8. Juan of the Dead Wins over the Audience
Everyone loves an underdog story and a young Cuban filmmaker fighting the odds, pulling together a scrappy little horror film and getting into Fantastic Fest where he wins over the crowd and becomes an audience award runner-up is most definitely an underdog story. The fact that Juan of the Dead exists, that a zombie horror film that isn’t too happy with the current political state in Cuba got made in Cuba, is a minor miracle. The fact that the movie was embraced by audiences and became one of the break out hits of Fantastic Fest 2011 is the definition of pleasant surprise.
7. The Fantastic Feud
The Fantastic Feud is ostensibly as game show where two teams of bloggers and filmmakers, one comprised of Americans and the other international visitors, compete in a friendly game of horror movie trivia. However, that set-up is just an excuse to watch a clash of fascinating personalities, as host Scott Weinberg (yes, the Scott Weinberg of this very website) desperately attempts to keep the contest from devolving into absurd, drunken madness. This year, there were plenty of moments that could have comfortably fit on this list (Scott’s “stalling for time” story of racial slurs and slaps to the face was a thing of awkward beauty), but we’ve got to go with the obvious one: Timecrimes and Extraterrestrial director/Fantastic Fest regular/insane person Nacho Vigalondo unexpectedly — and for no apparent reason at all — tackling one of his fellow panelists and sending them both flying off the stage.
6. You’re Next and The Loved Ones Get Pulled
Not every shocking/surprising/interesting development at this year’s Fantastic Fest was a good thing. A few days before Fantastic Fest began, the hotly anticipated horror film You’re Next was acquired by Lionsgate, who immediately turned around and tried to pull the film from the festival. The filmmakers fought back and managed to keep one screening on the schedule, instantly transforming You’re Next into the hardest film to see at the Festival. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only sudden film disappearance: the highly acclaimed horror movie ‘The Loved Ones’ mysteriously vanished from the schedule and the planned ‘Loved Ones Prom’ party was transformed into the ‘Fantastic Fest Prom.’
5. The Prevalence of Poop
Not so much a moment as a trend, no list of shocking events at Fantastic Fest 2011 can be complete without mentioning the sheer number of films that somehow utilize human fecal matter in any number of unpleasant ways. Headhunters features a man hiding in a waste pile under an outhouse. Bullhead showcases creative use of a waste pile as a torture device. The main characters in Boys on the Run work for a toy company that manufactures bubble toys, including toys shaped like poop. Human Centipede II features, well, er…kids may be reading this. And the movie Zombie Ass…okay, the title speaks for itself. Each year at Fantastic Fest seems to showcase some sort of odd, horrifying recurring element. Last year was rape and this year is poop. An improvement, if you ask me.
4. A Boy and His Samurai Makes Me Weep
When you attend Fantastic Fest, you fully expect to see films that will make you grip your armrests, cover your eyes with your sweaty, shaky hands and violently vomit all over your shoes. You do no expect to see a warm, gentle romantic comedy that reduces you to blubbering like a small child. The story of a time traveling samurai and the modern mother and child that he falls in love with, director Yoshihiro Nakamura’s quiet masterpiece A Boy and His Samurai took home the Fantastic Fest audience award despite the noteworthy lack of gruesome violence, maimings and shoot-outs. Heck, this may even be the only film at Fantastic Fest where no one bites the dust. Instead of making you feel fear and disgust, this movie makes you laugh, it makes you hungry (this film is practically food porn) and it causes your eyes to mysteriously leak clear liquid down your cheeks while you choke uncontrollably on your own heartache.
3. The Final Moments of Clown
One of the most popular films at Fantastic Fest, the Danish comedy Clown is a showcase for awful behavior, featuring two leads who make Larry David and David Brent look like models of kindness and tact. After 90 minutes of increasingly despicable — and hilarious — going-ons, the film climaxes with a sequence that sums up their deplorable actions in the most awkward, humiliating manner possible…a sequence of such poor taste that a few festival volunteers expressed their discomfort with it.
2. Tim League Doesn’t Die at the Hands of an Irish Boxer
The Fantastic Debate work like this: two people stand in a boxing ring and debate an issue and then they box it out to decide the real winner. Suffice it to say, it’s one of the hottest tickets at Fantastic Fest. Last year, Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League debated and boxed Michelle Rodriguez. This year, Tim stepped into the ring with bareknuckle boxing champion James Quinn McDonaugh, the subject of the documentary Knucke, to decide whether or not a Texan is inherently tougher than an Irishman. Those are, quite simply, fighting words. That’s why it’s so surprising that Tim didn’t have to be carried out of the ring. Perhaps McDonaugh was pulling his punches, but Tim stayed on his feet and was ultimately declared the winner. This shocking upset is a triumph for scrawny, flabby and generally out of shape movie geeks everywhere.
1. Reaction to The Human Centipede II
The Human Centipede II is a film that was obviously designed to provoke reactions and conversations. It succeeded. The opening night film of Fantastic Fest 2011, the film’s premiere screening was met with some scattered applause and a whole lot of angry silence. As shocking as the content of The Human Centipede II is, the nearly unified hatred of the film was even more shocking: in a festival filled with hardcore horror buffs, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who had anything nice to say about director Tom Six’s queasy odyssey of amateur surgery, barbed wire rape and fecal consumption (see number five on this list!). In a festival famous for programming shocking films, here’s a film that proved too shocking. Now that’s shocking.