Since 2015, The A.V. Club has made an annual trek to Austin for Fantastic Fest, the biggest genre festival in the U.S. and a cornerstone of the Alamo Drafthouse’s annual programming. Even last year, we touched on A Celebration Of Fantastic Fest, the event’s virtual stopgap for a year without in-person film festivals. This year, Fantastic Fest returns to the Alamo South Lamar, with both a mask and a vaccine mandate for all attendees—“no vaccine, no Fantastic Fest, no exceptions,” reads an official press release—and a motley mix of programming that includes the winner of this year’s Palme d’Or and a film that Rue Morgue magazine is calling “the most violent and depraved zombie movie ever made.”
Fresh off of its North American premiere at TIFF, Julia Ducournau’s Titane will open this year’s Fantastic Fest, followed by a party where “muscle cars will be on hand, and metallic-themed or ‘French firefighter’ costumes are highly encouraged.” (Here’s a suggestion to get you started.) Other notable titles in the first wave announcement are The Sadness, the Taiwanese descent into depravity mentioned above; Bingo Hell, a new film from writer-director Gigi Saul Guerrero, whose Culture Shock was a favorite of The A.V. Club’s back in 2019; Mad God, a decades-in-the-making passion project from special-effects legend Phil Tippett; Agnes, the latest film from Mickey Reece, the Oklahoma-based auteur we profiled earlier this year; the world premieres of new documentaries about GWAR and Wakaliwood; the U.S. premiere of Lamb, whose trailer prompted a collective “WTF?” late last month; and the premiere of a new 4k restoration of the 1981 horror cult classic Possession.
We’ll be covering some of these films remotely from this year’s Fantasia Film Festival in Quebec, while others will hit the continent for the first time in Austin. Either way, information on badges and individual tickets for both in-person and virtual events is available at this link, and a full list of the first-wave lineup is below.
FIRST WAVE FILM LINEUP
US Premiere, 130 min
Director - Bertrand Mandico
On a mysterious new planet populated entirely by women, teenager Roxy and her mother undergo a fantastical journey in pursuit of a murderous criminal.
Texas Premiere, 93 min
Director - Mickey Reece
Fantastic Fest favorite Mickey Reece is back with his most ambitious production yet, the story of a headstrong young nun accused of possession and her best friend who’s left to grapple with the aftermath.
World Premiere, 83 min
Directors - Emily Bennett & Justin Brooks
As a young woman painstakingly prepares a romantic homecoming for her girlfriend, their apartment begins to feel more like a tomb when voices, shadows, and hallucinations reveal a truth she has been unwilling to face.
United Kingdom, 2021
World Premiere, 90 min
Director - Charles Dorfman
An alpha male social media influencer and his beta brother meet for an explosive dinner with their significant others – one where secrets are revealed, lives are ruined, and chaos reigns (fox included).
Texas Premiere, 93 min
Directors - Jim Cummings & PJ McCabe
Jim Cummings is back as co-director and star in this pitch black film biz satire. Cummings revels in the full spectrum of bad behavior, leaving you laughing and gasping in equal measure.
North American Premiere, 70 min
Director - Junta Yamaguchi
Kato is a cafe owner in Kyoto who suddenly finds his bedroom computer screen linked to the one in his cafe, showing him exactly what’s going on downstairs – two minutes in the future. Things get really absurd when his friends find out and devise a way to go ... BEYOND THE INFINITE 2 MINUTES.
World Premiere, 85 min
Director - Gigi Saul Guerrero
The big, steel-toed boot of gentrification won’t stop one determined locally-grown advocate as a new building owner offers Bingo as a portal to financial prosperity – but the price is something far more sinister and much less liberating.
US Premiere, 97 min
Director - Mads Hedegaard
Kim Cannon Arm sets out to shatter records by playing Gyruss for 100 hours straight on a single coin and he can’t do it on his own in this funny and philosophical documentary about the importance of friends and community.
Taiwan, Hong Kong, 1976
Repertory Screening, 90 min
Director - Chi-Hwa Chen
At the nexus point where Jackie Chan’s star began to rise and Angela Mao’s (ENTER THE DRAGON) was waning, they collaborated on this wild, rarely seen gem. Channeling Chan’s own acrobatic style, Mao avenges the defeat of her teachers using a powerful “dancing girl” kung fu style inspired by the gyrations of brothel attendants.
