Genre film brings fans together like nothing else, and after 15 years, Fantastic Fest continues to do just that. It was our first time attending the festival and while we weren’t sure about much else, we knew that we had to attend the Fantastic debates. Almost every person we talked to told us to stop by the South Austin Gym for a night of debating passionate pop culture topics and, well, boxing.
This year’s Fantastic Debates was a buffet of verbal beatdowns and extremely spirited fighters. The first debaters’ topic? “Pain & Gain Proves that Michael Bay is Best Living American Filmmaker,” yes, the arguments were as crazy as the topic itself. Josh Lobo, director of IFC Midnight’s I Trapped the Devil, and actor Bruno Corbin (Turbo Kid) duked it out while Lobo defended Bay’s honor and Corbin besmirched it with Lobo coming out on top.
The second fight/ debate was between couple writer-programmer, Brad McHargue, and film programmer Becky Sayers. Their question: “Is Jason Voorhees is a More Interesting Character than Michael Meyers?” With the claims that Jason is little more than a mama’s boy and that Michael Meyers is the ultimate slasher since his blank slate identity and lack of motives allows the culture to give him meaning as it evolves. Safe to say, the latter, argued by Becky led to her winning the match.
Next, filmmaker Gigi Saul Guerrero took to the ring, entering on the back of a man in a luchador mask, to prove that Lucha Libre was superior to Roller Derby. The latter point defended by a member of the Austin Roller Derby team Putas del Fuego, Bad Habbitch. In the largest smackdown of the night, Guerrero entered the ring to the sounds of Selena, took jabs at Whipit!, the fact that Roller Derby players aren’t played and of course the long history of Luchadores. Guerrero even gave the crowd an epic Mexican announcer intro. After trading blows, the crowd declared a winner unanimously.
The fourth match gave us some professional fighting action between South Austin Gym’s very own Randy Palmer and Canadian MMA champion Dave LeDuc. While the fighting was an obvious sparing session and lacking some of the intensity between the two women in the last round, it was still exciting to watch as the two exchanged kicks, hits, and more.
Finally, fans got the “ALL-OUT TOP SECRET MEGA-ULTRA-SUPREME ROYAL RUMBLE POWERBLASTMATCH 9000!!!” With Guerrero defending Lucha Libra only two rounds before, the debate devolved right away into a full-on rumble with Alamo Drafthouse staff and Fantastic Fest volunteers donning Lucha Libre matches and entering the ring in an incredible multi-person match. One of the competitors, El Gordo entered the ring in a shopping cart with big band music accompanying him.
Overall, when you throw in the free beer, the excitement, the arguments, and the passion that went from the ring to the crowd, the Fantastic Debates was the most exciting event during the festival.