Taking a page (ripping off) my esteemed colleague Jacob S. Hall, I find myself at the end of Fantastic Fest reflecting on the dastardly villains, the real reason Mr. Hall was able to compile his list of Fantastic Fest’s greatest heroes in the first place. For a hero is only as good as his villain, and Fantastic Fest continues to offer some of the most reprehensible characters on planet Earth and beyond.
Please print this list out, laminate it, and keep it in your back pocket for quick reference. It’s just that useful.
5. Ma-Ma in Dredd 3D
Going decidedly UNglamorous, Lena Headey is a chewed-up piece of human garbage in Dredd 3D. I don’t know how close she comes to her comic book counterpart (if she’s even in the comics), but Ma-Ma provides a better foil to Judge Dredd than Armand Assante. Unlike most comic villains, Headey underplays her role, with mumbly line-readings and genuine flashes of malevolence behind her scarred-up face. Highlights? Well beyond her beautiful comeuppance at the hands of Dredd, I’d say it would have to be the scene in which she destroys an entire apartment floor with a souped-up gatling gun just to kill one person.
4. Ashley from Besties
We’ve all been there -- an awkward teen who looks up to the beautiful upperclassmen, then gets sucked into a murder plot when the beautiful upperclassman’s ex-con boyfriend comes looking for trouble. It’s pretty common. Here, Ashley (played by Madison Riley) is the manipulative skank in question, twisting plain-Jane outcast Sandy on the end of Ashley’s knife-like manicured fingernail. Ashley’s a real piece of work who feels the world owes her success because she’s, like, really pretty and also exceptionally good at wearing bikinis and telling lies. You don’t love to hate her; you just hate her.
3. The classmates in King of Pigs
Is there an innocent person in all of King of Pigs, the blistering Korean animated film that examines the adult scars left behind by childhood bullying? I have to give all the characters the collective nod upon the film’s bleak conclusion, because whoever might have started as an innocent when the story begins, ends up tainted beyond imagination as the story closes. The bullies are unspeakably awful, the lead characters Jong-suk and Kyung-min, both sensitive children, end up unpleasant and tainted by violence, and their schoolboy idol Chul earns special points for being the only likeable protagonist in a Fantastic Fest film who also stabs a cat to death. The movie is riveting but miserable, and no one comes out OK.
2. Queso from Alamo Drafthouse
Lactose intolerant? Welcome to queso, the velvety smooth, slightly spicy, cheesy knife in your guts. While you struggle to hold in your gas during hour three of a quiet Norwegian family drama, just remember -- you did this to yourself. Not content to just be served with chips, the queso has discovered a way to infest your french fries and baked pretzels with its sinister agenda. One ounce of queso contains 106 calories and nine grams of mostly saturated fat (we’re only supposed to eat about 15 grams of saturated fat per day), but who’s eating an ounce? No, Fantastic Fest wouldn’t be Fantastic Fest without at least 20 ounces of queso every two films.
1. The Alphabet in The ABCs of Death
The innocent star that inspired Alpha-Bits cereal and went on to have a long career in television on shows such as Sesame Street is finally looking to expand its range and break free from preschool typecasting. It’s chosen The ABCs of Death, an anthology feature in which it can use all 26 of its letters to murder, maim and kill. Not to be outdone, I hear the 123s are considering starring in The 123s of Clinical Depression and shapes and colors are considering The Shapes and Colors of Eugenics as their next project. Needless to say, we will never look at the alphabet in the same way.