I have no idea what I am getting into. I am about to attend my first FANTASTIC FEST. The last two years there was nowhere I’d rather have been but timing kept me strapped to a desk in service of another festival (I believe this is the week they finalize the program book… ugh, don’t miss that). Anyway, I usually spend the next 10 months tracking down the titles at Fantastic Fest, seeing them at other festivals or waiting patiently for their (sometimes very small) releases. I am so freakin’ psyched to see them with an audience before the rest of the world. I’ve said for several years that Fantastic Fest is my FAVORITE fest and I haven’t even been there yet. This year the line up is incredibly diverse and full of sundry titles from all over the world dealing with death, murder, killing, or thinking about death, being murdered, or killing someone else. In terms of actual ‘genre’ fare, there is almost nothing in the festival that would qualify as fantasy and there is very little science fiction, but there is a heck of a lot of horror and noir. Most of the films sort of fall in a hybrid genre I can only call ‘creepy.’ Strangely, Fantastic Fest has become one of the best International festivals in North America. There are more films playing here from outside of the USA than probably any other major festival in the country, probably even Sundance. The foreign flare is certainly stronger than any other Austin-based festival. Fantastic Fest is actually more of a destination festival than any other film fest in town; people come from all over just to watch films. So it’s okay they are playing (several) films that played SXSW, there will be enough people who are coming in for the festival that didn’t see them. In reality, this will be one of the few places people can see a lot of these films on the big screen. So do your research, because these are not titles that you are going to know too well, but if creep is your thing, you will probably not be disappointed. In gearing up for the week, I’ve put together this guide and preview for Fantastic Fest.

LOGISTICS

1. Know the ticketing system. The one complaint I’ve heard over the years of Fantastic Fest was the messy ticketing system. Joy of joy, this seems to have been completely fixed this year. The new system is intuitive and should help you both plan ahead and in the moment. You make all your selections the day before, in order of how much you want to see them, and then everyone’s selections get randomized and they shoot you back your schedule. So you have just as much of a chance to see your top choice as anyone else. And there are no more paper tickets or confusing lines. Great work Fantastic Fest website builders!

2. Bring a Jacket. The Drafthouse is really cold. Especially if there is rain outside. I just froze through a weekend of screenings at aGLIFF so learn from my peril. Yes, the more people in a room the warmer it is, but you can always take that jacket off.

3. Eat before, and after or in your car. The food choices at the Drafthouse are great, for like a day. It’s going to get pretty repetitive for eight. Even more, it’s going to be extremely expensive. Those Royales w/ Cheese are $12. Even a soda will cost you $4, and you have to buy that for each screening. There is nothing really near the Alamo South Lamar, because it’s basically a construction site, so unless you want to get in your car and drive (and check out these great suggestions from the FF Staff) you will be stuck there.

4. Be smart about your Selections. Fantastic Fest always serves as a great place to launch a genre film. But Nightcrawler and the ABCs of Death 2 are all going to get major releases. Heck, The Guest arrives in Austin the day after Fantastic Fest ends. Be sure to diversify your schedule with some pretty amazing foreign films and tiny indies that may never make it back to the big screen.

5. It’s not All about the Films. There are some truly weird things that go on at Fantastic Fest. There is the Fantastic Feud, the Fantastic Debates, Nerd Rap Throwdown, Chaos Reigns Karaoke, and, a little less full of anarchy, a conversation with critic Leonard Maltin. With these events and all the parties and Mondo Con, it would probably be possible to go to Fantastic Fest without ever seeing a movie. Don’t do that, but I’m saying it’s probably possible.

THE FILMS

10. HORNS. Ig, accused of murder, wakes up one morning to discover devil horns on his head… and strange new powers. Apparently he has the ability to make anyone tell their darkest truths and to act on their deepest desires. He uses his new skills to find out who actually raped and murdered his girlfriend. The film stars everyone’s favorite wizard, Daniel Radcliffe, in yet another attempt to distance himself as much as possible from his cinematic past. As Ig says in the opening scene: “when you go through Hell, the only way out is to walk deeper through the fire.”

Horns

Horns

9. THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA (KAGUYA-HIME NO MONOGATARI). Last year FF gave us THE CONGRESS, this year the sole full-length animation is a beautiful brush-painting inspired fairy tale from Studio Ghibli. In his first film since 1999’s MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS, co-founder Isao Takahata tackles a story from Japanese folklore about the discovery of a nymph baby girl who is adopted by a bamboo cutter and raised as a princess. As suitors from across the land come to win her hand, she longs for the simpler days in the forest.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

8. LOST SOUL – THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. The Marlon Brando/Val Kilmer film is a legendary mess of a film. The director (Stanley) was fired on the first day of shooting. Brando was becoming increasingly bizarre, even for him. And the film was an epic flop. Perfect for a tell-all documentary involving many of the major players: Stanley, Robert Shaye, Edward R. Pressman, Fairuza Balk and members of Stan Winston’s effects team. There aren’t too many docs at Fantastic Fest this year, but the ones they have look great, and this is my pick for the best (and most genrific).

