Fantastic Fest: And All The Rest

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012


As always when I attend a festival, I see more films than I could possibly write full reviews for (at least ones that live up to my high-ish standards), but it's worth saying a few words about those other flicks. And this being Fantastic Fest and not all horror like most festivals I go to, I don't really have an outlet to review the others in full anyway, as we had like eight writers from BadassDigest there in Austin all seeing the same movies, so some of these already have full reviews on the site that you should go read as well. Those folks are better writers than I am anyway.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the others. I also put up my whole schedule so you can get an idea of how nutty it could be - any "missing" time was probably spent at the Highball, writing these reviews and wolfing down the onion rings.


Sinister (review HERE)

Chaos Reigns Karaoke Party
Not as good as last year's - because I DIDN'T GET TO SING! OK, bias aside, it just didn't have the same vibe - there was a lot of crowd turnover, and by the time it was half over the room was already kind of empty as people would just come back to do their song. And while I didn't even try this time around, I'm appalled that Tim League would scoff at "Total Eclipse" but allow that overplayed, obnoxious "We Are Young" with no qualms.


The Collection (review HERE)

Berberian Sound Studio (review HERE)

Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning
Um.... what? I really enjoyed the last sequel, and was excited that Dolph, Van Damme, and director John Hyams were all coming back, plus Scott Adkins (not a great actor, but a hell of a fighter) - all in 3D! But Hyams apparently went off the deep end at some point, and instead of delivering more of the ass-kicking fun we should expect in what is essentially Universal Soldier 6, he gave us a very slow, perplexing film that owes more to Gaspar Noe and Christopher Nolan (plus a LOT of Coppola's Apocalypse Now) than, well, John Hyams, director of Universal Soldier: Regeneration. I have a tag-team review with fellow Badasses Sam Strange and FILM CRIT HULK that will be up next week for more thoughts, but suffice to say I left equally disappointed and confused.

The ABCs of Death (review HERE)

Fantastic Debates
Outside of movies, this is THE must-see event at Fantastic Fest, as it's as brilliant as it is insane. After a spirited debate on a topic (usually film related), the two debaters don boxing gloves and proceed to beat each others' faces in, with the crowd declaring a victor for the verbal portion and an ass on the mat deciding on the latter. I had zero interest in the first "debate", featuring some twin sisters promoting their movie. The debate was merely the two of them yelling at each other, and their fight seemed slightly staged. I'm sure it was exciting to some (they're attractive ladies, no doubt), but I found little amusement in their attention whore-y antics. And the 3rd debate was even sillier - it was Tim vs the director of Miami Connection (an 80s "so bad it's good" thing that was recently re-discovered), who refused to even fight, leading Tim to just sort of chase him around the ring.

However, the middle event more than made up for the others. My boss Devin fought filmmaker Joe Swanberg on the merits (or lack thereof) of "mumblecore" filmmaking. Being that Joe has made a career for himself with these type of films, you can guess which side he was on, leading Devin to slam his (and others') films on their poorly improvised scripts, self-indulgent plots, and general abundance of suck. He took a few cheap shots (most of which were still very funny) but also was able to smile and even laugh a bit when Joe would shoot back, unlike Joe himself, who seemingly had no sense of humor about the entire thing. Unsurprisingly, the fight was far from good natured - these two really went at it full throttle. Sadly, it didn't last long - Devin took a pretty good hit to the head right off the bat (his contact actually flew out of his eye!) and since they neglected to have headgear placed on the fighters, he was never able to fully recover from that first blow. He got a few good body shots in, but after toppling for the 3rd time (not from a hit, he was just totally out of it) the ref called the match over. Obviously, Devin lost the boxing match, but I think he won the debate - both men made great points, but Dev also understood that it's supposed to be entertaining for the crowd (all of whom are skipping out on a movie to watch), something that must have escaped Joe. Footage and transcripts are available online if you'd like to judge for yourself, but from where I was standing, Devin had the V until things got physical.


No Rest For The Wicked
As soon as I can, I'm going to watch the rest of this one - after a night of almost no sleep, its mix of detective drama and Spanish subtitles was too much for me, and I passed out after 20 minutes, only to wake up a half hour later and simply exit rather than try to figure out what was going on after missing nearly a third of the narrative. I liked what I saw though!

I Declare War
The tonal shifts could have been smoother, but I loved the concept of this one - a kids' "war" game played out with actual weapons, serving as the backdrop of a very realistic and even somewhat sad tale of how quickly kids can turn on each other over trivial matters. Anyone who's ever fought with their childhood best friend over a broken toy or a misunderstanding during a game ("You cheated!" "Nuh uh!" type stuff) should be caught up in this inventive, touching action/comedy/drama mix. And kudos to the casting folk - the kids are perfect.

The American Scream (review HERE)

Homemade Haunted House Hellbash
Right after American Scream, we were ushered into a makeshift maze inside one of the closed stores next to the theater (they are pretty much closing down the entire plaza - the Alamo and the Highball are being renovated/moved, hopefully in time for next year's FF), which was like a typical Halloween maze - corridors where costumed characters jump out at you, strobe lights, lots of props... it was a glorious way to cap off the terrific doc. Also, unlike most of those mazes, we were given free drinks and candy at the end of it.


