The Fantastic Five

What we'll (try to) see

To a genre fan, this year's Fantastic Fest lineup – 58 films, 30 shorts, buckets of industry ephemera, directors, stars, producers, and Greg fucking Nicotero – is akin to diving headfirst into Ringu's gaping maw and doing the dirty-girl grapple down in the dark with Sadako-san. Or it could be like tidying up with Mickey Mouse and those wacky dancing brooms. The fantastic is nothing if not subjective. The point is, this year's fest offers something for everyone, a veritable Rainbow Dark that edges inward from the garish, splashy, hypervibrant animation of Hungarian import Nyocker! (The District) through increasingly bruised and often comically subversive hues of the Estonian Frank and Wendy (nobody thinks of Estonia) all the way to the deep-down trauma-hound black-splatter of Roy Frumkes' highly anticipated doc, The Meltdown Diaries, about the creation of his now-legendary exercise in charting the very furthest realms of bad taste: the immortal, immoral, and oh-so-gooey Street Trash. It's so sick you just wanna pinch its little cheeks; yes, you do!

What follows is a brief and highly incomprehensive listing of what we're dying to see. Some we've seen already in the preparation of this article, some arrive in Austin trailing enough buzz to mortally wound Swarm-meister Irwin Allen, and some we picked just because we keep our ears open ... and when you hear five different people – vacant-eyed and drool-flecked – muttering to themselves about something called The Host, well, you pay attention.

1. The Host: Directed by South Korea's Bong Joon-Ho, this "monster in the river" mind-warper played Cannes this past spring to enthusiastic crowds, but more importantly, it's currently the most successful motion picture to come out of South Korea ever. (Ever!) Even Matt Dentler has labeled this one a "classic."

<i>The Host</i>
The Host

2. Darkness: One of two films in this year's fest to include dismemberment via those sharky-looking bear traps that you never (thankfully) encounter in the real world, this UK production takes off from a ridiculously simple premise but soon overwhelms you with the sheer, relentless brutality of it all. "Keep to the road, lads, steer clear of the moors" may have been sound advice in An American Werewolf in London, but here you're just screwed no matter where you are. Absolutely vicious horror filmmaking.

<i>Naisu No Mori</i>
Naisu No Mori

3. Naisu No Mori aka Funky Forest: The First Contact: When I first popped this chipper little mindfuck of a movie into my Super-Duper-Semi-Sentient-Category III-Only DVD player (you know, the one with the stains on it?), I thought someone had hacked my brain and rewired it for their "pink movie" viewing pleasure. (Kickass!) Further inspection revealed a film like no other. Directed by Katsuhito Ishii of Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl fame, Naisu No Mori plays like a semirandom series of synaptic misfires cued to Japanese pop-culture iconography and general weirdness. This is what was going through Matthew Minami's head while he was interviewing Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. And it's beautiful.

4. The Fountain: We haven't seen it yet, but since director Darren Aronofsky's previously helmed two of our favorite films, π and Requiem for a Dream, we figure this trippy, time-travelling epic staring the director's wife, Rachel Weisz, is a safe bet. (Then again, just yesterday we heard another critic pronounce it "pretentious.")

<i>Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning</i>
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

5. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning: Okay, so the remake wasn't the original, but what did you expect? Apparently, it made back enough on Jerry Bruckheimer's investment to warrant this prequel. But that's not why it's on our list. No, it's here because the screening will have star R. Lee Ermey in person, and that's something you never, ever want to miss if you can help it at all. For you purists out there, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre will be screening as well, and psycho-hitchiker Ed Neal will be there to totally freak you out in person. And for you out-of-towners, all those bumper-stickers you see demanding "Keep Austin Weird"? They are soooo talking about Ed Neal.

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