Permanent Midnight is a weekly Complex Pop Culture column where senior staff writer, and resident genre fiction fanatic, Matt Barone will put the spotlight on the best new indie horror/sci-fi/weirdo cinema, twisted novels, and other below-the-radar oddities.
If you love all things cinematically weird, there's really nothing else like Fantastic Fest.
Held in Austin, Tex., every September at the Alamo Drafthouse theater, the annual celebration of new indie horror/sci-fi/thriller/action movies from all around the world is referred to by filmmaking sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska as "nerd summer camp," and that's spot-on. For eight days straight, genre movie fans and critics alike convene inside the Drafthouse to watch an endless stream of left-of-center films, consume large amounts of booze, eat good food, drunkenly sing karaoke, get into food fights, and do other debaucherous things you couldn't get away with at other film festivals. You'll never see winners at Cannes or Venice chugging glasses of beer while accepting their awards on stage.
While the overall quality of movies was higher than ever at this Fantastic Fest, the films weren't all new. The two best horror films I've seen this year, It Follows and The Babadook, screened there, and so did the horror-romance Spring, a Fantastic Fest standout from emerging filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead that I was all over in Toronto two weeks back.
But aside from those previously seen gems, this year's Fantastic Fest pool was shoulders-deep in memorable pics. There was Everly, in which Salma Hayek lays waste to dozens of assassins in one claustrophobic apartment for 90 minutes straight; John Wick, a throwback to violent man-on-a-mission '70s action movies starring Keanu Reeves at his most badass; and Horns, an adaptation of author Joe Hill's novel starring Daniel Radcliffe and tailor-made for teenagers looking to broaden their horror movie horizons.
But none of those films ranked with this year's best. Out of the dozens of entries I got to check out, these were the stand-outs.