Memory of the Dead (review HERE)

My Amityville Horror
We've all seen documentaries where the subject got a bit angry at his interviewers, but never have I felt as terrified for the very LIVES of the documentarians as I did here, as Daniel Lutz constantly seems about two seconds away from smashing the camera or worse. As the son who lived in the infamous house for those 28 days in the 70s. As we've learned over the years, the events were more than likely the complete fabrication of George Lutz, Daniel's stepfather - but that doesn't make them any less real to Daniel; I don't believe that anything supernatural happened there, but I believe HE believes it, and that is what gives this documentary its power. George sounds like pretty much the worst person in the world, with Daniel's accounts of his abuse and iron fist ruling (he refused to marry Daniel's mother unless he could legally adopt Daniel and his two siblings) makes the ghost stuff almost sound preferable. It's more about this conflicted, disturbed man than the house (or the movies, which are mentioned a few times), but there's enough new-ish info here for fans of the tale, and it's in some ways the scariest film I saw at the festival.

Fantastic Fest Awards
It's interesting the way that they do the awards here; by placing them in the middle of the schedule, it can make you rethink your options for the following days - that film you were going to skip wins two awards, and suddenly it's worth trying to see instead of sleeping late or going somewhere besides the Highball for dinner. And you gotta love the awards themselves - beer steins that are filled and MUST BE drank before the award can be accepted (if the winner does not drink, someone from the film must drink it instead; if no one is there, then the presenter has to chug). Obviously not the healthiest awards show ever, but certainly the most enjoyable. And I'm proud to report my friend BenDavid Grabinski won an award for best bumper (those festival-based shorts that play before each movie), no doubt due to the fact that he had a certain horror-loving, gray-haired schmuck in a horror shirt as one of his extras.

Fantastic Feud
A huge improvement over last year's abbreviated version, this VERY loose mix of Family Feud and trivia contest is a fun way to kill 90 minutes if your brain is too fried to focus on a movie. Pitting a team of five USA festivalgoers vs five foreigners (both teams a mix of filmmakers, journalists, and festival personnel), it was a delight, even if the host completely boned the US team by giving the first chance at answering the final question to the foreign team even though it was the US team's turn (we tried explaining his error, but a crowd full of drunks shouting at a guy who is stoned isn't going to solve anything). And I was able to secure a point for the US team after both sides failed to answer a question about The Descent and it was turned over to the audience, so that was fun. Hopefully next year they'll let me be on the team so US can be assured a victory!


The Exorcist in the 21st Century
I was very excited for this doc, which focused on the real life exorcists and what they do in a world filled with horror movies glorifying their profession, but it was a snoozer; possibly the weakest film I saw (tied with Memory anyway). The only time it came to life is when the priests start talking about the impact The Exorcist had on them, highlighted when the main guy inexplicably claims that the film was the first one from Friedkin (he had already won an Oscar) and that he hadn't done anything since. If the best part of a movie is the lead subject sounding like a total idiot (when the movie isn't trying to paint him as one), then it's probably not the best use of your time. I had some delicious French Toast while I watched it, however.

Drawn and Quartered: Animated Fantastic Fest Shorts
I didn't get to see the horror shorts this year, which bummed me out, but at least the animated block had a couple that fit, including the awesome (but a bit too long) Bobby Yeah from Robert Morgan. Imagine Frank Henenlotter directing an epic length video for Tool and you'd have an idea of what this trippy, super inventive piece was like. There was also an utterly insane/amazing "let's go out to the lobby" type piece from MK12 that topped even the ATHF movie's own parody of these things for delirious and sick awesomeness. Post Human was also quite good, though it left me wanting more (unlike most of the others, which went on too long).

But the best was last, and not genre related at all. Disney's Paperman, which will be attached to Wreck It Ralph this holiday season, was a wonderful, refreshingly old-school short about a guy trying to get the attention of a crush by using paper airplanes. The terrific (black and white!) animation and utterly perfect score by Christophe Beck put a huge smile on my face throughout; if I wasn't excited about Ralph (and I am), I'd still go see it just to watch this again. Terrific stuff, and hopefully Disney will continue embracing 2D animation.

The Mafu Cage (review HERE)

And that's it! I had a ticket for the 100 Kills at midnight, but I opted to spend my last few hours in Austin with friends over at the Highball. Someone secured a private karaoke room where I was able to finally get my Bonnie Tyler on (with most of the room singing along with me, thank you very much) and talk movies some more with folks I'm not likely to see again until next Fantastic Fest. At around 2:30 am the heroic William Goss (a terrific writer who you should already be reading) drove me to the airport for my early morning flight (rule of thumb - if your flight is before 8 am, it's best to just sleep at the airport rather than try to wake up and get there), and thus Fantastic Fest was officially over for me.

Overall I definitely had more fun this time. The extra day was a huge help - I was able to relax a little more often and partake in other events like the debate, as I didn't feel the need to cram as many movies in (despite the extra day I actually saw the same number of films). This probably didn't help my health any - if I'm in the theater I might feel OK to just have some water, but if I'm at a table in The Highball I feel obligated to keep drinking soda or eating those damn onion rings. But I can't think of a more glorious way to endanger my health, and I encourage anyone reading this site (or Badass) on a regular basis to venture to Austin at least once and experience one of the best festivals ever. See you in 2013!

1 comment:

  1. If you watched the 1st 20 minutes of No Rest For The Wicked, you saw the best part of the film. It's a kickass opening scene, and the last 15 minutes are pretty damn good as well, but the middle is a snoozer. I almost walked out (and nearly left to go back to the hotel to nap, which would've been a huge mistake as I'd have missed I Declare War). I wouldn't be in a rush to finish NRFTW


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