By Mark Saldana
It is Monday night. I am a little tired, but as I reflect upon the last 5 days of this year’s Fantastic Fest, I can only feel joy and gratitude. I feel joy because I have managed to watch a total of fourteen films while juggling the festival with some reduced shifts of my day job. And I feel gratitude to the people running the festival for giving me, a humble local film critic, another wonderful opportunity to cover one of the most fun and unique film festivals in the world.
During the course of these five days, I have watched a couple of bigger named releases (Halloween, Mid90s) several indie names, and a good handful of entries from other countries. All of these movies feel 100% appropriate for Austin’s genre film extravaganza. I have only three days left, and so far this year, I can honestly say that this has been one of the best examples of superb festival programming I have encountered this year.
Most of these movies have either moved or entertained me in some dynamic ways I know it might be a little cliche, but I want to rank my top ten films of festival so far and some worthy honorable mentions. Now there obviously some films I wasn’t able to see, but this is what I have so far. I will post more detailed reviews in the coming days. Synopses were provided by FantasticFest.com
1. Mid90s: Written and directed by Jonah Hill, MID90s follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old in ‘90s-era LA who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop.
2. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club: Desperate, aging, Sophie only needs to seduce one more handsome victim — excuse me, date — to become a worry-free Lordess in MADAM YANKELOVA’S FINE LITERATURE CLUB, Israeli director Guilhad Emilio Schenker’s delightfully twisted debut feature.
3. Cam: Alice is a camgirl with principles. She doesn’t do public shows, she doesn’t tell her fans she loves them, and she doesn’t fake her orgasms. But when a mysterious lookalike takes over her channel, the rules no longer apply.
4. Holiday: The sun-drenched dream of the eponymous summer vacation has its dark side revealed in Isabella Eklöf’s powerful debut feature HOLIDAY, an unforgettable exploration of the fraught, brutal experience of young womanhood.
5. Donnybrook: Frank Grillo and Jamie Bell are just two of the desperate men and women headed for “The Donnybrook” — a no-holds-barred bare-knuckle fight contest with a $100,000 prize — in this midwestern gothic journey into a heartland of darkness.
7. Shadow: Zhang Yimou returns to the screen with an explosive tale of intrigue and action set within the warring Three Kingdoms. A wild and ambitious ruler, his loyal but cunning commander, and a double he’s set up as insurance play games of deceit as war rages through their kingdom.
8. The Bouncer: Representing the moody, grimy, realistic return of JCVD (Jean-Claude Van Damne) to more dramatic roles, THE BOUNCER wows with a taut, contained approach to crime and violence, and one father’s fight to save his daughter
9. The Night Comes For Us: A former triad enforcer must protect a young girl while trying to escape his former gang, setting off a violent battle on the streets of Jakarta.
10. Dogman: Marcello is a gentle dog groomer whose tumultuous friendship with violent neighbourhood thug Simone engulfs him in a violent series of events that will leave him forever scarred.
Honorable Mentions: Close Enemies, Feral, Halloween