Hey guys, Ben here. I’m happy to say that Monster Popcorn has a guest field correspondent out at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX this year! I really wish I had been able to attend but, alas, I am not. Instead, Horrorella is enjoying all of the Fantastic Fest awesomeness and has been kind enough to share some of her reports from the festival. So if you’re not in Austin like me, read on to see Horrorella’s coverage of the first day of Fantastic Fest!
For the first time in the history of my life, I have made a pilgrimage to Austin to attend Fantastic Fest. I have been dreaming of this day for years, and now, I am finally here. The Mecca of film nerdery. I am kickin’ it at the Alamo Drafthouse, watching all manner of genre films and filling my geeky little heart with joy. I will be doing a series of posts over the coming week, but since I have next to no time before/after the screenings, they will be sporadic, and they will not be pretty. I hope they will still be enjoyable though.
First up was Frankenweenie. Synopsis from Fantastic Fest: Young Victor conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.
I was really really hesitant about this film when it was first announced. I am a huge fan of the original short (if you haven’t seen it yet, you simply must – it is classic). The Disney Channel used to play it every Halloween when I was a kid and it was a beloved tradition in my house. I did not want to see it screwed up, particularly since Tim Burton hasn’t exactly had the best track record lately. I have been increasingly frustrated with his recent films. There is no love there anymore. He has completely bought into his own image; a zany setting, off-beat art direction, Johnny Depp in an uninspired quirky role, and enough potential to sell a ton of crap at Hot Topic.
I was very pleasantly surprised. Frankenweenie is heart-warming, sweet and funny. I’m not sure if the real Tim Burton that we all fell in love with is back, but this is as close as we have come in decade, and I am happy to have it. The animation, 3D work and art direction are all spectacular and the cast is great. It is good to see Burton’s old regulars (Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder and Martin Landau) rather than yet another film with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Cater. Martin Short supplied the voice of the town mayor (among others), but I like to believe that, were he still alive, we would have gotten to hear Glenn Shaddix in the role. That thought makes me very happy. Frankenweenie hits theaters on October 5th and I really recommend taking the time to see it.
My second film was Antiviral. Synopsis from Fantastic Fest: Syd March makes people sick, infecting them with viruses harvested to order from celebrities, but gets more than he bargained for when his most famous source dies from a virus Syd has just infected himself with.
This film offered an interesting concept, which I mostly enjoyed. It offered a thoughtful meditation (which was occasionally expressed a little to literally) of our society’s obsession with and cult surrounding fame and celebrity. It was well-acted, particularly by lead Caleb Landry Jones, and exhibited through beautiful cinematography with both stark and vibrant colors. The pacing was rather slow, particularly through the second act, but given the nature of the film, I can’t really call that a flaw even though I did find myself getting restless a couple of times. The film carried a very sickly vibe to it, which really brought you into the setting and the story.
Antiviral was written and directed by Branden Cronenberg, son of director David Cronenberg. I am not sure how I feel about Branden’s first feature being body horror. It seemed a tad on-the-nose at times given his father’s filmography, but it was still a decent effort. It will be interesting to see what direction he goes with in his next film.
Finally, my third film, American Mary. Synopsis from Fantastic Fest: Disillusioned with her chosen profession and perpetually broke, medical student Mary Mason finds herself drawn into a shady world of underground surgery and body modification.
I wasn’t terribly impressed by the use of body mod in this flick. Maybe it’s just me and my college goth years, but I don’t find modification to be all that shocking, and the mods presented in this film really stayed close to the safe side of the fence.
Though the concept was rather trite and uninspired, it couldn’t stop Katharine Isabelle from turning in fantastic performance as Mary. Part heroine, part victim (though certainly not the helpless kind) and part predator, she carries the role incredibly well and gives the audience a strong character to connect with. She is instrumental in grounding the film and keeping you interested when the script hits its inevitable bumps. I (like many of you) have enjoyed Isabelle’s work since Ginger Snaps, but she is rarely given a role as complex as this one, which she absolutely owns. I recommend this flick on her performance alone.
Well that’s it for round one! I am having a blast so far and am looking forward to a week of wicked-awesome movies!