The 2012 Fantastic Fest film festival is here, but if you can't make it, you can at least relive last year's festival. We've gone through the entire 2011 lineup and pulled out all the new releases and figured out how you can see them at home. Some are streaming, many are on DVD and Blu-ray, and some you may have to import. Whatever the case, if you like crazy genre movies from around the world, here's your guide to the best of the best from last year's festival.
While Netflix and other similar subscription streaming services are filled with Fantastic Fest titles from over the years, only about a dozen of the 2011 lineup are available to watch instantly. Of those films, we highly recommend:
Boys on the Run - A raunchy Japanese comedy about the life of a young man with a crippling inability to form any kind of a lasting relationship with women. It's smart, funny, but most importantly, it's an earnest film about the fragile mental state young men find themselves in when their hormones and their brain are in direct competition with each other.
The Yellow Sea - If there is a South Korean equivalent of Michael Mann, it's Hong-jin Na. If you've seen his debut film, The Chaser, about a pimp versus a serial killer, then you've got a good idea of what's in store. The scope of The Yellow Sea, however, makes that film look positively quaint. The action scenes alone in this movie are utterly massive, both in their size and the stakes for the hero, a down-on-his-luck dude trying to raise enough money to find his missing wife. The level of violence is staggering, even for a Korean gangster film, so do be warned that it's got plenty of blood flowing. Also note that the Netflix version is not the same cut that played Fantastic Fest, but the differences aren't game-changing.
Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan's Hope (Amazon and other VOD services)
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
The Human Centipede 2
Two Eyes Staring (iTunes only)
Thankfully there are a great deal more FF 2011 alumni on home video than on streaming. We've already thrown our seal of approval on quite a few of these as they've hit DVD throughout the year, so let's spotlight a few of the films we haven't already raved about. Of the available titles, you won't go wrong renting or buying:
Juan of the Dead - This is worth checking out purely for the novelty of it being not only Cuba's first zombie film, but the first film to leave the country in decades. In fact, the filmmaker wasn't sure what the Cuban government was going to do to him when he left FF and finally returned home. But even without the unique origin story, it's still a more entertaining zombie movie than most being churned out these days.
Michael - Okay, I lied when I said you couldn't go wrong renting or buying any of these titles. You could go very, very, very wrong with Michael. But, since this post is all about getting access to the spirit of Fantastic Fest, we've got to mention one of the most divisive films of the 2011 festival. Michael is an unflinching look at the life of a pedophile who keeps a 10-year-old boy in his basement. It's a dark and difficult film, though content-wise it's not nearly as graphic as the subject matter implies, but it's expertly made and will stick to your bones long after seeing it. (I still think of it every time I'm out somewhere with my son and I see a lone man watching us.) If the films of Michael Haneke are up your artistic alley, Michael might be as well-- it was directed by a frequent collaborator of his.
Rabies - As with Juan of the Dead, Rabies has the cool distinction of being a national first. In this case, it's Israel's first horror movie. I'd tell you what it was about, but it's better if you just go in knowing nothing but the title. It's playful, it's gory, and it'll plant a smile on the face of most horror fiends, so do grab as many friends as you can before you press play.
Sleepless Night - France is having a bit of a mini-renaissance for crime thrillers, and arguably the biggest film in this new wave is this gem that tracks one man's increasingly hellish night at a sprawling nightclub owned by a drug dealer. It's a fast-paced, energetic twist on some familiar formulas, and it does a great job of luring you into the breathless world of a father having one of the worst nights ever. (Note: This DVD arrives September 25, 2012.)
Take Shelter - Every year the Oscars overlook countless movies and we all gripe about it. How Michael Shannon wasn't nominated for Best Actor for Take Shelter, however, is the most egregious snub for this past year's awards. The man is impossibly good in this film about a father who suddenly starts having apocalyptic dreams. It's one of the best films of 2011, and it's a downright shame that it didn't get the awards attention it should have.
A Lonely Place to Die
Beyond the Black Rainbow
Karate Robo Zaborgar
Let the Bullets Fly
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Unavailable on U.S. DVD
One of the greatest appeals of Fantastic Fest is its ability to showcase movies that you simply won't have the ability to see in a theater any time soon, if ever again. Many of these movies do have DVD or theatrical releases in their relative countries of origin, but unfortunately you're not going to be able to log on to Amazon.com and order a copy. That doesn't mean they'll be unavailable forever - for example, You're Next has an August 23, 2013 release date - but as of this writing, you'll have to do some legwork to get ahold of the below movies.
A Boy and His Samurai - One of my favorite movies of 2011 sadly isn't available in the U.S. This is a charming, heartfelt family film, which is something that you almost never see at the death-happy Fantastic Fest. But if you can get your hands on it (it's on Japanese DVD), I guarantee its story about a time-traveling samurai who becomes an expert pastry chef will plant an enormous and possibly permanent smile on your face.
Haunters - This is a South Korean twist on superhero movies. It doesn't involve any crazy costumes, it's just a bit about two otherwise normal guys who have the power to control other people's minds. One uses the power for good, the other for more selfish purposes. Haunters is a cool, clever way to approach superpowers, and is, at least tonally, similar to Chronicle, only without any found-footage angle.
Revenge: A Love Story - This Hong Kong thriller is exactly as the name implies: A love story drenched in revenge, and it absolutely crushes both sides of its story. The romance is sincere and affecting, the violence is jaw-dropping. This movie is not for the faint of heart, but if you want to have your heart strings pulled while people on-screen are getting their heart's stabbed to death, this is the perfect movie for you.
Sleep Tight - If you happen to be a woman who lives alone in an apartment building, you might not want to watch Sleep Tight. This skin-crawling movie from the director of [REC] and [REC 2] is about an apartment attendant who spends his free time violating the privacy of a woman who is wholly oblivious to his truly creepy behavior. Luis Tosar gives an incredible performance, and Jaume Balaguero knows exactly how to draw you into his world. Comparisons to Hitchcock are made all too often, but this is a movie that's suspenseful and performance-anchored in ways that are positively Hitchcockian. It'll be getting a limited release on October 26, 2012, so keep your eye out for it.
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