Editor’s Notes: The following article is part of our coverage of the 2015 Fantastic Fest. For more information on the festival visit fantasticfest.com and follow Fantastic Fest on Twitter at @fantasticfest.
Dir. Jeremy Saulnier
(Read our Cannes interview with director Jeremy Saulnier here)
Jeremy Saulnier landed on my radar in 2013 with his second feature, Blue Ruin when it played at Fantastic Fest. Green Room has one hell of a cast: Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart and Anton Yelchin to name a few. We haven’t seen a trailer yet, we only know that a punk band gets stuck at a venue after witnessing an act of violence. Saulnier has demonstrated the ability to create a rich, well-written world and load it up with striking characters. He removes exposition and replaces that with dialogue that feels real. His characters never talk to the audience, they interact with each other the way they should in these worlds. This was at the top of my wish list and I was over the moon when Green Room was announced.
Dir. Sebastian Schipper
I’m a sucker for well-shot films. This one is captured in a single take! The premise on its own sounds intriguing: a woman joins some men for antics in town but things get out of hand when they transition from a party to a robbery. The buzz on this film is hard to escape. I’m all for experimental films. If they can pull this off with some flair, I’m all over it.
Dir. Ben Wheatley
(Read our TIFF review here)
Ben Wheatley is constantly redefining himself as a filmmaker. He has yet to make the same film twice. He could easily stick to one genre but he’ll make a black comedy like Sight Seers and switch it up by offering a mind-bending trip like A Field in England. Wheatley’s style should make for a wild time with a belligerent Fantastic Fest crowd. It helps that Wheatley has a stellar cast behind him: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Elisabeth Moss and many other recognizable faces. Wheatley is constantly challenging himself and his audience, this has the makings of a must-see at the festival.
Dir. Can Evrenol
Based on the short of the same name that also played Fantastic Fest in 2013. The synopsis, “A squad of unsuspecting cops goes through a trapdoor to Hell when they stumble upon a Black Mass in an abandoned building.” The trailer looks jam-packed with genre goodness (you can watch it here). It appears to have a focus on practical effects with minimal CGI work. This looks like it’s not for the faint of heart. That’s part of the joy of attending festivals, many of the films have filters removed that are always in place at the big-chain movie theatres. This film has the look and feel of a classic midnight screening.
Dir. Heath Cozens
“A look inside one of the world’s oddest wrestling leagues, where disabled fighters take on able-bodied opponents in brutal and bloody fights for their own dignity and self-respect. From where else but Japan?” At a glance, this fighting league appears to exploit their fighters for cheap, cruel jokes. This feels like the kind of film that will offend or warm the heart depending on the viewer. It raises an interesting topic, “Should disabled people have a wrestling/fighting league?” Should they challenge more able-bodied opponents?” I love a documentary with an underdog to root for. I’m excited for this film because it’s a glimpse into something I never knew existed. Will I be offended? Will I be inspired? Can’t wait to find out.
The Mind’s Eye
Dir. Joe Begos
Joe Begos arrived on the genre scene in a big way with Almost Human which played during TIFF’s Midnight Madness and Fantastic Fest in 2013. Almost Human was picked up by IFC Midnight and has enjoyed a solid distribution. The film was a lot of fun because it had a solid mixture of practical effects and CGI. There was one scene in particular that featured very cool creature design. All I know about this film is that Graham Skipper plays a man with telekinetic powers and that he aims to use his powers for good. The supporting cast includes festival favorites: Noah Segan and Larry Fassendon. Fassendon is at his best when he’s off his hinges like in We Are Still Here (2015). Hopefully this will be a splashy good time at the movies!
Dir. Takashi Miike
I heard the names Takashi Miike and Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog in The Raid: Redemption) and immediately became excited. Look at that title! Yakuza Apocalypse! I caught a bit of the trailer (you can watch it here) and it looks like it could be a blast with a wild Fantastic Fest audience. Some of these films can be that much more fun to watch with an enthusiastic crowd you won’t find back at home.
Love and Peace
Dir. Sion Sono
Sion Sono returns to Fantastic Fest with another entry. Sono is a daring filmmaker that challenges his audience. Some of his films may be over the top for some, but his films have a special place in the hearts of Fantastic Fest attendees.
Dir. Pablo Larrain
Pablo Larrain impressed me with No, a political satire that blended satire with real events and actual footage from Chile’s 1988 referendum. I’m a Larrain novice but he has a strong voice and uses cinema to deliver his message. The Club is centered on a group of men who live in a remote village, shrouded in mystery. A stranger shows up and throws off the balance.
The Brand New Testament
Dir. Jaco Van Dormael
This film looks outrageous! A little girl is the daughter of God, and decides to write her own testament. The trailer (watch it here) features God writing some rules which basically plays off like a joke about Murphy’s Law, ie. “The other line will always move faster.” If this world is God’s playground, that means director Jaco Van Dormael (Mr. Nobody, 2009) has one hell of a sandbox to play in. Part of the film also shows the reaction of citizens when they learn about the exact date they die. That is powerful information! What would you do? Could it change? This film could be an absolute blast.
Bonus pick: The Invitation (dir. Karyn Kusama, 2015) which screened at the South by Southwest Film Festival. Read my review here.