A week has passed since Fantastic Fest 2014 officially came to a close and I already miss all the films, the fun, and the sleep deprivation.
The festival featured a stunning lineup of 80 different features both new and old including 22 World Premieres which helped create one of the strongest film programs in their 10 year history.
With nearly 50 movies under my belt thanks to eight days of the festival and a week of screener watching, I present to you my best attempt at the 10 best new features of Fantastic Fest 2014. Of those films I watched, only three received poor ratings from me after their screenings. In my four years of covering this festival, that’s the lowest number I’ve rated poorly. This year’s event was simply exceptional.
If you couldn’t attend Fantastic Fest this year, I hope many of you have to opportunity to see some of these films in the near future whether it’s in your local theater or on your preferred VOD service. All of these titles are of the utmost quality and deserve the largest audience possible. The ones listed below are the best of the best.
Here are my Top 10 Films of Fantastic Fest 2014:
Felt – This intense and stunning movie from director Jason Banker and lead actress Amy Everson tells the semi-autobiographical story of a young woman dealing with severe childhood sexual trauma. Felt left me so completely shattered that I could not get myself to write about another film before I could gather my thoughts on this one. Read my full review here
Automata – Finally, someone got Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics right! Loosely based around Asimov’s three laws of robotics (in this case it’s two protocols), director Gabe Ibanez’s fascinating sci-fi feature paints a beautiful yet bleak picture of humanity on the brink of extinction and the rise of the robots. Refreshing and exhilarating, Automata doesn’t try and go too big with its scope. Instead, Ibanez and his writing team introduce big questions into a tight story with a cleverness and power missing from several of the over-priced robot films in recent years.
Sea Fog aka Haemoo – South Korea’s official foreign language submission to the 87th Academy Awards, Sea Fog tells a gripping story of a fishing crew trying to make a risky voyage on a ship that is slowly falling apart. Despite the gloomy and bleak feeling throughout the film, director Sung Bo Shim’s Sea Fog provides just enough hope along with its cinematic beauty to make this film stand out as one of the year’s best.
Jacky in the Kingdom of Women – A hysterical dystopic gem, Riad Sattouf’s Monty Python-esque Jacky provided possibly the most hilarious 90 minutes of the entire festival. Featuring a performance from screen icon Charlotte Gainsbourg, men in full-body veils (veileries as they are called in the film) and biting social commentary, Jacky accomplishes what so many attempts at satire fail to achieve. Satire is supposed to be funny and have a point to make and Jacky certainly ticks both boxes.
It Follows – An innovative horror film that still has me scared over a week after I first saw it, It Follows ran away with the title as the best horror film of Fantastic Fest 2014. Winner of the Dell Precision Next Wave awards for Best Picture and Best Screenplay, writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s sexually transmitted ghost story will certainly keep American audiences up at night when the film opens wide in 2015. Also, keep an ear out for the spine tingle-inducing score from video game music composer Rich “Disasterpeace” Vreeland.
Tokyo Tribe – The only picture I saw twice in the theater during Fantastic Fest, Tokyo Tribe is a hip-hop infused chaotic romp of a film from the insane mind of Japanese master director Sion Sono. Much like his previous film Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, this latest effort loses its way a tiny bit in the third act. However, that doesn’t take anything away from it being an absolute blast to watch over and over again. In fact, I’m eagerly awaiting my third opportunity to watch this piece of manga-inspired musical madness.
Shrew’s Nest – One of the final films I was lucky enough to catch inside a theater during Fantastic Fest 2014 was also one of the best. Juanfer Andres and Esteban Roel’s Spanish horror film features one of the most startling performances from comedian Macarena Gomez as the disturbed Montse. To call this tense thriller a slow burn would be a great injustice as this is foreign horror at its best. Blood only when necessary, stunning performances, and scares through subtlety makes this movie a showcase of horror done right.
The Tribe – Perhaps the most controversial film of Fantastic Fest 2014, this Ukrainian title directed by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky features no subtitles and no dialogue. Instead, the story is told all through sign language as a young male enters a state school for the deaf and gets caught up in the school’s underground crime ring. Disturbing images and a level of intensity unseen in many films today makes The Tribe both a must see and a picture that obviously won’t match the tastes of everyone. It’s just a slight shame that sometimes it goes a little overboard to get its message across which detracts from the experience. Despite that, The Tribe remains a standout of the festival.
Force Majeure – Like Sea Fog earlier in the list, Force Majeure will compete in the foreign language Oscar race and deservedly so. Nominated by Sweden, writer/director Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure is a darkly comedic tale of relationships gone wrong when faced with sudden adversity. Despite the serious nature of the inciting incident, Force Majeure is full of hilarious moments and impeccably clever dialogue that helped make the early morning screening of the film fly by.
The Incident (El Incidente) – Born right out of Fantastic Fest’s own Latin film marketplace Fantastic Market, writer/director Isaac Ezban’s The Incident is a mind bending tale that has yet to leave my mind. Full of twists, creepiness, Lost references and intricate storytelling, The Incident is truly something the Fantastic Market and Fantastic Fest itself can be proud of. No spoilers!
Don’t see your favorite film on the list? Don’t worry! As I said before, almost every single film I saw at Fantastic Fest was fantastic (pun intended) and capsule reviews for those other films are coming soon. Follow the blog here to see when they post!
Official site: fantasticfest.com