Fantastic Fest 2011 Preview: Our Most Anticipated Films, Films We're Curious About And An Early Best Of List

There's almost too much that's good about Fantastic Fest: experiencing the Alamo Drafthouse for a week straight; the small, friendly, film fan atmosphere; the parties. Oh yeah, then there's the insane films. Every year Fantastic Fest is filled with a ton of wild genre flicks that either you've never heard of yet or already have a lot of buzz surrounding them. As the 2011 festival is set to kick off this week, /Film will be on the ground telling you about the sickest, most disturbing and exciting films playing in Austin, Texas. Before that though, since there's so much that's good about Fantastic Fest, we've got three lists to get you as excited:

  • The Top 15 Films I'm Curious About – The true gems of Fantastic Fest, these are the wild cards we're excited for from description alone.
  • The Top 10 Most Anticipated Films – These are films with familiar names or built in buzz from previous festivals.
  • The Top 5 Films of Fantastic Fest 2011 Already – This is a list of five films playing at the Festival we already know to be winners.
  • Read all of this after the jump and keep checking /Film from September 22-29 for all your coverage of Fantastic Fest 2011.

    My Top 15 Films We're Curious About

    These are the films many of us haven't heard of yet, but have me incredibly intrigued. Films like these are why you go to Fantastic Fest. Click on each title for a more detailed description.

    1. Let the Bullets Fly – A Robin Hood tale set as a 1920s, martial arts train robbery starring Chow Yun Fat. I think that's all you need to know.

    2. A Lonely Place to Die – Described as an incredibly tense, character driven thriller, five vacationers find a feral girl locked in a cage in the middle of nowhere and have to fend off her terribly evil captors.

    3. The Squad – A group of South American soldiers happen upon a desolate military base that's been abandoned and has a huge pile of bodies inside. It sounds kind of like The Hurt Locker meets The Thing and when asked what five films people would be talking about after the festival, co-founder and creative director Tim League mentioned this one first. Interview coming soon. As a bonus, The Squad is paired with the short Cost of Living, which stars Brandon Routh and Bret Harrison.

    4. Retreat – Okay, I'm cheating here. This is a film with major stars that should probably be on the next list. But I hadn't heard much about this mystery thriller about a couple (Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton) who go away to a desolate island only to be greeted by a bloody stranger, played by Jamie Bell. So it's here.

    5. El Narco – Winner of several awards, this controversial gangster film has echoes of a Mexican Scarface as a young man works his way up the drug cartels.

    6. Boys on the Run – Sounding like a hyper-sexual, less video game-influenced, Scott Pilgrim, this film – based on a Manga – is about a porn loving loser who somehow gets the girl of his dreams and has to fight for her.

    7. Calibre 9 – This movie is about a gun that's possessed by a dead hooker. Again, what else do you need to know?

    8. The Corridor – Five friends who've had their ups and downs head into the woods to heal old wounds and find a mysterious corridor in the middle of the woods. Sounds like The Blair Witch Project meets the book House of Leaves.

    9. Revenge: A Love Story – The title almost says it all, except that it's also about a serial killer that dissects pregnant woman and boils their husband's faces. You know, a real lighthearted kind of film.

    10. Aardvark – Starring and based on the life of a man who has been blind since birth, the film follows his life as he stars to learn jiujitsu and gets into deep trouble with his trainer.

    11. Invasion of Alien Bikini – Made for only $5,000, this film is supposedly seeped with incredible passion for genre, crazy action, pretty girls and the kind of bang for your buck Sam Raimi got on the original Evil Dead.

    12. Borderline – A down on his luck father finds a big bag of drugs in the park and not only starts selling them but finds he has an aptitude for it. That is, of course, until the real owner comes looking for them. The obvious shades of Breaking Bad are intriguing.

    13. Urban Explorer – A network of tunnels make up the underground of Berlin and four friends hire a guide to take them on an illegal tour. What they don't realize is, underground, Berlin still has a lot of what was going on in the 1940s.

    14. Snowtown – Few things are quite as scary as true life tales of serial killers and this is one about an Australian killer named John Bunting.

