The films that debut annually at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas range from big studio releases to tiny little indie flicks. The festival has a great history of introducing audiences to new horror films. We got a chance to check out a few of the tasty films on offer, which should make their way to theaters, other festivals, and home video formats in short order.
The movie is heading for wide release on April 17, yet producer Jason Blum introduced the screening by claiming that it wasn't necessary finished! He said everything, including the story and the ending, was up for grabs, but the basic premise will remain: a group of teenage friends gather for a nightly session of online chatting, and are then mortally threatened by someone claiming to be their dead friend.
The dead friend committed suicide after an embarrassing video was posted online. Teenage bullying is a serious and important issue, though it's not what will make this horror movie most memorable. That would be the way it's filmed: all the action takes place on a single computer screen, jam-packed with social media, email, photo and video programs that pop on and off. It's innovative, but will it draw crowds. We'll find out when it opens in theaters.
Director Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body) strikes out into different territory with this very conversational drama that eventually turns horrific. Old friends gather for a reunion when one of them returns after two years away. It turns out that she joined a cult with her new husband, and that the dinner party is the setting for a recruiting session.
The film generated mixed critical enthusiasm, as some reacted more positively than others to the very long set-up. It played at midnight, and contains adult subject matter but really is more of a thoughtful drama than a pure genre exercise; its saving grace is that it's extremely well-made. While it does not yet have distribution, that appears very likely, based on the general response.
Parental advisory: Hailing from New Zealand, this is a horror comedy that is very, very funny, and also very, very bloody. Two high school outcasts become friends through their shared love of heavy metal and form their own band. One day they discover mysterious sheet music; when they play the song, they unwittingly unleash a force of pure evil that turns everyone into zombies.
Cheerful and down to earth, Deathgasm, written and directed by Jason Lei Howden, is a very specific type of movie for a very specific type of audience. Jaded horror fans with a tolerance for explicit violence will totally rock out to the explosion of mirth and madness. It helps that neither the characters nor the filmmakers take themselves too seriously.
We Are Still Here
Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig star as a married couple still grieving the loss of their son. In the dead of winter, they move into an isolated house in New England, but soon learn their new home holds secrets that may destroy them.
The movie begins on a somber note and then quickly gains speed and intensity. Crampton and Sensenig are entirely authentic and sympathetic in their plight, and the story is bolstered with strong performances by Larry Fessenden and Monte Markham. We Are Still Here works on multiple levels; new horror fans will enjoy the thrills and chills, while experienced horror nuts will delight in the clever twists on an old formula. It doesn't shy away from more extreme imagery, but its true intention is to unsettle and surprise, which it does quite well.