Ask any experienced writer if they'd like to cover two whole film festivals over the course of three short weeks, and you'll probably get a response like "Um, no." But throughout all of the Toronto International Film Festival, I had a shiny little treat on the horizon: The Second Annual Fantastic Fest, which was to take place at the Alamo Drafthouse (South Lamar) down in lovely Austin, Texas. Upon returning home from TIFF, I was this close to simply bailing on Fantastic Fest, basically because I had a LOT of work to finish, plus I really wasn't all that excited about dealing with airports again so soon.

Fortunately I came to my senses and decided to attend the festival. And get this! A few days before the fest, super-cool festival honcho Tim League asked if I'd like to be a jury member! Now, film critics don't get a lot of back-pats or cap-feathers, but being asked to sit on a festival jury is very flattering indeed. Plus, this festival was mostly horror movies -- so obviously I was grinning like a pig in poop. So now that the festival is over and I've returned home (with a horrific cold), I thought you might be interested to know which flicks won what. So let's get to it...

Horror Jury Awards


Best Picture - Isolation
Best Director - Billy O'Brien, Isolation
Best Script - Dylan Bank and Morgan Pehme, Nightmare
Best Actor - Kane Hodder, Hatchet
Best Actress - Nicole Roderick, Nightmare
Best Supporting Actor - Lance Henriksen, Abominable
Best Supporting Actress - Kristen Bell, Roman
Best Art Direction - Alex Boynton, Unrest
Best Cinematography - Robbie Ryan, Isolation
Best Special Effects - Hatchet
Best Make-up - Broken

The Horror Jury was composed of four film freaks: Jay Slater of Hotdog Magazine & FilmThreat.com, Ed Neal of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Peter Martin of Twitch and Chris Cargill of AICN.

Short Film Jury Awards


Best of Show - The Listening Dead
Best Short Form - Cost of Living
Best Long Form - Rogairi (Villains)
Best Animated - If I Had a Hammer
Best Comedy - They're Made Out of Meat

The Short Film Jury was composed of three AICN writers: Brian Satterwhite, Jay Knowles and (again) Mr. Cargill.

Audience Awards

1st Place - Hatchet
2nd Place - Isolation
3rd Place - Firefly

The audience awards were decided by "average Joe" audience members who opted to cast ballots, obviously.

Fantastic Fest Jury Awards

Best Film - The Living and the Dead
Best Director - Simon Rumley, The Living and the Dead
Best Script - Larry Kent and Daniel Williams, The Hamster Cage
Best Actor - Leo Bill, The Living and the Dead
Best Actress - Jodie Jameson, Venus Drowning
Best Supporting Actor - Alan Scarfe, The Hamster Cage
Best Supporting Actress - Kate Fahy, The Living and the Dead
Best Art Direction -Starfish Hotel
Best Cinematography - A Quiet Love
Best Special Effects - Puzzlehead
Best Make-up -The Living and the Dead
Special Jury Mention - Blood Tea and Red String

The Fantastic Fest Jury was composed of Christian Hallman of the Lund International Fantastic Film Festival, Wiley Wiggins of Dazed and Confused and Waking Life, and Scott (dork) Weinberg of eFilmCritic.com, Cinematical.com and Rotten Tomatoes.

And I'll take this quick opportunity to share some opinions with you: I attend a solid handful of film festivals every year -- and Fantastic Fest was (far and away) one of the most entertaining trips I've ever taken. From fest-head Tim League down to the part-timiest festival volunteer, these folks were absolutely sterling. If you have even a passing interest in films best described as horror, sci-fi, fantasy or "plain old weird," I could not recommend Fantastic Fest highly enough. In only its second year of existence, FF looks to be one of North America's premiere genre festivals -- and I can only imagine what the 2007 event will look like.