Even if you can’t make it to Fantastic Fest, you can get a taste of what the country’s biggest genre fest is all about. Below we offer a few words (some of which come from Fantastic Fest co-founder Tim League) to go with trailers for some of the movies we’re looking forward to at this year’s festival, which starts today and runs through next Thursday.
Macon Blair stars as an outsider who turns into an assassin to protect his family in this dark thriller that League called his favorite genre film at the Cannes Film Festival.
"Selfishly, I want this film to find a big audience," League said. "I want to see more movies directed by Jeremy Saulnier and more films with Macon Blair in the lead."
One of the festival’s most prestigious titles, "Borgman" competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year. Alex van Warderman of the Netherlands directs a strange tale of a seedy, mysterious vagrant (Jan Bijvoet) who shows up at the doorstep of an affluent couple and uses his wiles on the wife, who starts hiding him on the grounds of their estate. But the vagrant has designs on the family and slowly draws them into a nightmare, which includes a set of bizarre, shape-shifting friends.
What happens when the father of a newborn finds himself in a financial pinch and then stumbles upon a wild man (David Koechner) willing to dish out money? Just about anything and everything. It’s funny. Kind of.
Acclaimed filmmaker Ari Folman directs this mix of animation and live action, starring Robin Wright and Harvey Keitel.
A surprisingly charming and savvy Norwegian detective story that happens to star an actor with Down Syndrome, which they neither shy away from nor exploit.
"Escape From Tomorrow"
This genuinely surprising, extremely uneven little movie was bound to be buzzy because of how it was made as much as what it’s all about: Writer/director Randy Moore shot the fantasy-horror film guerrilla-style, without permission, at Walt Disney World. Jim (Roy Abramsohn) finds out he has lost his job on his and his family’s final vacation day. As the family trudges around the Magic Kingdom, It’s a Small World, their resort hotel and EPCOT, it becomes increasingly clear that either dad is losing it or something very strange is going on, what with the French girls, the seductive lady on the bench and the stomach-turning bathroom problems.
Filmed in black and white, which gives the proceedings an creepy, dream-logic feel, "Escape" is effective and disturbing in spite of rough pacing and sometimes clunky storycraft. It is especially resonant if you are a middle-aged parent who has ever taken kids on vacation. Graced with a brilliantly treacly score, "Escape" nails that we-stayed-here-one-day-too-long feeling as well or better than it does anything else. And it is strange and exciting to see Disney World and its imagery so separated from their usual controlled context. See this little miracle of subterfuge before it gets sued out of existence and everyone involved has to go into witness protection or something.
"The Grand Piano"
Two Fantastic Fest favorites, Spanish director Eugenio Mira and Elijah Wood, will appear together to promote their "Grand Piano," which stars sometime-Austinite Wood as a renowned concert pianist who, on the night of his final performance, becomes the target of a sniper played by John Cusack.
Time to nerd out. Director Frank Pavich details the failed efforts of Alejandro Jodorowsky to adapt the sci-fi novel "Dune."
Because he can.
This documentary reveals the culture of "narcocorridos," drug ballads that dramatize the real-life drug war violence in Mexico and along the Mexico-U.S. border. "After our own film, ‘The Act of Killing,’ this is my favorite doc of the year," League said.
"On the Job"
Genre cinema has probably not been great for the Philippines tourism industry, but the small country has been putting out some thrilling movies lately, like the latest from Erik Matti. This gritty thriller tells a story of corrupt cops and prisoners released on day passes to serve as killers.
"Vic + Flo Saw a Bear"
Director Denis Côté’s film won a Silver Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival for this story about an ex-con trying to start a new life in a small Canadian town. "Smart, touching, violent," League said of the film. "I see this title as the type of odd blend of genre and arthouse that we love to champion."
"Why don’t You Play in Hell"
This Drafthouse Film’s title won the Midnighters section at the Toronto International Film Festival and looks bloody and balls-to-the-wall crazy. Seems about right for our local genre distributor.