I feel like I've been on the road nonstop for the last two months, and I'm leaving again for another trip on Saturday. Because of this, I'm hoping to spend most of August at home in Los Angeles, enjoying the end of the summer with my kids, especially since September means nearly a full month on the road at film festivals each year. There's the Toronto International Film Festival, and then there's Fantastic Fest.

For someone who doesn't go to festivals often, it would be hard to explain why Fantastic Fest remains my favorite film event each year even over Cannes or Sundance. I think every festival has a distinct identity, or at least the ones I attend do, and that's important. If you're just showing a bunch of movies, that's not a festival. If you're creating a curated experience that is designed to bombard an audience with awesome, that's a festival. And that's Fantastic Fest all over.

They typically announce their programming in waves, and today, we've got a look at the first batch of announced titles, with our thoughts punctuating the line-up.

BIG BAD WOLVES (Israel, 2013)
Texas Premiere
Director- Navot Papushado & Aharon Keshales, 110 mins
The directing team behind the 2010 cult smash RABIES return to Fantastic Fest with one of the best genre films of 2013.   

I thought "Rabies" was very good, and I love it when a new culture suddenly starts producing genre fare with a genuinely different perspective on things. I'm excited that these directors are now part of the larger genre film community, and I hope this is just the start of more Israeli filmmakers in the mix.
 
BORGMAN (The Netherlands, 2013)
North American Premiere
Director - Alex van Warmerdam, 113 mins
Something wicked this way comes in the form of the ordinary, the polite and the normal as a drifter and his followers invade the home of a bourgeois family. 

CHEAP THRILLS (United States, 2013)
Regional Premiere
Director - E.L. Katz, 85 mins
A recently fired father facing eviction is paid to take on an escalating series of insane challenges from a rich couple with a twisted sense of humor.

I adore this movie. It's one of the year's very best films, and a nasty bit of business overall. It's a film that sees its upsetting premise through, and it is a showcase for performance, packed full of great ones.
 
COMMANDO - A ONE MAN ARMY (India, 2013)
US Premiere
Director- Dilip Ghosh, 120min
Singing! Dancing! Extreme violence and goofy one-liners from Bollywood's answer to Tony Jaa and Marko Zaror! If Cannon Films were to relocate to India, COMMANDO would be the result!
 
EEGA (India, 2012)
Austin Premiere
Director - SriSaila Sri Rajamouli, 107 mins
A murdered man reincarnates as a fly to wreak vengeance on the villain who took his life and his lover. EEGA is an inventive, insane take on a revenge story unlike anything you've seen before.
 
HALLEY (Mexico/The Netherlands, 2013)
Texas Premiere
Director - Sebastian Hofmann, 83 mins
Though Beto's life may technically be over, he allows himself to experience it one last time before his body completely falls apart in this unique and contemplative horror film. 
 
KID'S POLICE (Japan, 2013)
North American Premiere
Director - Yuichi FUKUDA, 100 mins
When evil criminal organization Red Venus strikes, there's only one team of highly specialized cops who can help. Unfortunately, they've been dosed with anti-aging gas that has turned them all into children.   

I had to read that description four times. I'm still not convinced I'm reading what I'm apparently reading. I love the sound of this, and I pray it delivers on the amazing promise of that synopsis.
 
LFO (Sweden/Denmark, 2013)
World Premiere
Director - Antonio Tublen, 94 mins
A solitary man discovers audio frequencies that open the human mind wide to hypnotic suggestion and, ultimately, his total control in this slyly deadpan dark comedy from Sweden.
 
MAN OF TAI CHI (United States, 2013)
US Premiere
Director - Keanu Reeves, 105 mins
Keanu Reeves stars in and directs this epic tale about a young martial artist who must compete in an underground fight club to protect his way of life. As the fights intensify so does his will to survive.

I'm most curious about this as a contrast to "47 Ronin," which we finally saw a trailer for earlier today. It's a big year for Keanu Reeves and martial arts, and I suspect this is a very different experience than the big-budget film with the CGI monsters.
 
NARCO CULTURA (United States, 2013)
Texas Premiere
Director - Shaul Schwarz, 103 mins
NARCO CULTURA is a graphically disturbing documentary that examines the parallels between the Mexican drug war and the increasingly popular musical style of narcocorridos (drug ballads).

This upset everyone I know who has seen it so far, and I hear it's a technically powerful piece of filmmaking that leaves people rattled. Considering the subject, that seems perfectly acceptable to me.
 
NIGHTBREED - THE CABAL CUT (United Kingdom, 2012)
Texas Premiere
Directors - Russell Cherrington, 144 mins
NIGHTBREED: THE CABAL CUT is a new director's cut of Clive Barker's horror classic that places the film in an entirely different light.

When I was working on "Clive Barker's Dread" for 20th Century Fox, we spent several long afternoons in the basement room of Barker's studio house, filled with giant paintings he'd been working on, and we talked not only about what we were writing but horror in general, horror as a theory, horror films obscure and obvious. Clive talked at length about his frustrations with the theatrical cut of "Nightbreed," and he seemed to consider a director's cut of the film a lost cause at that point. Whatever miracles took place to make this happen, I am so happy to hear it's going to be playing there.
 
NORTHWEST (Denmark, 2013)
Regional Premiere
Director - Michael Noer, 91 mins
A teen hoodlum in Copenhagen becomes entangled in the criminal underworld   
 
NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN (Germany, 2013)
North American Premiere
Director - Katrin Gebbe, 110 mins
Tore, a member of the counter-culture Christian movement Jesus Freaks, is befriended and taken in by a family who play an increasingly cruel, violent game and push his capacity to love to its limits.    
 
ON THE JOB (Philippines, 2013)
US Premiere
Director - Erik Matti, 200 min
Corruption abounds in this stylish, Cannes-selected, ripped-from-the-headlines story of prisoners released on a day pass to work as killers. The cops must bring them in, never knowing how far the corruption spreads and who they can trust.   
 
RESURRECTION OF A BASTARD, THE (The Netherlands, 2013)
Regional Premiere
Director - Guido van Driel, 89 mins
Adapted from his own graphic novel by first time writer-director Guido van Driel, RESURRECTION OF A BASTARD tells the darkly funny, Coen-esque tale of a career thug caught in an existential crisis.   
 
SHE WOLF  (Argentina, 2013)
North American Premiere
Director - Tamae Garateguy, 92 mins
A sexual predator roams the streets and trains of Buenos Aires, a beautiful woman who uses sex to lure in her victims. A potent, punk rock spin on Euro-sleaze influences in this raw, erotic thriller.   

Brazil is, for the record, totally crazy, and I am scared to see what they consider scary at this point. Their soccer games are worse than our most NC-17 slasher fare, so what the hell does a horror film look like to them?
 
VIC + FLO SAW A BEAR  (Canada, 2013)
US Premiere
Director - Denis Côté, 95 mins
An ex-con named Vic and her lover Flo retreat to a sugar shack in a small Quebec town to start anew. Their attempt to live a normal life slowly and disastrously unravels.
 
I look forward to all the great stuff we're going to be seeing and discussing in September, and I'm curious to see how the next few sets of announcements pan out. Fingers crossed on my end for Mark Wheatley's "A Field In England" to show up. And as much as any of the films, I'm curious about this year's venue since this is the fall they'll still be working on rebuilding the Alamo South Lamar location where the festival is traditionally located.

Fantastic Fest will run from September 19 - 26 in Austin, TX.