Fantastic Fest 2011: Twitch's Super Festival Wrap

Ryland Aldrich, Festivals Editor

Fantastic Fest has come and gone and breaths are just beginning to be caught. Shiners, friends and great film programming is what this festival is all ab-oot and 2011's edition did not disappoint. From a Belgian tour de force to a Danish "tour de fis," whether singing at Karaoke Apocalypse or Chaos Reigns Karaoke, and from the flying fists of Asia's biggest stars to the flying fists of Austin's biggest star, Fantastic Fest was quite simply the most fun that any film fanatic can ever hope to have.

The Twitch team was most definitely in the house (err, Towers) serving up a constant stream of opinions, analysis and news right to your stadium seat. Did we write any reviews? Oh did we ever write reviews. You can check out links to all 72 of our Fantastic Fest reviews at the bottom of this page. But before we get to that, we want to share a few of our own personal highlights, broken down by each of our talented writers that got to experience the mayhem from a front row picnic table.

We also want to know what you think. Check out the questions we each tackled and throw down your answers in the comments below!

Swarez


What were your Top 5 Films (you saw for the first time at Fantastic Fest)?

BULLHEAD - A complete surprise for me. After reading the synopsis I didn't expect to be so wowed by a story about beef manufacture and black marked steroids. Incredibly powerful film with fantastic performances.

ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN - This and City of God have made it so that I never want to set foot in Brazil if those films reflect even a fraction of the reality that goes on over there. I hadn't seen the first Elite Squad before this but there is no need to follow the story. A rich tapestry of corruption, violence and politics.

CLOWN - It's ridiculous that I had to travel all the way to Texas to finally sit down and watch this when it's been out on DVD in Iceland for months. I had never seen the TV show either but that's definitely on the list after this orgy of incredibly offensive, mean and heartfelt comedy. A film that will never be released intact in the US.

THE SQUAD - The film I heard the most negative things about at the festival. But I say "Feh!" to that. Overflowing with atmosphere and dread, claustrophobic and unnerving The Squad was a involving slow burn that put many people off for some reason.

MELANCHOLIA - Lars Von Triers surprisingly uplifting and beautiful story about depression and the end of the world. His mantra of "No Happy Endings" failed though as the ending of this film was both beautiful and hopeful.

What were your Biggest Surprises?

BULLHEAD for sure. I had no expectations before going in. I got the same feeling after watching Refn's Pusher when I walked out of it. Stellar filmmaking in every area. Michael Roskam's debut is a sight to behold.

What were your Biggest Disappointments?

CALIBRE 9. I could see what the filmmakers wanted to achieve and I felt that the plot was crazy enough to make for a rollicking gonzo action flick but the talent simply wasn't there. Felt and looked like a feature length youtube video sadly.

What was the Best Non-Film Entertainment?

THE LOVED ONES PROM. Even though the film was sadly pulled last minute it didn't stop the festival to throw a party.

What was your Single Most Fantastic Moment?

Getting my MANIAC soundtrack vinyl album signed by WILLIAM LUSTIG.

Todd Brown


What were your Top 5 Films?

CARRE BLANC
CLOWN
SLEEP TIGHT
YOU'RE NEXT
BULLHEAD

I also need to throw in a trio of shorts: COST OF LIVING, INFERNAL NUNS and THE LEGEND OF MIGHTY SOAP are all amazing.

What were your Biggest Surprises?

Just how funny BRANDON ROUTH is in COST OF LIVING. The guy should do nothing but this kind of stuff going forward.

What were your Biggest Disappointments?

Getting sick towards the end of the festival sucked.

What was the Best Non-Film Entertainment?

I didn't get the chance to sing but watching EVAN HUSNEY karaoke Slayer with a live band was pretty epic.

What was your Single Most Fantastic Moment?

I got to introduce DON COSCARELLI when he premiered the first footage from JOHN DIES AT THE END. I've been a fan of his for AGES and had never met him before, so that was pretty awesome. Plus the footage looks great. (Link)

Scott Weinberg


What were your Top 5 Films?

RABIES
LIVID
HEADHUNTERS
SLEEPLESS NIGHT
YOU'RE NEXT

What were your Biggest Surprises?

