Fantastic Fest 2016 Recap

text fantastic fest

Fantastic Fest 2016 was, as always, a great party.    I ate too much fried food, was movie critic Leonard Maltin’s personal driver for a couple of days, and had an argument at the bar with a drunk Irish guy who hates Hillary Clinton.

I saw 14 movies, including what is now my second favorite kaiju movie of all time.  Fantastic!

Below is a quick synopsis of the films I saw, and why you should or should not waste a piece of your short time on Earth watching them.  The movie titles link to either their IMDB entry, or a trailer.

I’ll also post updates in the future on how to see anything I recommend, as that information becomes available.


This is my second favorite kaiju film that I have ever seen, topped only by Love & Peace.  A brilliant analogy of substance abuse and the struggle to get your life together, Colossal tells an amazing story of moving back to home, trying to dry out, and finding out that  your Kaiju doppelgänger is destroying a city thousands of miles away.  Directed by Nacho Vigolando, and starring Anne Hathaway.  My favorite film of Fantastic Fest 2016.

A Dark Song 

I loved this slice of occult psychological horror.  A Dark Song is a study in building tension and dragging the audience kicking and screaming into the story.  Nerds of the occult will appreciate the degree to which writer/director Liam Gavin did his homework.


You need to see this movie, especially if you’re a vegetarian or former vegetarian who made that secret pact about how cannibalism doesn’t count as cheating.  Impossible to discuss without spoiling the whole thing.

The Handmaiden 

The Handmaiden is the latest offering from Park Chan-Wook, the genius South Korean director who gave us Snow Piercer, Lady Vengeance, Old Boy, and so much more.

The Handmaiden is a most beautiful film about revenge, double crossing assholes, and giving the finger to the patriarchy.  There is also lots of really hot lesbian sex.

Bad Black 

First of all, we are organizing a watch party to spread the word about Bad Black and the mind blowing phenomenon that is Wakaliwood.  I’m giving this one a full write up later this week, but in short:

Wakaliwood is the growing film industry  in Uganda.  Their films are ridiculous, wonderful, and full of subversive political subtleties under the rule of an oppressive regime.

Bad Black is a revenge story about life in Wakaliga, the ghetto on the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Kampala.  It’s hilarious, self aware, and a well-executed story of seeking justice.  So much fun.

Here’s a link to an 8 minute video that is basically the prologue to Bad Black.

Safe Neighborhood 

Do you like Christmas horror movies?  You need to watch Safe Neighborhood.  If you have ever thought about the minor changes in story that would have turned the Home Alone movies into an awesome slasher flick, you need to watch Safe Neighborhood.  One of the best films at the festival.

S Is For Stanley 

This is a documentary about Stanley Kubrick, and it made me cry.  S is for Stanley is an interview with Kubrick’s personal assistant, Emilio D’Alessandro, who was at Stanley’s side for 30 years.  I feel very lucky to have seen this film, as it was done completely under the radar without the Kubrick estate’s consent, and there is a lot of uncertainty about whether or not it will be distributed.  It’s very respectful of Kubrick.

Call of Heroes 

Call of Heroes is basically a spaghetti Western set in China.  It’s a super fun film, and I hope it gets a US distribution.

The Girl With All The Gifts 

If you have NOT  read the delightful novel this film was inspired by, it’s a fun film that zombie movie fans will get a real kick out of. It’s a different spin on the genre.

If you have read the New YorkTimes bestselling novel The Girl With All the Gifts, just picture a frustrated ginger shaking her head, too upset to speak. I’ll write a proper analysis of this interpretation of the original story in the near future.

Don’t Kill It 

Don’t Kill It is so much fun.  To blatantly steal a friend’s description, Don’t Kill It is It Follows, but with guns instead of sex.  It’s one of those over the top cheesy offerings that knows exactly what it is, and has a great time being that.

Dolph Lundgren stars as the demon-hunting drifter who struggles to save a small Mississippi town that refuses to heed his warnings until it’s too late.

This is a movie you should put a party of friends together for, and maybe have a drinking game around every time the host gets killed.

Terry Teo 

Terry Teo is a young adult TV show in New Zealand, and it’s just great. A crime fighting, skate boarding teenager who turned away from a dark path. Well written, high quality production, and well developed characters. I’m going to dig up how someone in North America could see it, it’s really good.

Salt And Fire 

Werner Herzog supposedly wrote Salt and Fire in three days, and it is a weird journey.  Imagine if Jodorowski’s Holy Mountain was funny, and you couldn’t tell if it was on purpose.  Michael Shannon (General Zod) spends most of the movie delivering quotes from philosophical texts in a smooth, hypnotic tone that left me confused that he’s the CEO of a super-evil corporation, and not actually a cult leader.  It also made me giggle.