The Netherlands, Taiwan, 2021
North American Premiere, 98 min
Director - David Verbeek
Five wealthy, fashionable friends wake up from a wild night in Taipei to find they’ve become vampires in David Verbeek’s aesthetically gorgeous thriller.
Taiwan, Hong Kong, 1977
Repertory Screening, 92 min
Director - Chang Mei-chung
Now! DYNASTY! On the surface it looks like just another indie kung fu flick from Taiwan, but within minutes this crazy train has picked up a full head of steam and is on its way to a Never Never Land of wild weapons, mass mutilation, and major mayhem … all in 3-D!!!
USA, Mexico, Venezuela, 2021
World Premiere, 98 min
Director - Alejandro Hidalgo
When children in a small Mexican town start dying of demonic possession, the inhabitants seek the help of Father Peter Williams, a priest haunted by a past exorcism gone sinfully wrong. What follows is an epic battle between good and evil.
United Kingdom, 2021
US Premiere, 102 min
Directors - Sarah Appleton & Phillip Escott
Whip out your phone cams and prepare to get immersive: Sarah Appleton and Phillip Escott’s THE FOUND FOOTAGE PHENOMENON is a documentary-shaped crash course on the wobbliest horror films out there.
US Premiere, 82 min
Directors - Toby Poser, Zelda Adams & John Adams
Fantastic Fest favorite filmmaking family Toby Poser, John Adams, and Zelda Adams return with their newest creative endeavor HELLBENDER, a witchy, heavy metal coming-of-age thriller.
World Premiere, 88 min
Director - Eric McEver
Two self-proclaimed geeks and a live-in Japanese foreign exchange student procure a long-lost anime classic that inadvertently turns them into superheroes ... just in time for a Y2K-era Kaiju face-off!
US Premiere, 97 min
Director - Renata Pinheiro
A young man’s ability to surreally “be one” with cars sparks a revolution that could save transport in his community. When his invention inadvertently accelerates the underlying problems, our hero’s quest must grow bigger than his own personal ambitions.
Texas Premiere, 78 min
Director - Frida Kempff
Molly seems to be the only one who hears strange knocking day and night in her apartment. But she won’t be deterred by unbelievers until she’s discovered the cause of the noises tormenting her.
Iceland, Sweden, Poland, 2021
US Premiere, 107 min
Director - Valdimar Jóhannsson
On a remote farm in Iceland, a couple that experienced recent loss is caring for their flock of sheep. One day, one of their sheep gives birth to a very peculiar lamb that will change their lives forever.
Texas Premiere, 139 min
Director - Kazuya Shiraishi
A hard-won truce between rival yakuza gangs threatens to erupt into bloody violence when a psychopathic hoodlum is released from prison and vows to avenge the death of his boss.
World Premiere, 97 min
Director - Conor McMahon
Sibling rivalry takes on a whole new meaning when one brother is turned into a vampire and has to rely on his younger brother to protect him. Will brotherly love win out or is someone getting staked?
Hong Kong, 2021
Texas Premiere, 118 min
Director - Soi Cheang
A burnt-out cop and a by-the-book young detective team up to catch a vicious serial killer lurking in the garbage-filled alleys of Hong Kong in Soi Cheang’s grimy monochrome masterpiece.
US Premiere, 83 min
Director - Phil Tippett
An adventurer descends into a pit reaching the bowels of the Earth, searching for a spot on a crumbling map. On his journey in an apocalyptic world, he meets and fights monsters and creatures out of your worst nightmares in this passion project from stop-motion legend Phil Tippett.
North American Premiere, 125 min
Director - Martin Zandlivet
When Marco, a Romani kid without papers, is caught at the Danish border with the passport of a man who went missing, Detective Carl Mørck from Department Q unknowingly opens Pandora’s Box on what was supposedly a simple case.
MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE presented by 36 Cinema
Taiwan, Hong Kong, 1975
Repertory Screening, 93 min
Director - Jimmy Wang Yu
A blind assassin armed with a vicious flying guillotine is out to kill the legendary one-armed boxer (martial arts superstar Jimmy Wang Yu). 36 Cinema presents MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE with live commentary by RZA!