THE CORRIDOR, THE DAY and the worthlessness of HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2.

What were your Biggest Disappointments?

Cancellation of second YOU'RE NEXT screening; non-arrival of THE LOVED ONES; missing a few titles I wanted.

What was the Best Non-Film Entertainment?

I had a ball hosting THE FANTASTIC FEUD, seeing tons of friends at the closing party, and chilling at the benches on humid afternoons.

What was your Single Most Fantastic Moment?

Surviving.

Peter Martin


What were your Top 5 Films?

BULLHEAD
A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI
CLOWN
SLEEP TIGHT
THE DEVIL'S BUSINESS

What were your Biggest Surprises?

The Spanish-language grip on genre remains strong, from suspense (SLEEP TIGHT) to weirdness (PENUMBRA) to sci-fi comedy (EXTRATERRESTRIAL) to creepy horror (THE SQUAD).

More of a reminder: for all the patented insanity emerging from Japan, the country also produced the most genuinely heartwarming movie I've seen any year (A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI).

A movie about testicular damage proves to be the most outstanding, haunting, and deeply affecting picture of the fest (BULLHEAD).


What were your Biggest Disappointments?

Only that I was not fully conscious during a handful of films (which I didn't review!), not due to the films, but because of simple fatigue. I never get enough sleep at Fantastic Fest, constantly fearing I'm missing something good, which I usually am even when I'm awake. Also, I wish GRADY HENDRIX would introduce every movie I see in the future. (The "Movies on Fire" sidebar was spectacular entertainment.)

What was the Best Non-Film Entertainment?

Twitch writer DAVE CANFIELD dressed as The Flash, in a costume constructed, evidently, from red underwear. I was rude to him when he tried to talk to me, because I didn't recognize him with his red undershorts covering his face. (Sorry, Dave.)

What was your Single Most Fantastic Moment?

Twitch Towers, 3:50 in the morning, watching NACHO VIGALONDO type a review of his own movie on my laptop, surrounded by beer, friends, and pretty girls. (Link)

J Hurtado


What were your Top 5 Films?

MILOCRORZE - This film was everything I was hoping for and more. Despite a bit of a lull in the final act, I was visual and aurally overwhelmed for the majority of the film in the best possible way.

UNDERWATER LOVE - This film had some serious heart and was really fun from beginning to end. Christopher Doyle's cinematography was only the icing on the cake of a film that is far better than any synopsis could relay.

CLOWN - This wasn't a surprise, I'd seen the film before sitting down in the auditorium, but it was still the best comedy at Fantastic Fest. Raunchy and rude, Clown is one to seek out, especially since its graphic nature makes it an underdog for US distribution.

CALIBRE 9 - A great exploitation film that takes its time building to a non-stop orgy of violence in the last half. I really liked this one!

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN - Lynne Ramsay's film wasn't really very "fantastic", but it was a very disturbing character piece with a powerhouse performance from Tilda Swinton (who doesn't seem to know how to deliver anything other than powerhouse performances).

What were your Biggest Surprises?

JUAN OF THE DEAD - I think I was expecting something a bit squeaky and low budget looking, but what I got was a polished looking Cuban zombie survival horror comedy to rival the best of the recent batch of such films. Alejandro Brugues is a filmmaker to look out for, and this film is almost sure to get distribution, so please, when it does, support it!

What were your Biggest Disappointments?

SMUGGLER - This one may have been a victim of my expectations, but Katsuhito Ishii's newest film is something very thoroughly different from his recent works. The film is pretty formulaic and inserts Ichi the Killer styled violence into the narrative in way that is completely unnecessary. I tried to like it, and I even tried to look past the torture porn, but ultimately, it left me cold

What was the Best Non-Film Entertainment?

I wasn't there for most of the party stuff, and I couldn't get into the Fantastic Debates, but I was present for TIM LEAGUE and ELIJAH WOOD leading the entire Fantastic Fest staff in a rousing rendition of Wood's contribution to Yo Gabba Gabba's Dancey Dance Time, The Puppetmaster. Between that and eavesdropping on and participating in conversations between people I've respected for years, I'd say my whole five days were Fantastic!

What was your Single Most Fantastic Moment?