    15. Clown – Two men are all set to take a canoe ride to a brothel when, at the last minute, one of them brings his girlfriend's 11-year-old nephew. Hilarity ensues.

    Honorable mention: New Kids Turbo, Sleep Tight, Smuggler, Two Eyes Staring, Julia X 3D.

    My Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of Fantastic Fest

    These are the films many of us are familiar with in one way or another, because we've written about them or they've played at other festivals, but we're still incredibly excited to see none-the-less.

    1. Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope – Peter already gave a rave to Morgan Spurlock's Comic-Con documentary at Toronto and having gone to the event for the past decade, I can't believe someone as great as Spurlock made a documentary about it. I'm beyond excited to see it.

    2. You're Next – One of the must-sees coming out of the Toronto Film Festival, this brutal home invasion movie by Adam Wingard sounds like it was made specifically for Fantastic Fest. Families in peril, violence, and animal masks? Sign me up.

    3. Extraterrestrial – Though it didn't exactly start a firestorm at Toronto, I'm such a big fan of Nacho Vigalondo's Timecrimes I'm still dying to see this film. The trailer looks great and the blending of romance with an alien invasion is one of the rare genre mashups that hasn't seen explored too often.

    4. Sleepless Night – Until this film got raves at Toronto, I'd never heard of it. After, though, this tale of two cops who moonlight as drug dealers has me licking my chops. Everyone is screaming "U.S. remake," so I want to see the original.

    5. A Boy and his Samurai – If I hadn't been at last year's Fantastic Fest and hadn't adored filmmaker Yoshihiro Nakamura's Golden Slumber, I might not be as excited for his follow up. But I was and I did so I am. It combines time travel, samurais, cooking and family relationships.

    6. MelancholiaLars Von Trier's star studded tale of the end of the world has already played several festivals and had a very limited theatrical release. So I know it's good. Now I just have to see it.

    7. You Said What? – Unlike the films above it, I haven't heard much about the one but it's in this category for two reasons. One, it stars Peter Stormare. Two, it's a romantic comedy take on Takashi Miike's Audition. Sold.

    8. The Loved OnesSean Byrne's Australian horror film has been out for several years and played numerous festivals but the Fantastic Fest programers love it so much, they decided to play it anyway. That's all I need to know.

    9. The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence – Fantastic Fest 2011's opening night film is one we've all heard of and are all kind of scared of. The first movie had huge promise but never quite delivered and this film is supposed to do that and much more.

    10. Juan of the Dead – I've been incredibly excited for this film ever since I saw the first trailer and successfully predicted it would play at Fantastic Fest. The only reason it's not higher on the list is buzz out of Toronto wasn't stellar.

    My Top 5 Films Of Fantastic Fest 2011 Already

    These are five films playing Fantastic Fest I've already seen and can vouch for.

    1. Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within – Director Jose Padilha got the Robocop remake off of this movie. What else do you need to know? Peter loved it at Sundance, as did I. It's about an intricate web of corruption at various levels of Brazil's law enforcement and it's dense, exciting and incredibly well made.

    2. Take Shelter – Originally premiering at Sundance, this film features Michael Shannon in an awards worthy performance as a father who begins having terrifying visions. It's a slow burn and not the usual Fantastic Fest material, but throw in Jessica Chastain and you've got a very solid film. Read my initial review here.

    3. Knuckle – This documentary about warring Irish families who bare knuckle box each other has been well-covered on the site. It's an unbelievable story and even if the film does sort of fade away at the end, you'll never forget it.

    4. The InnkeepersTi West does his best to really scare you with the seemingly normal job of overnight desk clerk at an old, closing hotel. A deliberate pace slightly handicaps the scares, interesting story and awesome ending but Innkeepers is a great example of someone trying something fun and new in the scare genre.

    5. An American Werewolf in London – To be fair, this classic John Landis film should probably be number one, but the fact that Rick Baker will be on hand to discuss the film's groundbreaking effects and Olly Moss will do a limited edition print almost make the competition unfair.

    And that's only part of the incredible Fantastic Fest schedule. Again, keep checking back here for our thoughts on a ton of these films from September 22-29.