Previewing Fantastic Fest 2011!
This year I'm making my first excursion to Austin for Fantastic Fest and I couldn't be happier. Normally, I'm not much of a film festival guy (a little too stuffy for me) but considering Fantastic Fest bills itself as a film festival with the boring parts cut out, I couldn't be happier. Any trip to Austin is always going to be a good time (barbeque and beer - gimmegimmegimme), but the people at Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest sure know how to throw a party. How do I know if I've never been there? Let's just say I've already RSVPd for an event that includes shotguns. There's only one way that can end and it's on the far side from good. But shotguns and shotgunning beers aside, there are some truly badass films on display this year and here's just a sample of some of the things I'll be checking out.
Rumored to include scenes that involve both jerking off with sandpaper (ouch) and sex with a barbed wire condom (double ouch), THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 looks to up the ante in terms of grossing out the Austin audience. But nastiness aside, will it actually work as a movie or just be pure shock for shock's sake?
Probably the most quote-unquote star-studded film at Fantastic Fest, RETREAT stars Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton as a couple who take off to a remote island for some down time after a recent tragedy. They think they're all alone until one day a stranger (Jamie Bell) comes knocking on their door. They let him in and after he tells them what happened, it's clear none of them are going to be able to leave the house anytime soon.
How about Kevin Sorbo starring as the killer in a 3D horror movie? Yes please! Sorbo stars as a serial killer who brands each of his victims with a letter of the alphabet and his next mark, Julia ("X"), turns out to be a little more than he can handle. Though JULIA X is, at its heart, a horror movie, it also has a stream of dark comedy running through it. And did I mention Kevin Sorbo?
You might know Michael Shannon as that guy who's playing General Zod in the upcoming MAN OF STEEL but it's roles like this that got Shannon that part. Shannon was already getting Oscar buzz back in May for his performance in this film as a man who's life starts falling apart. He's having increasingly vivid dreams about an impending tornado and begins to have difficulty telling the real world apart from his nightmares. As his paranoia mounts, he starts building an underground shelter to protect himself against a storm that may, or may not, be coming.
Director Doug Aarniokoski has been working at Robert Rodriguez's assistant director since FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and makes his feature-length debut with THE DAY, a film described as a mashup of MAD MAX, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and...FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. The film follows 24 hours in the life of a group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. Think THE ROAD on steroids. Whatever Aarniokoski is up to, it must be something interesting as Lionsgate quickly snatched him up to direct their upcoming thriller NURSE 3D.
Lars von Trier debuted his meditation on depression at the Cannes Film Festival and it was quickly regarded as the director's most accessible film. Kirsten Dunst stars as a woman who finds herself dealing with the end of the world as a mysterious new planet is on a collision course with Earth, threatening to end life as we know it. It's a little sci-fi, a little apocalyptic and a little bit of Keifer Sutherland too, all wrapped up in a metaphor for sadness. It's the feel good movie of the year!
With a title like JUAN OF THE DEAD, it's hard not to think of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, a movie that turned the zombie genre on its head and become nothing short of a classic. So what, exactly, can JUAN add to the well-worn zombie tale? This film sets its backdrop against Cuba and its ongoing political turmoil. Zombies as a metaphor for a cultural revolution? Viva la undead!
An in-home nurse finds out that an elderly woman wants to be left to die in one of the rooms of her home with some..."treasure." Thinking this treasure might be some literal Ali Baba type shit, she, along with her boyfriend and a cohort, arrange to sneak into the house at night and steal this treasure. If you've seen any number of movies over the years, you know that bad things come to those who steal "treasure" that doesn't belong to them. LIVID is no different. [Before you ask, I have no idea if that photo above is a spoiler or not but it's the only promo pic being supplied for the film so...]
While on the surface YOU'RE NEXT reads like a remake of THE STRANGERS - man and woman off for a respite in the middle of nowhere become the victims of an attack by nameless, faceless strangers - the movie took the Toronto Film Festival by storm and was one of the most buzzed about films out of the TIFF After Dark series. I'm trying to stay spoiler free on this one, but I'm promised there's much, much
more to this film than just another home invasion thriller.
PENUMBRA is the next film from director Adrian Garcia Bogliano (COLD SWEAT) and has a little bit of a HOUSE OF THE DEVIL vibe. A woman is showing off an apartment to some renters who are, admittedly, a little weird. But weird doesn't do these people justice and what they have planned for this woman, and her apartment, during the upcoming eclipse is far more sinister than anyone can expect.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW played Tribeca and I missed it when it played in NYC but everyone I know who saw it summed it up in one word: trippy. Even the official synopsis refers to it as a "psychedelic head trip." It sounds something like an old 70s sci-fi film mixed with ENTER THE VOID with a mysterious glowing pyramid. I don't know what to make of this and that's what intrigues me the most.
Imagine waking up with a killer hangover. You hooked up with a random chick, you're still at her apartment and you just want to get some coffee, a bagel and some Tylenol. But you look out the window and there's a giant spaceship looming on the horizon and the town is seemingly deserted. You're just trying to figure out what the fuck to do and then her boyfriend comes home... That's what happens in EXTRATERRESTRIAL, the follow-up film from director Nacho Vigalondo (TIMECRIMES).
Previous secret screenings have included THERE WILL BE BLOOD, APOCALYPTO, THE BROTHERS BLOOM, ROLE MODELS, A SERIOUS MAN, I SAW THE DEVIL and NEVER LET ME GO. What will this year's secret screenings be? There are plenty of rumors (BATTLE ROYALE 3D? THE RAID? PUSS IN BOOTS??) but no one will know until the lights go down and the reels start spinnin...