Fantastic Fest announces wave two featuring ‘Looper,’ shock comedy and ‘Holy Motors’

September is starting to look like it may well end up being one of the best months of film viewing of my entire life between the Toronto International Film Festival’s line-up and Fantastic Fest, which is still coming into focus.

This morning, the second wave of Fantastic Fest titles has been announced, and it continues to look like it’s going to be a deep, crazy batch of movies.  Some of the titles that were announced today are exactly what I expected, and others are out of left field, which is the exact thing that I love about Fantastic Fest every year.  There are things I’ve seen at the festival that I’ll never see again because they don’t neatly fit into any distribution plan in the US right now.  I love going to a festival where it’s not just about what’s going to sell to a distributor.  It’s great to see a festival that is programmed for the people that actually attend and not just as a promotional opportunity for a larger release pattern.

It also helps that Tim League and the amazing programmers he works with every year are completely out of their minds.

One of the things I’m most interested in seeing this September is “The ABCs Of Death,” which was also announced as part of the line-up at Toronto’s Midnight Madness section.  26 short films from 26 different genre filmmakers, this looks like about as dense a demonstration of madness as you’ll see in any theater this year.  Count me in.

My favorite film of this year so far is “Holy Motors,” which played Cannes and which will also show up at Toronto, and I’m going to try to see it at both of the festivals.  It’s one of those films that won’t just reward several viewings, but almost demands that you see it more than once.  Plus I want to have those conversations after the film screens as people try to digest it.  That’s one of the best parts of going to a festival.

Considering the co-writer of “Sinister” is a long-time Austin resident and mainstay of the Drafthouse scene, it is not surprising to hear that C. Robert Cargill will be in attendance, along with producer Jason Blum and co-writer/director Scott Derrickson.  I dug the film when it was shown as one of the secret screenings at this year’s SXSW, and I’m curious to see what people make of it when it finally arrives in theaters.  The Fantastic Fest crowd would be perfect for it even if there wasn’t a local connection.

“Looper” is another one I feel strongly about, and I’m really curious to see the difference between the rough version I saw and the finished cut, which I hear came together really well.  And while I’m not the biggest fan in the world of the “Universal Soldier” series, pitting Scott Adkins against Dolph Lundgren sounds like bone-crunching fun to me.  If you don’t already know Adkins, you should. He’s one of the most impressive guys working in martial arts action films these days, and his work in “Undisputed III” completely won me over and made me a fan.  He’s got a small role in “The Expendables 2,” and he’s good in it.  Still, I want to see him in a larger role and I want to see him kick the living shit out of someone.  Throwing Lundgren into the mix could be really exciting.

Seriously… just check out the announcement they sent over today.  If you’re a fan of bold genre cinema with an emphasis on the international, it looks like this is a group of films worth being excited about.  I’ll interject a few thoughts between titles if I haven’t already covered something:

Two of the fall season”s most anticipated genre films, sci-fi actioner Looper and supernatural horror Sinister, are coming to Fantastic Fest along with a wide array of mind-boggling/bending/warping films from around the world. The lineup also includes the world premieres of The American Scream, from the filmmaking team behind Best Worst Movie and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning introduced by stars Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren. Fantastic Fest will take place September 20-27 in Austin, Texas at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

See below for the second wave lineup of films at this year”s festival. 

US Premiere with multiple directors in person
Director – Various, 110 min
Twenty-six directors. Twenty-six ways to die. Co-produced by Drafthouse Films, and finally ready to be unleashed-see what happens when you give more than two dozen of the most brilliant filmmakers from around the world free reign to indulge their creative impulses and black humor. From A to Z, it”s got something for every genre fan and is like nothing you”ve ever seen before.

World Premiere with director Michael Paul Stephenson and stars Manny Souza and Victor Bariteau in person
Director – Michael Paul Stephenson, 81min
In a small Massachusetts community, three Halloween-obsessed households transform into neighbor-terrifying supernatural wonderlands in this surprisingly touching documentary from the director of BEST WORST MOVIE.

“Best Worst Movie” is so much better than it needs to be.  I’m sure it would have been easy to make a documentary about “the worst film of all time” and just turn it into an excuse to kick the crap out of everyone you’re interviewing.  Michael Paul Stephenson made his movie into a celebration of the spirit of filmmaking and a humanizing look at the people bend a failed movie.  I’m guessing he’s going to reach just as deep for “The American Scream,” which sounds like a very cool, very appropriate piece of documentary filmmaking.

Regional Premiere with director Jason LaPeyre in person
Director – Jason LaPeyre, 86min
Things quickly spiral out of control when a policewoman must protect her recently comatose suspect from a violent crime boss who has cornered them in an isolated hospital wing.

Working in a small space to create suspense and to save on budget can be exactly the right challenge to bring out the best in a low-budget filmmaker.  It can also result in a film like “ATM,” which is borderline impossible to sit through.  Let’s hope this is the best-case scenario.

Texas Premiere
Director – David Wu, 107min
After 17 years spent directing television series in North America, director David Wu (a longtime collaborator of John Woo) returns to his native China to deliver the heart-pounding World War II epic COLD STEEL.

Austin Premiere

Director – KIM Jee-woon and YIM Pil-sung, 113min
Innovative Korean genre directors Kim Ji-Woon (A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, A BITTERSWEET LIFE, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD, I SAW THE DEVIL) and Yim Pil-Sung (HANSEL & GRETEL) turn their imaginations to apocalyptic sci-fi with this three-part omnibus film which outlines three possible ways in which the world goes kaput.

