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Eight Days in Austin for Fantastic Fest 2023

A fantastic mix of horror, sci-fi, action and fantasy films is taking over Alamo Drafthouse

(photo from Fantastic Fest 2022)

From September 21 – 28, 2023, the fantastical Hollywood arts of horror, sci-fi, action and fantasy overtake the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar for the 18th time with Fantastic Fest. Expect peculiar premieres like Mike Flannigan’s Fall of the House of Usher, the cult classic return of the Toxic Avenger, a prequel series premiere of Steven King’s Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, and the final performance of Euphoria star Agnus Cloud in Your Lucky Day. The now International Federation of Film Producers accredited festival is packing eight days with unforgettable nights. The dark stars fall onto Austin as a week celebrating the strange and spectacular side of motion pictures means a series of screenings and parties that’ll leave patrons ready to join the Fantastic Fest cult.

(photo courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar)

Speaking with Fantastic Fest Festival Director Lisa Dreyer, she breaks down how Austin got lucky to land one of the country’s top-rated horror film festivals and why it’ll continue its legacy of turning first-timers into long-timers. It all started when Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League found himself at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain. League was delightfully shocked by the fantastic atmosphere of a Fantasy and Horror-centered festival showing all these weird and wonderful movies in a cool beachside town. While Austin lacks any beach beyond Secret Beach on the Colorado River, League knew he could bring a festival of Sitges’ caliber to Austin. 

Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League (center) at Fantastic Fest Opening Night Party 2022 (photo by Jack Plunkett)

Dreyer’s path to the festival started simply as a volunteer who worked on the screening team. Volunteers for Fantastic Fest have a ubiquitous trait of ending up on the festival team, breaking into the industry through the screening side of the film. Fostering a knack for knowing which films will be a hit with the festival’s audience, Dreyer’s been a part of the festival’s track record of hosting future blockbuster and cult classic hits for the wider world to obsess over after Austin gets the first bite. 

With that dynamic of screening hundreds of films across international festivals and selecting what they like, Dreyer and her team always back the artists they support. “Once shows your movie at Fantastic Fest, we really like to support you.” Dreyer adds, “ We always like having you back.” This relationship with the artists at the festival has allowed Fantastic Fest to land premieres of movies like John Wick, Smile, Zombieland, and many others. In fact, Austin film icon Macon Blair will be a part of the opening night for the festival with his Toxic Avenger reboot. 

“For being a small town. We have a lot of filmmakers.” Dreyer explains why Austin feels so tied to the film industry. “When Richard Linklater started the Austin Film Society, I really think that the community that grew around it. map.” That and how Alamo Drafthouse has continued to support the film scene has led to our city hosting major premieres like we will once again for this Fantastic Fest. 

(photo from Fantastic Fest 2022)

An Unmatched Lineup of Films, New and Nostalgic

Expect the unexpected at Fantastic Fest as future hits premiere alongside re-showings of cult classics.

Caligula: The Ultimate Cut
Malcolm McDowell’s making his way to Austin to show the ultimate cut of the 1980 controversial classic. Shadowed by the murder of his entire family, the young, wary Caligula (Malcolm McDowell) eliminates his devious adoptive grandfather (Peter O’Toole) and seizes control of the declining Roman Empire, descending into a spiral of depravity, destruction, and madness. A treatise on the corrupting influence of power, this extensive reconstruction of the notorious 1980 spectacle, Caligula: The Ultimate Cut restores the complete performances of McDowell and Helen Mirren, as the promiscuous ‘Caesonia,’ from an unprecedented amount of never before-seen footage. With John Gielgud, amid sumptuous designs by two-time Oscar winner Danilo Donati. An official selection of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival

Pet Sematary: Bloodlines
In 1969, a young Jud Crandall has dreams of leaving his hometown of Ludlow, Maine behind, but soon discovers sinister secrets buried within and is forced to confront a dark family history that will forever keep him connected to Ludlow. Banding together, Jud and his childhood friends must fight an ancient evil that has gripped Ludlow since its founding, and once unearthed has the power to destroy everything in its path. Based on the untold chapter from “Pet Sematary,” Stephen King’s chilling novel, PET SEMATARY: BLOODLINES is a terrifying prequel and the story of why sometimes dead is better…. (Paramount)

Toxic Avenger
Austin’s Macron Blair premieres his reboot. A horrible toxic accident transforms downtrodden janitor Winston Gooze into a new evolution of hero: The Toxic Avenger! Now wielding a glowing mop with super-human strength, he must race against time to save his son and stop a ruthless and power-hungry tyrant bent on harnessing toxic superpowers to strengthen his polluted empire. (Legendary)

Do you remember Spooky World? The doc tells the story of Spooky World’s founder, David Bertolino, a PR-savvy mix of P.T. Barnum and Stephen King who parlayed his experience working in his father’s costume shop into creating the largest horror scream park of its kind. Interwoven into Bertolino’s narrative, the film delves into the lives of the aspiring actors and misfits from the nearby rural community who grew up working as the park’s haunters. The romances, the scandals, and so many potentially flammable scenarios…(Anna Bogutskaya)

The Fall of the House of Usher
In this wicked series based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, ruthless siblings Roderick and Madeline Usher have built Fortunato Pharmaceuticals into an empire of wealth, privilege and power. But past secrets come to light when the heirs to the Usher dynasty start dying at the hands of a mysterious woman from their youth. (Netflix)

Fantastic Fest Opening Night Party 2022 (photo by Jack Plunkett)

Unforgettable Parties Included in Admission

Even if getting to see a movie on the big screen for the first time with members of the cast scattered around you isn’t enough of a reason to go ahead and get a badge, the parties will rope you in. without giving away the surprise beyond a drag show hosted by local legend Louisiana Purchase and opening night jam with The Octopus Project Dreyer says “Our team just has so many ideas and try to outdo the year before”. Dreyer elaborates on closing night that, “ I would love to tell you what we’re doing on closing night… if you can make it closing night, we’re doing some pretty wild things.”

Fantastic Fest Opening Night Party 2022 (photo by Jack Plunkett)

How to Join the Cult

In typical festival fashion in Austin, expect to badge up to show up for screenings. Broken down into tiers, Second Half, Fan, Superfan (now sold out) and Cult Member, there are a variety of levels to the film festival cult for patrons to partake with. 

Second Half
Covering the last four days of the festival, this badge costs the least at $275. Allowing tickets to badge holders to see the screenings from September 25th to the 28th. Including access to festival parties and events for the last half of the festival.

At $545, Badge holders get full access to all eight days, parties, and events for the entire run of the festival. 

Super Fan
While sadly sold out, anticipate to grab one of the hotter badges for the festival next year for not only access to all eight days, but a guaranteed seat at your first choice screening. Parties and events also included. 

Cult Member 
The highest status badge, Cult Members get access to the entire festival, guaranteed first choice of seats at screenings, parties, events, and a slew of exclusive perks. Perks like Cult Member exclusive gifts, merchandise, priority status for parties, surprise and exclusive engagements, over $50 value daily of drink and menu specials and access to all parties plus private off-site events at undisclosed locations. Coming in at $1,495, these badges pack the biggest value of an experience for the festival. 

Grab your badges and hold on tight for eight days spent at the Alamo you’ll never forget, and be sure to check out the schedule to plan every screening you’ll want to catch! Find more info at