There are normal film festivals... and then there is Fantastic Fest.
Held annually in Austin, Texas toward the end of September and hosted by the beloved Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, Fantastic Fest is one of the world's largest genre film festivals. Offering an eclectic mixture of action, horror, sci-fi and fantasy movies from around the world, it's one of the best (and weirdest) weeks a movie buff will ever enjoy. This year, every film on the schedule looks wilder and crazier than the last.
Although we fully expect to discover all kinds of little gems during our time at the festival, here are the films we're most excited about seeing right now. In true Fantastic Fest spirit, they're all pretty nutty.
Movie Most Likely to Feature the Most Bladed Weapons: Machete Kills
Although Fantastic Fest is generally a place to discover small, bizarre genre gems, it also plays host to plenty of major premieres--as long as the film is crazy enough, of course. Enter Machete Kills, the latest nutty, violent and downright bonkers action film from Austin's own Robert Rodriguez. Because any film where Danny Trejo and Mel Gibson have knife fights and Sofia Vergara fires machine guns from her bosom is welcome at Fantastic Fest.
Movie That Disney Doesn't Want You to See: Escape from Tomorrow
Randy Moore's Escape from Tomorrow was shot entirely on Disney property, an artistic and surreal exploration of the human imagination being packaged and sold. Somehow, the film not only exists, but the production hasn't been sued to kingdom come (yet). This is the kind of movie you see just so you can say you've seen it.
Movie That Will Make Your Politically Correct Skin Crawl: Detective Downs
Fantastic Fest is notorious for booking movies that would make normal people flee the theater, and Detective Downs, a Norwegian noir mystery about a skilled detective who just so happens to have Down syndrome, sounds like just the film to do it. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, know that the films is apparently sweet, sensitive and never makes fun of its instantly lovable and believable protagonist.
Movie Most Likely Filled with the Most Koreans Killing Each Other: Confession of Murder
It wouldn't be Fantastic Fest without a Korean revenge movie. The story revolves around a serial killer who, once he's beyond the reach of the law, publishes a book detailing his murders and the obsessive police officer who decides to track him down at all costs. As is typical in Korean cinema, a whole bunch of violence and twisted melodrama will most likely ensue.
Movie from the Craziest Director Working Today: Witching and Bitching
When it comes to bringing crazy to movie screens, no one in the world does it quite like Alex de la Iglesia. After winning Fantastic Fest a few years back with the psychotic The Last Circus, he's back with Witching and Bitching, which tells the story of a group of bank robbers who find themselves held captive by a coven of witches. Knowing de la Iglesia, there will be pitch-black humor and blood 'n' guts to spare.
Movie That Has Actually Inspired a Real-Life Fistfight: Man of Tai Chi
We're pretty sure Man of Tai Chi will be an exciting and appropriately over-the-top martial arts romp. However, for Fantastic Fest-goers, there's a whole extra layer here. As part of the annual Fantastic Debates, director-star Keanu Reeves will debate Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League on the subject of Tai Chi vs. Tae Kwon Do before League steps into a boxing ring with the film's other star: Tai Chi expert Tiger Chen. The Debates are always a fest highlight, but this is a special kind of crazy.
Movie That Will Most Likely Make You Yell WTF: Eega
Eega, about a murdered man who is reincarnated as a fly and embarks on an ambitious revenge plan to take down the powerful tycoon who had him killed, is the kind of film you'll never see get made in the United States and it's exactly what you hope to see at Fantastic Fest. What other self-respecting film festival would screen an action-packed melodrama about a vengeful bug? If India is going to make movies like this, we'll sure as heck watch 'em. (foreign trailer below)
Movie Featuring the Highest Percentage of a Terrified Elijah Wood: Grand Piano
When you read the plot description for Grand Piano, you wonder how the heck it's actually a full-length movie before immediately adding to your must-see list. Elijah Wood plays a concert pianist attempting a notoriously difficult composition who learns, via writing on his sheet music, that he will be gunned down by a sniper if he misses a single note. How does it sustain 90 minutes? We can't wait to find out. (foreign trailer below)
Movie Most Likely to Make You Puke on Your Lap: Septic Man
Many Fantastic Fest movies make you question their makers' sanity, but there are always a few that go so far as to threaten to make you empty the contents of your stomach all over your shoes. As the title implies, Septic Man is about an innocent plumber trapped in a septic tank by a pair of psychos, spurring on a grotesque transformation. Yes, you read that right: the hero spends much of the movie trapped and covered in poo. Don't eat before you see it.
Movie That Looks Poised to Win the Fest: Big Bad Wolves
One of the most anticipated films is the kidnapping thriller Big Bad Wolves, the second film from Israeli directors Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales, who burst onto the genre scene a few years ago with the fantastic horror film Rabies. After earning acclaim at festivals all over the world, Big Bad Wolves screening at Fantastic Fest feels like a well-deserved victory lap for two of the most exciting directors out there right now.