This article is part of our coverage of the 2022 edition of Fantastic Fest, taking place from September 22-29. Follow along with our reviews, interviews, and features from the fest in our Fantastic Fest archive.
It’s that time of year again when movie lovers in Austin gather for a full week of films, fun, and freaky shenanigans — it’s Fantastic Fest 2022! The fest is once again a hybrid model with a full slate for in-person attendees and a scaled-back one for virtual fest-goers. We’re once again covering as much of the festivities as possible, and our team will be split in a similar fashion. Neil Miller, Brad Gullickson, and Lisa Gullickson will be on the ground in Texas, hoping not to run afoul of the authoritarian, fascist state, while Will DiGravio and myself will be covering safely from afar.
There are nearly a hundred titles playing this year’s fest, from critically acclaimed releases like Decision to Leave and The Banshees of Inshirin to documentaries like King on Screen and Living with Chucky to classic shark horrors like Tintorera and Aatank to comedies like Sick of Myself and Smoking Causes Coughing to weird shit like Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle and All Jacked Up and Full of Worms. Fantastic Fest is quite literally a festival for all tastes.
Keep reading for a look at our most anticipated/recommended films and events at Fantastic Fest 2022!
While Fantastic Fest is known for featuring all manner of genre features over the years, from horror and sci-fi to dark comedies and twisted dramas, they’re also usually home to some stellar action finds. This year sees a few contenders, including South Korea’s Project Wolf Hunting, but it’s Bad City that has me giddy. Director Kensuke Sonomura‘s second film (following his fantastic debut, Hydra) once again sees him pulling double duty as fight choreographer, and if you’ve seen Baby Assassins, Manhunt, and numerous others, you know that’s a very good thing indeed. The story follows a tough cop assigned the task of bringing down some vicious criminals, and what follows looks to be a whole lot of knife fights, shootouts, and beatdowns. Add in the mesmerizing Tak Sakaguchi in a badass supporting role, and I am in the bag. (Rob Hunter)
One Cut of the Dead remains one of the greatest screening experiences I’ve ever had at Fantastic Fest. When the film was finally released to mass audiences on streaming services and discs, I spent six months traveling from friend’s house to friend’s house trying to recreate that FF screening by watching their astonished reactions. I do not think this French remake can pull off the same effect, but I’m damn curious to see how they reimagine Shin’ichirô Ueda’s original, gonzo ode to filmmaking. Making things even a little stranger is that Final Cut is directed by The Artist‘s Michel Hazanavicius. Huh. I can’t quite reconcile those two vibes, but again, I’m sure eager to see how this all plays out. Also, Final Cut was meant to play at this year’s Sundance, but when the film festival went online, Hazanavicius pulled the screenings. Respect. If it’s anything like One Cut of the Dead, it’s just gotta play in front of a crowd. (Brad Gullickson)
As an unapologetic horror-musical fanatic, I feel compelled (if not obligated) to spin a blurb about Fantastic Fest’s lone musical, Give Me Pity!, from writer/director Amanda Kramer. Disco superstar Sissy St. Clair is basking in the glow of taping her very own television special. That is until a shadowy figure begins stalking her, giving her an alternate meaning of triple threat! From the plot synopsis, I’m going to cautiously put out there that it might be a take on Phantom of the Opera — the diva gets a creepy patron that eventually drives her mad, but with perhaps a slightly slashier bent. The trailer seems to be teetering precariously on the precipice of campy and cringy, but, as we know from Ladyworld (2018), that is Amanda Kramer’s happy place. (Lisa Gullickson)
The V/H/S anthology franchise is now five films deep, and 2013’s V/H/S/2 remains the best installment. The heavy hitter in that entry is “Safe Haven,” obviously, but the other three shorts are still great fun. That includes Jason Eisener‘s “Slumber Party Abduction,” and now Eisener and co-writer John Davis have blown it up into its own feature. Two groups of kids, some punk teenagers and some imaginative preteens see their feud interrupted by an invasion of vicious aliens. Chaos ensues. The short’s singular downside was the utterly cruel final shot of the family dog, but I’m happy to report that in addition to dropping the found footage angle, Eisener also wisely left the dog completely out of the movie. (Rob Hunter)
