation that I’ve ever seen. Baby Kaguya, born inside of a glowing Bamboo flower looking thing – and as that miniature princess is first held by her mother, she is transformed into a rapidly aging & growing baby. This animation… it’s just, that baby… you will fall MADLY IN LOVE with that baby. Best film baby ever? Yeah, I’m gonna say that. Kaguya owns BAMBI’s wobbly ass with some rather awesome gymnastic displays of her own.
The story is simply one of the most beautifully whimsical and vaguely science fictiony myths I’ve seen told in my life. Emotionally this film captures you and invests you in the wonderfully magical life of Princess Kaguya and the men that tried to win her heart! This should absolutely run away with the Oscar for Best Animated Film. At this point I can’t imagine anyone making a stronger claim. This film is pure bliss-inducing magic.
MAN FROM RENO
This is a real treat. A Hitchcockian Suspense Mystery set in San Francisco, but involves a high degree of Japanese spoken, making it feel like a foreign film shot domestically. That’s cool. The story picks up with a mystery novelist played by Asagi Kusanagi – that recurring character in the 3 90’s GAMERA movies!!! That’s right, actress Ayako Fujitani… She is beautiful and wonderful in this film. She’s working through some personal torment, having turned in her final book using the character that has made her name world renowned. She’s come to San Francisco to relax and try to get her head into another, different mind space. When an attractive gentleman she meets in the hotel bar strikes up a budding romance and disappears… THE PLOT THICKENS shall we say. Heh.
Ayako’s AKI just can’t help herself. She sees clues and travels after the next one. She’s awesome. The sheriff played by Pepe Serna, who you’ve seen in a zillion things like THE JERK and SCARFACE and BUCKAROO BANZAI as Reno Nevada! Yeah, he’s a sheriff who gets involved in the story from the opening moments of the film. SO ATMOSPHERIC!
I love this kind of film. Romance, International intrigue, ancient medicines, dying rich dudes, heavies… and a Homme Fatale to die for! This isn’t one of the great ones in that realm, but it is damn fine entertainment, as my friend, Brian Behm said, “it’s the best TURTLES movie I’ve seen this year!”
Welcome to the Vompocalypse! That’s VOMIT APOCALYPSE! Now, it’s isn’t as simple as that… but THE HIVE by first time feature film director, David Yarovesky. He’s created a film where Cold War Era Russians had developed the grossest bad idea toxin ever. It’s this black oily shit. When you… I’m ahead of myself…
The film begins with Gabriel Basso, all fucked up, coming to in a room. There’s an intensely creepy scrawl of the word “REMEMBER” with some drawings of a girl’s face… as if… to trigger a memory. It does, disjointed… unfocused… confused. Like maybe his character had seen MEMENTO and hadn’t worked out his system yet. In Nolan’s film – he’s got a ton of tattoos and other things to help keep his story straight. He thought. No, our hero in HIVE is got bad black veins spidering through his skin… He vomits black shit… and he seems to have other people’s memories when he tries to think of his own. It’s disjointed, confused. He’s just coming to, and it’s his piecing together of this impossibly fucked up tale will find him thinking of women, becoming self-critical of his own bullshit as the memories tell him who he is and what he’s been up to. But when a plane crash occurs at the Boys Camp that they’re employed at… well… the shit hits the fan.
Over the whole of the film, we learn that the Russians were developing this strain to mine the power of extreme psychics that can see the memories of anyone on the planet. But… it also has a desire to take over, to create a Hive existence of creepy vomit monsters that know your every thought and impulse before you do.
The film is an assaultive experience. The charm of the film comes from the cast and the freaky freaky eww that they spout & spew – the way they move… so creepy…
The film is heavily hand held and the apocalyptic nature has questionably functional lighting for some scenes to be almost strobing. For some this may be too much. For me… it was a new take on the apocalypse… This end comes in the form of Soviet Psychic Vomit Monsters!!! That’s cool!
After the film, the director David Yarovesky sat down with his long time best bud, James Gunn – and had Gunn bust his balls for a Q&A. As a result, we didn’t get a ton of info about David’s crazy inspiration for this very stylish and well told story about a nightmare world you really do want no part of. This isn’t a HAH HAH Horror… It’s something new to worry about… cuz when it comes, it’s gonna be gagtastic!
Had this not been the World Premiere – and I were watching this at home with friends – we’d giggle our asses off – cuz it’s just so damn nasty ewwwww! This is a shower flick, you’ll need one after!
I probably should have gone to JOHN WICK, but I knew that one is about to come out – and I really do try to focus on the titles I don’t instantly recognize. It’s trusting the programmers. And FANTASTIC FEST has some of the best damn film programmers in the country. I’d hold our line up against any other. But do you remember a sick fucking nightmare of a film called TAXIDERMIA? If you do… you know why I had to see FREE FALL.
Gyorgy Palfi’s FREE FALL is a surreal tale about a building that just ain’t right. At one level, it’s a really nasty ‘BURBS, but in a Tenement type place. Weird fucking shit is afoot. You’ll see a YOGA class and a guy will be floating in a lotus position only to be bitched out by his Yoga Instructor for excessive vanity. There’s strange things afoot in this film and the strangest maybe why you’re watching it… or the expression on the person next to you.
There’s something that happens in this film… That as this woman is being interviewed by a shady looking doctor and nurse - and you realize this mother is going through Post Partum depression and this doctor has… well a FANTASTIC FEST answer to that normally impossible to alleviate in quite this fashion… or so you would think.
I suspected the second I heard Post Partum… cuz, that could only go in one really really really awful awful get it out of my fucking skull… SO FUCKED UP! My brain was assaulted by a nose disappearing that… man. If you’ve seen the film, you know… and yet… I thoroughly enjoyed this nonsensical surreal extreme comedy that you may forget to laugh at – or… you’re roar. IT IS SO F’D UP! You kinda must see it!
Alright, I’m off to MONDOCON then 3 films at FANTASTIC FEST… but first… a few winks! FANTASTIC FEST is my favorite time of the year! So many discoveries!