With the festival set to kick off in just two days, there were still a few films I had to share with you. Can I make all of them fit into my schedule? Probably not, but here’s hoping you find time to catch a few by buying a badge and screening a few of those available virtually.
Check out my preview pieces on the selections in Documentary group as well as Part 1 of the Narrative Features.
Directed by: Bill Posley
All I know about this horror option is that it sounds like it could fulfill an overdue gap that audiences have felt of needing a new iconic figure to haunt their dreams. Could director Bill Posley be shepherding in a neat little fear franchise that grabs you first with its title and keeps you engaged when reading its synopsis? A bullied boy christened with the titular nickname comes back for revenge almost thirty years later as a man intent on paying terror forward on the next generation. Elements of Candyman and any number of ’80s slasher tropes dance through my head, but the proof will be in the (bloody) pudding.
Directed by: Vanessa Winter, Joseph Winter
Now this ambitious horror from a husband and wife directing team looks like it might have some bite to it. In an era of constant live streaming, there’s a push for new content bigger and better than before. A dwindling following and pressure to stay in the headlines push a low-level celebrity into broadcasting his overnight stay in a haunted house, much to the annoyance of the ghost living there. The directors promise 100% practical effects, basically speaking my love language. I’ll be logged on for this one.
Directed by: Addison Heimann
Even if you have the best relationship with your mother (hi, mom!), you have to admit there’s always a creeping sense of fear when you know she’s coming over. Is everything in order? Have you put away your clothes? Anything else out you don’t want her to see? Addison Heimann’s Hypochondriac takes it a step further and suggests the appearance of his long-absent mother sends a young gay man down a scary path, but to what end? How Heimann balances this relationship angle with horror elements has me curious to diagnose his film.
Directed by: Brendan Muldowney
This Irish-produced film The Cellar sounds like one Netflix would be glad to pick up and distribute as one of their Summer series of horror flicks, and to be honest, its casual spooky description sounds like comfort food to me. The plot, involving stolen children and the occult, doesn’t seem overly complicated, so it’s all about the mood director Brendan Muldowney gives to the piece. If the scares are there, the audience will follow. I’ve been an Elisha Cuthbert fan ever since the good ‘ole days of the television series 24, so noticing she was playing the lead in this selection made adding it to my list a no-brainer.
Directed by: Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes
Hailing from Australia, the simple breakdown of Sissy’s plot sounds like several movies I’ve seen in recent years. Two women are friends, with one more invested in the friendship than the other. Eventually, either they grow apart, or an event separates them, but they will cross paths again, and that’s when the film’s main action begins to develop. Sharing writing and directing duties with one of its stars (Hannah Barlow), Kane Senes will need to find that right mix of presenting the women as individuals while also giving over to the pulpier details of these types of tales. Still, the dynamic on this one looks like it’s one to keep all eyes and ears on.
Directed by: Nyla Innuksuk
Already well known for creating the Marvel comic book character Snowguard, an Inuk activist infused with spiritual magic, writer/director Nyla Innuksuk makes her feature film debut with the alien sci-fi thriller Slash/Back. Set in the far northeast of Canada where it’s daylight 24-hours a day in summer, the teens of the town band together to prevent visitors from outer space from taking over their homes. Slash/Back represents another entry in the increasing output from Indigenous Peoples within the horror/sci-fi genre, and already there’s a lot of talk about this one going over well at SXSW. If it’s not on your list already, it should be.
Directed by: Pete Ohs
A lesson for you: It always pays to read the description of the films and not skim by title only. With a selection as large as SXSW, it can be tempting to pick what stands out, but I nearly missed Jethica the first time I looked over the offerings. The horror/thriller/comedy from Pete Ohs tracks two women attempting to avoid a man stalking one of them who has followed her to New Mexico. I could learn more about this one, but I have the gut feeling to go in with as little advance knowledge as possible and be surprised. The synopsis already provided a few sly turns, so I admit to being seriously curious.
