A hybrid version of Fantastic Fest, the largest genre festival in the U.S., kicked off last night in Austin with an in-person screening of Julia Ducournau’s Titane in Austin, Texas. That event will continue through September 30 in a scaled down form, sans karaoke parties and spread out among several Alamo Drafthouses across Austin. If you’re in town, Fantastic Fest is actually a little more accessible than usual, as the festival is selling individual tickets to festival screenings instead of its usual badge system. (If you can get them—instant sellouts have been the norm thus far.) If you’re not, $106.25 gets you a virtual badge for FF@Home, the festival’s virtual edition, which includes a selection of FF titles past and present.
We’ll be covering Fantastic Fest from afar throughout the next week, including an episode of Film Club devoted to the festival, a review of Titane, and a look at Mad God, a 30-year passion project from stop-motion animator Phil Tippett. (When not working on his own personal Boschian hell scape, Tippet created effects for a handful of obscure genre titles like Star Wars, RoboCop, and Jurassic Park.) But as we settle in for another movie-mad festival weekend, here are five films hitting Fantastic Fest this week that don’t have the marketing push of a The Black Phone or a Lamb, but are worth your time anyway. Well, it’s debatable whether Devil Story is a “good” use of anyone’s time. But some people are into that type of thing.
We reviewed this charming Japanese mind-bender out of the Fantasia Film Festival, where it won us over with its inventive take on time travel and genuine sense of heart. As we wrote back in August, it also has “a mathematical sense of precision, painstakingly mapping out the action that begins rippling outward when café owner Kato (Kazunori Tosa) realizes that the CCTV camera that monitors his restaurant has turned into an interdimensional time mirror with a two-minute delay,” adding that “structurally, director Junta Yamaguchi and writer Makoto Ueda have pulled off a small miracle here.” And we do mean small—the film runs a trim 70 minutes, and was produced on a shoestring budget. But none of that really matters if you’ve got a good script and an enthusiastic cast, and Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes has both. Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes screens virtually and in person at Fantastic Fest on September 30.
So you consider yourself a connoisseur of Z-grade movies, do you? Tremble before Devil Story, a movie that is about a man trying (and failing!) to shoot a horse as much as it is about anything. A fascinating time capsule of the moment when ‘80s schlock met ‘70s Euro-horror, Devil Story has no real plot, but instead unfolds in a series of nightmare images: A Leatherface-style mutant in an old man mask and an SS uniform, squealing and grunting. A mummy stuffed with neon blue goop that moves so slowly, it makes Zombi look like 28 Days Later. A damsel in distress so comically helpless, she manages to get caught by it anyway. Why is there a pirate ship sticking out of a mountain in the French countryside, and what does it have to do with mummies? If we knew, we’d tell you. This Fantastic Fest repertory title is available—in 4k! What a world!—on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome and for digital rental on Alamo On Demand, so you can host a “rowdy screening” in your living room with just you and your friends in attendance.
Another title that arrives in Austin via Montreal, Hellbender is fascinating simply because of how it was made: This is the latest project from the Adamses, a filmmaking operation made up of married couple John Adams and Toby Poser and their teenage daughter Zelda, who all collaborate on unique, atmospheric horror movies from their home in upstate New York. Shudder has picked up Hellbender for distribution, taking this family business to a new level. It’s a new high for the trio in terms of storytelling and aesthetics as well, a hallucinatory take on occult horror and coming-of-age stories starring Poser and the younger Adams as a mother-daughter duo whose isolated lives are turned upside down when Izzy (Adams) discovers her inborn potential as a powerful nature witch. If you can’t catch this one in Austin on September 28 or 29, it’ll debut on Shudder early next year.
The term “under the radar” is relative here, as Possession is the only Andrzej Żuławski movie many North American horror fans have seen. But while the film’s cult has grown steadily over the past decade, a 4k restoration of this masterpiece of arthouse horror is still worth noting. Anchored by a frenzied performance from Isabelle Adjani as a Berlin housewife consumed by a grotesque affair with an inhuman lover, Possession is a feverish, harrowing take on the breakup movie that retains its power to shock and seduce 40 years after its debut. The restoration makes its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest, but launches digitally through Metrograph on October 1 with a nationwide rollout planned for later in the month.
You’ll have to show up in person to see Saloum at Fantastic Fest on September 30. But we feel strongly enough about this film, which made its world premiere at TIFF a few weeks back, to make the recommendation anyway—if only to get our readers excited to see it eventually. Online buzz has already started for this lean, twisty crowd-pleaser out of Senegal, which has the energy and filmmaking chops to become a word-of-mouth sleeper hit. It’s best not to say too much about the plot, so we’ll just follow up on our assessment out of TIFF that it’s “an exciting action Western with charismatic leads and intriguing hints of the supernatural. Then something snaps, and the film you thought you were watching becomes another film entirely.”