Kim Ji-Woon is in post-production on his first American film, the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring “The Last Stand,” and while I wish him well on that, I’m more interested in seeing his part of this anthology film, which sounds like a strong hook.

Texas Premiere with director Ron Morales and producers Theo Brooks and Joshua Sobel in person
Director – Ron Morales, 84min
When a driver for a powerful congressman picks up his and his boss”s daughter from school, he’s annoyed to find himself being pulled over. But this alleged cop, far from an officer of the law, sets in motion a downward spiral of kidnapping, murder, deceit and deep depravity.

US Premiere
Director – Hajime OHATA, 106min
A double shot from Japanese up-and-comer Hajime Ohata. Blending elements of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Shinya Tsukamoto with just the right amount of kaiju monster battles, Ohata is quickly building a reputation as one of Japan”s brightest new talents.

US Premiere with director Adrián García Bogliano in person
Director – Adrián García Bogliano, 97min

Fantastic Fest veteran Adrián García  Bogliano (COLD SWEAT, PENUMBRA) returns with his latest supernatural horror.  When two children who went missing while exploring a cave are found, it quickly becomes apparent something evil has come home with them.

Bogliano is definitely one of the international names worth knowing right now, and based on “Cold Sweat” and “Penumbra,” I am absolutely making sure I see this one.  Sometimes it’s enough just to trust the voice telling the story.

North American Premiere
Director – Leos Carax, 116min
While following a day in the life of Mr. Oscar as he attends several appointments, things quickly unravel and spiral out of control, abandoning all sense of logic or sanity.  Fans of Carax”s ‘Mierde” segment of Fantastic Fest 2008 hit TOKYO! will be right back at home.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

LOOPER (2012)
Special Screening with director Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in person
Director – Rian Johnson, 118 min
In the futuristic action thriller LOOPER, time travel will be invented – but it will be illegal and only available on the black market.  When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a “looper” – a hired gun, like Joe – is waiting to mop up.  Joe is getting rich and life is good… until the day the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe”s future self for assassination. The film, starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt, is written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Ram Bergman and James D. Stern.

Oh, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is coming to Fantastic Fest?

I think I’ll try to make sure I never stand between him and a crowd of geek girls, because he is well on his way to being positively beloved.  He’s great in “Looper,” but if Rian Johnson is going to be bringing gifts for the audience, can’t he think of the dudes in the room and bring along Emily Blunt as well?

US Premiere
Director – Eric Walter, 88min
You”ve seen the movie, now hear the story of the Amityville haunting from someone who lived it. Regardless of the source, it”s clear there was darkness in that Long Island house.

Are there still people who believe in the haunted house in Amityville?  Really?

US Premiere with cast Huub Smit, Wesley van Gaalen, Steffen Haars and Flip Van der Kuil
Director – Steffen Haars & Flip van der Kuil, 78min

In 2011, NEW KIDS TURBO rocked Fantastic Fest audiences with its potent brand of Dutch gross-out humor Now, Fantastic Fest is proud to present the highly anticipated-and very offensive-sequel: NEW KIDS NITRO.

Because sometimes you just want to laugh till you hurt.

Regional Premiere
Director – Enrique Urbizu, 104min
A dirty cop who tries to cover up a crime stumbles upon a massive criminal conspiracy.  NO REST FOR THE WICKED swept the Spanish Goya awards this year with an electrifying performance by lead actor José Coronado.

US Premiere
Director – Takeshi Kitano, 112min
As Japanese police launch a full-scale crackdown on organized crime, it ignites a national yakuza struggle between the Sanno of the East and Hanabishi of the West.  What started as internal strife in director Takeshi Kitano”s OUTRAGE, has now become a nationwide war in his latest film OUTRAGE BEYOND.
Special Screening with director Scott Derrickson, producer Jason Blum and writer C. Robert Cargill in person
Director – Scott Derrickson, 110 min
SINISTER is a frightening new thriller about a true crime novelist who discovers a box of mysterious, disturbing home movies that plunge his family into a nightmarish experience of supernatural horror. 

World Premiere with Dolph Lundgren and Scott Adkins in person
Director – John Hyams, 93 min
Surviving Unisols Luc Deveraux and Andrew Scott battle anarchy to build a new order ruled by Unisols without government oversight. To accomplish this, they weed out the weak and constantly test their strongest warriors in brutal, life-and-death combat.

US Premiere
Director – Kristina Buožyt, 124min
A scientist with a neurological research team volunteers to experiment with a new technology which will allow him to access the thoughts of a coma victim.

Good idea, and I’m curious to see if they really wring all the possible life out of such a strong science-fiction conceit.

US Premiere
Director – Shunichiro Miki, 81min
Shunichiro Miki delivers a shot of utter madness. Penis guns! Nipple monsters! A giant girl running a very small shop! This quasi-sequel to THE FUNKY FOREST more than lives up to the weird factor of its predecessor.

A sequel to “The Funky Forest”?  You win, Fantastic Fest.  You win.

For the latest developments, tickets and badges visit the Fantastic Fest official site www.fantasticfest.com and follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

As I have for the last few years, I plan to be there bell to bell for Fantastic Fest 2012, and you’ll find all that coverage here at HitFix.

Fantastic Fest will run from September 20 through 27.