The Audience Award went to Studio Ghibli entry “The Tale of Princess Kaguya,” director Isao Takahata’s delicately hand-drawn retelling of a classic Japanese folktale now well-voiced in English by Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Lucy Liu, Beau Bridges and more. New Ghibli films from Miyazaki will be missed, but Takahata, who directed 1988’s “Grave of the Fireflies,” carries the animation studio’s torch with mastery.
The “Next Wave” Spotlight Competition prizes were given to “It Follows,” David Robert Mitchell’s creepy STD horror tale that wowed Cannes Critics’ Week in May 2014. Mitchell also picked up the Best Screenplay prize for his deadly serious, artful chiller that will end up topping horror geek’s best-of lists at the end of the year. (Interview with David Robert Mitchell here.)
Ukrainian first-timer Miroslav Slaboshpitsky was shut out of the Foreign Language Oscar for his grueling “Lord of the Flies”-like “The Tribe,” also out of Cannes, but he got some love at Fantastic Fest in winning the “Next Wave” Best Director prize. Set in a boarding school for the deaf, the teens speak entirely in sign language. Thus Slaboshpitsky’s nimble, purely cinematic direction relies on gesture and movement to speak for these characters as they hurtle toward apocalyptic doom.
Cutie-pie Lou Taylor Pucci won “Next Wave” Best Actor for Drafthouse Films pickup “Spring,” a thrilling sci-fi romance in which he plays a grieving American who travels to Italy and is shaken out of his nihilism by a dangerously alluring paramour. Fest discovery Amy Everson picked up Best Actress for “Felt,” “Toad Road” director Jason Banker’s effective, bare-bones portrait of a woman artist who hides in alter egos and self-isolation.
Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz’s Cannes hit “Alleluia” nearly swept the Fantastic Features section, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Laurent Lucas and Best Actress for Lola Dueñas. Du Welz shocked in 2004 with his backwoods-breakdown-gone-hideously-awry “Calvaire” but here has finally tapped into flesh-and-blood characters in a gory, French-language re-imagining of “The Honeymoon Killers.” Tetsuya Nakashima, Maiko Tedano and Nobuhiro Monma shared the Best Screenplay prize for “The World of Kanako,” about a former detective’s revelatory search for his missing daughter.
In the Horror Features category, Aussie director Jennifer Kent rightfully took the gold for her classy, elegantly scary “The Babadook” about a single mother coming unglued after her troubled, precocious young son opens a book that giddily promises doom for all. Think “Repulsion” meets “The Innocents” in this brutally original debut where it’s the mind, not the house, that’s haunted. The film won Picture, Screenplay, Actor and Actress. Argentine Martín De Salvo, however, picked up Best Director for his rabies-outbreak thriller “Darkness By Day.”
Gutbuster Comedy Features prizes went to Tommy Wirkola’s “Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead,” Hans Petter Moland’s “In Order of Disappearance” (our review here) and Sylvia Hoeks’ “Bros Before Hos.” Meanwhile, Documentary Features awards went to Jaret Belliveau’s darkly hilarious “Kung Fu Elliot” and Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp’s visually stunning look at plasmodial slime “The Creeping Garden.”