Lost Soul - The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau

Lost Soul – The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau

7. DUKE OF BURGUNDY. Peter Strickland’s steamy film is described as a dark melodrama and promises a sexually driven aural roller coaster. The lead character delves into desires that her lover tries her best to satisfy, but the lust leads to a strain in their relationship. After a week at aGLIFF where I found a majority of the films sort of lacking in actual sexual deviancy, this film looks to fill that void. It also promises to be an intense, meditative film and the Fantastc Fest description uses the term ‘visual poem.’ Did I mention it looks sexy?

Duke of Burgundy

Duke of Burgundy

6. AUTOMATA. One of the most SciFi selections of the festival, Automata follows an insurance agent sent to investigate malfunctioning robots in a post-nuclear dystopian world. Starring Antonio Banderas on the case, he must figure out why a robot would violate its programming and if this is a solitary occurrence. Also featuring Robert Forster and Melanie Griffith, Automata looks like a post-modern take on Blade Runner, which was already post-modern in itself.

Automata

Automata

5. NYMPHOMANIAC: EXTENDED DIRECTORS CUT. Why would you see a film nearly a year old and available of Netflix? Because this is your one chance to see all 324 minutes of Lars Von Trier’s epic, controversial, and uncomfortably funny film the way he wanted you to see it. Making its North American debut, the Extended Cut goes deeper in the exploits of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her life-long pursuit of sexual satisfaction and personal destruction. Also featuring Stellan Skarsgård, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Willem Dafoe and Uma Thurman, the film is a triumph and worth seeing under this particular set-up. It’s only a shame Von Trier is not here to talk about it with attendees after.

Nymphomaniac

Nymphomaniac

4. REALITI. Jonathan King, director of UNDER THE MOUNTAIN, delivers a micro-budget SciFi thriller in this New Zealand feature about a media exec tracking a case of a drug that appears to warp time. When a criminal is caught with his wallet in her hand, and his lawyer brings him down to meet her, he begins to question his own perception of reality in a way that can only be described as Twilight-Zoney. He doesn’t remember how he knows her, and then a few days later, she shows up with his lawyer, completely put together and seemingly unrelated to her earlier situation .

Realiti

Realiti

3. EVERLY. A.k.a. Salma Hayek kicks some ass. A prostitute, Everly turns against her ganster boss and becomes a police informant. With a price on her head and every assassin in town wanting to cash in, Everly takes on all comers to protect her family and leaves a trail of bodies in her wake. Add to that, director Joe Lynch (KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM) brings a healthy amount of humor and pulp fun to the film that promises eruptions of cheers from audiences.

Everly

Everly

2. CONFETTI OF THE MIND – A Short film collection of films by Nacho Vigalondo, responsible for TIMECRIMES, EXTRATERRESTIAL and this year’s OPEN WINDOWS (also playing) recently picked up by Drafthouse films. The 60 minutes should make a strong case for the development of this Fantastic Fest favorite, including his 2003 Academy Award nominated film 7:30 IN THE MORNING. Curated by Vigalondo himself, the films include CHOQUE, SUNDAY, MARISA, and CARLOTA, as well as an introduction and thoughts from the director himself.

7:30 IN THE MORNING

7:30 IN THE MORNING

1. WASTELANDER PANDA: EXILE. Are you kidding me? A webseries set in a post-apocalyptic world where the last survivors gather together in communities for protection… and leader is a giant walking, talking, sword-fighting panda bear. After the violent death of a young girl, Isaac crosses the wasteland to find a replacement that will help reinstate his family into the tribe. 6 episodes of this Australian production will make their international premiere at Fantastic Fest.

Wastelander Panda: Exile

Wastelander Panda: Exile

Fantastic Fest opens Thursday, September 18th and badges are sold out – sorry! Follow me on twitter (@bearsfonte) for daily updates during the festival.

Bears Fonté is the Founder and Executive Director of Other Worlds Austin, a new festival in Texas’ capital focused on SciFi.  Prior to that, Bears served as Director of Programming for Austin Film Festival from 2012-14, overseeing some 200 films selected to screen at eight venues over eight days.  The 2013 Festival saw 28 world premiere features and 7 films picked up at the festival or the week after.  His most recent short film, THE SECRET KEEPER, has been selected by over 35 US Film Festivals since September of 2012.  His feature thriller iCRIME, which he wrote and directed, was released on DVD, VOD and streaming by Vicious Circle Films in 2011.  Bears also self-produced two web-series which have been seen by a combined ten million viewers.

Prior to arriving in Austin, Bears wrote coverage for independent producers and coverage services in LA and placed in nearly every single screenwriting contest out there including Screenwriter’s Expo, Final Draft Big Break, Page International, Story Pros and Austin Film Festival.

Bears received his BA from Carleton College in British Studies and Theatre Studies and a MFA in Directing from Indiana University and has directed over forty plays, including the Austin Critics Table nominee Corpus Christi, and the Austin Shakespeare Festival’s Complete Works of Shakspeare Abridged. He studied writing with noted playwrights Jeff Hatcher and Denis Reardon, and directed the first-ever professional productions by Princess Grace Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Don Zolidis and up-and-coming playwright Itamar Moses. He is currently working on a new five minute short to submit to festivals in 2015.

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