Fantastic Fest Preview: 7 Films to Check Out

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James Cole Clay // Film Critic

Last year the Alamo Drafthouse owned website Birth.Movies.Death. came under controversy when their Editor-in-Chief, Devin Faraci, was alleged to have sexually assaulted a number of women over the years. This past week Drafthouse CEO Tim League revealed in a lengthy Facebook post that he had rehired Faraci quietly, which has caused an uproar within the film community. But when Fantastic Fest’s opening night film, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBINGS, MISSOURI, was pulled from the line-up by Fox Searchlight, it’s clear that the controversy has affected the industry as a whole.

There’s much more to this story, which has been covered extensively in trades such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. First and foremost, our thoughts go out to the victims of sexual assault, bullying and harassment as the festival approaches.

Making the transition to previewing a slate of genre films seems inappropriate in times like this, but Fantastic Fest is an institution built on friendships and growth as a family. May we grow from this and build a stronger bond, and watch a good mix of genre fare from around the world while we’re at it.

Here are seven titles to keep an eye on as the fall season approaches:

BODIED

Director: Joseph Kahn
Cast: Calum WorthyJackie Long and Rory Uphold
Screening(s): Sunday, Sept. 24 at 5:15 p.m. and Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 5:15 p.m.

I don’t know much about the premise of BODIED, but I am familiar with the electric personalty of its director. Joseph Kahn, who recently directed Taylor Swift in her obscure music video for “Look What You Made Me Do” and the unlicensed R-rated POWER RANGERS film, is attached to the film, and that means it’s bound to be bold and brash.

BODIED follows an academic named Adam (Calum Worthy) who is involved in the world of battle rap, an unexpected happening that causes Adam to release a side of him he never knew. [Watch the official trailer here]

THELMA

Director: Joachim Trier
Cast: Eili HarboeKaya Wilkins and Henrik Rafaelsen
Screening(s): Thursday, Sept. 21 at 8:50 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 25 at 5:30 p.m.

A supernatural story about a conservative woman who begins to fall in love and discovers she has powers that exceed human possibilities. Word is THELMA is an arthouse version of an X-MEN movie, which isn’t a bad elevator pitch as far as I’m concerned. Plus, director Joachim Trier has a particularly impressive filmography that includes OSLO, AUGUST 31ST. [Watch the official trailer here]

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Colin FarrellNicole Kidman and Barry Keoghan
Screening(s): Friday, Sept. 22 at 8:45 p.m.

Really all you had to say was Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Yorgos Lanthimos and I’d be there running. Lanthimos’ last film, THE LOBSTER, screened at Fantastic Fest two years ago and has since become a cult hit known for its dry absurdist take on the human condition. With this entry sees Lanthimos going for a more horrific tone, that is sure to be in the spirit of his twisted brand of storytelling, along with elegant touches of filmmaking. [Watch the official trailer here]

DOWNSIZING

Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: Matt DamonKristen Wiig and Christoph Waltz
Screening(s): Thursday, Sept. 28 at 6:45 p.m.

Filmmaker Alexander Payne is one of the most celebrated American satirists working in film today. Luckily, Fantastic Fest gets a taste of his latest work DOWNSIZING, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig. The story follows a couple who shrink themselves down five inches tall, because when you’re small, everything is bigger, including your bank account. Say no more; we are there! [Watch the official trailer here]

THE SQUARE

Director: Ruben Östlund
Cast: Claes BangElisabeth Moss and Dominic West
Screening(s): Saturday, Sept. 23 at 8:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 5:15 p.m.

Danish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund’s last film FORCE MAJUERE has slowly become one of the best films I’ve seen in my tenure at the festival, and he returns with his Palm D’or (Cannes Film Festival’s top honor) winning film THE SQUARE. This is yet another satirical drama that takes a look at social hierarchies. Plus, it has a lengthy scene where a man imitates a monkey for 10 or so minutes. [Watch the official trailer here]

BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99

Director: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Vince VaughnDon Johnson and Jennifer Carpenter
Screening(s): Saturday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. and Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 8:45 p.m.

When you think of a bad-ass Vince Vaughn, well, that doesn’t exactly come to mind at all. But coming off a solid reception at the Toronto International Film Festival, BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 is just the bone-breaking good time we’re wanting. Fast paced, fun and violent, also it doesn’t hurt that Zahler’s first film BONE TOMAHAWK is a personal favorite. (Watch the official trailer here]

SUPER DARK TIMES

Director: Kevin Phillips
Cast: Owen CampbellCharlie Tahan and Elizabeth Cappuccino
Screening(s): Saturday, Sept. 23 at 5 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 25 at 11:30 p.m.

I don’t know much about this film other than a colleague recommended it in anticipation for the festival. However the stills and art for the film indicate its a coming of age story where teenagers ride bikes and odd things start to happen. At the very least, this has an eye-catching premise and is a prime example of how taking a chance on a film can pay off in the long run. [Watch the official trailer here]

Fantastic Fest commences today and runs through next Thursday. All ticket and schedule information can be found on the festival’s website: fantasticfest.com.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.