I find that one of the most appealing aspects of the horror genre is its versatility. You can have horror films set in a time and a place that we may never see, that we think we know everything about, that we live in currently. Because fear is a condition of the human experience, horror creeps into everything. It persists no matter the time or place, lurking behind scraggly trees, crawls between the thin walls of a dilapidated house, and stares back us from the faces of our loved ones.
Them That Follow, which recently enjoyed its Texas premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, exemplifies that same kind of quiet, inescapable horror. It’s the kind of scary movie that isn’t interested in crescendos of blood and agony. Instead, Them That Follow focuses on more abstract questions about the personal beliefs and instincts that anchor our lives, the questioning of which leads to quiet but crushing moments of horror.
Want more SXSW horror besides Little Monsters? Check out my SXSW 2019 Horror Lineup post.
The zombie horror-comedy is so popular that it’s nearly a separate horror sub-genre. Films like Dead Alive, Shaun of the dead, and Zombieland have shown just how fun and raucous a zombie film can be without skimping on the gory set pieces we all love. But not all zombie comedies meet the mark. To be successful, a zombie horror-comedy must command two separate films in one, and as such, must strike a balance between the gravity of a zombie outbreak while creating relatable, funny characters.
At first, Little Monsters might seem like too risky a premise to strike that balance. Set in present-day Australia, Little Monsters follows Dave (Alexander England), who is crashing on his sister’s couch after his life craters. When he’s not smoking weed, he’s watching his adorable 5-year old nephew, Felix (Diesel La Torraca). Once Dave meets Felix’s lovely kindergarten teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), he decides to pursue her by volunteering to chaperone the class’s field trip to a local petting zoo. Little do they know that the American army base next door to the petting zoo has been secretly conducting zombie experiments (naturally). The zombies escape, of course, and Dave and Ms. Caroline find themselves responsible for the lives of eight adorable, innocent, precocious kindergarteners. And if that wasn’t enough, they must also contend with Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad), a highly annoying kids’ entertainer who shows his true sleazeball colors once shit goes down.
Adapting movies into television shows is always tricky
business. Just as with film remakes, television adaptations face a host of problems
from struggling to expand the scope of the original to failing to honor the
spirit of the source material. For every Westworld,
there are countless series that tried to adapt the likes of Blade or Taken. These series often fail to capture the spark of their
inspiration, either by neglecting to involve the original creative team or by
rushing production and failing to put forth a quality product.
However, judging by the pilot episode, FX’s What We Do in the Shadows series will succeed on both these fronts. Not only does the pilot capture the original film’s quirky and beloved sense of humor, but it also builds a firm foundation for what should be an entertaining and creative exploration beyond the original.
When it comes to genre and big-name film festivals, the South By Southwest (a.k.a. SXSW) Film Festival has always been eager to showcase horror movies. This acceptance of horror isn’t surprising considering how committed SXSW is to feature “genre standouts” and “celebrate raw innovation and emerging talent from both behind and in front of the camera.” Overall, films shown at SXSW cut across a wide range of genres, tones, and influences, often encapsulating Sci-fi/Horror, fantasy, intimate dramedies, high-profile comedies, and everything in between.
Essentially, SXSW is a really fun film festival, with way more audience favorites and diverse voices than some of the more prestigious festivals. The festival purposefully cultivates a certain rebellious spirit and often screens films that are both smart and crowd-pleasing, accessible yet weird enough to be worthy of the host city (Keep Austin weird!). Notable horror titles from past SXSW festivals include The Return Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blade 2, the original Cabin Fever, The Cabin in the Woods, Insidious, Penny Dreadful, Creep, The Invitation, Ex Machina, A Quiet Place, and Hereditary.
So yeah, horror fans should definitely pay attention to what comes out of SXSW.
Not only does this year’s slate look as impressive as ever, but Stories For Ghosts will also attend SXSW in person to cover as many horror films and TV pilots as possible! I can’t wait! No longer will I have to admire the festival from afar, as I did in 2017 and 2018. I’ll get to be on the ground, soaking up everything from Jordan Peele’s latest horror movie Us, to AMC’s new horror series NOS4A2 (based on Joe Hill’s novel, to indie films like Them That Follow and Darlin’. I feel like a goth kid in a Hot Topic all by myself with my mom’s American Express.
Do you ever wonder how or why certain pieces of art are worth millions of dollars? I think about that a lot, especially as someone who loves art. As an art lover, it doesn’t always make sense to me how some pieces can sell for $90 million while others go ignored. Are we saying that those big-ticket paintings are better art than those that don’t command those prices?
Of course not. The art scene, where critics reign supreme, gallery owners function as gatekeepers, and everyone wants their cut, sounds like the very opposite of how art should be handled. It seems twisted and deeply nihilistic to reduce artistic expression to its dollar amount.
This is the premise behind Velvet Buzzsaw, Dan Gilroy’s latest effort. Fresh from its premiere at Sundance Film Festival, Velvet Buzzsaw is a satirical horror film that aims to tackle this vapid world and those who inhabit it.