As you can tell from the above pic Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX is a splended event for ass-picking. It also screens some mind-bending and stomach churning genre films that you won’t see anywhere else. This was my first time at Fantastic Fest and I loved the vibe of the event. Everyone was jazzed to be gathering at a festival that showcases martial arts movies in one theater, cannibal movies in the next, and of course torture porn just down the hall. The festival goes through this Thursday, but I certainly took in my fill of askew cinema over the past five days. You can check out our reviews at the Fantastic Fest page, which I’ll continually update, as our writer Fred is still over in Austin soaking up the on-screen madness and mayhem.
Most of the screenings take place at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. You might have heard of it before. It’s considered the most entertaining movie theater experience in the country, and I can certainly corroborate that now. Right when you take a seat, a waiter comes over and asks if you’d like anything to eat or drink. And we’re not talking rubbery hot dogs or stale nachos. They have an entire menu with items that would make a pothead exhaust his salivary glands. Chicken fingers, mac n’ cheese, pizza, burgers, and a $5 shake called a $5 shake that could give you diabetes it’s so sweet. The prices are reasonable too. So you place your order, and during the movie the waiter drops off your food. He then brings your check before the end of the show, you pay, and you’re on your way. It’s an amazingly novel idea dreamt up by Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League. If there’s not one in Los Angeles in the next five years I’ll be surprised and depressed. I’ve heard they’re working on plans, so fingers crossed.
On to the festivities!
Opening night started with a battle cry at The Paramount Theater in downtown Austin. Tim League came out on stage to welcome everyone and introduce the screening of Let Me In. But it wasn’t long until he ripped off his suit to expose full Viking garb. Him and a few close Viking friends stormed the stage and belted Zepplin’s "Immigrant Song" at the top of their lungs. Ooooooh, the festival is Norwegian themed. I get it now!
After the Vikings went off to pillage 6th Street, Tim invited Let Me In director Matt Reeves out on the stage. He thanked everyone for being there and then asked Michael Giacchino, the film’s composer, to come out. We were then treated to something creepy. The Austin Boys Choir shuffled out single-file (creepy) and sang a song from the film’s score. I was expecting one of them to induce mind control over me at any moment.
After Let Me In was the screening of Buried a.k.a. Let Me Out! Claustrophobia/agoraphobia must have been another theme that night. You can read our review for the film here. After the screening, star Ryan Reynolds and director Rodrigo Cortes came out on stage for a Q&A. Of course the first question was asked by some douche. “Who carries Zippos anymore?!” Me, so I can light people like you on fire at any given moment. Reynolds fielded the question admirably though. He said a lot of people do, mainly because they do. That Reynolds. I can see why ladies and bi-curious bloggers crush on him.
The next day in between screening Break writer and my partner in crime at the festival Fidel Martinez ate a taco at the “Zombie Roadkill” taco truck. He makes them look more disgusting than they sounded.
That night was the Master Pancake Theater screening of Independence Day with special guest Bill Pullman a.k.a President “Today is our Independence Day!” Master Pancake Theater is basically “Mystery Science Theater 3000” with humans replacing Tom Servo and Crow. Every time an explosion bigger than a helicopter erupted on screen we were ordered to shout out “Fuck me, Mr. President!” There are way too many explosions in that movie to feasibly keep up with that demand. They stopped the film halfway through so Bill Pullman could come up on stage and answer questions from the Master Pancakers dressed up as characters from ID4. The interpretation of Brent Spiner’s Dr. Okun was the best. He looked comatose. And by the way, Pullman was covering up his sloppy drunkenness with stammering drunkenness. It must have been all that Ambhar Tequila, official sponsor of Fantastic Fest 2010 .
Later on that night, The Highball hosted the 30 Days of Night: Dark Days Flashlight Dance Party. It was pretty much like it sounds. 100 people were given flashlights and all of the lights on the dance floor were turned off. I imagine this was set up so as to not discriminate against vampire attendees. But if that was the case, I don’t understand why the sprinklers didn’t rain blood once the house music kicked in. That video would have gone viral before the B-positive even hit the floor. That’s how awesome it would have been.
That was The Highball at night This is it during the day:
Ahhhhh!!! Nerds!!! I’m JKing, nerds and File Front managing editor Mark. We ALL love video games. But some of them looked a little too intensely focused on their Alienware Laptops (sponsor alert! There must be a nerd occupancy limit that is surpassed at some point during the Fantastic Fest Arcade. That’s why I left for everyone’s safety.
The final event I attended was Chaos Reigns Karaoke at The Highball on Saturday night. Everyone brought their A-game so they could win a Criterion Collection DVD of various movies. Since the remastered version of “Just Visiting” wasn’t up for grabs I decided not to participate. I did capture great footage of other people embarrassing themselves, though. Tim League opened up the competition by screaming “Ace of Spades” at the top of his lungs.
Then about halfway through a little known karaoke enthusiast named RZA stormed the stage with Elijah Wood, Bill Pullman, and others. The Devil himself could not have assembled a more motley crew. They sang “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas followed by “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls. The video below sums up Fantastic Fest rather well. Only such a fantastic event could bring the Wu Tang and Frodo together to sing in perfect harmony.
Alright, it wasn’t perfect, but the universe can only take so much.