Fantastic Fest is back for 2021! They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and once again there’s a great line-up of tempting genre film choices available in Austin this year, at what’s the largest genre film festival in the US.
Fantastic Fest is known for showcasing off-the-wall cinema, and delivering new and provocative voices from around the world. There are around 80 features playing this year (plus some intriguing-looking shorts) in a hybrid festival that’s combining in-person screenings with virtual access via “FF@Home”. So whatever your COVID situation, there should be a way for you to partake in the genre goodness.
Now sure what to see? We’ve identified a number of the most exciting prospects to get you exciting – plus we’ve been fortunate enough to have already seen and reviewed a small number of the titles at other stops on the festival circuit. So without further ado, here are our tips.
Fantastic Fest Recommendations 2021
Note: Dates are for the first public screening available – some of these films are also playing FF@Home.
Midnight (Dir: Kwon Oh-seung) – A deaf/mute woman on the run from a serial killer must try to work out whats’s going on – and convince people to help her – over the course of one dark night in Seoul. This thriller is pacey, twisty, and a lot of fun.
Knocking (Dir: Frida Kempff) – A troubled woman can hear the sounds of a someone trapped elsewhere in her apartment block – or can she? Will she convince others to help investigate, or is she losing her mind? Strong lockdown vibes from this one – remember, just because you have paranoid psychosis doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you… or does it?
Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched (Dir: Kier-La Janisse) very thorough Folk Horror documentary, clocking in at 3h18m.
Possession (4K Restoration) (Dir: Andrzej Żuławski) – No introduction needed surely? This all-time Brechtian horror classic of total emotional meltdown and mental collapse, now lovingly restored, features an Isabelle Adjani performance for the ages.
Glasshouse (Dir: Kelsey Egan) – In an unspecified time in the future, a family lives in a glasshouse due to the toxic, mind-altering toxins in the air outside. Bet you won’t see the ending coming. Twisty and playful.
Homebound (Dir: Sebastian Godwin) – A newly engaged woman heads with her fiance to his old country estate to meet his kids and ex-wife for the first time. But the ex is nowhere to be found, the kids are engaged in some unusual games, and the husband starts to reveal a new side to himself… British thriller Homebound promises to keep its audience guessing.
The Beta Test (Dir: Jim Cummings, PJ McCabe) – A neurotic “can’t-help-himself” Jim Cummings is always fun to watch, and in The Beta Test he gets drawn into a sexy conspiracy which he decides to investigate in a wonderfully inept fashion. A joy.
Alone With You (Dir: Emily Bennett, Justin Brooks) – A single location (almost) apartment horror with a young lady waiting for her girlfriend to get back from a trip. But she seems to be taking her time… Alone With You looks to be a tense and unnerving slice of claustrophobia.
Mlungu Wam (Good Madam) (Dir: Jenna Cato Bass) – A great, subtle, slow burn chiller, dealing with the long psychic shadow of apartheid. Low key Hereditary meets Get Out, in a somber tone. Instantly one of the great South African horrors.
Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It (Dir: Yernar Nurgaliyev) – Who would have predicted that the ultimate “dudes rock” movie would emerge from Kazakhstan? And yet here it is, in the year of our lord 2021. Crossing the shaggy dog “oh no, my wife’s gonna kill me” stylings of The Hangover with the cartoonish violence of Why Don’t You Just Die, blood-spattered Kazak comedy Sweetie You Won’t Believe It is an absolute romp.
Hellbender (Dir: Toby Poser, John Adams, Zelda Adams) – This woodland-set tale of contemporary witchcraft, secrets, and mother-daughter bonding (and rocking out) is highly recommended.
The Sadness (Dir: Robert Jabbaz) – Propulsive, kinetic, sadistic, and soaked in blood – this Taiwanese slice of exploitation fun is the zombie movie of the year.
Mad God (Dir: Phil Tippet) – A hand-animated feature that took 30 years to make. The result is a nightmare from the deepest part of someone’s imagination. Cryptic, haunting, spectacular, grotty, cosmic, and unsettling. With Alex Cox!
Zalava (Dir: Arsalan Amiri) – In a small Kurdish village called Zalava, villagers claim that a demon is possessing them. When the investigating officer butts heads with a professional exorcist, who he arrests on charges of fraud, who will come out on top? Tense and well-observed, with a great sense of time and place.
Saloum (Dir: Jean Luc Herbulot) (Pictured above as our article header image) – A trio of mercenaries are forced to touch down in a remote region of Senegal, where nothing in what it seems. This fun, assured, dynamic thriller delivers a rattlingly good time. It also rather transforms itself half-way through – ah, but to say any more would give the game away! Go in cold if you can!
Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes (Dir: Junta Yamaguchi) – The best single-shot Japanese time-travel comedy you’ll see all year, and the talk of every fest at which it plays. Do not miss!
Tickets for Fantastic Fest are available now.