Day one of Fantastic Fest 2010 began with a hiccup in the ticketing system and ended with milk and cookies. The 6th annual genre film festival in Austin, Texas began on Thursday and took a first timer like myself through an out of body experience with Gaspar Noe’s Enter The Void, to a remake of a modern classic with Matt Reeves’ Let Me In and finally home with a severely demented family in Darren Lynn Bousman’s Mother’s Day. Hit the jump to read about Fantastic Fest day one.
Honestly, Fantastic Fest started off not so fantastic. They implemented an online ticket reservation system this year that predictably blew up and caused a mad dash for the box office at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. The volunteers and employees for the festival were champs, though, and seemed to get most people into every movie they wanted. For me, the film I wanted to start my week long adventure with was Enter The Void, which hits limited theaters Friday September 24 and On Demand on September 29. Everything I’d heard about the film lead me to believe it was a marathon viewing experience – a true exercise in film going. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that assessment but I can state for certain that Gaspar Noe (Irreversible) has created a film unlike anything I’ve never seen before. On its most basic level, Enter the Void is a literal first person experience of what happens to someone when they die. For much of the movie, the camera (and there by the audience) are the lead character Oscar, a petty drug dealer in Tokyo who messes with the wrong people. The film is part 2001 A Space Odyssey, part Ghost and a whole bunch of Noe. What I mean by that is, insane “how did they do that camera” moves combined with “I never wanted to see that on film” content. Heavy on subtext, spirituality, sexuality, foreshadowing and winks at a knowing audience, Enter The Void is a experimental narrative film destined to required viewing for film fans.
Instead of rushing to a second film, we decided to relax before going to the next movie. That movie ended up being the opening night extravaganza, Let Me In, Matt Reeves’ adaptation of Let The Right One In by Tomas Alfredson. Everyone will agree that when this movie was announced, “skeptical” was an understatement for how the movie going community reacted to it. In fact, “contempt” might be a better word. However, and you’ve surely heard this already, but Reeves has crafted a reworking of this material that – at its worst – is a worthy companion piece to the original. At its best, it might improve upon it. Ultimately, that decision will be up to the audience but basically it’s the classic Let The Right One In story with some Hollywood money sprinkled here and there, a few points made clearer and a set of fantastic performances by the entire cast. I’m a fan.
And what made the opening night of Let Me In even cooler was the unique introduction by Alamo Drafthouse CEO and Fantastic Fest co-founder Tim League that included him stripping into a Viking outfit, signing karaoke and making the entire audience drink “green blood.” That transitioned to Reeves and composer Michael Giacchino to introducing both the film and the Texas Boys Choir who sang a piece of the score. It was the perfect way to bring the audience from Fantastic Fest fun to Let Me In serious.
Most of the cast (Richard Jenkins and Chloe Moretz were absent), Reeves and Giacchino took the stage after to answer a few questions. Reeves talked about Now & Later candy, which plays a role in the film, and how it was difficult to obtain the rights to the song. They discussed the intense car crash scene, how the bullies enjoyed bullying (they loved it) and if anyone watched the original before making the movie (they hadn’t).
Because that film ran late, we were unable to make our mid-evening film, so instead we headed to the official Fantastic Fest party headquarters, The Highball, to prep for the final film of day one.
Before that started though, everyone in the sold out show was treated to milk and cookies with a note, “Don’t spoil your dinner – Love, Mother.” Yup, the final film was one of the first public screenings of Mother’s Day by Darren Lynn Bousman. Full disclosure – a friend of mine, Joseph White, was the Director of Photography on the film so feel free to take the following with a grain of salt. But, I have to tell you guys something right? Mother’s Day – which has yet to officially announce domestic distribution – is about a set of brothers who end up in their old house only to find a new family living there. They proceed to manipulate and torture the new tenants, as well as friends who are there for a party, until the brother’s mother (Rebecca De Mornay) shows up to straighten everything out. And that’s when things get really messed up. Mother’s Day begins kind of awkwardly as the audience is forced to jump into scenes we know nothing about. After about a half hour, though, once we’ve become comfortable with the characters and situation, Bousman makes us very uncomfortable over and over again. Fantastic effects work and really messed up tortures abound and while they aren’t on the wacky level of the stuff in Saw 2-4, which Bousman directed, their basis in reality make them that much more frightening. The film eventually hits its stride, and some leaps of logic aside, it ends up entertaining as a thriller and a commentary on the roles of women in society. You know, if you are into that sort of thing.
There was a Q&A after the film, but since the film ended about 2:45 a.m. and with the online ticketing system unceremoniously cancelled midday, we skipped it in order to sleep four hours before attempting acquire tickets for day two.
(Side Note – Mother’s Day was proceeded by a short film called The S From Hell that was random, hilarious and worth seeking out. It’s about the Screen Gems TV logo from 1960s and how many people perceive it to be evil.)
With films like that, day one of Fantastic Fest, taught me one thing. I have no idea what to expect from anything here. And that’s a very exciting possibility.