GRADY HENDRIX. I managed to catch two of the entries in his Movies On Fire series, and watching his introductions was almost a religious experience. The man is a force of nature, and the films he presented were absolutely fantastic. I wish I could have stayed for all four titles, but I'll consider myself lucky I saw what I did.

James Marsh


What were your Top 5 Films?

SLEEP TIGHT - Not a horror film, but rather a sly, witty and delightfully twisted thriller, Jaume Balaguero's solo effort was probably my favourite film of the festival. Luis Tosar earns our sympathy even as he makes our skin crawl as Cesar, the concierge of a residential building who develops an unhealthy infatuation with one of the residents.

CLOWN - I had heard a lot of buzz about this big screen venture for the hugely popular Danish TV series and it did not disappoint. Wildly inappropriate, yet incredibly funny, CLOWN rightly deserved its Best Comedy Film and Best Comedy Screenplay awards for its hilarious tale of three married guys heading off for a weekend "Tour of Pussy" canoeing trip, with an awkward 10 year old boy reluctantly in tow.

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW - A challenging but hugely rewarding piece of retro sci-fi from first-time director Panos Cosmatos. Visually stunning, aurally intoxicating, this would have easily been my number one pick if it didn't stumble so spectacularly in its final ten minutes. Disappointing ending aside, however, BTBR is an incredible psychedelic head-trip that deserves to be seen as large and loud as possible.

THE INNKEEPERS - Ti West follows up THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL with a very different but equally impressive haunted hotel caper. Sarah Paxton and Pat Healy play the slacker staffers seeing out the final weekend of the defunct Yankee Pedlar Hotel. With only one remaining guest (Kelly McGillis), these amateur ghost hunters are determined to finally track down the spirit of a woman long rumoured to walk the hotel's hallways. Successfully delivering an abundance of both laughs and scares, West cements his position as one of the leading voices in American Horror.

SLEEPLESS NIGHT - Another film I'd not heard of ahead of the festival, this hugely entertaining French actioner has been described as DIE HARD in a nightclub and proved a perfect mid-festival hangover cure. Tomer Sisley is quickly marking himself out as a competent and charismatic action hero to look out for, who plays a dodgy cop whose attempts to rip off a local gangster fails. When his son is kidnapped he sets out to navigate a cavernous nightclub and bring his boy home alive before the night is out.

What were your Biggest Surprises?

SLEEP TIGHT - Considering I knew nothing about this film ahead of FF, and was only a casual fan of REC and its sequel I almost passed on checking this one out. Thank God I did, however, as it turned out to be one of my absolute favourites and may even make my best of 2011 list. It's a real gem.

What were your Biggest Disappointments?

HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE - Tom Six proved how little he truly understands his audience and the success of his previous film with this atrocity that opened the festival and failed to impress anyone. While the first film was subtle, restrained and centred around a great new cinematical villain, the sequel is nothing more than tedious exploitation and about as much fun to watch as having someone crap in your mouth. An immeasurable disappointment.

What was the Best Non-Film Entertainment?

FANTASTIC AWARDS - While for me both the Fantastic Debates and the Fantastic Feud failed to live up to last year's incredibly high standards of live entertainment, the Fantastic Fest Awards ceremony proved to be an all-out riot. Master of Ceremonies Tim League was on top form and the parade of beer-chugging winners embraced their new-found acclaim with enthusiasm and gratitude. Most of all, however, I was thrilled to see my friend Michael R. Roskam win Best Film and Best Director for his incredible debut, BULLHEAD, which also collected the Best Actor prize

What was your Single Most Fantastic Moment?

BULLHEAD - My favourite moment of the festival was a very personal one, as a scheduling mix-up awarded me the wonderful opportunity of introducing the first screening of BULLHEAD to an unwitting, soon-to-be gob-smacked Fantastic Fest audience. I also lead a thoroughly enjoyable Q&A afterwards with writer-director Michael Roskam, at the start of what was to prove and incredibly fruitful festival for the young Belgian. BULLHEAD ultimately screened 4 times at the festival as buzz grew throughout the week and it was a real treat to have been there at the beginning to see it happen.

Ryland Aldrich


What were your Top 5 Films?

