Fantastic Fest 2012: The Great Open Preview

, Festivals Editor


If you spend much time around Twitch, then you know how excited we get about America's number one genre fest, kicking off at Austin's Alamo Drafthouse Cinema tomorrow. And just like our coverage from TIFF, we have more reviews and features planned than you can shake a 35MM canister at. So be sure to keep your eyes glued right here to Twitch.

We kick things off with a repeat of a fun exercise we tried last year, The Great Open Preview. Below you'll find top picks and most anticipated films from a number of our writers who will be making the trek to Austin. But we need your help too! Reply in the comments with the movies you are A) Most Excited to See, as well as B) Most Excited for Others to See. Are you pumped or what?!

James Marsh's Most Anticipated Films

Touted as this generation's The Terminator, the word on Rian Johnson's time travel actioner could not be better, and as you will become very much aware, there's something of a time travel theme this year. Fingers crossed, breath baited.

After Cannes, it was Leos Carax's bizarre, almost unclassifiable odyssey that piqued my interest more than any other. Denis Levant cruises the night in a stretch limo, taking on all manner of roles, professions and personas along the way.

You know the drill, right? 26 directors, 26 ways to die. The sheer ambition and scope of this project cannot be understated. Like herding cats, but on a global scale, producers Tim League and Ant Timpson have somehow pulled this one together right on time and is custom-made Fantastic Fest fare.

I actually know nothing about this film at all, but I have it on good authority that it's a film not to be missed. By all accounts a quiet, understated family drama that takes some seriously dark turns - I'm sold.

The surprises...
The best way to experience Fantastic Fest is simply to take a leap of faith and just get stuck in. The programming team have been working their butts off all year to bring the weirdest, wildest, most...yup...fantastic films to Austin from all over the world. Whatever you see is gonna be great, and it's always the surprises that make the strongest connection.

James Marsh's Highest Recommendations

The Twisted Twins (Sylvia and Jen Soska) took FrightFest in London by storm earlier this summer, where I was lucky enough to catch their demented surgical thriller. The gorgeous Katie Isabelle plays a hard-up medical student who dives into the world of backstreet surgery and body modification to pay her way through college. And guess what? Things get really fucked up pretty damn quickly.

When Toby Jones' shrewish British sound engineer takes a job away from the nature documentaries he normally makes to travel to Rome and work on a giallo horror film, his world becomes an increasingly nightmarish journey beyond the borders of reality. What Beyond The Black Rainbow did for psychedelic low-fi science fiction, Berberian Sound Studio does for 70s European horror and analogue audio.

ROOM 237
Everything you always wanted to know about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, but had no idea it was right there in front of you. A conspiracy theorist's wet dream, five demented, deluded but entirely dedicated "academics" regale their theories on what this terrifying Stephen King adaptation is really about. By turns hilarious, confounding and revelatory - this is not to be missed!

Now officially the most successful Hong Kong film of the year, Pang Ho Cheung's lewd, smutty Category III comedy follows Chapman To's struggling film producer as he does whatever it takes to get his next project financed. Even if it means placating a Mainland gangster by dropping his pants really need to see it.

You spend years looking for an inventive, visually stylish and wholly entertaining Asian time travel flick to come along, and then two turn up at the same time! Chinese director Frank Gwo's Lee's Adventure is a beautiful, dream-like and anime-infused romantic odyssey, while South Korean Oh Young Doo's follow-up to Invasion Of Alien Bikini sees an incompetent, Hawaiian shirt-sporting private eye get in over his head when investigating a stolen watch.

Peter Martin's Most Anticipated Films

Advance word on this giallo-themed oddity has been extremely positive. And it's giallo-themed. And sounds odd. That is all.

Fantastic Fest's annual themed repertory series has yet to disappoint and I'm looking forward to being schooled by Kier-La Janisse, one of the sharpest programmers in North America.

Give me a dirty cop thriller from Spain anytime and I'll give you my complete and eager attention.

Pang Ho-Cheung has built a career based on unpredictable comedy and tapping into the darkest human emotions, which means I very much want to see his comedy about the dark side of moviemaking in Hong Kong.

Is it foolish to hope that lightning strikes twice? Then I'm a fool, because I'm hoping that having only 1/3 of the directors of the awesome Funky Forest will result in a movie that's twice as good.

