The Insane & Endlessly Superb Fantastic Fest 2016 is Finally Upon Us
by Jeremy Kirk
September 21, 2016
There are film festivals, and then there is Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. The time of year die-hard film fans liken to Christmas is once again upon us, and we’re only moments away from this year’s batch of cinematic craziness and insane experiences being unleashed. If the last couple of years are any indication, 2016 is going to be a virtual madhouse in Austin thanks in large part to that special brand of madness only the Alamo Drafthouse can deliver. The movies are just the beginning, too, as the programming during the week of Fantastic Fest always seems bigger and better than the previous year. Movies and TV premieres; a Satanic escape room; a special, horror VR experience; and countless hours of additional insanity are just a few of the items that have piqued our interest for this year so far. And it’s only getting started.
Those films are the main attraction, though. This year's theme is Indian cinema, but the entire schedule is loaded with gems from all over. Opening night sees the US premiere of Denis Villeneuve's Arrival. Other arrivals we can't wait to feast our eyes upon include The Bad Batch, Ana Lily Amirpour's follow-up to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night; Headshot, the latest actioner from The Mo Brothers (Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel); Dog Eat Dog, a crime thriller directed by Paul Schrader and starring Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe; Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Tim Burton's latest, visual epic; and Phantasm Ravager, the fifth and presumably final installment of the classic horror series. The pilots for HBO's new show "Westworld" and season two of "Ash Vs. EvilDead" are also showing this year.
This is just a small example of what's being offered up starting this week at Fantastic Fest in terms of quality cinema. Nacho Vigalondo's film, Colossal, about Anne Hathaway and a giant monster makes its debut as the closing night film and we'll also be fortunate enough to see The Handmaiden, Park Chan-Wook's latest visual masterpiece, and Age of Shadows, a war epic from fellow Korean filmmaker Kim Ji-Woon. Amidst all of that, though, the festival offers an amazing helping of special event programming.
There's that Satanic Panic escape room for one thing. Teams will be challenged physically and mentally in order to get through the puzzle room and hopefully overthrow the Dark Lord himself. Itchy-O, the 32-member squad of percussion and depravity will be performing once again. Stoner Doug Benson will be in town holding court at one of his Doug Loves Movies tapings as well as a special Doug Benson Movie Interruption, this year seeing the comedian and guests talking over 1987's Monster Squad. Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani will also be in town recording a special episode of their stand up show The Meltdown.
This year will also see the festival's first eating contest. Wonderfully titled "Puke and Explode", there's just no telling what kind of sickness we'll be in store for at that - except for most likely some puking, but hopefully no exploding. There will also be a virtual reality experience for all the horror hounds, the company Dark Corner bringing three of their VR experiences to cause nightmares and loss of bladder control in equal measure, although the latter won't be spoken of afterwards. See a preview of their VR experiences here.
The Fantastic Debates will be occurring once again where participants debate a film-related topic and then debate with their fists. This year's event is being brought to us by Lucha Underground, so you know there is sure to be some high-flying brutality mixed in with that. The annual Fantastic Feud, hosted by Scott Weinberg, is also a key staple we're looking forward to, the mixture of game show and fantastic crowd always a welcome delight in the middle of the festival.
It's sure to be another amazing year at Fantastic Fest, and I will be bringing you coverage of the best the festival has to offer. Keep coming back here to check out all the reviews and event coverage while the festival goes on. Thank you to Tim League, Alamo Drafthouse, the festival programming team, and Fons PR for making this the absolute best festival the film world has to offer. For more updates follow @fantasticfest.