Follow Gazette managing editor Rod Lott as he live-blogs Austin's Fantastic Fest all weekend long!
Got into Austin at 3 p.m. Thursday and went straight to pick up my press
badge. You can tell that Fantastic Fest isn't your average film
festival because they required everyone to pose with a "shaky face." You
achieve that by letting your face go really loose and limp, and whip
your head back and forth fast. It hurts; now I understand the whole
shaken baby syndrome thing.
Worse than that is that it's hot here. Back-sweaty hot.
Since my first screening wasn't until 9 p.m. ("The Human Centipede II:
Full Sequence"), I killed a lot of time at the neighboring Highball
bowling lounge, where Fantastic Fest is holding its Arcade, showcasing
some really wild indie games (example: "Jesus vs. Dinosaurs"). Most of
the games are housed in classic arcade stand-ups, but one was projected
on the wall.
Around happy hour, the Fandago mascots crashed the place. I didnt know
they had mascots. One looks like a Chinese dragon; the other, a paper
sack. I don't know, but they gave me some free koozies.
Speaking of free, the Highball happy hour party was sponsored by
PlayStation 3, so I got a free T-shirt for some game called "StarHawk."
Although I know nothing about the game, I like the shirt — mainly
because it's not black. The other two free shirts I got upon check-in
were black. It's a terrible color on me. But no, you can't have them.
Finally, while waiting for "Centipede," I got to test Mitsubishi's new
3-D TV, via scenes from the '80s schlock Western, "Comin' at Ya!" The
movie looks fun; as for the TV, save your money. —Rod
I can't imagine a more appropriate movie to serve as Fantastic Fest's
official opener than "The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)," a
near-immediate sequel to the instant cult hit that entered the
pop-culture lexicon before it even saw release.
Last night's 9 p.m. crowd was pumped, but perhaps not quite primed, for
whatever in-attendance writer/director/producer Tom Six had conjured up
this time. Anyone who has read my original review of the first
may recall that I think that film's events weren't as graphic as
everyone expected — that they could've been much
Well, welcome to the "much worse." But more on that in a moment.
Awaiting each viewer was an official "Human Centipede II" Survival Kit, a
branded barf bag containing a staple remover and a peppermint. I ate
We also each received a "Human Centipede II" T-shirt, bearing the pun
tagline, "The Deuce Is Loose." Anyone who didn't get the reference would
within 90 minutes. Naturally, the shirt is brown. No, you can't have
Before the show, FF and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League coerced lil'
"Lord of the Rings" star Elijah Wood to join him onstage from his spot
in the audience. Wood complied, soon giving way to an all-audience
re-creation of the actor's now-infamous "Puppet Master" dance from
kiddie show "Yo Gabba Gabba!" The sight was surreal, especially since —
this being the Alamo — subliminal shots of exploding heads from
"Scanners" and the like made their way into the footage before taking
Then we experienced the movie. When Six promoted the original film by
saying the sequel would make it look like "My Little Pony" by
comparison, that wasn't just a good soundbite. Part two makes part one
look positively innocent. To Six's credit, he didn't simply remake his
own movie. Instead, he completely flipped it and went meta.
"THC II" begins with Martin (newcomer Laurence R. Harvey), a sweaty,
bug-eyed, obese parking garage attendant in London, watching the tail
end of the first "THC" on his laptop at work. When it's over, he watches
it again. He's obsessed with it, to the point that he keeps a scrapbook
of the film hidden underneath his bed, as if it were porn.
Martin doesn't utter a word. He doesn't need to. His story is so simple
— a lifetime of abuse and ridicule — that he doesn't have to. The gist
of "THC II" is that he begins to wonder about testing the movie's "100%
Medically Accurate" advertising claim, so he seeks out some unwilling
test subjects from the labyrinthian parking garage. Whereas the movie's
Dr. Heiter had but three victims, Martin seeks a dirty dozen.
Whereas the first film was clean and antiseptic in look and design, this
sequel is bleak and grimy. Whereas the first film was in color, this
sequel is in black-and-white — except for one scene, à la the girl in
the red dress from Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List," but I leave it
to your imagination. Whereas the first film showed next to nothing,
this sequel shows everything. I do think it goes too far, and from a guy
like me who has a strong tolerance for horror, that's saying something.
(However, I should note that most of the audience members were more
troubled by a pre-show short of a medical education film about the
vasectomy procedure, step by scissoring step.)
I'm still processing "THC II." Six has made the darkest of black
comedies, set in "Eraserhead"-type surroundings of societal misery, and
then stitched on a Grand Guignol grand finale that had many unsure
whether to laugh or recoil, so they did both. Harvey gives a remarkably
brave performance; we alternately feel sorry for him and want to kill
him. I think I liked the movie — it's arty, clever
and unique — but so much of its third act crosses the line that the
angel on my shoulder tells me I shouldn't. You'll never look at sandpaper the same way again.
Actually, the afterward appearance of Six, Harvey and four lovely
centipede segments onstage took some of the sting out of it. There's a
reason why they call it "special effects." Those butts sure looked real
The highlight of the Q-and-A was when League asked Six about how he
found Harvey, who resembles Alfred Hitchcock by way of Batman comics'
The Penguin. Six said Harvey walked into auditions, "and then I asked
him to rape a chair. He went at it full-force." And the rest is cinema
history. —Rod Lott
Because this looks like one killer serving of alphabet soup.
At Fantastic Fest in Austin a couple weekends ago, the free T-shirt I was given upon check-in was for “The ABCs of Death,” a forthcoming anthology film with one nifty concept: 26 directors each taking on a letter of the alphabet, each shooting a short on the various ways we all may bite the dust, but hopefully won’t. You know, like A is for asphyxiation — that sort of thing.
Yep, 25. Because for the 26th, Drafthouse Films left the letter-T slot open to be filled via a contest. Now that the submissions have been collected, it’s up for the public to decide. Your quick vote — not “Like,” but the actual
“vote” button, and be sure to verify that email so it counts! — will
make someone a very happy camper.
My vote’s been cast for Shade Rupe’s “T Is for Trick,” partly because if it’s good enough for Clive Barker (who said “colour me impressed ... bloody good work”), it’s good enough for me and you. You can view all the submissions and vote at the official “ABCs of Death” site. —Rod Lott