Starting tomorrow, the 2018 Fantastic Fest kicks off in Austin and this year’s lineup features an incredible array of genre-bending projects, plus a few highly anticipated movies as well. The festivities kick off with David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018)and wrap up a week later with Drew Goddard’s Bad Times at the El Royale (which this writer will sadly be missing out on), but in between those two films, Fantastic Fest will also be screening over 150 different features and shorts, making it one of the greatest celebrations of genre filmmaking in North America.
With so many amazing movies and screening events happening over the next week, it was something of a fool’s errand, but this writer put together a list of 15 films from Fantastic Fest’s programming slate that I cannot wait to see over the course of the festival. And just because I’ve already had the chance to screen a few of the selections already at previous fests—Piercing and Lords of Chaos—I didn’t feel it was fair to mention them here (but both are excellent and absolutely worth your time). Additionally, putting Halloween (2018)on this list didn’t feel right, either, as of course it would be one of my most anticipated movies of the fest, and I wanted to keep the spotlight on movies and filmmakers who definitely need it more.
BETWEEN WORLDS (Directed by Maria Pulera)
With the Nicolas Cage-aissance in full bloom this year, I can’t help but be excited whenever I see his name attached to something, particularly anything that has an air of avant-garde filmmaking to it, which seems to be case with Between Worlds. All I know is that whenever there is some kind of cinematic love triangle going on, you have my full-on attention as a viewer. I'm so excited to see what director Maria Pulera and Cage have cooked up with this one.
Festival Synopsis: "Nicolas Cage plays Joe, a lonely trucker whose new girlfriend’s daughter is possessed with the spirit of Joe’s recently deceased wife, creating a love triangle no synopsis can do justice to."
APOSTLE (Directed by Gareth Evans)
As someone who is a huge fan of both Raid films, and who also considers “Safe Haven” to be the best segment in the entire V/H/S anthology series, I have been patiently waiting to see what filmmaker Gareth Evans is going to do next. Which brings us to Apostle, Evans’ second go-around with a cult-based story, so I am stoked to see what he can do with more time and money for his latest. Plus, with a cast that includes Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, and Lucy Boynton, it’s hard for me to not already be geeking out over Apostle.
Festival Synopsis: The year is 1905. Thomas Richardson travels to a remote island to rescue his sister after she’s kidnapped by a mysterious religious cult demanding a ransom for her safe return. It soon becomes clear that the cult will regret the day it baited this man, as he digs deeper and deeper into the secrets and lies upon which the commune is built.
HOLD THE DARK (Directed by Jeremy Saulnier)
I don’t know much about Hold the Dark, except that its directed by the always excellent Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and it features both Jeffrey Wright and Alexander Skarsgård, which sounds like a recipe for awesomeness to me. Hold the Dark hits Netflix later this month, so I’m always grateful to get a chance to see their films on the big screen, since that can be a rare occurrence.
Festival Synopsis: A gripping psychological thriller unfolds in the treacherous Alaskan wilderness when a retired wolf expert is summoned to investigate a child’s disappearance.
LUZ (Directed by Tilman Singer)
I have been hearing amazing things about Luz for months now, and I must admit I am super excited to finally get to see what all the fuss is about at FF 2018. Everybody I’ve spoken to about the film generally won’t give me too many details on what to expect—which I’m guessing means this is a filmic experience that is better served with a shroud of mystery—but either way, Luz is definitely one of my most anticipated films for this year’s fest.
Festival Synopsis: Luz enters a police station at night to report an assault. As the interrogation progresses, it becomes clear a demonic entity wants to possess her in this audacious, psychotropic horror film shot on 16mm.
DESTROYER (Directed by Karyn Kusama)
It’s Karyn Kusama and Nicole Kidman collaborating together—what more is there really to say? Honestly, Destroyer could just be three hours of Kidman reading a phone book in a dimly lit room, and I would be wholly on board with just that, so it is safe to assume that I am an easy mark for this film. Here’s hoping Destroyer just… well, destroys me. I am ready for it.
Festival Synopsis: Nicole Kidman gives the performance of a lifetime as LAPD detective Erin Bell, a human weapon of escalating vengeance, in the brilliantly grounded new drama-action-thriller from Karyn Kusama.
OVERLORD (Directed by Julius Avery)
I’m always of the opinion that we could use more historical horror (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter just didn’t quite get it done for me, honestly), and Overlord looks incredible from the brief glimpses we’ve seen online so far. Plus, any movie that casts Bokeem Woodbine always gets my immediate attention, so Overlord looks to be exactly like my cup of tea.
Festival Synopsis: In the upcoming WWII horror-thriller OVERLORD, a group of American paratroopers drop into Nazi-occupied France on the eve of D-Day. As they struggle to carry out their seemingly impossible mission, they discover a secret Nazi lab carrying out terrifying and bizarre supernatural experiments.
GIRLS WITH BALLS (Directed by Olivier Afonso)
Truth be told, Girls With Balls didn’t hit my radar until I started going through the Fantastic Fest site, but as soon as I read its unforgettable title and the premise of the film, I got very excited, especially since movies about rednecks (regardless of country) are completely my jam. Plus, there is also mention of lethal Chihuahuas in the description for the film, and that just fuels my desire to see this one even more. Director Olivier Afonso has worked for years as a special effects artist in France (he recently did the effects on Raw, which were amazingly horrific), and I look forward to seeing what he can do with his feature film debut.
Festival Synopsis: After winning a competition, a women’s volleyball team heads home aboard their minibus. Forced to take a shortcut, they end up at a tavern where they upset the local degenerate rednecks… and then the hunt begins.
YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER (Directed by Brett Simmons)
Fran Kranz and Alyson Hannigan working with the director of Husk (which is, coincidentally, the film where I coined the term “torture corn”)? YES, PLEASE. As someone who is a big fan of all the talent assembled here, I’m really looking forward to seeing filmmaker Brett Simmons and company take on slasher film tropes, and I’m just hoping for some blood-spattered fun with You Might be the Killer.
Festival Synopsis: Counselors are being killed off at summer camp, and Sam (Fran Kranz) is stuck in the middle of it. Instead of contacting the cops, he calls his friend and slasher-film expert (Alyson Hannigan) to discuss his options.
THE BOAT (Directed by Winston Azzopardi)
Everything I’ve seen about The Boat has given me some serious The Fog meets The Twilight Zone vibes, which means director Winston Azzopardi’s feature film debut seems to be right up my proverbial alley. Isolation stories are also something that really crawl under my skin, so I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of terror on the high seas awaits me once The Boat sets sail. Plus, the fact that the entire film revolves around just one character is incredibly intriguing to me.
Festival Synopsis: A lone fisherman on his daily run finds himself lost in a thick fog which proves impossible to navigate. The worst is yet to come when his encounter with a seemingly abandoned sailboat becomes a fight for survival against an enemy unknown.
TENACIOUS D IN POST-APOCALYPTO (Directed by Tenacious D)
If you would have told me 15 years ago that Jack Black would end up being one of the most consistent creatives working in Hollywood, I may not have believed it, but here we are. I’ve been a fan of Tenacious D – aka The Greatest Band in the World – for years now, and Tenacious D in Post-Apocalypto seems like a pure passion project in every way, and I am here for it. I know this one is headed for YouTube soon, but I’m excited to get to experience this on the big screen before it makes its digital debut.
Festival Synopsis: POST-APOCALYPTO is an original, six-part animated video series from the minds of rock duo Tenacious D, comprised of Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Each frame of every episode was hand-drawn by Jack himself, with every character voiced by Black and Gass, and can be watched via Tenacious D’s YouTube page.
MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU (Directed by Timo Tjahjanto)
The first of two films from Timo Tjahjanto that are playing at Fantastic Fest this year, May the Devil Take You is the more horror-centric of the duo, and as someone who has been consistently thrilled by Tjahjanto’s work as a writer and director (he’s behind the “Safe Haven” segment from V/H/S/2 as well as Killers and Headshot), I am so looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do for this one. It’s probably a stretch to even think this, but if May the Devil Take You is even remotely related to the world of “Safe Haven,” I might actually lose my mind in the theater. In either case, this one is definitely one of my most anticipated of the fest.
Festival Synopsis: At her father’s deathbed, Alfie learns that she and her family must give the Devil his due when he comes to collect on the pact made years before in this electrifying horror film from Indonesian master storyteller Timo Tjahjanto.
THE NIGHT COMES FOR US (Directed by Timo Tjahjanto)
As mentioned, Timo Tjahjanto is bringing two movies to Fantastic Fest this year, and The Night Comes For Us feels like it’s going to fall more on the side of action cinema, but considering his track record (Killers is a lot of fun and Headshot is hugely under-appreciated), I think The Night Comes For Us may end up being one of the more breakneck actioners we’ll see at this year’s festivities. Plus, it also reunites both Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais, and who seriously wouldn’t want to see more of those guys in action together?
Festival Synopsis: A former triad enforcer must protect a young girl while trying to escape his former gang, setting off a violent battle on the streets of Jakarta.
THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK (Directed by Henry Dunham)
I’ve been following The Standoff at Sparrow Creek for a few weeks now, and after hearing all the incredible responses from TIFF, I could not be more excited for this feature film debut from Henry Dunham. I’m a big fan of “talkie” crime mysteries (akin to Reservoir Dogs), and with a cast that includes the likes of James Badge Dale, Gene Jones, Chris Mulkey, and Patrick Fischler, there’s no way I would miss The Standoff at Sparrow Creek on the big screen during this year’s fest.
Festival Synopsis: Over the course of one grueling night, a militia tears itself apart as it searches for the perpetrator of a mass shooting among its own.
UNDER THE SILVER LAKE (Directed by David Robert Mitchell)
While I may not have been a huge fan of It Follows, there’s no denying that as a filmmaker, David Robert Mitchell has an incredibly unique and compelling way of crafting visual stories, which is why I’m supremely curious about Under the Silver Lake. I’m also a huge sucker for LA-based movies, so that could be part of it, but the film also boasts a hugely impressive cast that includes Topher Grace, Andrew Garfield, Jimmi Simpson, Sydney Sweeney, and Riley Keough, so here’s hoping that second time’s a charm for Under the Silver Lake.
Festival Synopsis: From the dazzling imagination that brought you IT FOLLOWS comes a delirious neo-noir fever dream about one man's search for the truth behind the mysterious crimes, murders, and disappearances in his East L.A. neighborhood.
OPEN 24 HOURS (Directed by Padraig Reynolds)
Filmmaker Padraig Reynolds has made a pair of intriguing genre offerings with Rites of Spring and The Devil’s Dolls prior to Open 24 Hours, and as a storyteller who has always seemed to march to the beat of his own cinematic drum, I’m curious to see what he’s going to do as he ventures into slasher territory with his latest movie. Plus, as someone who worked at a convenience store throughout high school (and had a mom who worked the midnight shifts on the weekends), I know firsthand just how crazy weird things can get, especially the later it gets. So, I am very excited to see what kind of murderous mayhem Reynolds has cooked up with Open 24 Hours.
Festival Synopsis: A young woman who had previously set her serial killer boyfriend on fire is now seeking normalcy by getting a job working the overnight shift at a 24-hour convenience store, where things are most definitely not going to be normal.
Keep an eye on our Fantastic Fest 2018 hub to keep up to date on all of our live coverage of the festival from Austin!