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09.30.2011by: Mike Sampson

The 2011 Fantastic Fest Wrap-Up!

It was an amazing mixed-bag at this year's Fantastic Fest. From gross-out horror flicks to brilliant crime-thrillers to experimental sci-fi to charming little comedies for kids, there was a something for everyone. And I got to shoot AK-47s, M-16s and Uzis with Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan, which isn't something that happens at most other film festivals.

This year's festival was light on "star power" as the organizers wanted to get back to their roots as the past few years has included big Hollywood premieres (THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT, CITY OF EMBER) and decided to pass on something a big screening for THE THING. This year included a lot of foreign films but watching the majority of them, I realized they're doing it better than we are here in Hollywood anyway.

In addition to the films you haven't seen before, they also offered up some old classics like a 30th Anniversary screening of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON with Rick Baker in attendance (and a poster courtesy of Olly Moss), Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE and COMIN' AT YA! in 3D.

Below is a link to the jury winners at this year's festival (Full Disclosure: I served on the short film jury) plus links to all my reviews so far from the festival. And if you click through into the gallery, I'll share with you the five most fantastic films from Fantastic Fest!

A full list of the official Fantastic Fest award winners!

TAKE SHELTER - HEADHUNTERS - PENUMBRA - LIVID - YOU'RE NEXT - THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 - THE INNKEEPERS - WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN - THE DAY - SLEEPLESS NIGHT - A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI

#5 - A Boy and His Samurai

A crowd-pleasing family comedy winning the Audience Award at a genre film festival? Who'da thunk? But that's a testament to just how easily A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI can win over an audience. This was a group in Austin who was used to see the latest in horror and sci-fi and action and found themselves clapping (and some even crying) at the story of a young boy's bond with a samurai lost in modern-day Japan. If Disney had any balls, they'd pick this up and give it a limited release in the United States, but sadly I fear it's more likely to get remade than released.

READ THE REVIEW

#4 - We Need to Talk About Kevin

I saw many quote-unquote scary movies at Fantastic Fest this year, but none packed the emotional wallop and real-life terror of WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. One day, when Lionsgate finally releases its A-list packed adaptation of WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING, these two films will make a good primer for expecting parents. The wonder of what can go right and the terror of what can go wrong. KEVIN is a haunting character study of a mother and her son that will leave you as frightened as any traditional horror movie.

READ THE REVIEW

#3 - Sleepless Night

When I think of action films, I don't often think of the French, but SLEEPLESS NIGHT shows Hollywood how it's done with a rough and tumble aesthetic and a powerful performance by star Tomer Sisley. While SLEEPLESS NIGHT deserves to be a success on its own right, the film was recently picked up by Warner Bros. for a Hollywood remake, which is disappointing because what SLEEPLESS NIGHT gets so very right is what Hollywood so often gets wrong. The film is a refreshing change of pace and one that hopefully teaches Americans a thing or two.

READ THE REVIEW

#2 - Headhunters

HEADHUNTERS is a Norwegian film but like many films at Fantastic Fest, it's something I can easily see Hollywood picking up and trying to remake. It's a whip-smart "heist gone wrong" thriller escalates its tension to an almost comical degree with every scene as it builds to a startling and exhilarating conclusion. You may think you know where the film is headed, but it continues to defy your expectations in uniquely satisfying ways. HEADHUNTERS is one of the best suspense-thrillers I've seen all year and a fine example of how a "man-on-the-run" film should work.

READ THE REVIEW

#1 - You're Next

Maybe not the "best" film from a technical standpoint and probably the least likely of these films to get some kind of Oscar nomination, but YOU'RE NEXT was the most fun I had at Fantastic Fest this year. Rarely do I get that psyched up by a movie that I'm clapping because I'm having so much fun, but I found myself doing that throughout YOU'RE NEXT. It's funny, scary, gory and bad-ass and for that, I love it dearly.

READ THE REVIEW

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