This year marked my first time attending the the Austin-based Fantastic Fest, and I’m glad I went. How good is the festival? Well, the first film I saw, which is no. 1 on this list, blew my socks off. The movies I saw after that grand introduction, for the most part, didn’t make for a downhill slope. After the jump, read about the 12 best films at Fantastic Fest 2015.
If I have one regret about Fantastic Fest, it’s that I didn’t attend more screenings. But don’t assume that means some of these 12 films below are of poor quality. I ended up seeing over 20 movies, and almost everything I saw at the festival I either thoroughly enjoyed or loved — which is a real rarity at a film festival. If you’ve never been to this festival, you must go.
Without further ado, here are the 12 best films from Fantastic Fest:
12. Assassination Classroom
This is a PG-rated movie with an almost R-rated sensibility. The unfortunate and untimely title aside, director Eiichirô Hasumi‘s comedy, based on Yûsei Matsui‘s manga series, is a big ball of energy. A creature with a goofy smiley face threatens to destroy Earth. To make things interesting, he offers the Japanese government the opportunity to kill him. The monster gets his own classroom, where he’ll teach kids his weaknesses, and if they succeed in destroying him, he won’t annihilate Earth. Assassination Classroom is so giddy it’s almost exhausting. The film is a tad overstuffed, but that’s a part of its charm.
11. Love & Peace
Shion Sono‘s film is about a guy and his pet turtle, Pikadon. The young man once had aspirations of becoming a rock star, but at the start of Love & Peace, he’s nowhere close in achieving that dream. His only friend in the world is his turtle, which he flushes down the toilet after his colleagues berate him for bringing his little buddy to work. The turtle and the man’s lives change, but I’ll leave the specifics unspoiled. Love & Peace is a very sweet, sometimes touching film about loneliness, fatherhood, and the bonds we make with our pets and those around us.
10. Der Bunker
You won’t see another debut film like Nikias Chrysoss‘, at least not out of Germany anytime soon. A student seeking peace and quiet to work on a project finds an ideal home in the middle of nowhere. When he starts teaching his tenant’s young boy, played by an adult, he quickly realizes something is very wrong. Der Bunker is the kind of quirky horror-comedy that could easily become a one-joke movie, but the tone, characters, and main set are so well realized that that never happens.
The stranger Der Bunker becomes, the more enchanting it is. Nhyrsoss’ film is, wisely, only 85 minutes long, and in the course of that short running time, the writer-director increases the laughs and horror with each passing minute. Wes Anderson crossed with Ingmar Bergman‘s Persona is Der Bunker.
9. Man vs. Snake
A worthy companion piece to The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. The focus of Man vs. Snake is Tim McVey, the first gamer ever to reach a billion points in Nibbler — an obscure game involving a long snake and collecting points. 25 years after setting the record as a teen, he has to reclaim his title.
Like The King of Kong, there’s zero judgement of the life of a dedicated gamer. The passion in Man vs. Snake is real, and it’s treated as such. The intense side of the video gaming world is kind of a funny one, so the film isn’t without its laughs, but it is, above all else, a sincere portrait of McVey’s competitive spirit and ambition to win.