Fantastic Fest is actually four days into a week-long run here at the Alamo Drafthouse, but due to some technical problems with the Fest’s online ticketing system, yesterday was actually my second day of attendance. After adding an online ticketing option for badgeholders this year, Festival attendees have discovered that picking up your tickets online might not be all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve also got mini-reviews of Short Fuse (Fantastic Fest’s horror-shorts collection) and Urban Explorer (a “teenagers-trapped-underground” horror flick) after the jump, folks.
The big story amongst the people I’ve been talking to this week has been Fantastic Fest’s online ticketing system, and the merits (and demerits) of using said system. As I noted in a previous Fantastic Diary, securing tickets (here they’re called “boarding passes”) during last year’s Festival involved getting downtown at an ungodly hour, standing in line out in the early-morning Texas heat, and then securing passes…which sometimes meant that one would secure tickets and have hours until they had a screening to attend. It was not a good system.
At least, that’s what I thought when Fantastic Fest 2011 got started. All I knew was, I didn’t wanna go through all that again, and the idea of being able to secure passes online seemed like a massive improvement. Now that we’re three days into the Festival, I can confirm that this sentiment has not changed: online ticketing seems like a good idea, but in practice? It’s been the source of some pretty serious frustration for those attending Fantastic Fest 2011 (particularly journalists and online bloggers).
With the old system, getting in line early meant landing tickets that corresponded with your willingness to get up early and stand in line: if you were a die-hard fan (or really looking forward to something), you could all but guarantee your entry into the film-in-question by getting in line early. Under the online ticketing system, a random number is generated for those “standing” in the virtual queue, which means that—even if you’re in the right place at the right time—bad luck might mean that you end up being 417th in line (as I did this morning). And lemme tell ya: if you end up 417th in line for anything, chances are you’re not going to end up getting what you wanted.
All of that said, I managed to end up #8 in line this morning, which means that I landed tickets to everything I wanted to see today. So, day one was a success, days two and three were a bit of a wash (though I ended up seeing almost everything I wanted to yesterday thanks to some string-pulling), and day four was a runaway success. If you’re playing along at home, that means that Fantastic Fest’s online ticketing system has something between a 50-75% success rate, depending on how you wanna look at it. Make of all that what you will.
But let’s move on. Yesterday, I was downtown at the Drafthouse for nearly 15 hours, running from one end of the South Lamar compound to the other in order to get everything I needed to done: in the morning, I picked up my “boarding passes” for the day, met up with Best Worst Movie’s Andrew Matthews for lunch, interviewed Tom Six and Human Centipede 2 star Laurence Harvey (both were extremely nice, and Six was gracious when I told him I didn’t like Centipede 2 nearly as much as the first one; that interview will be posted October 2nd), checked out the Fantastic Arcade, and then—finally—got around to seeing some movies.
The first thing I saw yesterday was Short Fuse, a collection of horror shorts the Festival had put together. These ranged from the absolutely inexplicable (Thank You, Jesus) to the absolutely awesome (The Unliving), but overall it was a perfectly good way to kill 90 minutes. I hadn’t planned on going into Short Fuse, but when I found myself with a few spare hours to kill and nothing else to do, I finagled my way into the screening. I’m not a “shorts” kinda guy (in apparel or in viewing habits), but I might change my mind on that stance after watching some of these. The undisputed best short of the collection was Curtain, which featured a succubus, a strap-on dildo, and the most hellish lease agreement ever committed to paper. If you somehow manage to get a chance to see Curtain or The Unliving, do so without reservation.
Next, I caught the Mondo screening of An American Werewolf in London (you can read my writeup on that over here), and once that was complete, I wandered outside to wait for the mid-evening screening of Knuckle, the Irish bare-knuckle fighter documentary starring James Quinn McDonagh. I’d run into McDonagh in the parking lot earlier in the day, shaken his hand (the dude’s got a grip that would break a lumberjack’s arm), and wished him well in his fight against Tim League later in the evening (as if he needed it). But once my associate and I exited Werewolf, we decided that we’d like a break, so we opted out of Knuckle at the last minute…
…and promptly changed our minds, snagging tickets to Urban Explorer instead (much like chaos, indecisiveness reigns at Fantastic Fest). Urban Explorer concerns a group of youths—an American, a Venezuelan, an Asian, and…a French girl? I think?—who head into the massive complex of tunnels below Berlin for an evening of (you guessed it) urban exploring. Of course, things don’t go as they planned, and before long one of the group is injured, people get split up, and the brutal denizens living in the tunnels beneath Berlin come out to greet them. The film’s got a pretty solid look and some really strong performances, but nothing here was “Holy shit, you gotta see this movie” material. In retrospect, I probably should’ve stuck with that Knuckle screening.
After that, I met up with a large group of people to attend the You’re Next screening (you can read my full review for that awesome flick here), and once that wrapped, it was two in the morning and time to head home. I have no regrets about attending You’re Next, but if I did, it would be that I missed the Fantastic Debates.
This year, the headlining fight was between Tim League and the aforementioned James McDonagh. The other big-name fight was between Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan (Monaghan reportedly whupped Frodo’s ass). I would’ve been thrilled to catch either of these, but the Fantastic Debates are incredibly difficult to get into (before I landed that ticket to You’re Next, I had a pass to the Debates…but found out later that I wouldn’t have been able to get in, anyway thanks to another snafu with the online ticketing system). Here’s footage of Dominic Monaghan preparing for his fight against Elijah Wood:
And here’s footage of James McDonagh prepping for his fight against Tim League (which, yes, he won):
All in all, my second day at Fantastic Fest 2011 was an absolute blast, but I’m completely wiped out this morning. That said, I’ve got tickets to the late-afternoon screening of Take Shelter, the mid-evening screening of Penumbra (where Don Coscarelli is debuting the first footage from John Dies at The End), and might end up seeing Jose Padhila’s Elite Squad: The Enemy Within if I manage to get downtown quickly enough. If you’re attending Fantastic Fest, remember that Olly Moss is doing an in-store signing of his American Werewolf poster at 1pm, and feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to get together for a beer in-between movies: I’ve made plenty of new buddies this year, and would be happy to make another one.
Stay tuned for more on Fantastic Fest 2011 as it becomes available, folks.