Halfway through the festival and that’s when a bit of sadness kicks in. It’s a similar feeling to knowing you have to go to work the next day on a Sunday night. But hey, that still leaves us with four more days of hopefully excellent programming, free food and more beer! Speaking of free food, last year there was a taco truck sponsored by the Fear.net site handing out free tacos. This year as a sponsor they’ve had a truck handing out free ice cream, which is a pretty nice bonus when you’re outside in the hot Austin weather waiting to get into movies. And my big a*s has had his fair share of ice cream cones.
Day Four started rolling for me with a bit of Canadian horror by director Evan Kelly. Five friends go through an experience where one of them goes crazy when his mother overdoses. Once he gets out of the hospital, they decide to head off to their old retreat in the woods to honor a woman who was important to them all and to try and mend the breakdown between them after Tyler’s (Stephen Chambers) incident. It’s then that they discover a sort of force field in the woods that seems to affect them mentally and then relationships get complicated, gory and even a bit muddled.
I enjoyed The Corridor but the ending feels rushed to conclusion as if the filmmaker had no real idea where to take his grand concept. It was an interesting watch and a great concept, the actual corridor the title references is a very cool idea, but the delivery lacked any punch and left me a bit empty after some great buildup.
Day Four brought us the first of the secret screenings. Fantastic Fest is actually well known for these, with tickets always being a little tough to get and the movie playing to a packed house. You never know what is going to be shown until moments before the movie starts, which can be a huge gamble if you end up stuck in a movie you’re not a fan of. On the other hand, you may get a chance to see something many months before any the crowd or something totally underground that very few people have heard of. Past screenings have included premieres of There Will Be Blood, Apocalypto, Appaloosa, I Saw the Devil, Trollhunter, and Helldriver. Our chosen film this night was the new Pedro Almodóvar film The Skin I Live In. A review should be coming at a later date, but it was a nice surprise and makes me excited to see what the second screening will be.
My wife and I had some time before our third screening so we hit up The Highball, a bowling alley, bar and karaoke venue which is next door to the Alamo, for some beers and a quick snack. We also got to check out the Fantastic Arcade on its last day. A new addition to the festival lineup as of last year, the organizers have chosen to help highlight independent game developers and setup the Highball as an arcade with small stations setup throughout with PC and Playstation games, as well as standup arcade cabinets and a whole series of arcade based contests. The event this year was open to the public and allowed everyone to check out such creatively titled games as Jesus vs. Dinosaurs, Octodad, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and Fract. The game stations have been packed every time I’ve been in there and the few I got a chance to play were fun and it’s nice to see what wild new game ideas are being explored by individuals and small companies.
Science fiction films seem to always be underrepresented by filmmakers. Is easier to try and create buckets of blood than a futuristic world, so when I see anything science fiction on a festival lineup I try and make time for it. Carré Blanc is a French film that explores a corporate controlled future where an ever constant announcement is played to the masses, counting down a set of numbers (the population of the world maybe?), suggesting that people create children, and touting the greatness of croquet, a sport which will make you strong and smart. Phillipe (Sami Bouajila) has grown into a company man, after being rescued from a suicide attempt in his youth, brought on by his own mother’s demise at her own hands. This society has learned to recycle itself and becoming a strong, stoic personality is favored over one for compassion, and Phillipe has modeled himself as such. Unfortunately for the movie, while it’s beautifully shot and a wonder to watch, it develops at a snails pace. It’s a decent effort by a first time writer/director Jean-Baptiste Léonetti that really isn’t my cup of tea.
I ended my day with a double feature of 3D movies. One being easily my favorite 3D movie to date and the other being a case of yet another feature proving that adding a third dimension brings nothing additional to movies. It was an interesting dichotomy. Comin’ At Ya kicked off the 3D rush in the 80s when it came out in 1981. It is a western about a bank robber whose wife is kidnapped on his wedding day and his subsequent trials of her rescue and dealing hot retribution on the men involved. What’s striking about Comin’ At Ya is its over the top use of 3D. Even in the opening titles you’ll have coffee beans, guns, title cards and dozens of other things being popped out at your face. Then throughout the movie the directors took the time and awkward camera angles to make sure they were almost constantly having some new object being pushed out into the audience. Its completely gimmicky but in the most excellent way. If you’re going to use 3D, let’s make sure that you actually feel like you’re watching something exciting. Beyond that, the story is a common western theme but still fairly solid and Tony Anthony, who plays the lead has a commanding onscreen presence.
On the opposite side of the coin, Julia X is billed as a 3D horror movie, but really wastes the premise completely. Starring Kevin Sorbo of Hercules fame as a serial killer who encounters a beautiful blonde with an agenda of her own, the movie itself is filled with all sorts of plot holes. There’s also only a few scenes that attempt to glorify their use of a 3rd dimension but it never really pops and adds nothing whatsoever to the movie. Despite suffering from terrible continuity, repetitive action and some poor CG blood, I had fun with Julia X. The female leads Valerie Azlynn and Alicia Leigh Willis are having a lot of fun and are easy on the eyes and there’s a quick appearance from Joel David Moore (Avatar). It’s the kind of Friday night dreck that provides some laughs and works well as a midnight movie for a film festival.