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Fantastic Fest Preview: 10 Films to Watch

Written by: Nguyen Le, CC2K Staff Writer

Austin is about to get reel fantastic (please clap!) as the days to Fantastic Fest are officially in the single digits. Granted, this is an annual thing. However, this year’s warrants special attention as attendees will see not only new films, but also whether organizers did enough to emerge from the shadows casted by Devin Faraci and Harry Knowles last year. We’ll have to wait until the fest ends to know unfortunately, so let’s tackle something else: the fest’s (so far) 50-plus lineup.

Here are the 10 films we can’t wait to see at the latest Fantastic Fest, beginning September 20th and running all the way through September 27th.

Hold the Dark

Jeremy Saulnier of Blue Ruin and Green Room fame is back with a trip to the Alaskan wilderness where a wolf seemingly committed a horrific crime. Emphasis on wolf. While the locals blame the four-legged, our protagonist, former naturalist Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright), uncovers clues potentially pointing to a biped. It’ll be interesting to see if this snowbound thriller, (which is adapted from the novel by William Giraldi) which Saulnier said brings the “highest body count” in his career, can warm up TIFF attendees when it premieres there first before heading to Netflix on the 28th.


Dang, Gareth Evans is back at it again with cult-tinged happenings! This period action picture from the mastermind behind The Raid series follows a man, Thomas (Dan Stevens), rescuing his missing sister from a society on Erisden Island. Will there be blood? Yes, times three, considering the people on the little rock unwisely complicated Thomas’ mission. Like Hold the Dark, Apostle is also a Netflix release and will be available to stream beginning the 28th.

The Boat

No, you’re never alone on the seas. A fisherman (Joe Azzopardi, also co-writer) will learn that terrifying lesson when his vessel, while lost in the mist, encounters a sailboat. The film, directed by Joe’s father, Winston, is an extended version (and thus a realized dream) of a 24-minute short that won two awards at the 2016 Rome International Film Festival. The movie looks to bring the tension of All is Lost with the complications of a potential ghost. All ahead full!


A writer, Lee (Yoo Ah-in), meets a former classmate, Haemi (Jeon Jong-seo), and her new love, Ben (Steven Yeun), setting in motion a course of events leading toward a devastating conclusion. Adapted from the short story Barn Burning by Haruki Murakami, this mystery from Lee Chang-dong has been catching fire during awards season — it earned nothing but love at Cannes (LA Times’ Justin Chang said the film “pretty much torched the competition”) and is going to represent South Korea at the Oscars.


The true sequel to the 1978 John Carpenter horror film is here, finally giving Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) a true way to settle her score with the masked killer Michael Myers — for good. Curtis, as well as producers Jason Blum, Malek Akkad, and Bill Block will be appearing at Fantastic Fest to promote the movie. How much would you bet that they will appear on stage to the iconic theme?

Murder Me, Monster

“Die monster, die” — this is a phrase David (Esteban Bigliardi) keeps hearing in his head, apparently thanks to a creature committing a series of gruesome, all-women murders happening in Argentina’s Andes Mountains. Alejandro Fadel’s film is poised to induce fear in a different light than the rest. Take a look at the clip above. The brilliance is in the composition and the construction of the movie’s sinister patience. The clip feels reminiscent of the understated It Comes At Night (let’s hope the reception will be more unified!).


Director Tilman Singer comes to the Fest with some demonic horror fare. The film follows the titular cab driver (Luana Velis) seeking help at a police station only to come face-to-face with an aberration. Much like Murder Me, Monster, the film goes the distance to separate its fear factor from the rest: using 16mm film and featuring an electronic score. Feeling trippy already!

The Night Comes for Us

The Raid crew spiritually reunites with the one who directed them, Gareth Evans, at the Fest in this relentless action film which coats Jakarta streets with bodies, bones and blood. What started this? Apparently it’s some business between old friends which Ito (Joe Taslim) chooses to leave unresolved. Since Iko Uwais and Very Tri Yulisman are handling the martial-arts choreography, painkillers are a must prior to showtime.


Another novel from Ryû Murakami of Audition slices its way to the screen. Gulp. The second outing of The Eyes of My Mother’s Nicolas Pesce details — in great, depraved beauty — the twistedness of a shady businessman (Christopher Abbott) and his shock when the prostitute he hires (Mia Wasikowska) scores higher on the “twisted-o-meter” than he.

The Guilty

Halle Berry, where are you? You have some competition over here! In this single-location thriller from debut filmmaker Gustav Möller, an emergency responder (Jakob Cedergren) receives a kidnapping call that threatens to push him to the limit. Look at the trailer! Look at all the pull-quotes! Look at yourself not breathing right for the past minute or two (and now imagine that for 85 minutes)!

As we’ve said, these are only a few of the many, many features that will play at Fantastic Fest. We haven’t even mentioned Overlord (the un-Cloverfield film), Climax (or Gaspar Noé’s dance party), and all those secret screenings! Either way, those who are coming to Austin for the event are in for a fantastic time. No better hangover than a filmic one, agreed?!

Author: Nguyen Le, CC2K Staff Writer

I love film enough to pack up and fly across the Pacific to write about them. On a mission to add some Vietnamese, or Asian, presence in the film-writing world, first stop being Houston where I’m based. You bet I can make hella good ca phe sua da and equally so omelette. See my bylines at the The Cougar and Cooglife, University of Houston’s two publications, Houston Chronicle, Austin Chronicle, InSession Film and The Young Folks. Member of Houston Film Critics Society and the Online Film Critics Society. Find me on Facebook (@nguyen.le.334) or Twitter (@nle318) — I’m all smiles at both places and so should you!

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