Longtime Geek League readers will know by now that every September your intrepid correspondent ventures out of his leafy Massachusetts bubble to travel down south towards the sunny climes of Austin, Texas to partake of the wacky shenanigans that is the Alamo Drafthouse’s leading fringe- and genre-dwelling film festival, Fantastic Fest, and this year is no different.
Now in its 12th year, the eight day event has lined up a whole smorgasbord of wild films and events to entertain the masses and showcase the next great genre films.
Kicking off this tonight is the opening night screening of Denis Villeneuve’s alien visitation tale Arrival, starring Amy Adams as a linguist hired to decode a mysterious alien language. A big hit at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month, it’s been compared, favorably, to Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It opens wide November 11th, but we will have early word for you here. Closing out the festival this year is Mexican director Nacho Vigalondo’s (TimeCrimes, Extraterrestrial) eccentric take on the kaiju genre, Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway as a small-town loser who discovers a personal connection with the monster wreaking havoc on Seoul every night.
Colossal monsters aren’t the only colossal monsters on the docket either, as two of the week’s premiere events also feature giant beasts: Toho’s return to its legendary kaiju Shin Godzilla, the 32nd (!) film to feature the iconic city-stomping lizard, and A Monster Calls, J.A. Bayona’s already acclaimed epic fantasy about a boy and his tree-man (voiced by Liam Neeson), which opens in December. Skyscraper sized creatures aren’t the only titans here at Fantastic Fest, as there will be several new films from legendary directors: Robocop, Total Recall and Showgirls icon Paul Verhoeven delves into rape-revenge territory with his thriller Elle, Oldboy’s Park Chan-Wook returns with The Handmaiden and Tim Burton will be on hand to present the world premiere of his fantastical kid’s book adaptation Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, starring Eva Green, Samuel L Jackson and Asa Butterfield in a sort of Gothic X-Men for children.
Other big ticket items this week include the 4k restoration of 1979’s Phantasm that was overseen by JJ Abrams and director Don Coscarelli, as well as the world premiere of Phantasm: Ravager, the long awaited fifth film in the legendary, scrappy weird-horror franchise. The Raid star Iko Uwais is back to kick more ass and break more skulls in the Bourne-esque Headshot, while Dolph Lundgren hunts demons in the B-movie throwback Don’t Kill It. There’s the bizarre gross out comedy The Greasy Strangler and the crowd-funded The Void – the first “serious” horror movie from the Astron-6 production company (Manborg, Father’s Day):. Meanwhile, flesh will be consumed in the French cannibal tale Raw, which earned some notoriety out of the Toronto International Film Festival after a couple audiences members passed out during a screening, and in The Bad Batch, the sophmore effort from Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night), a dystopian post-apocalypse allegory starring Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey (!!)
Each year, the festival likes to build itself around a different theme, and to showcase the cinema of a particular region, and this year they are bringing us to India with the wildest and wooliest films they could find from there. And film ins’t the only thing the Fest celebrates: in addition to Fantastic Arcade, their concurrent sidebar celebrating the best in indie gaming, they are delving deep into virtual reality for the first time with a VR experience from Dark Corner, creators of the hit immersive horror game Catatonic. For the first year, they are introducing Puke and Explode, a gastrointestinal timebomb of an eating contest involving less than delectable edibles, and a return visit of the mind-melting multi-member demonic marching band musical act Itchy-O.
And, for the truly daring, there is also a trip to hell: a Satanic Panic Escape Room, which takes the new hit fad of the moment and gives it a truly Stygian spin. That, of all the things, should tell you what kind of experience one has at Fantastic Fest. Where else do you get a chance to beat Satan at his own game?