Cha Cha Real Smooth
Directed by: Cooper Raiff
I’m going to concede something to you. When Cha Cha Real Smooth premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, the number of people on Twitter singing its praises became too much for me. I had to mute that four-word phrase until after it had won the highly-coveted Audience Award. The enormity of that success and praise should tell you something about the acclaim this one is likely to receive at SXSW as well, with writer/director/star Cooper Raiff and Dakota Johnson riding a wave of good notices that they’ll hope to carry on through 2022. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing it before it’s hyped too much, which is a real issue that can arise on the festival circuit.
Directed by: Carey Williams
Another film zooming into SXSW on solid advance buzz out of Sundance is Emergency, and it’s already been picked up for distribution by Amazon Studios. Directed by Carey Williams from a screenplay by KD Davila (nominated for an Oscar this year for her creative short film Please Hold, one of the better ones!), this comedy gives off the vibe that it would go over well with a packed house. So, of course, this is an occasion where I wish I could be in Austin to experience it in person. A solid cast of up-and-coming talent is featured, so along with the fresh faces behind the camera, this could be an excellent opportunity to see future stars in breakout roles.
Directed by: Colin West
Written and directed by Colin West, Linoleum stars comedian and all-American dad Jim Gaffigan in a rare leading role. Often relegated to supporting player status, Gaffigan has an opportunity to use his considerable affability to good use if cast in the correct part. This tale of a father pining to be an astronaut that crafts a spaceship out of a downed satellite sounds just quirky enough to fit the actors I see listed in the principal cast…but will it fly with audiences? Once the synopsis starts to talk about “surreal events,” is when I get a tad nervous, but let’s allow this one to shoot for the moon and see what happens.
Directed by: Gracie Otto
Can the world ever have enough Dolly Parton? The county superstar has a new book out she co-wrote with James Patterson and a CD that goes with it, she’s in a new documentary on the making of 9 to 5 also premiering at SXSW, and she appears on March 18th live from Pigeon Forge. Not to be outdone, there’s Seriously Red, Gracie Otto’s Australian film about a woman that tries her hand as a Dolly impersonator. Sold. I need to know no more. I mean, mentioning the film also has songs from Elvis, Kenny Rogers, and Kylie Minogue doesn’t hurt, nor does knowing Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale appear in it. Polishing my rhinestones in anticipation of this one.
Spin Me Round
Directed by: Jeff Baena
Co-written by star Alison Brie, this comedy boasts one of the most impressive casts of all the movies playing at the festival. That should surprise no one because of how well-liked Brie is in the industry or the kind of niche cred director/co-writer Jeff Baena has gained with his previous films like The Little Hours and Life After Beth. Both of those films starred his wife, Aubrey Plaza, so you better believe she’s in this comedy as well. Following a woman who travels to Italy through an immersion program and winds up encountering nothing but trouble, Spin Me Round feels tailor-made to all involved. Ciao, Bella! Let’s go to Italy!
Directed by: Eli Horowitz
Winona Ryder is in this. Winona. Ryder. This is all that matters. I’m seeing it.
That’s it, that’s the preview. (Click on the title for all the information on the movie)
Directed by: Maureen Bharoocha
In April of last year, I saw a well-made comedy that got little exposure when it was released digitally, and that’s too bad because Golden Arm, about women’s arm wrestling, directed by Maureen Bharoocha, was a blast. Bharoocha showed a knack not just for encouraging fresh performances out of her cast but also a visual flair, signifying she was a filmmaker to watch. Here we are at SXSW, and Bharoocha is giving us The Prank, starring Rita Moreno as a wicked high-school teacher willing to make examples of her students that takes her terrible lessons too far. With retribution on their mind, two students ready an act of revenge that spins out of control quickly. The premise sounds like any number of YA adaptations, but in the hands of Bharoocha and her cast, I’m hoping we get a dark comedy that pulls no punches.