Last year I went to my first Fantastic Fest (actually my first time in Austin, period), and loved everything about it except the heat (how do you people live with that all summer long?) and the depressing number of people who feel the need to smoke like chimneys in between movies. But I was only there for three days, because that was all the time I could get off from my day job, which was a bummer as there were a couple of films I missed.
But I'm still lucky to go at all - many fans can't make even one day for one reason or another, so I am not complaining (and I'm happy to report I got an extra day this year!). Especially now with Twitter and Instagram and the like - it makes it even harder for those stuck at home when they get blow by blow accounts of what's going on. However, the worst thing is that small chance that some of these movies might never get another opportunity to play theatrically in the US, and instead will be released "straight to DVD" months or even years later. There are movies I've seen at Screamfest (a Los Angeles based horror fest) in 2008 that STILL haven't been given distribution, and regardless of how I personally felt about them, movies are made to be seen.
So with that in mind, I figured I'd give a recap of the horror selections (that I saw) from Fantastic Fest 2011. I'm happy to see most of them have found a home here in the US for those who didn't get a chance to see them at FF, and many even did play limited theatrical release (or continued playing festivals), which is great as there's no better way to watch a horror movie than with a respectful but enthusiastic crowd.
NOTE - I used IMDb, Google, and Amazon to obtain the information regarding US distribution (which is all that this refers to; foreign is a completely different beast). If something is incorrect, please let me know (and provide a link with the relevant info)!
Juan of the Dead
This enormously charming zom-com was a big hit at the festival, and rightfully so. Despite the glut of zombie films over the years (and its hard to ignore titular similarity to a certain Edgar Wright classic), this one stood out thanks to the Cuban setting (complete with some social commentary) and winning hero, played by Alexis Díaz de Villegas. Focus World was smart enough to snatch it up, and it continued playing festivals for a while (including the LA Film Fest) before hitting DVD this past August. Highly recommended!
This one is still popping up in some festivals, most recently at the Taipei International Film Festival in Taiwan, but it doesn't seem to have secured any firm distribution outside of its native France. Hopefully it wasn't due to the Fantastic Fest Q&A, which was moderated by a last minute replacement who didn't even like the movie.
(That would be me.)
The long awaited followup from the Inside team of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, Livid was my first film at Fantastic Fest and also the one I was most excited to see (Inside is one of my favorite horror films of the past decade). I had problems with the second half, but for the most part I was quite taken by their mix of Argento and Del Toro (with some Tommy Lee Wallace for good measure), and can't wait to watch it again on Blu-ray, as it was a gorgeous looking film. Sadly, it was bought by Dimension, which means it might be some several hundred years before it ever sees the light of day. Recently they commissioned producers to work on an English language remake, so at least they haven't COMPLETELY forgotten about it. Yet.
A Lonely Place To Die
IFC picked this one up, giving it a brief theatrical run alongside a DVD/Blu-ray release in March of 2012. A solid thriller that unfortunately gets a bit too convoluted in its third act, it nonetheless was one of the more commercial entries I saw at the fest, and provided another fine showcase for Melissa George, an underrated performer who has shined in several genre films, including Christopher Smith's Triangle and the 2005 Amityville remake.
IFC had actually bought this one right around the time of the festival, and it was recently released on DVD after some VOD showings. I wasn't a fan of this film, but I do admire the work ethic of the Bogliano brothers, who will be back at this year's fest with two selections: their new feature Here Comes the Devil, as well as a segment in The ABCs Of Death. They've made an average of one feature per year for the past decade or so, most of them well received - why can't guys like Neil Marshall or Christopher Smith work this frequently?
Sennentuntschi: Curse Of The Alps
Not sure what's up with this one - it seems to have ceased playing festivals, and the last article on its IMDb page "NewsDesk" is a review from Fantastic Fest! If you're dying to see this strange blend of mystery thriller and supernatural movie, you can import a Blu-ray from Amazon, but otherwise it looks like we're going to have to keep waiting. Maybe someone's trying to change the title to something that's easier to spell?
This insanely creepy thriller from [Rec] guru Jaume Balagueró will finally be released this October courtesy of Dark Sky, and I can't wait to revisit it or watch it with someone who is unaware of how disturbing it is - the big reveal just five minutes in ranks as one of the most unnerving moments I've seen in recent years. It's a shame some folks have already seen the similar, vastly inferior The Resident and will possibly look at this as a ripoff because they're too lazy/stupid to look at release/production dates (Sleep Tight was shot months before Resident ever screened anywhere), but hopefully that will be a very small number of people.
Another IFC pickup, this one played festivals throughout 2011, and was released on DVD just a few weeks ago. I had some issues with the film, but it was ambitious and well-acted, and was also one of the few genre films I saw that were in English, so there's something.
A muddled Deathwatch wannabe, this was the weakest film I saw at FF'11, and almost completely forgot about it until I started compiling this article. As far as I can tell, it still hasn't been picked up for US distribution, though producer Scott Lastaiti (who gave us Stan Helsing - yikes) has bought the remake rights, so perhaps a new version can improve on the original while helping it get a firm release outside of its native Colombia (where it was released last year).
Two Eyes Staring
This one could have shown at the 2010 fest, actually, since it has been on the festival circuit since at least June of that year. Somewhere along the line it attracted the interest of Charlize Theron, who will be producing and starring in a remake directed by Sinister's Scott Derrickson, whom I trust can improve on this uneven, overlong (but interesting) thriller. And you'll just have to take my word for it; while it has gotten released in several territories, it seems the film still lacks US distribution.
When I started writing this article, this paragraph was a sad one about how the film still hadn't been given a release date from Lionsgate, who picked the film just a few days before Fantastic Fest began (which led to the cancellation of all but one of its screenings - it was so jam-packed that the film's screenwriter, Simon Barrett, was sitting on a folding chair). But at long last, it was just revealed a few days ago that the Gate would finally be releasing the film on August 23, 2013 - a long wait, to be sure, but the late August slot has proven to be a very good spot for horror films over the past couple years (The Possession, for example, was #1 for 2 weeks in a row). Clearly it shows that Lionsgate thinks the film can compete in the market (as opposed to dumping it in January), which is a great sign.
So, again, not too bad - all but four films have secured distribution here, and three of them won't be missed much (though if the ones with planned remakes go forward, you can guarantee that the originals will be coming along). And if anything, this year's lineup looks even better for horror fans, with the Shining doc Room 237, the much anticipated ABCs of Death, the Who Can Kill A Child? remake Come Out And Play, and (YES!) The Collection, which is the sequel to the underrated The Collector. Plus all the foreign stuff and things that are a total mystery to me.... I can't wait. I'll be covering as much of the horror stuff as I can for BadassDigest and Horror Movie A Day, so keep an eye on here/there (or my Twitter) for the skinny.