Kimblebee at Fantastic Fest 09, Day One - Gentlemen Broncos and Macabre
27th Oct 09
As this was my first visit to Austin, Texas (and indeed America), I had very little in my mind as to what to expect from Fantastic Fest 2009.
I had heard many a story about the events and parties that went on during the festival, and of course the excellent programming that was made possible by the many months of scouring countries from all over the world for their hidden genre gems. So as soon as I stepped off the plane, I knew this was going to be no ordinary trip...
When we arrived we were greeted by one of the Fantastic Fest volunteers, Mary, who gave us a lift to our hotel in a massive, white, hummer-like van. We barely got through the door before I managed to locate the massive flatscreen telly and proceeded to flick through the hundreds of channels available on US TV.
I then had chance for a quick snooze before heading out to the Highball Bar to collect our passes for the week ahead. This is a venue that has been purpose-built by festival organisers Tim and Karrie League to host all of the evening entertainment for the Fest. Once in the Highball we bumped into Tim himself as well as FrightFest organisers Paul McEvoy and Ian Rattray (along with his dad Alf) and Doghouse director Jake West. After sinking a few Stellas (or Cokes, in my case) we tried out the cocktails on offer including the most lethal concoction I have ever sampled in my life, which blows your head off – it is like liquid fire! And apparently is made with ingredients such as tomato water, onion and basil, amongst other things.
We left the boys to it around 10pm and headed back, stopping off for a quick snack at Jack in the Box on the way. By the time we got back we've been awake for nearly 24 hours, so it was time for some much needed sleep ahead of the six days of films that lay ahead...
We started the day off with a much needed cooked breakfast at TGI Friday's, which was handily located within the hotel, before heading out to South Congress to check out what the local shops had to offer. We then went on to 6th Street (Austin's popular bar and club strip, where you can be guaranteed to sample the best live music in the world every night of the week) – and as it was the middle of the day, we thought this would be a good time to get our bearings whilst it was still light outside.
It was soon evening, so we went back to the Alamo Drafthouse cinema on South Lamar (the main location for the FantasticFest films) to chill out for a bit before all the madness began, and I bought 2 T-shirts from the store within the cinema, Mondo T-Shirts (an official 2009 Fantastic Fest T-shirt and a Zombie riddled Alamo Drafthouse T-shirt – in case you're interested).
Dr Ronald Chevalier from Gentlemen Broncos
It was then time to go to the opening night film of Fantastic Fest, the World Premiere of Gentlemen Broncos, the new film from the makers of Napoleon Dynamite starring Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) and Sam Rockwell (Moon).
The film was the first of several to be shown at a different location to the rest of the festival; the Paramount Cinema (which we were told used to be an Opera house) has the same majestic feel to it as Notting Hill's Coronet Cinema. As I had only seen Napoleon Dynamite once (and didn't take much of it in at the time), I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised with the downbeat humour that this other-worldly Sci Fi hero story had to offer.
Gentleman Broncos tells the story of wannabe Science Fiction writer Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano), but after his story, Yeast Lords, gets seen by Benjamin's idol Dr Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement) at a local writing convention, the plot takes a turn and we see our typical loser turn into the ultimate hero! Clement steals the show in this offbeat, line-quoting, high-budget indie film and there are perhaps more moments that will have you cringing than laughing out loud, but anyone who liked Eagle vs Shark (also starring Jemaine Clement) will enjoy this as the humour and tone are very similar in both.
After the film we headed back across town to the Highball to attend the official opening night and the Brutus and Balzaak bash (to keep in theme with Gentlemen Broncos), with Jemaine Clement, Sam Rockwell and producer Mike White (School of Rock) all in attendance, rubbing shoulders with festival goers and enjoying the entertainment.
One thing to remember is that the Highball is not just any old bar, oh no, it has 8 bowling lanes and skee ball machines, and on this occasion, a battle stag and a country ball popcorn making station (you'll have to see the film to get it).
On at the same time as the Gentlemen Broncos bash was Macabre, which we saw a few weeks earlier at FrightFest. If it's brutal violence and endless gore that gets your pulse racing then this Indonesian bloodbath will tick all the boxes.
A feature length version of the short film Dara (also shown at the festival), the story sees six friends pick up a helpless girl on the side of the road, who appears to have been robbed, and return her to her home. It is only when they go inside the house that the plot starts to unravel and you realise that the friends' good deed will come back to bite them in the arse. The friends were part of a trap, and the rescued girl's family are a twisted bunch with a dark secret which goes to explain their need for fresh meat.
With the odd supernatural and occult reference thrown in, Macabre certainly isn't your average slasher movie, but a strong stomach is perhaps advised in order to see the film in full.