Elijah Wood, Fantastic Fest alumni, and Robin Wright Penn announced for this year’s line-up

We ran the announcement of the first wave of programming for Fantastic Fest 2013, and that was already a pretty promising list of movies. Now they’ve released their second wave of titles, and it’s another great batch of filmmakers and titles.

It’s impressive how this thing snaps into focus around this point every year, and at this point, there are filmmakers and actors and companies that I consider to be part of the Fantastic Fest family. I would be shocked if they didn’t end up being part of the festival. Ben Wheatley, for example, or Elijah Wood, or Alex de la Iglesia, or Sion Sono. These are guys who all have been here before, and who are all turning out interesting work right now, pushing themselves from project to project.

That seems like the real larger narrative of the various festivals I attend every year now, checking in with people who are creating work that is alive and vibrant and interesting and resolutely not part of the disturbingly stagnant mainstream that seems to suck up such a disproportionate percentage of the conversation in the media. I think it keeps me sane, and I look forward to the highs, the lows, the surprises and the disappointments. At least it all feels promising, like there’s room for discovery and for things I haven’t seen before, and it’s bizarre how little of that there is with “big” movies these days.

Here’s the new list:

A FIELD IN ENGLAND (England, 2013)
North American Premiere
Director – Ben Wheatley, 90 mins
During the British Civil War, when magic was science, an alchemist forces a group of deserters to help him locate buried treasure, and sends them all straight into the mouth of madness.   

Wheatley has been working his ass off the last few years, and the notion that one guy could make “Down Terrace,” “Kill List,” and “Sightseers” suggests a pretty huge range, and that is exciting. It sounds like his latest is more experimental, small-scale and personal, and I’m excited to see it.
AFFLICTED (Canada, 2013)
US Premiere
Director – Clif Prowse, 85 mins
Derek and Clif, best friends documenting their journey across the world, are in for an unexpected adventure when one of them comes down with a sinister sickness.   
At this point, the mockumentary/found footage form is no longer a gimmick but simply a stylistic choice, and it’s up to filmmakers to do something worthwhile with it, something that’s more than just “hey, let’s pretend this is real.”

US Premiere
Director – Joe Begos, 80 mins
A man who disappeared under mysterious circumstances returns to wreak havoc upon a small town.

Part of Toronto’s Midnight Madness (something that happens each year when there’s some overlap between the two events), this one sounds small scale and personal, just the way I like my crazy horror.
US Premiere
Director – Jeremy Sauliner, 90 mins
A homeless man aims to avenge his dead parents when their killer is released from prison, triggering a chain of events that will only end in more blood.
World Premiere
Director – James Ward Byrkit, 127 mins
On the night a comet is passing near Earth, a dinner party takes an odd turn. When the power goes out, eight friends discover that the only house on the street left with power also holds many secrets.   

I really like this premise. I’m all for genre films that feel like they are descended from the work of Rod Serling, and this sets off my “Twilight Zone” alarms something fierce.
THE CONGRESS (Israel, Germany, 2013)
North American Premiere
Director – Ari Folman, 122 mins
Robin Wright (playing herself) receives the last offer she’ll ever get from a Hollywood studio in Ari Folman’s adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s classic scifi novel, and his follow-up to WALTZ WITH BASHIR.   
This sounded amazing before Cannes this year, and I heard enough great things out of that festival that I am looking forward to seeing it for myself.

World Premiere
Director – Oren Carmi, 91 mins
A psychopath develops a dangerous obsession with a schlubby computer programmer.
GRAND PIANO (Spain, 2013)
World Premiere
Director – Eugenio Mira, 90 mins
A renowned concert pianist (Elijah Wood) returns to the stage for one final performance, only to become the target of a sadistic cat-and-mouse game with a faceless sniper (John Cusack).   

Again. immediate good premise. The thing that indie genre films have going for them that can never be replaced simply by money is ingenuity, and I love watching a film where someone really tries to wring every bit of juice they can out of a setting or an idea.
Texas Premiere
Director – Yuichi FUKUDA, 105 mins
A new hero has arisen in Japan: One with fishnet stockings, a mankini, and a pair of women’s panties over his face. When conventional justice fails, make way for the Hentai Kamen.
North American Premiere
Director – Kankuro Kudo, 119 mins
A middle school student prone to wild daydreams devotes his waking hours to stretching and flexibility exercises with the ultimate goal of one day being able to lick his own penis.   

I read those two descriptions, and I can practically picture Tim League cackling as he laid eyes on the films.

MIRAGE MEN (United Kingdom, 2013)
North American Premiere
Director – John Lundberg, 85 mins
A mind-scrambling documentary that posits that popular myths about the existence of UFOs originated from a disinformation campaign by the U.S. government.   
O’APOSTOLO (Spain, 2013)
Texas Premiere
Director – Fernando Cortizo, 87 mins
Gothic legends are brought to life by gorgeous stop-motion animation in this adult fantasy film from Spain.

Those both sound awesome, and they sound like movies I’m never going to see anywhere but Fantastic Fest.
North American Premiere
Director – David Perrault, 94 mins
Freshly returned home from a stint in the French Foreign Legion, Victor finds work as a reluctantly villainous masked wrestler in this marvelously crafted ode to film noir from first-time director David Perrault.   

I love that I have no idea what to expect even after reading that premise. Sounds crazy in the very best possible way.
PATRICK (Australia, 2013)
North American Premiere
Director – Mark Hartley, 95 mins
Nurse Kathy Jaquard didn’t expect a lot of trouble on the coma ward but she gets more than she can handle when she meets the telekinetic Patrick in Mark Hartley’s remake of the Ozsploitation classic. 
Hartley is, of course, the director of the great documentary “Not Quite Hollywood,” about the history of Australian indie genre movies, which might just make him the perfect person to remake “Patrick,” especially with Sharni Vinson (the ass-kicking heroine of “You’re Next”) starring.

PROXY (USA, 2013)
US Premiere
Director – Zack Parker, 120 mins
American director Zack Parker delivers an unexpected, nasty little thriller about a woman whose life spins out of control following an attack on her unborn child.
SEPTIC MAN (Canada, 2013)
World Premiere
Director – Jesse Thomas Cook, 83 mins
An erstwhile plumber undergoes a hideous transformation when trapped inside a septic tank and tormented by the bizarre residents of his town’s sewage treatment plant. 
What a horrifying premise. I gotta expect my gag reflex is going to get tested by a movie with that title.

Austin Premiere
Director – Ric Bienstock, 82 mins
David Cronenberg narrates this fascinating documentary about the secret world of international organ trafficking.   

I love it when Fantastic Fest programs documentaries, because they are always fascinating glimpses into worlds I didn’t even suspect existed.
US Premiere
Director – Sion Sono, 126 mins
Things get insanely bloody when an inspiring film troupe known as The Fuck Bombers collide with a yakuza boss who wants to make a movie with his daughter, in Fantastic Fest veteran Sion Sono’s (LOVE EXPOSURE; SUICIDE CLUB) latest.   
US Premiere
Director – Alex de la Iglesia, 120 mins
Hit Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia (THE LAST CIRCUS) returns to Fantastic Fest with a hilarious and gory tale of thieves who find themselves in over their heads when faced with a coven of bloodthirsty witches.

And then a one-two punch of two great directors with their latest work? Perfect way to wrap up a list of things that will be showing at what has increasingly become one of the highlights of my film year.

Fantastic Fest will be in Austin from September 19 – 26 at the new Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline.