Still Fantastic

Austin’s genre film fest was back in full with a strong 2022 lineup

Like every other film festival of the last few years, the story of Austin’s 17-year-old Fantastic Fest of late has been, “Is this going to happen given Covid?” Last year, the first Fantastic Fest since 2019, was a hybrid model of online presentations and limited in-person screenings that worked great for couch potatoes, but not so well for those who wanted the full blast of parties, debates in boxing rings, and camaraderie among other film weirdos.

With its strong line-up of out-there as well as top-tier award-circuit films and a full return to being an in-person event (some films screened on its “@ Home” streaming service), 2022’s Fantastic Fest felt, finally, like a return to form. And as an added bonus for attendees, the relatively lower attendance made it easier for badgeholders to get into buzzy screenings of films like The Menu, even if the fest was lacking a little star power except for a few notables like actress Hong Chau or director Rian Johnson, who were in attendance.

The Menu in particular, seemed to check all the boxes of what a Fantastic Fest film should be: dark, twisted, with a sly sense of humor. As some of the more high-profile films have proven as the festival have evolved since its 2005 debut, it also has commercial appeal beyond the film-nerd crowd. The satire of foodie and celebrity chef culture stars Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy, and has some Succession and Game of Thrones DNA thanks to director Mark Mylod. It won the Audience Award at the festival, and will be in theaters November 18.

Other big films at the fest included Cannes winners Decision to Leave from Park Chan-wook, Iran’s serial-killer polemic Holy Spider, and festival closer Triangle of Sadness, which was likely the hottest ticket of the fest after winning the Palme d’or in May.

Secret screenings this year, which in the past have run the gamut from obscure lost films to future Oscar winners like There Will Be Blood, included two projects that’ll soon be in front of streaming audiences. They showed Marvel’s Halloween special Werewolf By Night, which hits Disney+ Oct. 7 and the rebooted Hellraiser, out in October on Hulu, ahead of those premieres. Some people grumbled that Werewolf by Night was on-theme, but ultimately a Disney project, while Hellraiser got a warm reception from the fest’s long-suffering fans of the franchise.

Other fest award winners included the Spanish-Argentine mother-son dark comedy La Pietà from Eduardo Casanova for Best Picture in the Main Competition, where Ali Abassi took the Best Director prize for Holy Spider.

Léa Mysius’s follow-up to 2017’s Ava, the French supernatural family drama The Five Devils, took Best Picture in the Next Wave category, while Thomas Hardiman took Best Director for Medusa Deluxe.

Horror Features honored were Piggy from director Carlota Pereda and the five directors of Satanic Hispanics, Mike Mendez, Demian Rugna, Eduardo Sanchez, Gigi Saul Guerrero and Alejandro Brugués.

Drawn and Quartered animation feature winners were Boyoung Kim’s A Guitar in the Bucket for Best Picture, with Andrea Gatopoulos’s Happy New Year, Jim, receiving a special mention award.

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Omar Gallaga

Omar L. Gallaga is a technology culture writer, formerly of the Austin American-Statesman, but he's not interested in fixing your printer. He's written for Rolling Stone, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Television Without Pity, and NPR, where he was a blogger and on-air tech correspondent for "All Things Considered." He's a founding member of Austin's Latino Comedy Project, which recently concluded a two-year run of its original sketch-comedy show, "Gentrifucked."

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