Bringing people together by slicing things apart
"A film festival with all the boring parts cut out."
That's what the fledgling Fantastic Fest's original mission statement promised way back in October 2005. Ten years on down that cinematic backwood road, littered as it has been with hundreds of the most disturbing, magical, bizarre – and to borrow a phrase festival founder and Alamo Drafthouse movie maven Tim League has often used, "batshit crazy" – films ever to play on the big screen, "FF" is now the top genre-fest dog in the U.S., rivaling Barcelona's famed Sitges and Montreal's Fantasia fest.
"The types of films we're going after haven't really changed at all," offers Tim League, "and the aesthetic of the festival has remained the same from day one to year ten."
Even a cursory glance at 2014 programming roster backs this up: Festival favorites such as Nacho Vigalondo (repping Open Windows and V/H/S: Viral), Eli Roth and his pals in Santiago's "Chilewood" gang (Nicolás López, Marko Zaror, and Ernesto Díaz Espinoza), and actors such as Elijah Wood (Open Windows) and Keanu Reeves (John Wick) will be returning, as will the legendary opening-and closing-night parties, the ritual de la wasted that has become the annual karaoke party, and the equally scar-faced Fantastic Debates (Matt Mason of BitTorrent looks to take it on the chin this year).
As befits a film festival that prides itself on being a truly international affair, this year sees shockers and rockers arriving from Latvia (Man in the Orange Jacket), Greece (the truly, wickedly warped Norway), Taiwan (The Present), and India (As Seen by the Rest), among a veritable League of Freaky-Ass Filmmaking Nations.
League: "We've always had a focus on the international film. We represent so many countries that there are actually more films from other countries than there are from the United States in [any given year's] lineup. I think what's interesting is seeing the impact [Hollywood's genre films] have on the young nerd in Laos or Cambodia."
Add to the 100-plus films the debut of Alamo graphic arts offshoot MondoCon, razor-edge gaming heaven the Fantastic Arcade, and the fact that the whole shebang-bang marks the official debut of the newly revamped Alamo South Lamar and its attendant watering hole-cum-networking nexus the HighBall, and it looks like Austin is in for one hellaciously memorable ride.
"Fantastic Fest is like this growing club," League adds. "You're surrounded by like-minded people from all over the globe. Maybe you're coming in from Estonia or wherever, you don't know anyone, maybe you can't speak the language, but then all of the sudden you're surrounded by all these guys and girls who are just like you. That's the biggest thing. The sense of community that's built around the festival."
Fantastic Fest 2014 runs Sept. 18-25 at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. For schedule, see www.fantasticfest.com.
For the Chronicle's continuing coverage of Fantastic Fest, Fantastic Arcade, and MondoCon, follow @ACScreens and austinchronicle.com/daily/screens.