Peter Martin's Highest Recommendations

Ethan Hawke gives a good performance and the film strikes out on its own by aiming for atmospheric dread rather than cheap thrills.

And that's it for me -- the only movie playing at Fantastic Fest that I've seen in advance! (Well, except for the repertory screening of The Shining. And I want to see that again in conjunction with Room 237) So that means I have to cram 70 movies into 8 days. Will I do it? (Hint: No. But it will be fun trying!)

J Hurtado's Most Anticipated Films

I think that this is probably my most anticipated film of the entire festival. Funky Forest was the kind of film that really only finds success at festivals, and even though only one of the directors is returning, the trailer for Warped Forest is very promising. Gotta see this one with a crowd.

I have no idea what the film is about, but I'm hoping it's gooey. I'm not reading any reviews and I'm not watching any trailers. Let's do it!

I make no secret of the fact that I have a crush on Joseph Gordon Levitt. He's a handsome dude, what can I say? Reteaming himwith the director of one of his breakout roles in Brick, heightens my anticipation to astronomical levels.

I've been waiting for Stephen Fung to follow up his crazy fun House of Fury, and this film looks like balls out action insanity. I'm going to break my rule of not seeing films with distribution deals already signed to make room for this in my schedule.

J Hurtado's Highest Recommendations

This is one of the few features I've already seen, and I really enjoyed it. The tone is all over the place, but the film's three segments all deliver on their own promise, especially the last one. Check it out!

The best film about the psychology of the white power underground since This is England. More detailed thoughts to come.


It's not what you think it is, it's better. Croatia steps up to the plate and knocks it out of the park with this one.

Ryland Aldrich's Most Anticipated Films

I caught some footage from Charles de Lauzirika's dark psychological thriller at SDCC (my write up) and it looks to be very slick and interesting. Josh Lawson could be a star in the making.

When does Ernesto Diaz Espinoza (MANDRILL, MIRAGEMAN). No Marko Zaror this time, but there seems to be a beautiful woman in his place. I can dig it.

I'm still kicking myself for missing an earlier opportunity to see Leos Carax's wild looking Cannes competition film. I'm just a tad worried my expectations might be too high.

Michael Paul Stephenson's BEST WORST MOVIE is, quite frankly, one of the most entertaining docs of the last decade. I can't wait to see his latest about a family that goes a bit over the top with their Halloween decorations. Leave it to Fantastic Fest to actually get the family to set up a haunted house at South Lamar for the premiere. Awesome.

Two Spanish cop thrillers at one fest?! The first, by Alberto Rodriguez, is set in 1987 and played at Tribeca. The second, by Enrique Urbizo, completely swept Spain's Goya Awards. I'm in for the double!

Ryland Aldrich's Highest Recommendations

Hey, did anyone notice that J. Anderson Mitchell and Jeremy Kipp Walker's hilarious back story behind Brooklyn folk duo Future Folk will be playing the fest? And guess what, Future Folk will be playing too! Be sure to check this tiny comedy out.

This head trip about celebrity obsession is a very impressive debut from Brandon Cronenberg.

If you liked the first part of Takeshi Kitano's latest Yakuza series, you'll be right back on board in the second violent outing of Otomo and the Sanno clan.

AMD Next Wave Series
While I haven't seen any of the films on offer in the series this year, I always find the movies that make this sidebar competition to be a great way of discovering new talent and interesting films. Be sure to check em out.

All the Fantastic Extracurricular Activities
I like to think of Fantastic Fest as the spring break of film festivals (too bad SPRING BREAKERS isn't playing... Secret Screening??). You can break your back trying to get the best seat for each and every movie slot, or you can take it just a bit easier and not worry so much. After a long year of festivals, I'm employing the second method this time around and plan to see do all the fun extracurricular events from the Fantastic Debates to plenty of karaoke. I also recommend staying to the very end. If the final party is anything like it was last year, this will be an event not to be missed. I'll see you there!

Peter Martin, James Marsh and J Hurtado contributed to this story.

Around the Internet:
  • Man, I wish I could have contributed to this. So many films I want to see. Antiviral, Room 237, Holy Motors. Can't wait to get to Texas for the 2nd half. The only films I've seen already, Berberian and Vulgaria, were both great.

  • Rob Xifos

    I'm looking forward to a lot of the films that are due to come out this year.

  • rondertaker

    Ff is so well programmed I don't even bother to get too hyped up about particular movies anymore, I just go with the flow.

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