I may be an irredeemable sentimentalist, but I’m also a sucker for movies about filmmaking — the more maudlin and navel-gazy, the better. In Leonor Will Never Die, director Martika Ramirez Escobar pays enthusiastic homage to the Filipino action films of the 70s and 80s and the women who dared to make them. Leonor is a retired screenwriter who discovers she has one last story she is dying to tell. Her son, however, wants her to focus less on her strapping, well-greased protagonist, Ronwaldo, and more on being a more conventional old lady. I had the privilege of seeing Leonor Will Never Die at Sundance, and it roundhouse kicked me right in the feels. It’s about passion, grief, and the healing power of cinema. (Lisa Gullickson)
Since the release of his 2010 documentary The People vs. George Lucas, filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe has built his filmography around exploring the relationships between audiences and iconic filmmakers from Alfred Hitchcock (78/52) to Ridley Scott (Memory: The Origins of Alien) to William Friedkin (Leap of Faith). His latest is an exploration of David Lynch’s obsession with The Wizard of Oz that promises appearances from John Waters, David Lowery, and Karyn Kusama. That sounds like a delightful hang. (Neil Miller)
Sometimes all you want in a film is mouth-watering food porn, dark laughs, and a wicked commentary on class. If that’s your mood, Mark Mylod‘s The Menu looks ready to satiate your appetite. Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult star as a couple invited to an exclusive island restaurant where a legendary chef (Ralph Fiennes) is preparing an epic, one-of-a-kind meal for them and other esteemed guests. A straight horror film would spin this into a simple tale of cannibalism, but Mylod and writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy appear to have much richer targets in mind. (Rob Hunter)
As mentioned in the Bad City blurb above, Fantastic Fest knows how to feature action gems from all around the world. Pair that with South Korea’s high consistency when it comes to delivering exhilarating action movies, and you just know that Kim Hong-seon‘s Project Wolf Hunting is going to be a banger. Midnighter audiences at TIFF reported this as one of the bloodiest films they’ve seen in recent years, and that’s no small thing considering the likes of The Sadness and Terrifier 2 are also out there spilling gallons of blood. The film is set on a cargo ship carrying dangerous prisoners and… something else. (Rob Hunter)
Fantastic Fest has a long, wonderful, and weird history of Secret Screenings. From some legendary screenings early in the fest’s history (There Will Be Blood and Pan’s Labyrinth) to some extremely odd choices (RoboGeisha and Helldriver) to the ones that came out of left field and melted every brain in the room (Split and Goodnight Mommy), these secret screenings are always the hottest ticket of the fest. Can 2022’s return to a big in-person fest deliver surprise screenings that rise to the level of The Lighthouse or I Saw the Devil? We certainly hope so. (Neil Miller)
Ultraman gets the Shin Godzilla treatment? Sold. Director Shinji Higuchi retains the delightful cheese found within the classic Japanese television show but seeks to attach a modern purpose to the kaiju-stomping shenanigans. Acting alongside Drive My Car‘s Hidetoshi Nishijima is writer/editor Hideaki Anno, performing the enormous silver protector via motion capture. Shin Ultraman doesn’t tackle environmental peril. Instead, Higuchi and Anno consider how our love for sixties-era monster mashes possibly inspired a cultural fetishization of the military. Explosions “Yay!” on the big screen. Explosions “Boo!” in the real world. What responsibility does the film fan hold for the hellish environment around them? (Brad Gullickson)
It’s not Fantastic Fest without rescuing some films from obscurity. Solomon King is a seventies funk action extravaganza that erupted straight from the skull of producer, writer, director, and star Sal Watts. The narrative involves an assassinated princess, the CIA, and an oil kingpin. Good, good, good. What’s most exciting is how those plot mechanics were achieved on a shoestring budget, using properties already owned by Watts as locations as well as supplying the wardrobe straight from his closet. Solomon King hits screens with a crisp restoration accomplished by the boutique distributor, Deaf Crocodile. (Brad Gullickson)
Call me batty, but my mind palace is a broken-down Victorian caddy corner to the intersection of cute and creepy. And, guess what? Alberto Vásquez‘s Unicorn Wars looks right up my artfully cobwebbed alley. His eight-and-a-half minute short, “Unicorn Blood,” starring Moffy the toxic teddy and his fraternal twin, Gregorio, is a translucent, twisted, water-colored fairy tale that is both candy coated and repulsive. But, from the trailer, its feature-length extrapolation, Unicorn Wars, looks like a far more saturated and targeted takedown of the children’s animated fantasy-adventure genre. As much as I would’ve loved to have seen Vásquez’s signature illustration style blown up to a 90-minute trippy, irreverent fantasy film, I’m looking forward to the nauseating nostalgia of Unicorn Wars. (Lisa Gullickson)
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