It is that time of the year again! Fantastic Fest begins this upcoming Thursday, and for those of you who don’t know what Fantastic Fest is, who are you and why are you reading this? One of the biggest, if not THE biggest genre fest in all the land, Fantastic Fest is a full week’s worth of genre film programming, with panels, Q&A segments, boxing, trivia, machine guns, meat cannons, and all manner of ridiculous mostly film related chaos. The Festival runs the 22nd through the 29th at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, and features films from all over the world, in all sorts of different genres, both features and short, from a Polish musical about Mermaids to butt munching Thai Dwarves. Yes, you read that correctly.
Now, where Fantastic Fest is an incredible experience and full of some of the best and weirdest cinema from around the globe, it can be a bit heavy on the wallet for us working class types. But they’re looking out for us and offer discounted second half badges and also individual tickets to each showing. You will have to allow for badge holders to seat before you, but these individual show tickets are the way to go if you don’t have the luxury of taking a week off of work and spending a ton to enjoy what is quite possibly the best film festival created by man. And that is where I come in. Horror fans, rejoice! For I have done the research (sort of) and the following are a few films that I think are a must watch for Horror fans. I haven’t seen any of these myself so maybe they will all be terrible and you can yell at me later or thank me with offerings of sacrificial beers.
The Girl With All the Gifts (2016)
Director: Colm McCarthy. US UK
I read the novel by Mike Carey because it was recommended by Joss Whedon (no not personally, just online) and I quite enjoyed it. This one is tricky because I don’t want to give much away, but it’s a Dystopian road story where a young girl called Melanie is trying to make a trip cross country with a couple soldiers, a scientist and her teacher. Each of these characters has different ideas about what to do with Melanie, and there are of course shenanigans. The interesting twist on an old formula is what makes this story so good, so I am very excited to see how they handle it.
Dearest Sister (2016)
Director: Mattie Do. Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Estonia, France.
The plot of this film deals with a poor woman who finds out her recently blinded cousin can communicate with the dead. And this communication could help the two of them find the material wealth they lack. The premise is definitely interesting, but what is more intriguing is that this film comes from Laos. The director Mattie Do is Laos’s only Horror director AND only female director. Laos is a Marxist single party regime, with only one movie theater in the entire country, and no production companies or distribution companies. I am quite curious to see what Mattie Do has in store for us.
Jungle Trap (1990): Presented by Bleeding Skull
Director: James Bryan
This is a really strange one, and right in our Blood Over Texas sweet spot. So get this, James Bryan is (in)famous for making straight to video exploitation weirdness, such as Lady Street Fighter and Don’t Go in the Woods. He directed and shot Jungle Trap on video, just as the straight to video distribution was singing its swan song. Bryan couldn’t get anyone on board so he shelved Jungle Trap, unedited and unscored, and never directed again. So here comes Bleeding Skull, a straight to video trash-horror review site started in 2004 by Joseph A. Ziemba and with Bryan’s help, they hire Don Swaynos to put the film together, with Ziemba doing sound editing and mastering. A new score was recorded as well, and finally after 26 years in limbo, we get to see the madness that is Jungle Trap. I cannot wait.
Director: Julia Ducornau. France
A vegan entering into veterinarian school is forced to endure some hazing, you know, like vets always do, and is forced to eat animal for the first time. And wouldn’t you know it, she breaks out in a rash and then, well, I don’t know what, but evidently it is pretty amazing according to the programmers over at Fantastic Fest. This is Ducornau’s directorial debut, and the Fest is all a buzz about Raw being THE Horror offering to see this year. So see it we shall!
So these are just a few of the films that Fantastic Fest has to offer, the ones that I personally think will be the Horror Highlights of the festival. You may agree, you may disagree, but one thing is for sure, you need to experience Fantastic Fest if you never have before. Even if you only go to one screening, make the effort to head down to the Drafthouse and check this stuff out! A complete listing of the films and a much more thorough description of each is available at Fantastic Fest, and the following is a list of the more strictly Horror-type feature films that will run at the festival. (that list is intimidating, so I tried to narrow it down a bit for you.
Another Wolf Cop. Exactly what it sounds like.
Ash VS Evil Dead. Season 2 premiere.
Autopsy of Jane Doe. Mysterious body shows up in the morgue.
The Bad Batch. New film from Ana Lily Amirpour who did A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.
Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses. Based on a true story of a Maori exorcism.
A Dark Song. Occult ritual that will take six months to complete.
Don’t Kill It. Dolph Lundgren: Demon Hunter.
High Frontier. Unexpected guest at a remote cabin turns father/son retreat into something sinister.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Tim Burton’s new presumably stripe-covered thing.
Phantasm: Remastered. 4K Phantasm y’all.
Phantasm: Ravager. Fifth and final Phantasm.
Sadako vs. Kayako. The Ring vs. The Grudge.
Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl. Young woman befriends weirder young woman, part haunted house, part satanic stuff.
The Void. Murderous Madman traps small town sheriff.
We Are the Flesh. Ruined city, stranger gets help from siblings to build a strange room.
The Zodiac Killer. Odd not really a documentary from 1971, was supposed to catch the Zodiac Killer.
* Me’s thinks you need a badge to see the shorts, but there are a ton of ultra cool horror shorts to check out. Find those on the site.
— Eric Harrelson