Dystopian zombie mutants, reality-bending psychological terror, dreamlike animations, and a healthy dose of gore – the inaugural Fantastic Film Festival Australia (20 Feb – 4 March) has announced its full program of strange and surreal, boundary-pushing and bizarre cinema screening at Lido Cinemas, Hawthorn (VIC) and Ritz Cinemas, Randwick (NSW).

Offering up its own distinct perspective on genre and alternative cinema, FFFA marries (un)guilty pictorial pleasures with subversive storytelling that hacks away at conventions, unearthing core truths that are typically shied away from: from hard-hitting sociocultural commentary, to unique perspectives on what’s widely taken for granted.

“Genre cinema has a unique ability to act as a monument; marking the social, cultural and political climate within which it exists,” says Fantastic Film Festival Program Director Hudson Sowada. “It’s not just mutants, monsters, and apocalyptic bloodlust, although of course there’s plenty of that too – these are thought-provoking works from filmmakers with something important to get off their chests.”

“Expect stories of the horrors of colonialism seeping through generations; the exploitation of those marginalised within society; and unflinching challenges to our near-glamorisation of serial killers in pop culture,” he said. “Join us as we collectively wade through the chaos, to land at the feet of monumentally powerful messages in the dark.”

Kicking off the Festival will be Chained for Life, an ode to the boundary-pushing spirit of filmmaking. The clever comedy-horror stars Jess Weixler (Teeth) as a beautiful actress on a horror film set who struggles to connect with her co-star Rosenthal, a man with a major facial deformity, as boundaries blur between reality and fiction, fair representation and exploitation cinema. Rosenthal is played by UK actor and disability activist Adam Pearson – who like his character, lives with neurofibromatosis.

Mutant Blast

Bringing the madness to a close will be mind-frying closing night film, Mutant Blast, from legendary off-the-rails horror studio Troma. When the zombie apocalypse strikes after a superhuman scientific experiment goes awry, a fearless soldier and a man with superhuman strength must navigate a mutant-ravaged cityscape, along with their accomplice with few ambitions and a brutal hangover.

FFFA also presents special screenings of Australian sci-fi metal-musical Sons of Steel, celebrating 30 years since its release. Sydney-based director Gary Keady, plus cast and crew, will attend the Ritz Cinema screening (27 Feb) for a post-film Q&A, taking audience questions about their cult hit following hard rock vigilante Black Alice, as he’s sent on an adventure through time to save Sydney from an impending nuclear apocalypse.

Based on the true story of serial killer Fritz Honka is The Golden Glove, a wake-up call response to the rise of serial killers in popular culture in recent years, by acclaimed director Fatih Akin (In the Fade); Suicide Tourist follows insurance detective Max (Game of Throne’s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) investigating a secretive facility specialising in elaborate assisted suicide fantasies; and psychological horror Saint Maud is a chilling vision of faith, madness and salvation in a fallen world, the latest from indie studio A24 (HereditaryMidsommar, The Lighthouse).

Not to be missed are two titles scrutinising colonialism and racial oppression: based on a real-world Haitian case of Voodoo zombie slavery, Zombi Child follows a Haitian teenager who reveals her family secret to her friends, not suspecting it will push one of them to commit the irreparable; and documentary Horror Noire traces the under-represented history of African American artists in Hollywood through the horror genre: from caricature and exploitation, through to the late 2010’s horror renaissance heralded by films like Get Out.


Audiences can go further down the weird and wonderful rabbit hole with special festival events, including screenings at Lido Rooftop and the newly opened Ritz Laneway. Melbourne fans can craft their own fantastic adventure at the one-off Dungeons and Dragons night (27 Feb, 4:30-8:30PM), hosted by the city’s most experienced Dungeon Masters; and the free Analogue Orgy (Saturday 29 Feb, 3:30-9:30PM), specially curated by Richard Sowada (St Kilda Film Festival Artistic Director), is a 16mm throwback to rare and bizarre education films and other oddball moments from the 50s, 60s and 70s, including the forgotten Disney classic The Story of Menstruation.

Fans across Melbourne and Sydney can also put their knowledge of the strange and absurd, horrific and hilarious to the test at Trivia nights (2 March, 7:30PM) that’ll have you scratching your head and clenching your sides in laughter.

2020 Fantastic Film Festival Australia Screening Dates

MELBOURNE: Thursday 20 February – Wednesday 4 March 2020 (Lido Cinemas, Hawthorn)

SYDNEY: Thursday 20 February – Monday 2 March 2020 (Ritz Cinema, Randwick)

Tickets are now available on:

Ritz Cinema –

Lido Cinemas –

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