I’m filing this report from the wackiest film festival I’ve ever
attended: Fantastic Fest, in Austin, Texas. Co-founded by Tim League,
originator of the innovative movie theater Alamo Drafthouse, this celebration
of genre cinema is in its tenth year and has developed a loyal following. The
films on view come from all parts of the globe, from Scandinavia to South
America. When Tim invited me to be a juror this year, I chose the comedy
category, called Gutbusters, as I am not a fan of graphic horror. Little did I
dream that in at least one of the movies there would be actual guts busting! (I
can’t comment on the films I’ve seen just yet, as the jury has yet to vote on
Films are just part of the attraction at Fantastic Fest. Saturday
morning I went on a skeet-shooting expedition, marking the first time I have
ever held, let alone fired, a rifle. (My aim was iffy, but I pulverized at
least one target—to my own astonishment.) That night I was told I had to attend
a signature event: Fantastic Debates, in which four pairs of opponents tackle
film-related topics and then battle each other in a boxing ring. I’m not
kidding. I don’t possess a poker face, and a number of people commented on my
slack-jawed reaction to the madness.
Mondo Posters is another offshoot of the Alamo Drafthouse theater
chain, and this has given birth to a related event this weekend called
MondoCon. Here, fans have a chance to meet major comic and poster artists like
Bernie Wrightson and Mike Mignola. I was especially thrilled to shake hands with
Basil Gogos, having grown up admiring his beautiful cover art for Famous Monsters of Filmland.
(Various Mondo artists have paid tribute to classic films and it was exciting
to see so many on display. I loved Brian Ewing’s take on Bride of Frankenstein and Todd Slater’s tribute to Alfred
Hitchcock, to name just two.)
I’m being interviewed Monday night onstage by Zack Carlson,
then on Tuesday I’m participating in a competition, hosted by Ant Timpson, based on my Movie Guide that follows a different path from
Doug Benson’s Leonard Maltin Game: it’s similar to Balderdash, as participants
try to bluff their opponents by making up reviews to match obscure titles
listed in the book.
I get a real sense of community in the lobby of the Alamo
Drafthouse multiplex where the screenings take place. This isn’t your
grandmother’s film festival, but it’s great fun and has an energy all its own.