Posted on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
You never know what you’re going to get at Fantastic Fest, the Austin-based genre film festival that takes great delight in immersing attendees in the strangest, wildest, and most unique movies from around the globe. Over the course of eight days, I saw 27 movies. I saw some of the best films I’ve seen all year. I saw oddities I will never forget. I saw some things I wish I could forget. As is always the case, I missed a few big titles, like Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, the divisive The Greasy Strangler, and the crowd-pleasing Bad Black.
But now, it’s time to put a bow on this year’s fest. Sure, the festival itself has juries on hand to recognize films in the line-up, but there’s only one awards ceremony that really matters here – the one that I create out of thin air to throw imaginary accolades at my favorite movies from the line-up.
So, without further ado, let’s dive in the best, weirdest, funniest, oddest, scariest, etc. movies to emerge from Fantastic Fest 2016.
Best Male Performance: Brian Cox in The Autopsy of Jane Doe
In The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the great Brian Cox does what Gregory Peck did for The Omen and what Vincent Prince and Peter Cushing did for countless horror movies over the course of their careers – he helps class up the joint. As a grieving widower and third generation mortician tasked with investigating a mysterious dead body, Cox is dryly funny and wryly intelligent, radiating sophistication and casual professionalism. When the situation goes to hell (and it really goes to hell), Cox finds himself tasked with shouldering some truly out-there material, but he ensures that we believe every single word of it. It’s rare to find a horror protagonist as sharp and as on point as this character and Cox truly brings him to life.
Best Female Performance: Sasha Lane in American Honey
In newcomer Sasha Lane, Andrea Arnold has discovered a tremendous talent. Raw and unpolished and genuine, Lane feels less like an actress descending into a tricky role and more like a documentary subject who has wandered into a narrative about her own life. American Honey is the kind of movie that’s only as successful as its lead, who is the chief subject of every single scene and almost every single shot, and Lane is as compelling and unconventional a screen presence as we’ve seen in years. This is a performance that’s as tragic as it is hopeful, as funny as it is despairing, as abstract as it is relatable.
Stand-Out Supporting Performance: Ha Jung-woo in The Handmaiden
Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden is ultimately a tale of female empowerment in the face of a brutal (and surprisingly brittle) patriarchy, but that story wouldn’t work if the heroines didn’t have a villain worth overcoming. And they have one in Ha Jung-woo’s Fujiwara, a criminal who plans to marry a wealthy heiress and have her committed to an asylum so he can make off with her money. Ha’s performance is a microcosm of the film itself: dark and weird and unsettling, but also surprisingly hilarious, bringing exasperated levity into a thriller that could have been a morbid affair.
The “Monster of Week” Prize: The Void
One part John Carpenter’s The Thing and one part Lovecraftian monstrosity, the creatures that roam the dark hospital hallways of The Void are the kind of practical effects that remind you why genre fans so often grumble about CGI monsters. These gooey, intentionally undefinable creations bring a genuine physicality to the film and remind you that movie monsters are always at their most effective when they are actually present in the room with the actors, dripping and spitting and pushing the power of latex and low-budget puppetry to the limit.
The Bonebreaker Award For Best Action Scene: Headshot
Anyone who has seen The Raid and its sequel knows that Iko Uwais is really good at the whole action hero thing and Headshot only continues the trend. When it’s not choking on mediocre melodrama, Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto’s new action movie is finding hundreds of ways to obliterate the human body. The film peaks with a brawl in a trashed police station, where Uwais must use every item at his disposal and every wit within his mind to survive. It’s an action scene so good that the rest of the movie can’t quite recover from it.