Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Todd Gilchrist
October 1, 2013 12:42 PM
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What Makes Fantastic Fest Unlike Any Other Festival In America

Although most are loathe to admit it, that second half also gives attendees a slightly better chance for something resembling a good night's sleep, thanks to an absence of must-see events every single night (after Tuesday’s 11:00pm "Master Pancake" show, for example, fans could find their way home to their beds without missing anything).

But screenings of films like “The Congress" were as full as when they were shown earlier in the festival, this time with buoyed interest from attendees because of the awards they brought home. Although Michel Gondry's latest, "Mood Indigo," screened over the weekend, it found its greatest audience on Wednesday night, after his increasingly familiar brand of creativity took second place to the idiosyncrasies of folks like Sono, Chow and others.

Wednesday night culminated with two screenings of "Metallica: Through the Never," a film that seemed to polarize audiences – albeit less in terms of quality than just general interest: If you were a fan of the band, then the film is a must-see masterpiece, but if you could care less about their iconic approach to heavy metal, there were countless other films to watch instead. Nevertheless, appearances by members of the band certainly encouraged folks to check out the film, and it ended up providing a great introduction for the evening's climactic event, Heavy Metal Karaoke. (If you haven’t noticed by now, karaoke is as essential a staple of this festival as the films themselves.)

Although the closing night party wrapped things up in a suitably destructive, operatic fashion, there were lots of great films to see on the final day of programming, including "The Zero Theorem," Terry Gilliam's remarkable and really entertaining meditation on the meaning of human existence and the universe as a whole. Nacho Vigalondo, the festival's de facto mascot and enfant terrible, screened his first film "Timecrimes," and then signed copies of the soundtrack -- which were made available for the first time ever, on vinyl, by the Alamo Drafthouse's offshoot boutique Mondo Releasing.

But even if you couldn’t score a ticket to “Danger Gods," a hugely entertaining conversation with a handful of 1970s and '80s stunt men which produced some amazing (and amazingly unsafe) anecdotes about old action movies, the closing night party felt like an exclamation point to that event, as members of the panel dove off the roof of the Drafthouse and otherwise risked life and limb to entertain the drunken denizens of Fantastic Fest.

The final party was predictably reckless -- featuring a free tattoo booth, a dunking tank for folks who wanted to knock Badass Digest Editor-in-Chief Devin Faraci in the drink, and all of the dollar beer you could drink. But even in its wanton irresponsibility -- the "Almost Human" filmmakers started what will undoubtedly become a new tradition of trading shots with an opponent, literally, by drinking alcohol and slapping each other – nothing seemed out of place, and nothing really overshadowed the reason that everyone was there: namely, to celebrate genre films.

Particularly after the festival was displaced to north Austin, at a Drafthouse that wasn't quite as nestled in a hospitable location as its original location at the South Lamar, it was essential that the festival held onto its personality. And after eight days of films, it was safe to say that the people who stuck it out felt just as hung over, just as tired, and most importantly, just as exhilarated by their experience as in years past.

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