BULLHEAD - The buzz is worth it. This Belgian crime thriller from first timer Michael Roskam is good enough to earn it the country's foreign language Oscar submission ahead of the Dardenne Bros. latest drama. Roskam is bound to be huge as well as the film's star Matthias Schoenaerts who reminded me of watching Tom Hardy in Bronson.

CLOWN - Some of the jokes in this raunchy Danish comedy simply have to be seen to be believed. Seek this one out and prepare to have a sore belly when it's over.

THE CORRIDOR - I was a big fan of this is-it-psychological, is-it-supernatural cabin in the woods thriller that made some very smart decisions and points to great things from director Evan Kelly.

MELANCHOLIA - I know some people who were luke warm and some that outright hated Lars von Trier's latest end of the world drama but I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Far less challenging than I expected, this film is a masterful beauty and Kirsten Dunst completely won me over.

TAKE SHELTER - It took me some nine months to see this after it premiered at Sundance but it was in no way overhyped in all that time. Michael Shannon's performance did not disappoint. This is a gorgeous cinematic portrait of psychological disorder.

YOU'RE NEXT would make the list if I had seen it here instead of TIFF and THE INNKEEPERS wouldn't have been far behind. SLEEPLESS NIGHT and THE DAY were pretty close as well.

What were your Biggest Surprises?

Well it is too easy but BULLHEAD was most certainly the film that came out of nowhere to knock me out. I also enjoyed Grady Hendrix's Movies on Fire series far more than I expected. Also the costume, production, and makeup design in the future-samurai pleasure castle segment of MILOCRORZE was some of the coolest design I've ever seen on screen.

What were your Biggest Disappointments?

Easily SMUGGLER by Katsuhito Ishii. I had huge hopes for this movie as The Taste of Tea is one of my favorite Japanese films of recent memory. However an awful divergence into horrific torture porn towards the film's conclusion ruined the film and made me almost angry enough to leave.

What was the Best Non-Film Entertainment?

With so many great events happening during the festival this one is really tough. The winner has to be the CLOSING NIGHT PARTY though, which featured no less than four different bounce castles. Setting this party away from the Highball (which is great, don't get me wrong) was a particularly good decision as it made it feel like more of an event. It was the perfect way to say so long to all the great friends I'd made over the previous week.

What was your Single Most Fantastic Moment?

Singing Gin and Juice in one of the karaoke rooms with the Sushi Typhoon crew when TIM LEAGUE came busting in, grabbed a mic, and started rapping right alongside.

* Update *

Canfield



What were your Top 5 Films?

CARRE BLANC

ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN

HEADHUNTERS

SLEEP TIGHT

YOU'RE NEXT

Honorable Mentions to: Movies on Fire Screening 4, THE INNKEEPERS, JUAN OF THE DEAD, RABIES

What were your Biggest Surprises?

How magical I found the Japanese Karaoke night.

That Todd wore the Virginity Rocks T-shirt I threw him at the FEUD.

The Movies on Fire Hong Kong Film presentations.

Finding out I can really watch five films in one day and not doze off.

The fabulous performances and dialogue in THE DEVIL'S BUSINESS.

What were your Biggest Disappointments?

No wandering minstrels.

Having THE LOVED ONES pulled from the lineup because of studio politics.

Missing TAKE SHELTER.

Unable to find any Daniel Boone memorabilia at the Alamo Drafthouse.

Tom Six refused to sign my centipede.

Dozing off from sleep deprivation during Nacho Vigalandos brilliant, funny, insightful EXTRATERRESTRIALl.

Missing both a hug from Doug Jones and the JOHN DIES AT THE END presentation.

HUMAN CENTIPEDE II

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY III being the 2nd Secret Screening.

That we weren't able to speak to Rick Baker.

Lack of actual physical violence during the FANTASTIC FEUD

What was the Best Non-Film Entertainment?

Watching the drunken Japanese.

Watching people mock Todd's Canadian accent.

Talking worldview with filmmakers Michael Roskum (BULLHEAD) and Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado (RABIES)

The Vanilla Caramel Sea Salt shake at the Alamo Drafthouse

That off the hook Superhero party.

Texas Barbecue. This Chicago boy will never argue again. You Texan's win.

Grady Hendrix rockin' that pink leisure suit.

What was your Single Most Fantastic Moment?

