Having put on five prior festivals, Fantastic Fest already has quite the reputation for being a gateway for frightening, weird, and strange films from all around the world. In the twelve months prior to this year's fest alone, FF was the first film venue in the United States to play not only 'The Human Centipede,' but the instantly notorious 'A Serbian Film' as well (as part of their five film slate at SXSW). So in honor of their tradition of finding the craziest films from around the world, here are the seven freakiest films at this year's Fantastic Fest. And, given the fest's rep for finding some of the most offensive films on the planet, if you're unsure whether you've got the intestinal fortitude to stomach some of these films, we've got you covered.
'I Saw The Devil'
Directed by the great Jee-won Kim ('A Tale of Two Sisters,' 'The Good, The Bad, The Weird'), 'I Saw The Devil' was actually the first secret screening of the festival. And while no one knew it was actually going to play, in the days after its surprise appearance, people were still talking about how blown away they were by it. And there's a very simple reason for that: it's a damn good revenge thriller.
Starring Byung-hun Lee ('A Bittersweet Life') and Min-Sik Choi ('Oldboy'), 'I Saw The Devil' is about a secret agent (Lee) who seeks revenge against the serial killer (Choi) who raped and butchered his fiancee. Unlike the garrison of films that boast a similar revenge foundation, Kim's film cranks the heat to face-blasting temperatures by removing the procedural, try-to-find-the-killer element entirely. Lee's character is a secret agent, after all, so tracking the psycho is no big deal; what he does when he finds him, however, is.
Should You See It? Absolutely. Its a taught thriller (despite a somewhat distended run time) and there's little doubt that it'll soon gain a reputation as being one of, if not the best serial killer movies since 'Se7en.' That said, if you don't handle bodily harm all that well, then 'I Saw The Devil' is not in any way, shape or form for you. The line between hero and villain isn't just blurred, it's obliterated here, and the brutal things these two do to one another will make even the most seasoned of horror veterans cringe.
'A Horrible Way To Die'
A title like 'A Horrible Way to Die' may make you think that you're in for another torture-heavy film, but that's not actually what director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett have in store. Their film is a very intimate drama about the relationship between a notorious serial killer (AJ Bowen) and his ex-girlfriend (Amy Seimetz). It's not about inflicting tons and tons of visual pain on the audience, it's about how extreme, uncontrollable forces affect all of our lives.
That's not to say that 'A Horrible Way To Die' is easy to watch, it's just that the horror comes from the idea of how many lives are being violently torn asunder by one man's actions. It's the actors that make you feel the pain here-- not the make-up department. Which is precisely why AJ Bowen took home the Fantastic Fest award for Best Actor (Horror), Amy Seimetz took Best Actress and screenwriter Simon Barrett took Best Screenplay.
Should You See It? Definitely. It's a beautifully acted, tragic love story that's not at all concerned with grossing you out.
'We Are What We Are'
The Mexican film 'We Are What We Are' is unlike any cannibal film you've ever seen. Depending on your tastes, however, that is either a welcome or a warning sign. I think the most succinct way to pitch Jorge Michel Grau's film is to call it Art House Cannibalism.
It's about a family of cannibals who don't know what to do with themselves after the man of the house unexpectedly dies. Before you get visions of a house dripping with gore and family dinners overflowing with viscera, though, it should be made clear that 'We Are What We Are' is more of a drama than it is a horror film. It's about children struggling to find an identity of their own outside of their parent's shadow. It's about family loyalty. It's about crushing poverty. It's about street life. It's about anything but cannibalism, basically.
Should You See It? Maybe. As far as the "freaky factor" is concerned, the bloodletting is entirely confined to the film's final act and even then, save for a few graphic images, the horrors are more auditory than they are visual. It's a good film (the score alone is worth the time), but its deliberate pacing and vague plotting can easily, and perhaps justifiably, be seen as boring.
Hailing from Spain, 'Kidnapped' is exactly what the title implies. It's about the hell a family is put through over the course of a single night when a gang of masked men invade their home. That's it.
Should You See It? Yes, but only if you're okay with a movie that uses every tool at its disposal - rape, savage beatings, non-stop screaming - to put the audience through the same hell that it puts its characters through. 'Kidnapped' has no higher goal than to demolish its audience's spirits. That's it.
If you're okay with extreme cinema, however, then 'Kidnapped' is worth enduring if only to appreciate it on a technical level. The entire film was done in a scant twelve shots, so if you're in need of a reference film for minimalistic editing, this is a striking example.
Looking at the definition of "freaky", Quentin Dupieux' 'Rubber' definitely falls under the weird/strange criteria. There's nothing frightening about it, unless you find films that willfully pay no mind to logic and traditional narratives scary. It's an experimental film about a tire that kills people.
It doesn't bare many of the negative connotations associated with experimental film, though. It may be weird for weird's sake, but it's not inaccessible by any means. In fact, 'Rubber' is hilarious throughout and makes for a perfect, relentlessly entertaining film for groups of people who appreciate good, "What the hell is going on?" movie-going experiences.
Should You See It? Definitely, if for no other reason than to say you've seen the "killer tire movie." Be warned, though, 'Rubber' features an absurd amount of exploding heads, so even though the movie's plot (as it were) is harmless, its visuals will still offend the easily offended.
'Undocumented' is a film about a group of grad students making a documentary about what it's like to sneak across the U.S.-Mexico border as an illegal immigrant. Mid-journey, however, their entire caravan is abducted by a group of insane patriots who have a very different idea for who should be allowed to immigrate into the United States.
Chris Peckover's film isn't another "found footage" job, as the plot may imply. It is, however, a savage and shocking horror movie destined for controversy. And I'm sure the filmmakers wouldn't have it any other way.
Should You See It? Yes, if you're a horror movie buff; no otherwise. When it's not poking the issue of illegal immigration with a sharp stick, 'Undocumented' is a pretty damned effective shocker. You grow to feel for all of the characters involved - even if you hate them at first - and it maintains a remarkable level of intensity and dread throughout.
'I Spit On Your Grave'
Remakes in general are a hated species of film, but horror remakes in particular are an exceptionally despised lot. Most of the films being remade are classics that fans simply don't want to see ruined by lesser filmmakers. And then there's 'I Spit On Your Grave.'
No one asked for this remake. The original has a reputation for being a landmark within the exploitation landscape of cinema, but that's about it. Its story about a woman who is raped and then kills her rapists is not something that begs to be told again. The world didn't need this film. There's no new territory to be explored here. Remaking it is just an excuse to capitalize on a recognizable name and put out another film full of rape and revenge torture.
Should You See it? Absolutely not. In case it's not obvious, I hated every single thing about this film. It has no voice, no context, no purpose, no function, no reason whatsoever for existing. It objectifies a woman for 25 minutes, rapes her for 30, then brings her back from the dead so she can torture people in gross (but unimaginative) ways. It's vile and soulless.