Fantastic Fest: Fantastic Films & Where To Find Them






James Cole Clay// Film Critic

This was FreshFiction’s 5th consecutive year covering the festival and sadly we have to close the books on another year gone by. For those of you who aren’t aware, Fantastic Fest is the world’s largest genre festival that takes place in Austin, TX the 3rd week of September at the Alamo Drafthouse.

 Each year we have gone hard, fast and 2furious with screenings taking in one after the other. This year we had a more of a meditative approach and I think our film selection in this piece reflects that and how our tastes as filmgoers are constantly in flux. Luckily, Fantastic Fest is a place that allows for any film addict to grow and curate their own pallets, you can test your  limits in horror, check out a massive studio premiere ( which is being strategically left off of this list), or delve into foreign films that you may not have taken a chance on otherwise. 

Today, I’ll be taking you along for a ride through some films that caught my attention at the festival, some you can watch on Netflix and there’s a few to catch in arthouse cinemas.


MOOD: Funky/Groovy 

This is Jim Hosking’s ultra weird, yet endearing story of a woman (Aubrey Plaza) in search of a love connection with a bag full of cash and a dance number in her heart. Accompanied by a man masquerading as a hitman (Jemaine Clement) the duo are in search of the man of her dreams, the mysterious Beverly Luff Linn. (Craig Robinson). 

Here’s an excerpt from our review: 

AN EVENING WITH BEVERLY LUFF LINN is an odd gem of a film that can be hard to digest, but at its core, it’s a film about infatuation versus true love. Through Hosking’s heartfelt sentiment (that is articulated through otherworldly characters), the film mines for pathos, even in the more left of center moments. 

You will be able to find AN EVENING WITH BEVERLY LUFF LINN on VOD on Oct. 19th. 



MOOD: Whimsical & Sensual 

BORDER is a movie best served in cold. This is Sweden’s pick for Best Foreign Language film and is a sharp turn from the silly Skandanavian films we have seen at the festival in the past. I can’t say too much about the premise, but it’s about a disfigured woman (Eva Melander) who begins to uncover her identity in increasingly fantastical ways when she meets a similarly disfigured man (Eero Milonoff).

BORDER finds mystery in a folkish tale about discovering your tribe and looking to belong. It has a bold turning point that will either have you beginning for more or looking away in confusion. Director Ali Abbasi takes a grounded approach to a whimsical story that pays off in surprising ways. 

NEON is launching a full-scale Oscars attack for BORDER and if you live in a large market you will be able to see the film October 26th. 



Mood: You better get comfy and put your phone away 

BURNING is a South Korean film starring Steven Yeun (THE WALKING DEAD) and is directed by the masterful Chang-dong Lee (POETRY). It revolves around three friends, a mystery, class discrepancy and jealousy. Its a sumptuous piece of work that no doubt sparks a rich conversation post-credits, but the film watching experience may be too demanding for some. 

Draped with a stillness that rarely moves, yet director Chang Dong Lee is commenting on how we constantly compare ourselves to others by what is on the outside and rarely embracing our internal gifts. 

BURNING is being released on VOD and in limited theatrical run by Well Go USA on November 6th. 



Mood: Dark & Twisted

A far cry from Gareth Evan’s (THE RAID) previous works, APOSTLE operates as a pitch black revenge story loaded with gothic mythology, twisted ideals that are steeped in dread and horror. Star Dan Stevens adds a bit of goofy charm amongst the horror to make a perfectly balanced blend of action, dread, and gorgeous photography. 

Here’s an excerpt from our review: 

APOSTLE works as a director’s showcase, in terms of style, narrative and world building. This is a film that doesn’t skimp on the details and rewards the more relaxed viewer with a manic jolt of action and a finale of biblical proportions.

APOSTLE will be released upon the world when it hits Netflix October 12th.



Mood: Hazy/Frigid 

This movie continues to reveal itself in mysterious ways, operating in both spooky and thrilling ways Jeremy Saulnier (GREEN ROOM) takes a big step forward into the Alaskan wilderness with his fourth film. As each day passes I think about this film and each day it rises higher in my list of top films of the year. Take a chance and check it out and then watch it again. 

Excerpt from our review:

HOLD THE DARK is poetic as it exposes many ideas of the human condition and our will to survive when darkness takes hold. The characters who inhabit this space are looking for something more, and luckily Saulnier’s direction provides that clarity in ways that subvert expectations.

HOLD THE DARK is available today on Netflix, what are you waiting for?!


MOOD: Confused/Captivated 

I am breaking my own rules here by discussing a major studio film, but SUSPIRIA is too mind-altering not to mention. More of an estranged cousin than a remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 Italian classic, director Luca Guadagino (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME) crafted a film so wonky, weird and radical that it’s incredibly difficult to discuss in the scope of this article. 

However, this is a film with many faces, on one hand, it’s a feminist text, a socio-political thriller and through all the madness unleashes itself into a full-on onslaught of horror that’s a spectacle of the highest order. Starring Tilda Swinton, Chloe Grace Moretz and Dakota Johnson, this is a film that appropriately never asks permission and disregards forgiveness. 

SUSPIRIA summons you to the theater when it hits the big-screen October 26th. 



Mood: Shocking/Heartbreaking 

Do you remember that amazing movie LOCKE starring Tom Hardy where he drove in a car and spoke on the phone for 90 minutes? Well, THE GUILTY takes a bottled premise and expands the audience’s mind for a tyrannical look at a “911” operator in Denmark. 

Gustav Moller’s film is short, bitter and completely captivating. It deals with helping others while searching for your own redemption. The beauty of foreign films being nabbed by American distributors is its a way for us stateside to observe another culture that really may not be too different from our own. Here we hear about the disintegration of a family and we are taken on that journey through a mesmerizing performance by Jakob Cedergren all through a series of phone calls.  

This premiered back at Sundance in January and given its still on the festival circuit should be the vote of confidence you need to check this one out.

Magnolia is planning a limited to expanded release beginning October 19th.


Mood: Silly and buzzy 

This one is more of a fun lark for any dedicated horror fans. Don’t let the SYFY label frighten you, its a meta-horror take that finds success in its cast led by Fran Krantz (CABIN IN THE WOODS) and Allison Hannigan (HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER) who keep the film entertaining even when it veers off into its more “made for TV” moments. 

The problem with meta-horror is SCREAM perfected it, CABIN IN THE WOODS took it further, but this becomes a bit tedious at times with over-explaining plot devices. However, for a SYFY original its completely worth your time. Overall, this is a solid piece of slasher fun that doesn’t match the greatness of CABIN IN THE WOODS, but that feat was nearly impossible from the get-go. 

YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER premieres on SYFY October 6th. 

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.