DAY ONE - A NEW HOME FOR AN OLD FRIEND
Hello from Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, the largest and most important genre film festival in the USA. Now that Alan has concluded his postcards from Strasbourg, Paul if I can pin him down long enough and myself, can get on with ours.
Fantastic Fest is a little different this year. The event has relocated to a new location miles out of town in the burbs of North Austin among the endless strip malls and freeway junctions. I have been coming here for years, but I never realised how large Austin is. You arrive in town and live a the bubble that is the festival, which in past years consisted of about a square mile of downtown. The festival was due to be held at the refurbished and extended Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, its normal home, but delays in the refurbishment resulted in the event having to be moved.
My hotel is beside I-183, (Interstate 183) that's what they call the roads here, and under a very impressive if ugly Spaghetti Junction like structure.
Once you get used to the new location, it is not that bad. My hotel is fine and the cinema is only a 10-minute walk away. However, no one walks here. My hotel is full of Fantastic Fest attendees. They will quite happily stand and wait outside the hotel for longer than it takes to walk to the cinema for the shuttle bus to drive the few hundred yards.
If you remember reading my postcards of last year, I recounted my experiences with the festival ticketing. This year there is a new system. So far, it has been going very smoothly and I'm getting tickets to see everything that I would like. Also, and most importantly, I'm really really pleased to say that the new location, which had been a concern to lots of people, has done nothing to dampen or change the normal easy-going friendly atmosphere of the event.
It is day three as I write this and the festival is in full swing. One of the great delights for me personally when attending Fantastic Fest is catching up with the vast number of friends that I've made here in Texas over the years. Opening-night was a blur of familiar faces. You just take off with people where you left off the last time. There is the odd occasion when someone comes up to you, Hey Ian, nice to see you, and I have no idea who they are. Shaking hands I try and catch a quick glimpse of their festival badge, but sods law usually means it's turned the wrong way round so I'm still stuck. As the conversation continues, I'm desperately trying to remember where and when we had last met. Eventually something will be said that rings a bell and it all falls into place. There is the odd occasion that nothing falls into place, so when the conversation finishes, I go on my way none the wiser.
So, what about the films I hear you say. Well, this year's programme is as strong and varied as usual and all the films that you would expect to be here are here. FrightFest highlights BIG BAD WOLVES, CHEAP THRILLS, WE ARE WHAT WE ARE plus 2012 selection NIGHT BREED: THE CABAL CUT feature along with Toronto Midnight Madness selections ALMOST HUMAN, PROXY, RIGOUR MORTIS and THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODIES TEARS.
The festival kicked off with the world premiere of MACHETE KILLS. Director Robert Rodriguez and stars Alexa Vega and Danny Trejo, Machete himself were in attendance. In this sequel of the 2010 Grindhouse hit, Machete is recruited personally by US President (Charlie Sheen) for an impossible mission. The reviews have been mixed, but personally I found it heaps of fun and an entertaining start to the festival.
Next up was the remake of PATRICK, the 1970 staple of Australian cinema. Sharni Vinson (YOU'RE NEXT, BAIT 3D) stars as Kathy, a nurse that takes a liking to comatose Patrick, who seems to have telekinetic abilities. Charles Dance adds gravitas to proceedings in the Malcolm MacDowell role and Rachel Griffiths, remember her from MURIEL'S WEDDING, has fun with the role as Matron Cassidy. NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD director Mark Hartley, whom Paul and I spent a bit of time with over the weekend, is in charge. His first feature works on many levels. Old fashioned, but modern in equal measures it is full of well-timed jump scares. Hartley is not reinventing the wheel here, what he is doing is presenting a well crafted solid confection that works.
DetectiveDownsthumb630xauto37657Day two found me settling down in front of DETECTIVE DOWNS. A genre busting thriller from Norway whose star Svein Andre Hofso, dreams of being a private detective. The problem is our hero suffers from Downs Syndrome and no one as much as he tries will take him seriously. One day a glamorous older woman walks into his office and hires him to find her missing National Speed Skating hero husband. In what could have been a recipe for disaster, falling into the trap of schmaltz and lets face it exploitation, in the hands of director Bard Breien, it skillfully sidesteps the pitfalls and with a winning, touching and funny performance from Svein, delivers a solid and, what's more, a gripping detective movie.
Until next time.
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