Tim & Jeremy's Picks: 10 Fantastic Fest Films We're Dying To Watch
by Jeremy Kirk
September 20, 2011
Again we find ourselves at Fantastic Fest. Again we find ourselves down in Austin, TX, within the walls of the Alamo Drafthouse. And, once again, we find ourselves well outside the comfortable confines of the box. It is once again time for Fantastic Fest, the yearly film festival where anything goes and it doesn't think twice about take us there with it. This year, in addition to some big premieres, events, and interesting interviews, our own Tim and Jeremy (who also host The Golden Briefcase!) will be bringing you reviews of some of the best the horror/sci-fi/action/insanity genres have to offer. Here are a few we're excited about!
To get you amped for Fantastic Fest 2011, which kicks off this week, here are our 10 most anticipated films, the ones that we're most looking forward to seeing in the next week, and the ones we think will have the best chances of keeping us as uncomfortable as we've ever been. Well, at least until Fantastic Fest 2012.
Of the wave of French horror films that hit in the early and mid 2000s, the one that stuck in my head the most was À l'intérieu (aka Inside). The mix of atmospheric build and highly intense imagery proved it to not only be one of the best horror films in the last 10 years, it put its directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury extremely high on my "must watch" list. Now we have their second film, Livid, and while I'm doing my best not to read anything about it - general presence on the web keeps me from being spoiled on all the buzz it's getting - it's sure to pack a punch of some kind regardless. There's expectation to be sure, but very little chance the directing team who slapped us in the face with something as brutal as Inside will be letting us down on their second outing.
"Chaos Reigns" was the unofficial slogan for 2009's Fantastic Fest. Thanks to Lars von Trier's last film, Antichrist, festival goers and non-festival goers alike were jumping at the chance to spew that now famous phrase even if they didn't understand what the hell it meant. Now, von Trier returns with Melancholia, an atmospheric tale of two sisters at a country wedding, the disturbing family dynamic that builds the human tension, and the mysterious planet that is headed for Earth. The film has already garnered its own bit of controversy with von Trier being banned from the Cannes Film Festival after comments he made during a press conference. Sounds like the perfect road to end up in Austin this week where the word "offended" has been officially stricken from everyone's lexicon. Some are expecting Melancholia to be at the top of their 2011 list, and I, for one, cannot wait to see what von Trier has up his sleeve.
One thing you can be assured of with Fantastic Fest - even if you haven't heard of a film in question, even if you aren't exactly sure what it's about, you can generally go to its director and what they've done before to get a taste on what to expect. So it goes with Sleep Tight, the newest film from Jaume Balagueró, one of the directing team behind [REC] and [REC] 2. What Festival founder Tim League calls a "slow-building pot-boiler", Sleep Tight goes back to Balagueró's familiar territory, a thriller set inside the confines of a narrow apartment building. What sounds more like a Hitchcockian thriller than a balls-to-the-wall horror gut-wrencher, Sleep Tight still looks to be quite a pleaser for those who seek it out, a dark tale of one man's nefarious side and how he copes to keep it hidden. It sounds different than what we've seen from the [REC] films, but, with Balagueró at the helm, you know it's going to be something to witness.
Cannes. Fantasia. Film4 Frightfest. Sometimes you don't even know much about the director either, you just hear buzz about something that's played festivals before Fantastic Fest, and usually, that's enough to whet your appetite. A Lonely Place to Die, the latest thriller from director Julian Gilbey, is a taut thriller set in the mountains of Scotland. A group of mountaineers discover a child who's been held captive, free her, and then begins a chase down the mountain by the girl's villainous captors. It sounds like a stripped down premise, and that's exactly what it is, but judging from all the praise the film has gotten up until now it delivers on the intelligent characters and effective build as much as it does the thrills. It doesn't take giant monsters or invading aliens or ridiculously ludicrous violence to create a crowd-pleasing film at Fantastic Fest. A Lonely Place to Die looks to prove that very fact.
