Movies

Living Deliciously: Fantastic Fest 2015 Wrap Up

ff_2015_posterWith much sadness, another Fantastic Fest has come and gone, leaving damaged livers, and lots of movies in its wake. It was a strong year full of thrilling features and surprising short films and crazy events.

 

There’s something pretty rad that happens when you go to a festival; you notice a pattern or recurring themes in the movies. While the marketing and decorations all talked about Turkish rip-offs of American films and 70’s exploitation movies, this is was the year of demonic possessions and black goats. The Witch’s Black Phillip became the unofficial mascot of the festival after the movie blew audiences away and become one of the hottest tickets of the festival the second time around. Black goats would later show up various other features and even some short films.

 

While I definitely sacrificed seeing a lot more movies than I could have, I think I struck a good balance of seeing films and partaking in special events. After all, the events and the parties are there for a reason, and they all add to the experience of Fantastic Fest, not take away from it.

 

Notable to this year was me attending my first secret screening, which ended up being the new movie by this “upcoming Latino director” (Tim League’s words, not mine) Guillermo Del Toro, Crimson Peak. Can’t say much beyond it per the studio’s request.

 

On the admin side of things, this was one of the smoothest running festivals. The ticketing system has been improved immensely, the issue of the closing night party tattoos was fixed as well as it could be, and apart from a technical difficulty during my midnight screening of Klown Forever, everything was on time.

 

And while there were plenty of movies, there were also plenty of events, some like the Fantastic Debates, the Feud, and even the Chaos Reign Karaoke, make the already difficult task of making a schedule almost impossible. I know I personally struggled between seeing movies, getting sleep as to not get sick, see friends I only see once a year, and do something that’s not-movie related.

 

First and foremost, this is a film festival, so the movies are still king. So here’s a few of my personal favorite movies of the festival, in no particular order. As you might notice a few of them were in my “Most Anticipated Movies of Fantastic Fest” article. That’s probably because I have awesome taste, but there was also quite a few surprises that blew me away, or that connected with me on a deep emotional level, or even just lived up to festival hype.

 

 

STAND BY FOR TAPE BACK-UP.

Reading about this movie (if you can even call it that) doesn’t do it justice. It’s an “experimental film essay” told through an old looping VHS tape. What follow is a personal and deeply moving story about man finding a connection to a lost and loved relative through the magic of a VHS tape. Director Ross Suthereland explains it, him and his grandfather would take one VHS tape and then record whatever they liked on it. Then, at the end of a season, they would trade it back to each other to see what was recorded on it. Not knowing that you have to rewind, there would be random commercials, TV shows, and movies all incomplete and some beginning at the end of the tape.

 

My personal screening had Sutherland in attendance where he performed the material live giving this material an even bigger emotional punch. He goes on to loop over various sequences in the tape to make a larger point about life, depression, death, grief, and everything in between, and sometimes to just even randomly re-interpret iconic pop culture sequences. Things like the opening of FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR become a nightmarish and tragic where Will doesn’t go Bel-Air but rather dies in the basketball court and the show is just him imagining it. Or how GHOSTBUSTERS became the symbol for how to learn to not be afraid.

 

There’s so much that could be written about this but if you have a chance to catch this in your town or keep up with Sutherland’s work here.

 

 

THE INVITATION.

Jennifer’s Body is a damn good movie that was unfortunately maligned for starring Megan Fox at a low point of her popularity. Director Karyn Kusama unfortunately had to lay low for a while and is back after six years with her first new feature, and it is quite the movie.

 

Already picked up by Drafthouse Films, The Invitation is one of the most tense movies I have ever seen. It starts at the beginning when Will and Kira, on their way to a dinner party hosted by Will’s ex-wife, hit a wolf and Will is forced to mercy kill it, all the way to the end. This was one of the most buzzed about movies of the festival thanks to the tight script. Seek this one out at your local Drafthouse.

 

GREEN ROOM.

Everyone that saw Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier’s debut, loved the movie which is why his next movie was so hyped that it was stupid hard to get a ticket despite having a total of three screenings. I’ve seen it billed as a “punks vs. Nazi/skinheads” movie, but it feels so much more. Just like its predecessor, the movie takes genre and story plots that are well known and tweaks them ever so slightly to the point where you don’t know who will survive or not.

 

The movie’s protagonist are a band of young punks looking for gigs, so they play at a neo-Nazi venue where they witness a murder and have to figure out how to get out alive after being locked in. What’s impressive is that while this is his second film, Saulnier is already able to work with a legend like Sir Patrick Stewart and get a great performance out of him. I cannot wait what he will do next. As of this writing, the movie will be coming out April 1st, 2016 in limited release and wide on April 16th, 2016.

 

The SHORT WITH LEGS Shorts Block.

I’m pretty new here at Screen Invasion, but at my other blog, WDYMS, one of my favorite things about going to film festivals is getting a chance to spotlight, in my own way, short films. I think it takes a certain skill to be able to establish the world, the characters, and the stakes in a short time all the while propelling the plot forward to tell a concise story.

 

This particular block was programmed with all of the crazy out there films that were submitted and they succeed in having not only great films but a block that flowed like a good mix tape. Among the highlights were Divorced Dads: Home Improvementswhere a very awkward local access TV show slowly turns surreal. This comes from the Astron 6 guys who always deliver a great and disturbing short. Then the super stylishly beautiful and demoniDisco Inferno, directed by Alice Waddington, who has an eye for the macabre. And if you want to feel like your brain was taken through a blender, then you will enjoy My Johnny, directed by Vincent De Ghoulie, it’s a long-form look at a babysitter’s wild night taking care of a kid on prescription LSD.

 

THE WITCH.

Yes, this was my most anticipated movie of the festival, and it did live up to the hype. Masterfully directed and shot, it was a moody and bloody look at faith through the eyes of highly devout family that is being actively haunted by a witch in the woods. As I mentioned before, the family’s goat, Black Phillip, became the unofficial mascot of the festival. The less said about this one the better. Look for it as it comes out in early 2016.

Read our full review here.

 

LOVE AND PEACE.

Sion Sono seems to come out with like five movies a year, ensuring that at least one of them will make Fantastic Fest. After two strong years with Why Don’t You Play in Hell  and Tokyo Tribe, he comes back with Love and Peace. A mix of Gamera’s origin story and That Thing You Do crossed with Rudolph The Red-Nose Reindeerthis movie made just about every audience member in every screening cry. It’s so heartfelt and funny and just like the title song will be stuck in your head for days, I can guarantee this movie will be part any cinephile’s “weird Christmas” movie rotation.

 

So that’s it’s for this year, folks. Until 2016 remember to live deliciously.

 

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Javier Fuentes

Javier Fuentes