What not to miss at Fantastic Fest

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Fantastic Fest is, to put it plainly, the best week of the year to be a film fan in Austin. The festival, entering its seventh year, focuses on genre films and has been the host of prestigious world premieres such as “There Will Be Blood” and “Zombieland.”

Other festival highlights include high-profile secret screenings, epic opening and closing night parties and the fantastic debates, which annually pit festival co-founder Tim League against a challenger on a topic, which the two debate before settling the issue with a good old-fashioned fist fight. While League easily bested “Avatar” star Michelle Rodriguez last year, this year pits him against undefeated bare-knuckle brawler James Quinn McDonagh, subject of Fantastic Fest selection “Knuckle.”

This year’s Fantastic Fest, held primarily at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, opens with the controversial and probably disgusting “The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence).” Here are a few other films attendees should keep an eye out for:

“Sleep Tight” (102 mins.)

From Fantastic Fest alum and “REC” co-director Jaume Balagueró, “Sleep Tight” marks a turn for Balagueró as he abandons the zombie-fueled terror of the “REC” franchise to delve into the mind of Cesar (Luis Tosar), the doorman of a Barcelona apartment complex. When Cesar’s obsession with tenant Clara (Marta Etura) turns sinister, the film begins truly earning the comparisons to Hitchcock that have been buzzing around it. Director Balagueró will be in attendance.

Screens: Friday, Sept. 23 at 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 3:30 p.m.

“Revenge: A Love Story” (91 mins.)

If there’s one thing you can count on at Fantastic Fest, it’s the presence of unspeakably brutal Asian horror, and “Revenge: A Love Story” will hopefully fill that quota this year. Juno Mak and Japanese adult film star Sola Aoi headline as a “Natural Born Killers”-style couple mutilating its way through a scrambled timeline and hopefully some of the most cringe-worthy bloodletting at this year’s festival.

Screens: Friday, Sept. 23 at 11:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 11:30 p.m.


“Melancholia”
(120 mins.)

“Melancholia” director Lars Von Trier coined Fantastic Fest catchphrase “Chaos reigns” with his “Antichrist” a few years back, and word is “Melancholia” manages to keep all of the intensity and humanity of that film while shedding some of the pretension that weighed that film down. The film is named for a planet headed straight for Earth, but it’s more interested in the emotional turmoil it causes in sisters played by Kirsten Dunst (who won Best Actress at Cannes for her role) and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Screens: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 8:30 p.m.


“You’re Next” (95 mins.)

Last year, director Adam Wingard’s “A Horrible Way to Die” was a festival standout, winning numerous awards, including one for star AJ Bowen. Bowen returns for Wingard’s “You’re Next,” a home invasion thriller starring indie horror directors Joe Swanberg and Ti West, as well as genre stars Barbara Crampton and Amy Seimetz. The film premiered to strong reviews at this year’s Toronto Film Festival and will hopefully be among the best of the many home invasion flicks Fantastic Fest is apt to feature. Cast members AJ Bowen and Barbara Crampton will be in attendance, along with various other members of the cast and crew.

Screens: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 11:40 p.m.

The Loved Ones (84 mins.)

Sean Byrne’s “The Loved Ones” played at South By Southwest last year and to make the wait until its currently unscheduled theatrical release shorter, it’s making an appearance at Fantastic Fest, complete with a “Loved Ones”-themed prom party after its first screening. Xavier Samuels stars as Brent, who has the bad luck of being asked to prom by Lola (Robin McLeavy), who doesn’t take his rejection well. She ends up staging her own prom with Brent — a prom that ends up being less John Hughes and more John Carpenter.

Screens: Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 9:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 29 at 1:00 p.m.

Printed on September 22, 2011 as: Movie lovers in store for full week of genre films