All good things must come to an end and so it is with Fantastic Fest 2015. But that doesn’t mean it won’t go out with a bang. The last day of Fantastic Fest also happened to be the best. And despite my energy being at an all time low, the scratch in my throat advancing to full on Fantastic Flu, and my pants not fitting as well as they did at the beginning of the week, I soldiered on. Four more movies and an epic party to go.
My first film was the documentary Man Vs Snake. This was unfortunately the first and only documentary I got to see at my time at the festival, but I’m very thankful I did because it is great. The film tells the story of a 16 year old Tim McVey (not the terrorist) who in 1984 was the first person to reach 1 billion points on the game Nibbler (which I had never heard of before today). He played for over 46 hours straight to achieve this score. In return, Tim was honored with a day named after him in his home city and bragging rights to anyone who cares (no-one). 25 years later, someone beats Tim’s score, which encourages him to pick the game back up again and try to re-break the record. But at 41 years old, does Tim still have the energy to marathon for that long? The documentary is hilarious, using animation and old video game graphics to partially tell the story. It deftly skirts the line between making fun of people that marathon these games, and accurately showing the amount of commitment and determination it takes. Playing a video game for 46 hours is ridiculous. But so is climbing to the top of a mountain for no reason. Or running a marathon.
The second movie I saw was The Devil’s Candy, a heavy metal twist on a traditional haunted house film written and directed by Sean Byrne. A struggling artist movies his family into a house in which an old lady and her husband had mysteriously died. It turns out that the deceased couple’s son wasn’t quite ready to leave the house as he starts showing up unannounced. And then both he and our main character start hearing a strange voice urging them to do terrible things. While definitely a horror film, The Devil’s Candy isn’t all that scary. There are a couple of jump scares, but the film is more interested in being fun. It’s clear that Sean Byrne loves metal as the film is filled with heavy metal music and imagery. If you like metal, you’ll love this movie.
My penultimate film was Camino by director Josh Waller and starring riend of the festival Nacho Vigalondo. In the film a photo journalist, Avery Taggert (Zoe Bell) is hired to follow around a Colombian freedom fighter group. After snapping a picture of the head of the group (Vigalondo) performing a shockingly violent act Avery finds herself fighting for her life in the middle of the Colombian jungle. While Camino started off really strong, I don’t think the film ever came together like it wanted to. The action is filmed really well and the performances by Bell and Vigalondo are legitimately great, but the film kind of forcibly stumbles into its themes. Also, the later half the of the film is extremely dark. I don’t blame the filmmakers for this; they announced prior to the start of the film that they had gone for very natural lighting in the film, but the gamma correction on the file that was sent was off and unable to be fixed. So while this wasn’t their vision of the film, it all the same made some things hard to see near the end of the movie. However, I was fortunate enough to get to sit next to the director, writer, and editors during my showtime. One of the things that surprised me was that they would still laugh at the jokes made in the film. You could tell they were really enjoying both it and the actor’s performances. It’s amazing to see guys that have probably seen a movie half a hundred times still getting enjoyment out of their work.
The final film of the festival was also the world premier of Bone Tomahawk by writer and first time director S. Craig Zahler. Starring Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, and Patrick Wilson the film is kind of a western/horror hybrid. When a group of savage cannibal Indians kidnaps a deputy and a woman, a group of 4 men led by the local Sheriff (Russell) set out to catch them and get their people back. Bone Tomahawk is incredible, capturing what was great about some of the classic westerns, but mixing into it light horror elements, comedy and some absolutely brutal violence to create something new and wonderful. Each of the four main characters is distinct and interesting, backed up by amazing performances by their actors. Russell is vintage Western here and Fox plays a damaged Indian-hating showman wonderfully. But the real shock is Richard Jenkins as assistant deputy Chicory. Jenkins character mostly serves as the comic relief, but there’s a lot more to him as the film slowly shows us. Bone Tomahawk is basically everything I’d want from a western film and if you’re a fan of the genre, you need to see this movie.
After the film, there was one final Q&A with director S. Craig Zahler, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, and Patrick Wilson. Kurt Russell was supposed to attend, but had to cancel last minute due to an injury. He was missed, but the Q&A was great and cemented my love of the film. We then all boarded some busses and headed to a massive Western themed party to close down the festival right. There was food, drinks, donkeys, fake bull riding, and so much fun. Everyone was exhausted, but pooled their energy for one final party. By 2:00 AM it was finally time to shut things down. Fantastic Fest was over.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed getting a window into my time here at the Festival. I loved absolutely every minute of this thing. I saw 18 movies in 4 days. I partied with media, filmmakers, and people like me that just love the hell out of movies. I occasionally slept a little, too. This was probably the most fun I’ve ever had and I’m already counting down til next year, where I will definitely be going for all 8 days.
If you’re wondering why this recap is so late, it’s because I was basically a useless lump that wasn’t able to do anything for the remainder of last week. A useless lump that was still able to head back to the very theater I spent the week in to see The Martian on Friday. Look for that review sometime later this week!