September is an exciting month in Austin. The weather starts to cool down, it’s about time to get ready for Halloween, and Fantastic Fest happens.
Running September 18-22, 2014, Fantastic Fest is an annual film festival programmed by the people at Alamo Drafthouse who specialize in science fiction and horror genre films. The event typically brings big movie stars and film premieres to our fair city, and this year looks like it’ll be no exception.
There are a lot of special things happening at this year’s Fantastic Fest. In its tenth year, it’s the first festival to take place at the newly reopened South Lamar Drafthouse. South Lamar and then Highball had hosted Fantastic Fest every year, except for last year when it was held at the most northern location in Lakeline. This year, Fantastic Fest is back where it belongs (even if it’ll still be surrounded by construction).
Having been born here, it’s amazing to watch Austin get bigger around me. I genuinely believe Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest are partly responsible for that. I’ve talked to multiple people who all say, “I moved to Austin because of Alamo Drafthouse.” Fantastic Fest also brings many celebrities, movie stars and famous directors to Austin, exposing them to the opportunities here.
One of the things that makes Fantastic Fest so exceptional is the gala red carpet screenings and premieres of upcoming films. This year, one of those films will include John Wick, with Keanu Reeves in attendance again. Jake Gyllenhaal will also be in attendance for the U.S. Red Carpet Premiere of Nightcrawler.
Other notable films you may recognize are V/H/S Viral, Drafthouse Films’ ABC’s of Death 2, and Kevin Smiths’ Tusk. Currently there are 80 films on the slat for Fantastic Fest, so I can’t list every one that’s playing. If you’re thinking about getting a day pass, head over to FantasticFest.com and check out the current programming.
In addition to the feature film screenings and premieres, there is also a segment of Fantastic Fest called Fantastic Market/Mercado Fantastico. A Market in this context refers to films that are in progress and/or looking for distribution buyers. This year, it includes nine Latin American in-progress films that will be screened at the festival. The screenings will be accompanied by a keynote speech from film makers Eli Roth and Nicholas Lopez, as they receive the La De Dios Award and present a premiere screening of their film, The Stranger.
There are also a number of short film blocks, as well as shorts paired with features. Edgar Wright will be there. And fresh off Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn will attend to moderate the red carpet premiere of David Yarovesky’s The Hive.
Beyond the Films
Nerd Rap Throwdown
Although this is a film festival, films aren’t the only attractions. One of those events that’s open to everybody, not just badge holders, is the Nerd Rap Throwdown where you can watch or rap about nerd culture with a hip hop beat. Spaces are limited, but currently still available on the Fantastic Fest website.
Another thing that’s available to the public is Fantastic Arcade, showcasing different games by independent developers and playable in the theater lobby.
Birthday Armageddon Opening Night Party
There are other giant sized events planned, like the 10 year Birthday Armageddon opening night party. I’m not quite sure what to expect here. Last year, the opening night party featured stunt jumping from the theater roof and a fireball explosion photo booth. Apparently this year’s opening night party claims to feature costumed creatures, human pinatas, a breakdance competition and a food fight. I should wear my nicest suit, right?
Every year, Fantastic Fest features something called Fantastic Debates. During this event, two people debate their opposing view points, and then settle it in a boxing ring.
The fight I’m looking forward to the most this year is Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League vs. director Ti West on the subject of found-footage horror films. That’s going to be a lot of fun. There will also be a debate between BitTorrent.com’s Matt Mason and writer/producer and Twitch editor Todd Brown about whether or not BitTorrent is the savior of independent film.
Don’t Miss MondoCon
This year features one more event. It isn’t really part of Fantastic Fest, but it’s kind of related. This year, Mondo Gallery is putting on their first ever convention called MondoCon on September 20-21st. It’s a celebration of geek culture, featuring toys, posters and vinyl records.
This is MondoCon’s first year, but they want to put in everything they love about conventions and remove everything they hate about conventions. This means MondoCon and Fantastic Fest VIP attendees get to experience Austin culture with food trucks, beer and a full bar at Marchesa Hall.
They also organized a ticketing system, so attendees can avoid standing in line for panels. That’s kind of the best thing ever because lines at conventions are the worst.
Although MondoCon is on the other side of town, VIP Fantastic Fest badge holders have automatic access. For everyone else, there are still day passes available at Mondo-Con.com. There will be a shuttle going between Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and the Marchesa Hall for attendees of both festivals.
Coming into its tenth year, the 2014 Fantastic Fest looks like a blast. Check it out, get a day pass, hang out at The High Ball, see if you can spot a celebrity, and see some exceptional genre films you won’t see anywhere else.
Should I keep an eye out for you at this year’s Fantastic Fest?
Cover photos by Jack Plunkett/Fantastic Fest.