Meeting my fellow Twitchers who were all, to a one, awesome, encouraging, thoughtful folk and getting to know my fantastic hosts Brian and Angela Behm. Here's to more such good times. Fantastic Fest 2012!!!

FANTASTIC FEST FANTASTIC REVIEWS:


AARDVARK Review by Ard Vijn
AARDVARK Review by Canfield
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW Review by James Marsh
BLIND Review by Peter Martin
BODY TEMPERATURE Review by James Marsh
BORDERLINE Review by Peter Martin
A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI Review by Ben Umstead
BOYS ON THE RUN Review by Charles Webb
BULLHEAD Review by James Marsh
BUNOHAN Review by Peter Martin
CALIBRE 9 Review by J Hurtado
CARRE BLANC Review by Todd Brown
CLOWN Review by J Hurtado
COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN'S HOPE Review by Ryland Aldrich
COMIN' AT YA! 3D Review by Swarez
THE CORRIDOR Review by Ryland Aldrich
THE DAY Review by Ryland Aldrich
THE DEVIL'S BUSINESS Review by J Hurtado
THE DEVIL'S BUSINESS Review by Peter Martin
ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN Review by Ryland Aldrich
EXTRATERRESTRIAL Review by Swarez
HAUNTERS Review by Peter K.
HEADHUNTERS Review by Canfield
THE HOLDING Review by Peter Martin
HOW TO STEAL 2 MILLION Review by Peter Martin
HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE Review by J Hurtado
THE INNKEEPERS Review by Justin Decloux
THE INNKEEPERS Review by Peter Martin
THE INNKEEPERS Review by Todd Brown
INVASION OF ALIEN BIKINI Review by James Marsh
JUAN OF THE DEAD Review by J Hurtado
KARATE ROBO ZABORGAR Review by Ard Vijn
KARATE ROBO ZABORGAR Review by Ben Umstead
KARATE ROBO ZABORGAR Review by Charles Webb
KARATE ROBO ZABORGAR Review by J Hurtado
KARATE ROBO ZABORGAR Review by Swarez
KILL ME PLEASE Review by Todd Brown
KNUCKLE Review by Swarez
LET THE BULLETS FLY Review by James Marsh
LIVID Review by Todd Brown
A LONELY PLACE TO DIE Review by James Marsh
MANBORG Review by J Hurtado
MELANCHOLIA Review by Dustin Chang
MELANCHOLIA Review by Swarez
MELANCHOLIA Review by Todd Brown
MICHAEL Review by James Marsh
MILOCRORZE Review by Ben Umstead
MILOCRORZE Review by Todd Brown
NEW KIDS TURBO Review by Ard Vijn
PENUMBRA Review by Peter Martin
RABIES Review by James Marsh
RETREAT Review by Kurt Halfyard
RETREAT Review by Todd Brown
REVENGE: A LOVE STORY Review by Nieljs Matthijs
SENNENTUNTSCHI: CURSE OF THE ALPS Review by Peter Martin
SLEEP TIGHT Review by Peter Martin
SLEEPLESS NIGHT Review by Kurt Halfyard
SMUGGLER Review by Ryland Aldrich
SNOWTOWN Review by Alexander Koehne
THE SQUAD Review by Peter Martin
THE SQUAD Review by Swarez
TWO EYES STARING Review by J Hurtado
UNDERWATER LOVE Review by James Marsh
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN Review by J Hurtado
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN Review by Kurt Halfyard
YAKUZA WEAPON Review by Todd Brown
THE YELLOW SEA Review by James Marsh
YOU SAID WHAT Review by Todd Brown
YOU'RE NEXT Review by Canfield
YOU'RE NEXT Review by Kurt Halfyard
YOU'RE NEXT Review by Todd Brown
ZOMBIE ASS Review by Todd Brown

FANTASTIC FEST FEATURES:

The Great Fantastic Fest '11 Open Preview
Fantastic Debates Recap by Ryland Aldrich
Fantastic Fest Awards Roundup by Peter Martin
Nacho Vigalondo Drunkenly Reviews Nacho Vigalondo's EXTRATERRESTRIAL by Nacho Vigalondo
Nacho Vigalondo, Julian Villagran Extraterrestrial Interview by Canfield

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