The Most Anticipated Films of Fantastic Fest ’13
Fantastic Fest is upon us. For many not attending, the idea of calling it “the best festival experience I have each year,” isn’t exactly detailed or specific. There’s little other way to describe it however. A contained, communal celebration of genre and all the out-there concepts such a little word can entail, Fantastic Fest is full of anticipation and discovery and like the best fests, you often leave with your favorite film the one you least expected and most especially, had never heard of.
To that end, this list could fly right out the window once the schedule starts, but as of right now, on the edge of Fantastic Fest, here’s what I’m most anticipating this week.
WITCHING & BITCHING (pictured above)
Álex de la Iglesia is special, enduring and one of the premiere filmmakers working in genre. A singular madman that’s rarely missed a step since his incredible DAY OF THE BEAST, WITCHING & BITCHING seems to promise a return to supernatural havoc (not that the absolutely wonderful, out of its mind THE LAST CIRCUS didn’t boast such energy). The film adds witches to the mix (a personal favorite) and roots them in the Spanish caves of Zugarramurdi, the site of the extensive Basque Witch Trials of the 17th Century. It’s there a group of thieves run afoul of the coven and we’re willing to bet some holy shit madness ensues.
THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS
It seems, frankly, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani make films for a very small group of people. And that is kind of electrifying. Largely experimental, experiential and surreal, their strange odysseys deal in giallo signifiers and I can’t imagine it pleases either the whole of Italian horror fans, or the entire art crowd. Those of us that are hanging tough in the Venn diagram, however, are lucky film fans and eternally grateful someone is letting these two run rampant. Their second journey into sensual, colorful violence has the best neo-giallo title we’re likely to encounter and early word from non-U.S. festivals is hinting that despite a brief synopsis, it has even less of a narrative backbone than their acclaimed AMER. (Read our Kier-La Janisse’s review from TIFF)
A FIELD IN ENGLAND
While released on every available platform already in the U.K., Fantastic Fest sees the highly anticipated U.S. debut of the latest from Ben Wheatley. Wheatley, an absolutely absorbing filmmaker who spreads a unique style and perspective across an already varied filmography, returns with a hallucinatory descent set amidst the English Civil War. Undoubtedly visceral, A FIELD IN ENGLAND looks to expand on the paranoid, fever dream atmosphere of KILL LIST’s second half and will likely be a must-see cinema experience.
Chosen as an influential companion to A FIELD IN ENGLAND during the festival by Mr. Wheatley, Fantastic Fest will boast a repertory screening of Ken Russell’s legendary THE DEVILS. Starring Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave, Russell’s take on the life of Urban Grandier, a priest burned at the stake for witchcraft in the 17th century, received X ratings in both the UK and the U.S. and found itself subject to heavy edits and bans around the world. The film features scathing commentary on the Catholic Church and massively graphic content that today remains frowned upon (the BFI theatrical restoration was reportedly not permitted to feature the full “Rape of Christ” sequence). It’s unclear which version will show at Fantastic Fest, but considering THE DEVILS is a blank spot in many film fans’ lives, it’s not to be missed regardless.
ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW
“What is it, and how does it exist?” seems to be the main question revolving around Randy Moore’s Sundance hit, ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW. The black-and-white, and again surreal, look at a man on the brink of losing it at the happiest place on earth was covertly shot in both Disney World and Disneyland, lending authentic imagery and like THE DEVILS, scathing commentary on a revered institution. It’s set for limited release this October, but given its already cultivated myth and arthouse intent, it seems best experienced at a festival.
AFFLICTED & ALMOST HUMAN
What seemed to be the discoveries of TIFF’s Midnight Madness program have ported over for U.S. consumption. AFFLICTED, a tale of American backpackers assaulted by an unknown disease on a Eurotrip seems to have really taken audiences by storm and presented a neat little twist on a classic monster. ALMOST HUMAN, meanwhile, has a real love-letter feel, blending elements of THE THING and TEXAS CHAINSAW and crafted by real deal horror fans Joe Begos and producer/actor Josh Ethier. Both seem as if they’re right in a crowd-pleasing home at FF.
Elijah Wood has taste, and he’s turning that taste to genre. Having started a production company with a mission statement of creating provocative, interesting horror, he’s also been making great acting choices, starring in the well-received and unsettling MANIAC redo and teaming with Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo on the high concept OPEN WINDOWS. Wood’s also collaborated with Eugenio Mira on this FF premiere, which looks an elaborate and swirling little bit of suspense where the actor essays a concert pianist playing for his life. Bonus: John Cusack
Another film that sounds as if it deals in Eurohorror tropes, SHE WOLF is from Argentinian director Tamae Garateguy. Described as raw, erotic and graphic, the film finds a beautiful woman luring victims with sex and ultimately taking them to a lethal end. The imagery released is evocative and we’re anticipating something exciting in a female filmmaker’s perspective on something steeped in Eurosleaze.
The only film I’ve already seen on this list, CHEAP THRILLS is a must-see and already one of my favorites of the year. CHEAP THRILLS is a thoughtful, punk rock and crowd-provoking debut from E.L. Katz. Its ensemble is terrific and the places it goes makes it almost essential to an audience experience. If you’re headed to Fantastic Fest, this comes highly, highly recommended. For more, you can read my full review from SXSW.
For much more on Fantastic Fest, visit the official site.