Though his segment of Little Deaths was the more subdued of the three, director Sean Hogan made many sit up and take notice at what he would be offering next. We have that next offering right here in The Devil's Business. Centering on two hitmen who are staking out the abode of their latest target, the film quickly turns to more sinister dealings as they discover said target may be involved in the occult. As with his segment of Little Deaths, Hogan looks to bring in the suspense and crimson contribution alike in a confined area, this time around having the benefits of a feature length film to build his characters and set up a satisfactory pay-off. And, if the pay-off we got with his Little Deaths section is any indicator, we're in store for something quite memorable in The Devil's Business.
We've been seeing some very positive buzz for this French action thriller out of TIFF already, fueling my desire to add it to my must-see list for this year's Fantastic Fest. The film tells the story of two cops, Vince and Yilmaz who apprehend a bag of drugs and then engage in a tension packed game of cat and mouse with Paris' biggest drug kingpin. The catch? The kingpin has Vincent's son as a hostage and is using him to lure the two criminals into returning the drugs to their owner. I have always thought French directors have an awesome sense of how to shoot and pace action and the fact that this film is a brisk 98 minutes long tells me that we are in for one heck of ride. As I said, early reviews are already heralding this is one of the year's best new action films, so count me in for what is sure to be an edge of your seat experience.
I loved Vigalondo's 2007 time travel film Timecrimes, so I have anxiously been awaiting his follow-up. What he delivers is what appears to be a quirky and touching story of two unlikely lovers in an apartment after a drunken night, waking up to an alien invasion in Madrid, Spain. One teaser trailer has shown up for the film and gives us a good idea of what the tone is for the final product. Unlike his previous work, Vigalondo seems to be concentrating a bit more on our two main characters, Julio and Julia instead of the sci-fi elements around them, which could make for a very interesting take on the alien invasion genre. Early buzz has been mixed from TIFF audiences, but I still have this in the tops of my list for the Fest due to the concept and the potential greatness of Nacho's storytelling.
South Korean films have been some of the gems of my last few years of film viewing, specifically some of the harsher and more disturbing ones such as last year's I Saw The Devil. Director Hong-jii Na is responsible for another Fantastic Fest favorite, 2008's The Chaser, and he returns with his sophomore effort, including many of the same cast members. This time around he tells the story of Gu-nam, a cab driver in Yanji City, who falls into extreme debt from gambling and loses his wife in the process. He's then given a chance to right all of his wrongs by crime boss Myung-ga by being smuggled into Korea to place a hit on a target's head. Gu-nam is faced with shifting loyalties as he attempts to repay his debt and track down his wife in the process. This is a perfect setup for the sort of dark and gritty South Korean films we have loved in recent years and I have already heard some very positive things from those who've seen it. I am looking forward to another film filled with various melée weapon fights and epic chase sequences that make me love and appreciate this country's work even more.
Michael Shannon is a powerhouse in nearly every performance I've seen him in, and Take Shelter looks to be no different. Shannon plays Curtis LaForche, a man who faces strange dreams where he has visions of storms and darkness and the end of the world. He begins to let his anxiety and paranoia leak into his real life, when he starts to construct a living space underground to prepare for the impending disaster. The early trailers for this film were very haunting and showed some fantastic visuals of apocalyptic imagery and of course some stellar work from Shannon as a man on the edge of sanity. I cannot wait to dive into this fever dream from Nichols and watch Shannon completely unfold, as demented as that may sound.
I recently watched Wingard's A Horrible Way to Die and was very intrigued by his method of implanting a mumble-core style into an undeniably horrifying story. His latest output is a twist on a home invasion story with a family meeting in a mansion in the middle of nowhere, where they are plagued by a small group of individuals with animal masks and an intent to kill. The group in the mansion is faced with a kill or be killed scenario and the action unfolds into what is sure to be a bloody good time. The film stars AJ Bowen (of A Horrible Way To Die and one of my favorite up-and-coming actors), Barbara Crampton, Joe Swanberg and many other actors who've splattered recent horror screens. I have heard some great things coming out of the film's TIFF premiere, making this one of my biggest must-see items on this year's schedule.
For more details and to find a full line-up of films and schedules for Fantastic Fest 2011, visit the official website: fantasticfest.com. They also have their own Festival Genius scheduling website, with info on films and when they're playing. Tim and Jeremy will be covering Fantastic Fest in Austin all week long, as it runs from this Thursday, September 22nd to the 29th. Stay tuned for coverage and reviews starting this week!