Thursday marks the beginning of Fantastic Fest, now in its sixth year. Held in Austin, the film festival is eight days of the best genre filmmaking has to offer. While it also has hosted some higher profile films such as “There Will Be Blood,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and “Zombieland,” the importance of Fantastic Fest is that it brings attention to lesser-known films that appeal to niche audiences. Few things can rival the joy of being won over by a film you almost nothing about, and I can hardly count the number of times films that were completely off-radar before the festival went on to become instant favorites of mine. In that spirit, and to celebrate the beginning of the 2010 festival and our coverage beginning Friday, today I present Top 10 Fantastic Fest Discoveries. Or, 10 films I love, but hadn’t heard of until they played Fantastic Fest.
Honorable mentions include “Mirageman,” “Private Eye,” “Invisible Target,” “The Cold Hour,” “Hatchet,” “Terribly Happy,” “Stingray Sam,” “The Substitute,” “The Host,” “The Human Centipede,” and many others.
Part mockumentary, part monster movie, the Japanese comedy “Big Man Japan” is an often brilliant satire of Japanese pop culture in general, but particularly “Ultraman” and the entire output of the Toho Company.
The pure hyperactive joy of childhood hits so hard that’s impossible to walk away from this Belgian stop-motion film without either a permanent smile or a headache. Thankfully, for most it’s the former.
The less you know about this shocking yet ingenious French horror film, the better. But let’s just say you probably don’t want to watch it if you or someone you love is pregnant.
7. JCVD (2008)
Who knew Jean Claude Van Damme had this in him? The most cerebral film to ever feature the Muscles from Brussels, “JCVD” is at times hilarious, suspenseful, and affecting. It’s a little like if Charlie Kaufman had been hired to write a remake of “Dog Day Afternoon” and turned it into a “Sunset Boulevard” homage as it follows a washed-up action star who finds himself an unwitting bystander in a holdup.
To quote my earlier review, the Japanese “Fish Story” is a “smartly-told movie of great ideas and humor that explores fate and the way in which life and even world-altering events can hinge on the smallest of decisions and coincidence.”
I’m starting to believe I dreamed this film. Described as a “technicolor noir,” this utterly unique twisted crime comedy is impossible to pin down, though fans of the Coen Brothers’ odder films will be right at home. Its a cult classic waiting to happen, if the long-promised DVD ever materializes.
After his funeral, a soldier wakes up thinking there’s been a huge mistake. There wasn’t. Newly undead, he makes contact with his best friend and together they hilariously explore how different life is once you’re no longer worried about death. Similar to the above title, “The Revenant” cross-pollinates genres in a way that’s difficult to describe but is destined to inspire feverish, cultish devotion. My original review.
A clever and economic thriller about a reluctant time traveler having a very, very bad day, “Timecrimes” is a great antidote to films that treat time travel as a mere plot device. It’s inventive, exciting, scary, and begs for repeat viewing and debate. Alan Rapp’s review.
While this Korean film’s title and basic structure is an homage to Sergio Leone’s classic Western, this film owes an equal debt to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It’s a thrilling, energetic, intelligent, funny, and bloody roller coaster ride for grown-ups that mines its historical setting for all its worth.
A beautiful and heartbreaking film about a troubled youth and the vampire he befriends, the Swedish film “Let the Right One In” is about as close to perfect as films get. Which makes the job of its American remake “Let Me In” that much harder as it opens this years fest. Eric’s review.