Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Cole Clay // Critic
It’s day six of Fantastic Fest and we aren’t quite done yet. The loyal FF’ers just might make it with enough coffee injected directly into their veins. At this point we are all just shells of the people we were on day one. But I got to be honest, the food at the Alamo is all starting to taste the same, but the films are still just as eclectic and vibrant as ever.
The Alamo was relatively quiet throughout the day, most of the festival goers took the afternoon off to relax in the Highball to indulge in the Leonard Maltin game with the man, and the myth himself in attendance. Although we didn’t participate in the game, the jovial atmosphere permeated the Highball and didn’t let up through the rest of the day.
The time was 5 p.m. and the theater reached a fever pitch of excitement now that the announcement has been made to start seating for the secret screening. The Alamo’s fearless leader Tim League perpetually teased the identity of the screening to audiences in the packed auditoriums. Every year League builds up the secret screening to be something larger than life and by and large it never disappoints. There were rumors that the film in question was BIRDMAN, STRETCH, or JUPITER ASCENDING. It very well could have been one of these films, but we will keep the tradition alive and wait until the review portion of the recap to reveal the identity; even though you will probably just skip down to it anyway. (Hint: The film was screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.)
Fantastic Fest wouldn’t be quite the same without Austin local Elijah Wood, who has showcased three films in as many years, and for some time the word on the street was that he wouldn’t be in attendance this year even though his film OPEN WINDOWS is screening. Much to our surprise, there he was schmoozing with friends, fans and will be walking the red carpet as well. (Our interview with Elijah Wood is coming soon!)
It was finally time to screen SXSW favorite THE GUEST with screenwriter Simon Barrett in attendance for the festivities. Sorry for the folks at home, but this was a screening experience that you had to see to believe; audiences members cheered in unison celebrating a film that embodies everything remarkable about Fantastic Fest. Immediately as the credits rolled fans erupted in applause and gave Barrett a standing ovation. Maybe that enthusiasm could have been a result of the fireball shots with Tabasco that were distributed mid-way through the film.
Our review and interview with the cast and crew of THE GUEST (here).
OK, here it is the part that you all skipped ahead to see – the secret screening was the Austrian film GOODNIGHT MOMMY. Yeah, we hadn’t heard of it either; in fact we had no clue what the title was until the film ended because League commenced the screening without revealing the title. This was a good enough film in a certain regard, but all the hype from the secret screening proved to be ultimately a disappointment.
GOODNIGHT MOMMY is a vexing film that isn’t short on tension, or mystery, and is led by an eerie performance from two identical twins, Elias and Lukas Schwartz. Maybe this screening was put up on too high of a pedestal. To play devil’s advocate, GOODNIGHT MOMMY is a film that otherwise might not have received the attention if it wasn’t screened at the Alamo. Fantastic Fest is a place that celebrates films like GOODNIGHT MOMMY that just don’t quite fit in anywhere else. Overall, the film had a strong response and will emerge as essential viewing once the festival has wrapped.
Briefly, a film that deserves some attention is a horror-comedy from New Zealand called HOUSEBOUND. It’s part supernatural bone-chiller, part, Scooby Doo and incredibly hilarious. It doesn’t seem like a film many people are talking about at the festival, however it was a breath of fresh air and is highly recommended if you are looking for a silly good time.
We wish all of you could be here with us enjoying what has been by far the most incredible day of the festival. Yeah, we probably say that about everyday, but day six has been one for the record books. In closing, stop what you’re doing and go see THE GUEST as soon as possible!
All ticket and screening information can be found at fantasticfest.com.