While other live events continue to fall victim to COVID, Fantastic Fest lives on. Major events like the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas and beloved local events like Austin’s Pecan Street Festival were cancelled just weeks or days before they were scheduled to go live. Fantastic Fest, however, has figured out how to adapt. It will take place in Austin’s famous Alamo Drafthouse theaters from September 23 – 30.
Since Fantastic Fest’s debut in 2005, fans of horror and thinking-outside-the-box genre filmmaking have adored it. Previous editions have featured films like the reboot of Halloween and the controversial, yet hilarious and touching, Jojo Rabbit. Classics such as Zombieland, There Will Be Blood, and John Wick also held their U.S. premieres at Fantastic Fest.
Missing this year will be red carpets, memorabilia sales, and indoor parties and mixers, but the films will be there. Some outdoor special events will be added.
The festival will spread out. The films, usually all playing at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, will now show at two additional sites, the Alamo Mueller and the Alamo Village. Also, in order to facilitate social distancing and contact tracing, the badges normally used at film festivals will be replaced this year with individual tickets.
Health measures required by the state of Texas will be enforced. Attendees will need to present either a vaccine certificate or have had a negative COVID test from a state-approved test provider within 24 hours of each screening for entry. While in the theaters, mask will be required except while eating or drinking.
You can stay home and still have access to about half of the feature films. Fantastic Fest at Home begins at the close of the live event, running September 30 – October 11. [email protected] badge holders will have access to films for a 48-hour window after the film becomes available. Films will be released daily during the run of the virtual fest.
Besides the features, [email protected] viewers will also be able to view short film blocks and a selection of films from previous years. These films, some of them hard to find, will be available for the entire duration of the virtual event.
Organizers have promised they will also provide a memorable virtual party.
On the Screen
In a release provided by Fantastic Fest, Director of Programming Annick Mahnert expressed enthusiasm for the Fest’s 2021 schedule. He said, “With films coming from as far as Senegal, Latvia, Iran and Kazakhstan, and topics… [including] teenage assassins, circus freaks, serial killers and eerie children playing with dangerous powers, there is no doubt the program will delight the Fantastic Fest audience. 2021 is definitely a great year for Genre and we’re really proud to have secured so many fantastic movies.”
Film types will include narratives, animation, and documentaries.
The narrative film I won’t want to miss: Bingo Hell. From Blumhouse, it pits senior citizens against hipster-fueled gentrification of their neighborhood. Then something strange happens at bingo night.
Stop motion animation will make a comeback with Mad God. Filmmakers promise the craft exhibited in this film, which tracks an assassin through a world of “tortured souls, decrepit bunkers, and wretched monstrosities,” will leave you stunned.
Of the documentaries, Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest sounded really outrageous. I thought at first it must be a narrative or perhaps a mockumentary. But no. It tells the story of a 55-year-old gamer who sets out to play the arcade game Gyruss for 100 hours on a single coin.
The line-up at Fantastic Fest is still being updated, so for the latest news, check their website. To get a feel for the fest, watch the sizzle reel below.