Fantastic Fest 2013

This year I was fortunate enough to obtain (through a very close friend) a VIP badge for Fantastic Fest, a genre film festival which is held each year in Austin, Texas.
I made the trip with my brother-in-law, Simon (@simonbarber on Twitter), and it was to be our first adventure away together. A tough feat to pull off too, considering we both have very small children, but eased greatly by having two very understanding wives. This was, however, always going to be a one-off experience so we planned to make the most of it while out there.
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Having never experienced the festival before, I knew nothing about the majority of movies scheduled to play, and mostly followed friends’ advice in organising my daily viewings. I read almost every film plot in the week leading up to the festival, and even on the flight over, but each movie sounded spectacular, which made it very difficult to plan ahead.

In total, we both saw 31 movies. And I can honestly say that my approach to movies has altered dramatically. I mean, I watch A LOT of movies on a regular basis, but I would never have managed to catch even 20% of the films I actually did see. I can tell this just by looking at the line-ups of previous years. Like this year for example with Eega, an Indian revenge movie centred around a common housefly.

There were still some 36 movies that I couldn’t fit into the schedule, but will be making a conscious effort to see just as soon as they are made available. Some big hitters like; Witching and Bitching, Jodorowsky’s Dune, Northwest, Maruyama: the Middle Schooler and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears. Not to mention the two shorts I missed out on due to booking the wrong slots – Yellow and The Body. Paul, Ryan, please forgive me.

The 31 movies viewed at Fantastic Fest:
Machete Kills
Proxy
Why Don’t You Play in Hell
Escape From Tomorrow
Monsoon Shootout
Grand Piano
The Sacrament
We Are What We Are
Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut
Man of Tai Chi
Cheap Thrills
Mirage Men
Mood Indigo
The Green Inferno
We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Big Bad Wolves
The Dirties
Coherence
Child of God
Septic Man
Eega
Blue Ruin
Gravity
Afflicted
The Congress
Detective Downs
Metallica: Through the Never
Borgman
Almost Human
The Zero Theorem

Top 10 of the fest:
Mood Indigo
Why Don’t You Play in Hell
Borgman
Gravity
The Dirties
Blue Ruin
Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
Coherence
Big Bad Wolves
Cheap Thrills

Bottom 5 of the fest:
Metallica: Through the Never
Septic Man
Machete Kills
The Zero Theorem
The Congress

Favourite short film:
Green Eyed (played before Borgman)

From the very first day, where Zack Carlsson recognised me (strangely) and treated us to a rather magnificent limeade concoction, to the very last, where we enjoyed breakfast at Applebee’s with a couple of friends who were dragged against their will, Fantastic Fest will always be one of the best film-going experiences of my life (the 2am group-trek to Whataburger a particular highlight). Great company, new friends, a ton of wonderful new movies, and tremendous service from the volunteers and waiting staff. Seriously, how those guys crouch down in the dark and deliver faultless requests is beyond me.
It will be a strange reality check for me to now watch movies in a traditional cinema, without someone coming by to take my peanut butter shake order. And the leg room!


I guess what i’ll miss most, aside from the people, is the weird shit that is programmed to play while you are waiting for the movie to begin. The weirdness ranged from obscure movie trailers to a half poodle half human hybrid workout video. The greatest video I witnessed over the ten days I was there had to be the group of contortionists in the barn. I must track down this footage and share.

On the last night, another good friend offered us the chance to visit I Luv Video (the largest surviving video chain in the world). Unfortunately, not many titles were for sale, if any, but I guess that’s what makes the store so special. Like Scarecrow Video in Seattle, this place caters for all needs, and incorporates the very hard-to-find VHS-only titles with the standard DVD and Blu-ray selection.
IMG_2956 I had a great time just browsing the many shelves and discovering rare treats along each row. I guess you could say that I felt very much at home.


While I would love to attend the festival every year, this is not a realistic option, but I look forward to the next one in six or seven years time. And, should it still be operating fifteen years from now, maybe even take over my wife and daughter too.

My thanks to every person that I had the pleasure of meeting this year, and helped to make it such a memorable trip. It really is the strangest feeling going thousands of miles from home and not encountering at least one unlikeable character. Not one.
I could list every fine individual, but you know who you are, plus it would take a long time to do so and I have already taken up far too much time typing this.

Keywords: Froth. Applebee’s. Biscuit. Scone. Pumpkin. Band-Aid.

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