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Fantastic Fest Preview: The Biggest Premieres, Wildest Events and Craziest Movies

By Peter Hall, with additional reporting by Erik Davis
Fantastic Fest is the US' largest film festival dedicated to horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action, and otherwise crazy films from around the world. It was created by the Alamo Drafthouse, and every September it unites thousands of fans for a week-long celebration of some of the biggest and most obscure genre films of the year. It's a tastemaker festival, the kind that finds and programs the movies everyone will be talking about in the months and years to come.
There are over 70 features playing at this year's festival, so this just a sampling of the films big and large at Fantastic Fest 2012.
The Biggest Premieres
Frankenweenie – Decades ago Tim Burton was a young filmmaker working on a short film at Disney about a young boy who reanimates his dead dog. Disney deemed the film too scary for kids and a total waste of company resources, though, and they fired Burton. Now, after it turned out Burton made a huge career out of making macabre family films, Disney has reunited with Burton to make the Frankenweenie he always wanted to.
Red Dawn – Before Chris Hemsworth hit it big with Thor, he starred in this remake of the classic '80s film about teenagers defending their hometown from a communist invasion. Unfortunately, the studio that produced the movie fell on hard times and couldn't afford to release this remake, co-starring Josh Hutcherson and Adrianne Palicki, and so it sat on a shelf for two years. It's finally hitting theaters in November, though, and Fantastic Fest has scored its world premiere as its closing night film.
The Collection – Screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton have carved out their own somewhat mainstream niche in Hollywood by writing most of the Saw franchise, but their best film is the brutal 2009 horror movie The Collector. This is its sequel, which takes the audience inside the house of the madman serial killer from the first film. It's safe to say that what they find inside isn't going to be very pleasant.
Paranormal Activity 4 – The Paranormal Activity franchise is one of the most surprising success stories in recent years. When the first micro-budget film exploded into box office gold, everyone know sequels would be in order, but no one could have predicted that they'd actually turn out to have more going on under the hood than just a few clever jump scares. If they can keep that track record going, PA4 should be a highlight this Halloween season.
The American Scream – Speaking of Halloween, The American Scream is the latest documentary form the director of Best Worst Movie. This time around Michael Stephenson turns his eye on three families whose lives revolve around creating haunted houses. It's a strange topic, for sure, but considering Stephenson turned a documentary about the awful movie Troll 2 into a funny, heartfelt movie about passion and failure, we're confident he'll do the same here.
The Wildest Events
Fantastic Fest is full of some of the craziest and most unique events you’ll ever see at a festival anywhere, let alone one showing movies. Here are a few of the most buzzed-about heading into this year. Note: We’ve used the official descriptions from Fantastic Fest since they definitely describe it best.
Fantastic Fest presents: Air Sex – “If you've been to any Air Guitar shows, you've probably got some ideas about what Air Sex will be like. Except that competitors in this show won't pretend to play an invisible guitar, they'll pretend to make love with a partner who isn't there.”
The Fantastic Debates – “Quench your thirst for blood AND intellectual disputation with another installment of the Fantastic Debates, where the burning questions facing the fan community are resolved once and for all via formal debate followed by in-ring fisticuffs.”
The Fantastic Feud – “The Fantastic Feud, brainchild of FearNet's own Scott Weinberg, pits the greatest American horror scholars against the feeble competition from foreign lands. Much drinking and feats of mental agility ensue.”
The Closing Night Party – “Fantastic Fest will transform the Austin American Legion into a maximum-security prison for the ultimate Red Dawn shindig.  Prisoners will experience mandatory enjoyment from delousing stations as well as free prison tattoos and head-shaves.  Executive Chef John Bullington will be doling out wild-game bulgogi, kimchi and piping-hot shots of deer blood while the uniformed detainees enjoy the musical stylings of festival favorite Future Folk.”
The Craziest Movies
I Declare War – When young boys get together and play war in the woods, they do so with sticks for rifles and pine cones for grenades. I Declare War, however, sees that battle through their imaginations, turning those pine cones into real grenades. Think of it as a full blown action movie...starring 13-year-olds.
The ABCs of Death – 26 of the world's most renowned genre filmmakers have all been brought together to make an anthology film with each segment being a very specific death inspired by a letter of the alphabet. It's either going to be brilliant or just too busy, but whatever the case, it's sure to be one of the most vulgar, crazy movies of the year.
Doomsday Book – Speaking of anthology films, Doomsday Book promises to be considerably more focused than The ABCs of Death. The focus here is on three different visions of how the world might end. That kind of apocalyptic trifecta is appealing enough on its own, but what really drives our excitement is filmmaker Jee-Woon Kim, the director of The Good, The Bad, The Weird and The Last Stand, who contributed to the armageddon-loving film.
Holy Motors – One of the most buzzed about titles from the Cannes Film Festival was Holy Motors, a mindbending film about a man who constantly jumps from one life to the next. It features the likes of Eva Mendes and Kyle Minogue, but they're only a small part of this creative extravaganza.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning – Why yes, the Universal Soldier franchise is still going strong. The latest reunites Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren once again, while also bringing into the fold fellow Expendables 2 co-star Scott Adkins. If you've missed the high concept, muscle-fueled action movies of the '90s, this should definitely be on your radar.
Make sure to check out all our Fantastic Fest coverage right here on Fandango, as well as over at our sister site,
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