Fantastic Fest 2015 is Sure To Be Another Memorable Movie Event
by Jeremy Kirk
September 24, 2015
It was at his intro to Sion Sono's Tokyo Tribe at last year's Fantastic Fest that HitFix's Drew McWeeny put it best: "You are all my tribe," he said to the packed auditorium, and the sentiment was apparent even before the crowd erupted in of approval and applause. There really is no film festival quite like Alamo Drafthouse's Fantastic Fest - about to kick off its 11th year. There is no program like the one put together every year by Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest founder Tim League and his selection crew. There is no, and I stress this, NO crowd like a Fantastic Fest crowd, and the kinship felt among those who have attended and keep returning is undeniable. There's just something about Fantastic Fest.
"It's my Christmas," I have often heard Junkfood Cinema's Brian Salisbury say. The 2015 Fantastic Fest, running from September 24th-October 1st, will be the 9th year in which Salisbury has attended, and there are many more who have come every year since 2005. This will be my 6th year attending Fantastic Fest (follow me @JeremyKKirk), and, in those 6 years, the festival and the people I've met there have blossomed into a week-and-a-half that I anticipate every year. "Anticipate" isn't a strong enough word for it, either. It's the type of emotion that has attendees counting the days until the next Fantastic Fest as soon as the most recent has ended. I know. I see that tweet at least three times every year.
Salisbury is absolutely right in his frequent remark. Fantastic Fest has become a type of Christmas for all of us who look forward to it. Every announcement in the months leading up to the Fest is a present we collectively open, and every present is loaded with treats. Some of those treats are what we were hoping for all along, other treats we didn't even realize we wanted.
It's a time of year when many of us see the best films we will see all year, some of those complete surprises. I had no idea what was in store for me when I saw Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's Spring at last years Fest, and it still remains my favorite movie released in 2015 (read my review). Looking back at my Top 10 of 2014, there are 3 films on that list - Why Don't You Play in Hell?, another instant classic from Shion Sono; Jennifer Kent's The Babadook; and Frank Pavich's doc Jodorowsky's Dune; as well as a dozen or so honorable mentions - that I first saw at Fantastic Fest.
Every year it's an endless barrage of quality cinema, interesting filmmakers putting their independent vision on the screen without the detriment of limits - to say nothing of Drafthouse's menu of damn good food and damn fine drinks. More than that, though, Fantastic Fest means it's the only time that year many of us will see close friends. The amount of hugs spotted around the Drafthouse this time of year is astounding.
To make it all the more enjoyable, Drafthouse puts together not only an excellent program of films each year but an equally kick-ass schedule of events. You know, for more hugging and whatnot. The opening night party this year takes that Brian Salisbury statement to the next level with their Christmas in September extravaganza. Promises of candy canes, reindeer, and gingerbread can only hint at the level of yuletide insanity attendees are in store for. With last year's opening night party turning into the biggest food fight any of them had ever witnessed, this year's Christmas-themed blast should result in some awesome, next-level cheer. At the very least there's sure to be some red and green vomit at some point.
The rest of the week doesn't look to slow down from there, either. Friday night sees the Fantastic Debates returning, where groups of two lovers of cinema duke it out on the pulpit regarding some divisive topic and then literally duke it out in the ring to prove physical dominance. With Master Pancake Theater's Owen Egerton providing brutal-yet-hilarious commentary throughout, it's a night that always delivers laughs and cringes in equal amounts.
Monday night sees the return of the Fantastic Feud, almost always a high-point during the fest. Scott Weinberg of Nerdist.com hosts this Fantastic Fest form of Family Feud pitting two teams against each other to see who wins out in ultimate, movie trivia. In past years the teams have been USA versus International with the audience typically divided by national pride. This year, however, they're switching it up a bit, pitting men versus women in a battle of the sexes. Being a man, myself, the less I say about this event, the better off I'll be, so let's move on.
Doug Benson returns to Fanastic Fest with Doug Loves Movies as well as a midnight screening of his latest film, Chronic Con Episode 420: A New Dope. Benson will also be hosting one of his Benson Interruptions with he and a panel of comedians providing commentary to a film. The film they'll be adding (or subtracting, however you see it) to is Drafthouse Films' discovery, Roar, an amazing film with an equally amazing behind the scenes story.
Machine guns in the middle of rural Texas while feasting on Franklin's BBQ; a performance of Itchy-O, the 32-member group that takes instrumental and visual experiences to a whole new level; two Secret Screenings, which always has people talking before, during, and after the titles actually play; and Nerd Rap and Chaos Reigns Karaoke (not to be confused with Karaoke Apocalypse; these people LOVE karaoke) make up the rest of the festival when attendees aren't having their eyeballs assaulted and their minds melted by some truly memorable cinema.
Last and certainly not least is the closing night for 2015's Fantastic Fest. The programming team never fails to find an interesting cherry of a film to put on top of this awesome, cinematic cupcake they've put together. This year that film is Bone Tomahawk, a western/horror blend about a rescue party trying to two people from a tribe of cannibals. I know it sounds awesome, but it gets even better when you consider the cast is made up of Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and Richard Jenkins, all of whom will be in attendance for the premiere of the film next Thursday.
After that film properly kicks our movie-loving asses, they're bussing us just outside of Austin to an actual ghost town where much drinking and eating – and probably some knife-throwing – will be had. To put it succinctly: it's sure to be an awesome end to an awesome week.
Be sure to keep checking back here for my coverage of all the films and events I'll be attending this year. Thank you to Tim League, Alamo Drafthouse, the festival programming team, and Fons PR for making this the most wonderful time of the year for 11 years and counting. For more updates follow @fantasticfest.