South Korea, 2021
Texas Premiere, 103 min
Director - KWON Oh-seung
Discover the twisted nighttime alleys of Seoul in the tense and thrilling MIDNIGHT, the gripping tale of a Deaf woman and the serial killer who has underestimated his opponent.
Texas Premiere, 70 min
Director - Lenny Guit & Harpo Guit
Issachar and Zabulon are two not-so-bright brothers who never manage to do anything right. When they lose Jacques-Janvier, their mom’s beloved dog, she gives them a day to find him ... or else. And of course nothing goes smoothly.
North American Premiere, 59 min
Director - Carlos Conceição
A serial killer is propelled into fame after he kisses a dying woman who has just thrown herself off a balcony. Viewed by the world as an act of kindness, that gesture may well be hiding something far more sinister.
USA, Uganda, 2021
World Premiere, 94 min
Director - Cathryne Czubek & Hugo Perez
Documenting the rise of Uganda’s Tarantino and his complex relationship with a middle-aged white dude from New York, ONCE UPON A TIME IN UGANDA tells the amazing story of a micro-film industry making $200 action films that have traveled the world, and how it happened almost by accident.
France, Germany, 1981
US Premiere of 4K Restoration, 124 min
Director - Andrzej Zulawski
It took 30 years for people to catch up to POSSESSION’s bizarre, gelatinous majesty, and now it graces the Fantastic Fest screen in a breathtaking 4K restoration.
US Premiere, 100 min
Director - Yusuke Hirota
In this animated adventure, a young chimney sweep meets a sentient pile of junkyard scrap one Halloween night, raising questions about the world outside the isolated, walled-off community the boy has known his entire life.
Texas Premiere, 91 min
Director - Randolph Zaini
After Pandu witnesses a murder by a local gang – the unsavory mini-mob that his father works for – Deaf criminal Sandi has to turn against his own crew and flee town to protect him. Unfortunately, his boss Guru is not about to let go so easily.
US Premiere, 99 min
Director - Rob Jabbaz
As Taiwan succumbs to a viral pandemic that transforms ordinary peaceful citizens into sadistic, bloodthirsty maniacs, a young couple must battle to be reunited before they too become infected in this gleefully gory, morally reprehensible late-night splatterfest.
United Kingdom, 2021
North American Premiere, 95 min
Director - Charlotte Colbert
After a double mastectomy, actress Veronica Ghent travels to a remote place in Scotland in order to recuperate. However, the land around the retreat radiates with a dark power that will ultimately help liberate her from a traumatic past.
Repertory Screening, 83 min
Director - Art Names
An exceedingly odd rural snake revenge movie — made on a zilch budget and scored by electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani — that will make you question your relationship with reality, relativity, and reptiles.
World Premiere, 110 min
Director - Scott Barber
GWAR is the galaxy’s greatest rock ‘n roll band, an intergalactic troupe of marauders who crash-landed in Antarctica and are committed to rocking your face off. But they’re also a bunch of amazing artists from Virginia determined to put on the wildest, bloodiest show you’ve ever seen. This is how.
France, Belgium, 2021
US Premiere, 108 min
Director - Julia Ducournau
A car accident irreparably changes the course of one woman’s life, sending her down a bizarre, twisted path in the search for love and acceptance.
International Premiere, 113 min
Director - Tommy Wirkola
A married couple travels to their isolated cabin in the woods for some peace and quiet, with the husband planning to murder his wife. Of course, nothing goes as planned, and things only get worse from there ….
Italy, USA, 1979
Repertory Screening, 108 min
Director - Michael J. Paradise
This Italian-made horror/soap-opera/psychedelic light show was made to scoop up any stray dollars that THE OMEN and THE EXORCIST may have left on the table. Featuring an amazing will-work-for-food cast that includes John Huston as a kind of cosmic child pimp for the lord, Shelley Winters, Lance Henriksen, Sam Peckinpah (!!!), and of course Franco Nero as Jesus Christ.
International Premiere, 67 min
Director - Hugo Sakamoto
And now for something completely different: Cannibal cultists and vengeful martial artists lead the way as found footage horror gets a cult film makeover courtesy of Hugo Sakamoto’s inventive and spirited debut.