I’m no veteran of film festivals—and indeed, I only started going to Austin’s Fantastic Fest last year. But if it ends up being the only film festival at which I’m a regular, I’m fine with that. It’s a “genre” festival, a term which encompasses high-profile fantasy like Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (complete with Tim Burton on the festival red carpet), sensational (if not SFnal) art films like Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, a surprise screening of M. Night Shyamalan’s SPLIT, and some magnificently disreputable midnight movie trash from all over the world. This year also featured horror short films presented as VR experiences, a “Satanic Panic Escape Room,” and the FF traditional evening of debates settled by fisticuffs at a local boxing gym.
And, yes, well, it happened over a month ago, didn’t it. You may be wondering why I’m only just now getting around to writing about more of the films I saw. Well, when Fantastic Fest 2016 kicked off, I was 37.5 weeks pregnant. The weekend after it ended—the weekend that I originally had planned to use to catch up on my reviews—the baby arrived a week ahead of schedule. So I’ve been a little busy since then.
It would probably take another month altogether to write complete reviews for every film that I saw, so for now I’m going to stick to a few specific highlights. I’ll start with Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, which opened the festival and which launches nationwide this weekend.