Fantastic Fest, now the largest genre festival in the US, is nearly upon us. So in preparation of the surely insane festivities, we've selected what we feel are going to be the Top 10 Most Fantastic Movies at Fantastic Fest this year. Now, before getting to the list, it's worth pointing out that "Most Fantastic" does not necessarily mean "Best of the Festival"-- all it means is that, taking everything into consideration, these ten films most embody the Fantastic Fest spirit.
How does one define a "Fantastic" film, you ask? It's like pornography; you know it when you see it. (The inclusion of plot points like kidnapping Santa Claus or killer tires doesn't hurt, of course.)
Who is involved: Written and directed by Guy Moshe, starring Woody Harrelson, Josh Hartnett, Demi Moore, Kevin McKidd, and Ron Perlman.
You'll like it if: You like stylish action movies with great ensembles.
Why it's Fantastic: The official FF synopsis says all you need to know: "One night, a man (Josh Hartnett) walks into the bar of the local insurgent (Woody Harrelson) and desires two things: a shot of whisky and to kill Nicola. Soon, another stranger enters the bar, a samurai named Yoshi (played by Japanese pop star GACKT). Yoshi wants to avenge his father by taking back a talisman that Nicola stole from his clan. Armed with crossed destinies and incredible fighting skills, the two set out on a journey, breaking bones and cracking heads in search for Nicola."
Who is involved: The anime production house Madhouse, makers of the undeniably fantastic 'Ninja Scroll'
You'll like it if: Old school anime that clips along at break neck speeds is your thing.
Why it's Fantastic: Imagine if the Pod Racing in 'The Phantom Menace' had been done for adults who want a little more edge and intergalactic personalities to their racing flicks.
Who is involved: Directed by Andrew Lau ('Infernal Affairs'), Written by Gordan Chan (Jet Li's 'The Fist of Legend'), Starring Donnie Yen.
You'll like it if: You like watching Donnie Yen turn Chinese streets into impromptu performances of STOMP! by beating on gangsters like they're percussion instruments.
Why it's Fantastic: This trailer speaks for itself:
Who is involved: Directed and Written by French newcommers Abel Ferry and Johanne Bernard respectively, starring Nicolas Giraud (he played Peter in 'Taken').
You'll like it if: You like horror movies that are brisk, bloody (but not necessarily gory) and not filled with obnoxious characters making unjustifiable decisions.
Why it's Fantastic: This is one of the few films on this list that I've actually seen (IFC Midnight have already teamed with FF to put it on Video On-Demand) and I can't wait to check it out on the big screen. I'm a big fan of horror movies that take place entirely in daylight yet are just as intense with those that bank on darkness to set the mood. Also - and there's little doubt I'll catch hell for saying it - but as far as climbing-related horror movies go, 'High Lane' is better than 'The Descent.' Yep, I said it.
Who is involved: Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura ('Fish Story'), Written by Kotaro Isaka ('Fish Story')
You'll like it if: You like effortlessly charming, multi-threaded character stories where everyone's lives eventually come together.
Why it's Fantastic: Nakamura's 'Fish Story' was one of the surprise (and unanimous) hits at last year's Fantastic Fest. Considering Golden Slumber uses a similar formula (no surprise since both share the same screenwriter adapting his own novel) of fate/coincidences to tell the story of a man who suddenly finds himself as the patsy in the middle of a political assassination.
Who is involved: Director Miguel Angel Vivas and screenwriter Javier Garcia, both of whom are relatively new to feature filmmaking.
You'll like it if: You like intense reality-based horror movies that are raw and uncompromising (but without being gory).
Why it's Fantastic: The buzz on 'Kidnapped' is pretty strong thanks to several of the FF programmers talking it up as one of their favorites of the festival. Spain's been putting out some great genre films of late, so hopefully this continues the trend.
Who is involved: Written and Directed by Quentin Dupieux (AKA DJ. Mr. Oizo)
You'll like it if: You like things that exist for no reason.
Why it's Fantastic: It's an experimental film about a sentient car tire with psycho-kinetic powers and a vendetta against humans. Case closed.
Who is involved: Written and Directed by Jalmari Helander
You'll like it if: You like macabre fantasy stories that feature children doing very adult things.
Why it's Fantastic: It's about a group of Finnish people who try to sell Santa Claus. However, the Finnish myth of Santa Claus isn't the jolly, gentle one the rest of the world knows.
Who is involved: Written and Directed by Jim Mickle, Nick Damici ('Mullberry Street')
You'll like it if: Genre mash-ups since this one is being buzzed as a vampire-zombie road movie with heart.
Why it's Fantastic: It recently took home the Midnight Madness Audience Award at TIFF2010, which is no small feat considering it was up against new films from John Carpenter, Brad Anderson and James Wan.
Who is involved: Written and Directed by Takashi Miike ('Audition,' 'Ichi the Killer,' a million other crazy Japanese movies)
You'll like it if: Films about samurai who eviscerate people like and right.
Why it's Fantastic: Takashi Miike and samurai; enough said.