I just happened upon Fantastic Fest on a lark back in 2009 – I had a bunch of vacation to use or lose, saw an ad for it, thought “a genre film festival here in Austin? OK, done!” It was a great experience and while I haven’t been able to go every single year since, I try to get to most of them (you can find writeups from some of them on this blog). And as also sometimes happens, fellow gamer Chris attended as well.
At a high level – this was a decent Fantastic Fest. They have finally gotten a ticket reservation procedure that’s a pleasure to use… I remember having to rack out early after being up till 2 AM to drive all the way across Austin to wait in a line to get tickets to shows you wanted to get into (while already having a festival badge), then having to go burn a couple hours before the movie starts… Now it’s a nice little Web app open the day before and it slots you in. I’ve gotten into everything I registered for except for the specials. I went on a daytime badge (have to tend the kid in the evenings) but had a lot of success just waiting standby on evening shows on days I was free.
The volunteers always run a great event – I always like seeing Winnie at work, she makes things happen! My one suggestion is that most movies are shown twice. But ones shown in the day tended to have both showings in the day, and those at night at night. As a daytime badge holder this sucks, because towards the end you’re looking at slots with a lot of movies you’ve already seen in them and no chance to see some. I assume there are other people that can only come at night, and have the same problem. Need to swap second showings day<->night. The new South Lamar venue is nice though there’s heavy construction going on in the surrounding blockhouses of condos. There’s a lot of good food choices within walking or short driving distance, and parking is free if pretty full up.
The down side was – well, hate to say it, but the movies. The programming was not at all strong this year. Some years there’s been a huge amount of great stuff. This year, while they’ve been some good ones, it’s been a lot more sparse. Big waves of Japanese and Nordic movies have come and gone, even Korea’s not making much good stuff any more – they’re farming Turkey for new blood this time and just in general it seems like a lull year for genre films.
And a lot of the films weren’t that good. A large number suffered from the “third act problem” of putting me to fricking sleep in the third act. I imagine maybe if you’re an indie filmmaker that made your film on a $9000 budget that you don’t want to “throw away” any of your hard earned celluloid but I watched so many movies that needed 20 to, honestly, 45 minutes cut out of their runtime mostly in the third act and/or brought their pacing to a grinding halt 2/3 of the way through the movie this year that it was really frustrating.
Here’s a breakdown of the movies I saw at the fest. I do spoilers in these reviews as they are not just for you the curious moviegoer but also are feedback to the filmmakers and I think precision there is important.