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Fantastic Fest: 2005.4

Fantastic Fest: 2005.4

That’s a wrap. The first-ever Fantastic Fest has come to an end. For a first-year festival, I don’t think you can ask for a better result. The attendance was robust and the reaction was primarily positive. We had a good turn-out from the media, a nice balance of premieres, and more obscure stuff that will probably never get an American theatrical deal.

It all came to an end Sunday night with the “closing night” selection, Eli Roth’s Hostel. Following a premiere at Toronto, Fantastic Fest screened the still-rough second feature from the Cabin Fever director. And it did not disappoint. Eli has grown and matured as a storyteller. That’s not to say the film wasn’t littered with Eli’s depraved sense of humor (there’s more nudity and blood in the movie than most anything else at theaters today).

It’s best to go into Hostel without knowing much at all. All you should know is that the story follows two American friends as they backpack through Eastern Europe, in search of one last hedonistic trip before settling into grad school. Things eventually become very (very) twisted, and the film makes all kinds of statements about tourism, third-world poverty, pornography (both sex and violence), and much more. Plus, it’s taut and smart and truly entertaining.

Screen Gems and Lions Gate look to be co-releasing the film, but it’s still up in the air about when it’ll hit theaters. It’s definitely not a no-brainer from a marketing perspective, but it delivers. Think An American Werewolf in London meets Saw meets Takashi Miike. In fact, keep an eye open for a chilling and expository cameo from the Japanese director.

So, anyway, once Hostel ended, most of us felt the capper was perfect. No need to see any more Fantastic Fest films, as that one would be hard to top. With some more time in my night, I ventured over to watch Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It was an awesome diversion and a really brilliant film. But back to Fantastic Fest…

There have been recaps all over Aint It Cool News, HD For Indies, and there should be some upcoming coverage from outlets like Paste and The Austin Chronicle. But, I think my own self-satisfying write-up comes in this report from Jette at Cinematical in her otherwise mixed review of my fest pick, GORA:

“It was 3 am by the time we got home, but my brother immediately opened the laptop and started surfing the Web. Ah, youth. The next morning, he showed the the official G.O.R.A. Web site, including a desktop wallpaper that he’d put on his own laptop. (I’m just glad he didn’t put it on mine.) He also told me he wants to buy the DVD. Matt Dentler, you may have converted someone to the cult of G.O.R.A.”

Sounds like a successful festival to me.

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