Salt and Fire is the sort of film you can chew on for a very long time.  I left the theater unsure of how I felt, but after talking with some friends who had also seen it, we realized it was full of one liners and inside jokes that could only be shared with someone who has seen it. Under some definitions, I actually have been initiated into a cult, probably led by Michael Shannon’s voice.

Gather your smartest friends, and ply them with alcohol or other substances of choice before watching.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a fun ride with plenty of good jump scares, but don’t think too much about it.  If you start asking questions about the plot, it sort of collapses like a black hole.

I had high hopes for this film, as it’s from André Øvredal, the director of Troll Hunter (one of my favorite  modern monster movies), but the script obviously had issues from the start.  The scenes are all good individually, they just don’t quite make a cohesive story.

We Are The Flesh 

We Are The Flesh is a super-fucked up Mexican art film that features black magic and lots and lots of gratuitous incest.  It is on some levels kind of brilliant, and I might have appreciated it better if I was more fluent in Spanish. The director stated during the Q&A that the subtitles are “shit,” and that he didn’t review them at all.  I may write a longer piece about this film in the near future.

We Are The Flesh is basically the story of a post-apocalyptic Mexico City, and an old sorcerer/witch who adopts a young brother and sister  who show up in his hiding place. He turns them into his apprentices, teaches them black magic, and it gets pretty fucked up pretty quick.  The incest is really a repetitive item on a list of Western taboos that are broken throughout all the disturbing black magic rights.

October is the craziest month every year

October is crazy for us, because we throw a huge, themed, Halloween party every year. Right before things kick into high gear, we vanish for a week into Fantastic Fest in late September.  I’ve been gluing eyes into roses for two weeks now and I think the chemicals are going to my head. I ordered an insane amount of LED candles last night so that we can recreate the devil prison altar from Prince of Darkness. And I joined an all women RPG group that’s playing Fate Core, which I’m not very familiar with. Busy time.

Also, I’m tired of trying to find time to write a really great review post for everything I saw at FF, so here’s a list, ordered by the release date if they have one:


automata_ver2_xlgSet in the middle of a slow burn Apocalypse, Automata does what good science does; Automata asks “What if…?” and tries to answer that question. Humanity struggling against gradual extinction in the aftermath of a solar storm decades ago that managed to rip through the atmosphere, irradiate chunks of the earth, and knock out most of civilization. Where people survive, a vast army of robots, originally built with the intention of working in the irradiated areas to stop the spread of a growing desert, is an integral part of every level of society. In reference to Isaac Asimov’s original Laws of Robotics, a supposedly uncorruptable set of programs prevent all these robots from ever hurting anyone or advancing themselves into a more independent intelligence.

If you’re into apocalypse films, or great robot science fiction, you need to watch this movie.

Limited U.S. release this weekend, October 10th.



hornsSo good! Based on the dark urban fantasy novel by the wonderful writer Joe Hill, Horns is fun, Horns is creepy, Horns an is absolutely heartwrenching. It’s a beautiful love story told in flashbacks while a young man searches for the real murderer of the girl he loved, while being accused himself. He also starts to transform into a monster after turning his back on God for taking his love away in such a horrible way. Only some people can see him as the monster, and those people find themselves compelled to tell him their deepest, darkest secrets. This helps with his search for the murderer.

Great date night movie. Please do NOT take the kids to see it just because Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) stars in it. It’s rated R for a reason.

It comes out Halloween weekend.


John Wick

johnwickGreat action movie. Lots of bullets to the head. Keanu Reeves’ character does not one single time question the nature of reality.  Also, the most incredible story of seeking revenge for a murdered dog, ever.

Comes out October 24th.




wyrmwoodposterThis is seriously the best zombie film I have seen in years. I hope, hope, hope that they can swing a full U.S. release, because everyone needs to see it.  Zombies are a source of fuel that have to be captured and hooked up to vehicles, there is the original story of a full zombie witch queen, and it’s hilarious.

It’s also Australian. Australians make really great zombie movies for some reason.



From the Dark

From-the-Dark-Conor-McMahon-Still-Trench-558x360A decent horror movie offering from Ireland. Creepy, suspenseful atmosphere, slow reveal of the monster. The protagonist is a tough young woman who just keeps making irrational decisions, some of which are so dumb it can knock you out of the movie.  That’s really its only flaw though.  Accept that she’s really impulsive already, and panicked out of her mind, and you’re in for a good ride.

I’m not sure when or if there will be a U.S. release.


NorwayTitle-thumb-630xauto-48932Trippy vampire movie from Greece. There’s no real story, just a bunch of bits mashed together that seem genuinely interesting but never actually pay off.  It’s fun stylistically, and I’m glad I saw it, but it’s not really worth seeking out. It may be that I lack the necessary knowledge of Greek pop culture to get it. The whole is based on an 80’s Greek pop song about a vampire, and thinking of it like a music video does make it a little bit better.