The eighth edition of Fantastic Fest -- the world's wildest genre-movie extravaganza -- is set for Sept. 20-27 in Austin, arguably the only place on the planet weird enough to handle its spectacular excess. And judging from Monday’s announcement of the first titles confirmed for the FF2012 schedule, I'd say festivalgoers are in for the usual smorgasbord of heavy artillery, sexual perversity, edgy sci-fi, scantily clad cuties, flesh-eating zombies and unrestrained ultra-violence.
But wait, there’s more: This year’s line-up also features eccentric animation, with the previously announced opening-night presentation of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, and vicious vigilantism, with the gala premiere of Peter Travis’ Dredd 3D.
For the benefit of those who tuned in late: The latter is an R-rated adaptation of the John Wagner/Carlos Ezquerra comic strip set in a futuristic society where relentless supercops like the eponymous Dredd (played by Karl Urban) serve as judges, juries – and instant executioners. You may recall there was an earlier attempt to bring this source material to the screen. You may also remember that it didn’t turn out too well. This one is supposed to be better. Or, at the very least, bloodier.
Among the other intriguing titles in this first wave of FF2012 offerings:
COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES -- When a badly planned bank robbery and a zombie outbreak collide, hilarity allegedly ensues in this British comedy starring Michelle Ryan (star of the ill-fated Bionic Woman reboot) and Lee Asquith-Coe (soon to be seen in the direct-to-video Strippers vs. Werewolves – you think I’m making that up, don’t you? – and Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty).
DEAD SUSHI -- Japanese splatter-action comedy is served up raw when director Noboru Iguchi and karate girl Rina Takeda join forces to take on flying killer sushi monsters.
I DECLARE WAR – Here’s the inside skinny from the Fantastic Fest press office: “A group of exceptionally creative teens gets sucked into their own private Lord of the Flies scenario when an after-school game of ‘war’ turns into a test of loyalty, strategy and friendship.” Sounds like more fun than a Dungeons & Dragons tournament. And – gasp! – it’s from Canada.
ROOM 237 – Rodney Ascher’s provocative documentary examines bizarre theories about subtext and symbolism that can be found – if you look really, really hard – in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (which, not incidentally, also will be screened at FF2012).
SECRET CEREMONY – A textbook example of the jaw-dropping weirdness that often resulted back in the late 1960s and early ‘70s when Hollywood studios briefly indulged maverick auteurs by bankrolling eccentric (and, occasionally, incomprehensible) “art films.” In this case, the maverick was the late Joseph Losey (The Servant, Modesty Blaise), and the plot has something to do with a middle-aged prostitute (Elizabeth Taylor – yes, that Elizabeth Taylor) who’s despondent over the drowning death of her daughter, a disturbed young woman (Mia Farrow) in desperate need of a mother figure, and a creepy stepfather (Robert Mitchum) who does his damnedest to facilitate an unhappy ending. If you’ve ever seen this 1968 psychodrama on broadcast TV, you may be in for a few surprises, and no little befuddlement, if you catch it as part of FF2012’s “House of Psychotic Women” sidebar: Like many Universal Pictures releases of its time, it was trimmed of salacious content, and supplemented with newly shot footage (intended to “explain” the confusing goings-on) before being unleashed on unsuspecting viewers. Presumably, FF2012 will be screening the original version exhibited – fleetingly – in theaters.
WRONG – French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux’s follow-up to his 2010 thriller Rubber – a.k.a, “The Killer Tire Movie” – is described as an “absurdist opus” about an everyman who goes to extremes when he awakens one morning to find his beloved dog is missing. Early reports indicate that homicidal wheels do not figure into the plot of this one.