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Fantastic Fest, Austin, Texas’ annual film festival dedicated to horror, science fiction, fantasy, action, Asian and cult cinema will start with an excited groan of disgust this year when it plays the world premiere of The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence on Thursday night.
According to Fantastic Fest founder Tim League, the horror movie about a depressed loner attempting to emulate the work of the villain from the first film by stitching twelve people together is “the title of the season, if not the year” for strict genre fans.
The first film had its North American premiere at Fantastic Fest in 2009, but had its world premiere at Fright Fest in the UK. That won’t be an issue this year, as director Tom Six’s follow-up has already been banned in England.
“Human Centipede had titillating subject matter but it was fairly restrained. The violence was suggested rather than shown. Tom [Six] has said he’s set out to deliver on the promise of the first, so it’s definitely a rougher film. It’s not for everybody.”
This year’s festival will be held from Sept. 22-29 at the city’s famous Alamo Drafthouse Cinema South Lamar location.
In recent years, the seven-year-old festival has become a mecca for gorehounds and genre fans (roughly 25,000 turned out last year), while film distributors have started acquiring films right from the fest. The Human Centipede (First Sequence), acquired by IFC, and this year’s Troll Hunter, picked up by Magnolia/Magnet are just a couple of the films that have found distribution at the festival.
“It’s a very concentrated audience,” League says. “So they can get instant feedback on what the genre community thinks of certain films.”
League says he and his programming team (“five or six like-minded guys and girls”) sift through roughly 1000 films throughout the year to make the final lineup.
Among the highlights of this year’s fest:
Bullhead, a Belgian drama from a first-time filmmaker, concerns a man whose testicles were smashed as a boy and has developed an addiction to testosterone. The plot centers around crime in the Belgian meat-packing industry and involves illegal cattle steroids. Of the main character, League says “He’s a big hulking guy with anger management issues, but he’s also insecure because of his lack of manhood. The performances are great. The main actor is sort of a Mads Mikkelsen in the making.”
Penumbra, an Argentinian horror film about the occult set in a apartment building and involving an impending solar eclipse. “We really like the director, Adrian Garcia Bogliano,” League says. “We previously played a film of his called Cold Sweat. I think this one might be his breakout.”
How to Steal Two Million, a South African crime thriller from first-time director Charlie Vundla, about an ex-con trying to go straight, but lured into making one last heist in order to get the money he needs to leave crime forever. It’s a classic heist movie set up, set in Africa. “It’s really interesting for me to see a young foreign filmmaker inspired by American genre cinema,” League says. “They feel fresher because they show a different culture.”
Haunters, a South Korean movie about a child who has the ability to control anyone who makes eye contact with him. He can assemble armies with the power of his mind. “It’s very superhero-esque,” League says. “But there’s no costumes. It plays out more like a drama.”
Carre Blanc, a science fiction film about a man who has been remolded by a futuristic government and the attempts by the love of his life to find the man he once was. “This film will be challenging to the audience,” League says. “It’s slower and more cerebral and dramatic. There’s a certain component of the audience that just wants delivery of the goods — more hacked off limbs and exploding cars. So this is about expectation management.”
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