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Over the past seven years Fantastic Fest has quickly become a staple in the genre film festival circuit. Held every year in Austin, Texas at the Alamo Drafthouse, co-founders Tim League and Harry Knowles work to bring moviemakers and movie lovers alike the best in horror, sci-fi, cult and Asian cinema. This was my first year attending Fantastic Fest, which took place from September 22-29, and the lineup of films was far from disappointing.
“Fantastic Fest this year was, for me, the best one I’ve been to since I began going”, says Austin-based moviemaker Charles Crane. “With a great lineup of films and an intimate setting filled with friends and movie lovers of all kinds, it’s always my favorite late-year treat.”
Though there were many exciting new releases from around the world that screened this year, my personal favorite part of the festival was the 35mm screening of John Landis’ classic An American Werewolf in London. Legendary makeup artist Rick Baker, who won an Oscar for his work on the film, was in attendance to discuss, among other things, the infamous transformation scene. Another great film was the surprise last-minute addition We Need to Talk About Kevin, a dark new film from director Lynne Ramsay that features brilliant performances from Tilda Swinton and up-and-comer Ezra Miller, in addition to an eerie score composed by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who also composed to the score of Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.
The most buzz, however, came from the opening night film The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), the sequel to the controversial 2009 hit The Human Centipede. “It’s an honor to open the show here… I’ve been pregnant with this film for such a long time, so today I’m going to give birth to this deformed baby, and I hope you love it,” said director Tom Six who, before the screening, watched League, Elijah Wood and several extras open the festival by doing the “Dancey Dance” from the popular kids show “Yo Gabba Gabba.” League and his wife recently gave birth to twins, so it seemed natural that they would try to make this year’s Fantastic Fest more family friendly (of course, all that went out the window once The Human Centipede II screened).
“Fantastic Fest is definitely a unique experience,” says Amanda Yam, a volunteer at this year’s festival. “It offers its audience a wide spectrum of films, from old school zombie thrills to absurdist foreign flicks—things you wouldn’t have access to in a regular theater. Their excitement and energy reminded me what the film-going experience is all about: Sharing works of art whilst appreciating film as an open and collaborative medium. It’s a gem among film festivals. A crazy, gory, weird, uninhibited gem.”
While most festivals cater toward getting films sold or hitting a certain market, Fantastic Fest is unique in that it is truly tailor-made for the fans. With all the fake proms, attempted rap battles and even this year’s “fight to the death” between Lord of the Rings co-stars Wood and Dominic Monaghan over World of Warcraft, this year’s Fantastic Fest was by far some of the most fun I’ve ever had at a film festival.
Andy Young is a director, editor, writer and composer living in Austin, Texas. At the age of twenty, he has produced over 100 short films and one feature film, The Legend of Action Man, which he shot on a budget of only $200. Andy continues to make low-budget shorts with his sketch comedy group Dingoman Productions.