No film festival is crazier than Fantastic Fest, so by default no film festival is home to crazier characters. From vicious murderers to talking cats, from aliens to crime bosses, from astronauts to, um, God, this year’s slate of movies introduced all kinds of memorable characters. So you know what that means: list time. These are our 10 favorite characters from Fantastic Fest 2015. We hope you’ll get the chance to meet them soon.

And that picture at the top of this article? That’s Thomasin from The Witch, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. She was number 11.


10. Elias in Men and Chicken

With his bad haircut, worse mustache, awful wardrobe, and harelip, Mads Mikkelsen simply does not look like Mads Mikkelsen in Men and Chicken. But that physical transformation is only the tip of one crazy iceberg. Buried under his new, often grotesque skin, Mikkelsen is free to create a truly inspired comic creation.

Pathetic but lovable, repulsive but all-too-human, he’s a cartoon character given sympathetic form. He’s the wrecked heart of Men and Chicken, a movie so dark and outlandish that its actors have to work overtime keep it tethered to reality. They succeed. Plus, who knew that Mikkelsen was so good at slapstick pratfalls?


9. Black Pepper in Dangerous Men

What are we to make of Black Pepper, the main villain of the recently rediscovered oddity known as Dangerous Men? We’re told that he’s the leader of a vile biker gang, but he’s also a giving lover and a gracious employer. He rocks an insane hair-do. He’s awfully incompetent for a master criminal. Quite frankly, he doesn’t make much sense…and that’s why he’s so great.

Dangerous Men feels like it was made by aliens who had never actually seen a movie before and this guy captures all of the accidental, insane charm that makes this movie such a blast. Black Pepper is barely a character, but as a collection of delirious ideas and bonkers moments, he’s unforgettable.

8. The Unkillable Teacher in Assassination Classroom

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. An alien destroys the moon and then announces to all of humanity that Earth is next. However, he wants to give us a fair chance. We have a year to kill him first…and he’ll personally train a classroom of students how to do it. That’s the insane set-up for Assassination Classroom, a movie where the villain is is always the best and most engaging character on the screen.

And we’re not alone in thinking so — his students agree and come to actually respect him as a pretty damn good teacher. As a film, Assassination Classroom is a little too episodic for its own good, but its main character is about as strange and charming as you can get. It’s not every day that you meet someone who is convincingly an evil monster and a genuinely inspirational teacher who can’t help but care about his students.

7. God in The Brand New Testament

The Brand New Testament doesn’t beat around the bush — God is real and he lives in Brussels. But God is also a pretty terrible guy, tormenting his wife and daughter and inflicting all kinds of calamity on mankind from behind his outdated computer. It’s no wonder his son, who left home ages ago, doesn’t come around anymore.

Played with hilarious menace by Benoît Poelvoorde, this is the God of the Old Testament made flesh. Sure, he watches sports and lives in a modern apartment, but he’s all about putting mankind through the wringer, making them suffer for the sake of suffering. Eventually, the film propels him into the mortal world, where things get really blasphemous. You will be hard-pressed to find a more unique cinematic take on the divine…especially since Poelvoorde makes sure that there is nothing even remotely likable in his performance. Yes, God really is out to get you.

6. Darwin in April and the Extraordinary World

The realm of animation has given us plenty of talking animals, but it has never given us a talking animal quite like Darwin (voiced by Philippe Katerine). One of the main characters in April and the Extraordinary World, Darwin is a cat who is granted the power of speech after a scientific experiment (although he bemoans that the actual goal of the experiment — to make him immortal — failed).

The sidekick to Marion Cotillard’s April, he’s an enthusiastic and intelligent companion, helping his human allies navigate their French steampunk alternate history surroundings like a seasoned pro. Most impressively, the film never forgets that he’s a cat, giving him the same bad habits and weird tics that you see in any pet feline. Of course, he now has the ability to apologize for, well, acting like a cat.

5. Richard Wilder in High-Rise

Tom Hiddleston may be be the star of High-Rise, but Luke Evans’ Richard Wilder is its furious, fiery, and altogether unwell soul. As the titular apartment complex descends into anarchy and violence, Wilder, a self-proclaimed social activist, first attempts to document everything that is going wrong. However, his seemingly noble mission is really just an excuse to indulge in his base instincts as he helps transform a bad situation into an apocalyptic one.

Evans is a force of nature — charismatic and terrifying in equal measure, he’s the unpredictable force that charges through High-Rise like a freight train, transforming an already unsettling movie into an unpredictable circus of carnage.

4. Mark Watney in The Martian

Mark Watney loves his job. Hell, he loves it even after he’s accidentally stranded on Mars with no immediate hope for a rescue. But like a true scientist, he soldiers on. What is this if not a learning experience? If he’s going to die, he’s going to die testing and theorizing and, well, science-ing.

Played with warmth and intelligence by Matt Damon, Mark is one of the most optimistic and hopeful protagonists in recent memory. Even when things are at their lowest, even when all hope seems lost, Mark lets a wisecrack fly and gets to work. Here is a character who embodies the best that we can be. Here is a character who is genuinely inspiring.

3. Amber in Green Room

Look, everyone is going to be on the Imogen Poots bandwagon once they’ve seen Green Room, so prepare yourself. Sure, her Amber may be a member of a racist, violent gang of skinheads who trap our heroes in a green room in an isolated music venue in the middle of nowhere, but she’s a necessary ally. The Neo-Nazis who are literally at the door want her and everyone else in the room dead. Her only option is to team up with a group of people who can’t stand her. And let’s just say she wins them, and the audience, over before the credits.

The most resourceful person among the “good guys,” she knows what to expect and how to survive. The movie never demands that she change her ways, but it does ask you to marvel at how cool she is under pressure. In a movie that lets so many characters exist in shades of grey, Amber may be the grayest of the bunch.

2. Michael Stone in Anomalisa

Michael Stone is not having a good life. Everything around him is mundane, and every face is the same. Literally. (Because Anomalisa is stop-motion animated and every other character has the same voice and everyone, man, woman or child, is voiced by Tim Noonan.) However, a chance encounter with a woman named Lisa — who actually has her own face and voice! — may put him on a path to happiness…or simply seal his fate forever.

Beautifully voiced by David Thewlis, Michael is a character who feels impossibly real. Don’t let the fact that he’s a puppet dissuade you. Here is a character who searches for a glimmer of hope in every aspect of his life and never finds it. More importantly, here is a guy who is the architect of his own unhappiness, whose inability to find joy in his very existence cripples him to his core. In Michael Stone, co-directors Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson have created one of the most real and raw characters of 2015. He just happens to be a puppet.

1. William in The Witch

It’s easy to watch The Witch and convince yourself that Ralph Ineson is a time traveler. So many actors struggle to look natural in period pieces and here is an actor that feels like he literally stepped out of a time tunnel and onto the set. Ineson’s William is the patriarch of a Puritan family who is driven from their 17th century New England settlement for actually being too religious.

Upon building a new home for his wife and children in the nearby woods, he finds himself and his loved ones under assault by…something. The title of the movie may be a clue. Watching William grapple with his faith as his entire existence is torn apart is gripping cinema. Watching Ineson embody this character (whose period-appropriate dialogue and speech patterns practically make him alien) and make him so relatable, terrifying and ultimate pitiable is one of the most harrowing experiences we had at Fantastic Fest.


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