There was enough slack in the chain cuffing me to the karaoke-room wall that, if I stretched my hand just so, I could pick up the autopsied brain to my left. That was about it. Ten minutes into the "Satanic Panic Room," I was stuck. It was up to my fellow Dark Lord disciples to free themselves from similar binds and throw me a key. I'd say more, but the mustachioed cult leader overseeing our ritual forced me to sign an NDA. No one spills the devil's escape-room secrets and lives.
Surviving a Satanic Panic Room is a routine Thursday morning at Austin's Fantastic Fest, the film festival that started as a genre-movie experiment 12 years ago and has grown into a cavalcade of cinema-adjacent experience, driven to redefine the abstract sensation of "holy shit." Contained within the Alamo Drafthouse, a mecca for movie fans, and devised by Drafthouse CEO Tim League, Fantastic Fest is a rowdy, rebellious, ridiculous response to the pop-culture mainstream, even while courting major names and blockbuster titles. If Sundance is where the movie industry goes to discover new talent, Cannes is a hotbed for high art, and Toronto's annual film fest is the unofficial kickoff to Oscar season, then Fantastic Fest is the place where Hollywood cracks open a beer and blows off some steam. League and his team of programmers push to outdo themselves year after year, scouring the planet for the perfect movies and tricking out each night of the seven-day festival with memories that'll break through any hangover.