Wade D., here….
Here we are, back for part 2 of my 3 part series on Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX! Don’t be surprised if there isn’t some additional bonus material thrown in after the 3rd part because: 1. There are just too many things to talk about, and; 2 You deserve it! In this review, we are going to dive into my favorite part of Fantastic Fest, the attendees and the community that support the festival.
Before I ever attended Fantastic Fest, I was aware of the fervent group of fans that supported the festival. This level of devotion to a film festival was unusual to me, as it seemed to border on religious adoration… truly exemplifying the fanaticism that is usually absent from what we call “fans”. Unlike the die hard fan bases for sports, colleges, etc. that require you to prove that you have been a proponent since you were a fetus, I found this clan far more welcoming and II was immediately accepted into the fold. I met attendees that have participated with the festival in some fashion since the inaugural year of the 13 year festival, and they were just as welcoming to newcomer me as they were to those that make annual pilgrimage to the Alamo Drafthouse.
Film festivals are great for watching movies and meeting great new friends, but Fantastic Fest also has parties and other events that keep the fun going until the wee hours of the morning. Opening night there was a pajama party complete with best pajamas contest. I did not have time to make the outfit change to jump into my jammies, but there were plenty of folks that did so. Even though I was up past my bedtime, there was a strong contingent that took the party into the wee hours of the morning and climaxing with a pillow fight and an explosion of feathers. Another night included a Monster Squad themed party that commemorated the 30th anniversary of the release of a childhood favorite. There were movie used props and costumes available to peruse, along with a full size mockup of the treehouse headquarters of the squad. The Monster Squad party culminated with a quick look at a Monster Squad doc in the works, and a cast reunion on stage. Truly a one of a kind experience that I will never experience again!
Taking a brief respite from the frivolity, I stepped out to the plaza area of the Alamo Drafthouse. While a majority of the happenings were inside, there was still fellowship and movie discussions occurring in the tented patio in front of the theater. As I was enjoying a pint and the Texas sunshine, in the distance I heard a distinctive faint wail of bagpipes. On any other day, or at any other place, this would strike me as quite odd, but my brief 24 hours at Fantastic Fest has already conditioned me to expect the unexpected. As I whip around to locate the source of the bagpipes, I discover a full parade coming down the street. Not your typical parade mind you, but a processional of Scottish zombies helmed by the bagpipe player. Just when I had it all figured out… What in the hell is going on here?
Turns out the parade was to commemorate the world premiere of Anna and the Apocalypse. What is this movie, you ask? Just your typical Scottish Zombie Christmas Musical. Yup. So this movie is like High School Musical’s take on Shaun of the Dead, but with a Christmas in Scotland setting. At this point, I know I must see this movie because this is exactly the type of Fantastic Fest experience that I was hoping for. While I am not the target demographic for this type of movie, I genuinely enjoyed it and think it was a fresh take on the zombie genre.
Our protagonist Anna is seeking to break out of hum-drum life in small town Scotland. Her relationship with her father is strained when she decides to travel the world and after high school instead of going straight to university. While the high school is gearing up for the annual Christmas musical, a zombie infestation begins to take over the nation. Time to kick some zombie ass, all while belting out some tunes and dance numbers. Overall the songs were good, although you could trim out a song or two to tighten up the movie and keep the pacing up. That being said, there is plenty zombie brain bashing and gore to keep genre enthusiasts entertained. Whether you are a fan of musicals or of zombie flicks, I think that this movie has the elements you want to have and by incorporating elements from the other genres provides a fresh take that defies typical conventions.