The Tribeca Film Festival starts tomorrow! The film festival circuit is in full swing and Tribeca is the latest prestigious stop. And I’m going to tell you all about the featured horror films.
Tribeca may not be Cannes, but in its relatively short existence, Tribeca has proven itself a formidable and important film festival. Founded in 2002 by producer Jane Rosenthal, renowned actor Robert De Niro, and real estate mogul Craig Hatkoff, Tribeca has made a name for itself as a festival dedicated to presenting discerning and innovative filmmaking. More than the Cannes Film Festival or the Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca is about independent films over “prestige studio movies.”
This year, there’s a great mix of various horror subgenres, from serial killer movies to artistic slashers to psychological horror, with loads of films falling between those categories or smashing through them. I have a feeling that some of these feature and short films will go on to generate plenty of buzz. Hopefully, we will see general releases of some of these. I’m particularly excited about Hounds of Love, Psychopaths, and Retouch.
U.S. NARRATIVE COMPETITION – A category to recognize “the extraordinary work emerging from thriving American independent film communities today, affirming Tribeca’s commitment to discovering and elevating truly fresh, independent voices. These ten films will compete for the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, and Best Actress.”
“After escaping a cult as children, brothers Aaron and Justin are living hand-to-mouth a decade later, until they receive a mysterious message in the mail that seems to be from their former “family”. Aaron insists they go back to investigate, and the protective Justin reluctantly agrees, concerned about returning to the place they worked so hard to leave behind. Once there, Aaron is quickly drawn back under the sway of the cult’s intensely magnetic leader Hal (Tate Ellington), while Justin remains uneasy. Soon inexplicable happenings begin to occur in the group’s desert encampment, and both Aaron and Justin are forced to conclude that the unsettling events seem to be in line with the cult’s strange and supernatural axioms. Will they unearth the cult’s mysterious secret in time to prevent history from repeating itself? Following their Tribeca breakout, Resolution, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead direct and star in another chilling, intensely original genre hybrid.”
You might remember that 2014 movie Spring, which was a beautifully-shot and weirdly romantic love story (though not horrific at all). And Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are Tribeca Film Festival veterans. Those filmmakers now follow up with The Endless, which I already like better as a horror movie based on the synopsis alone. At least the clip above has one more effective jump scare than Spring did.
MIDNIGHT – A category to recognize “best in psychological thriller, horror, sci-fi, and cult cinema.”
“FBI Agent Daria Francis (Amanda Schull) can’t shake the feelings of remorse stemming from a failed attempt to save an innocent victim while on the job. But there’s no time to wallow. A new assignment has redirected her attention to the small town of Devil’s Gate, North Dakota. A local woman and her young son have gone missing, and all signs point to foul play on the part of her husband (Milo Ventimiglia). But when Agent Francis and the local deputy (Shawn Ashmore) enter his farmhouse’s basement, the case proves to have far wilder implications than they could have imagined.
Over the course of its 24-hour story, Director Clay Staub’s unnerving Devil’s Gate subverts the expectations of the familiar police procedural, playing with genre tropes as its unimaginable mystery thickens.”
I know this is being categorized by Tribeca as a “thriller” rather than a “horror movie,” but I remain unconvinced that it can’t qualify as horror. It looks moody and atmospheric as hell, it involves a crazy Milo Ventimiglia with something to hide, and there’s something horrible in the basement. That screams horror to me! So I will include it on this list!
“Dark forces lurk behind the sunny façade of an unassuming Australian suburb in Ben Young’s stylish ’80s-set directorial debut. Seventeen-year-old Vicki Maloney is stuck inside an unhappy home with parents on the verge of divorce. Feeling rebellious, she sneaks out of their house and is accosted by neighbors John and Evelyn White, a mentally unhinged couple who lure her with marijuana before tying her up to a bed inside their squalid home as their own personal torture subject. Pushed to her limits, Vicki soon realizes that her only hope for survival is to play on the Whites’ instabilities in order to drive a wedge between her unhinged captors and escape by any means necessary.
Drawing inspiration from the real-life Aussie serial killers, writer-director Ben Young delivers a visceral upper-cut of a debut with Hounds of Love, a remarkably assured first feature that expertly escalates tension and crafts a chilling atmosphere through mesmerizing cinematography and a haunting 80s soundtrack.”
Tribeca does it again! Holy shit, this looks INTENSE. Like in a, “Good Lord this will be so depressing because its probably based on real events but I should watch it anyway because critics love it” kind of way. It already blew critics away at last year’s Venice Film Festival. This may be one to watch, albeit through my fingers.
“In an unidentified prison, a madman is executed via the electric chair. This triggers a sort of Mischief Night for a group of serial killers out in the city. There’s Alice (Ashley Bell), an escaped mental patient who thinks she’s living in a 1950s glamour world; Blondie (Angela Trimbur), a beautiful seductress who lures men down into her suburban basement; a strangler (James Landry Hebert) who preys on unsuspecting women; and an enigmatic masked contract killer (Sam Zimmerman) whose next job sends him to a seedy nightclub. As the night progresses, the body-count rises and the fate of these deranged murderers is sealed in blood.”
Despite being south of 30, prolific writer-director Mickey Keating has already made four starkly different yet equally intriguing horror features (Ritual, Pod, Darling, Carnage Park). With the fiercely demented Psychopaths, though, Keating has upped the madcap ante in every way possible. Fusing influences ranging from Brian De Palma to Gaspar Noé, Psychopaths unfolds like a fever dream. Linearity takes a backseat to visual excess and nightmarish imagery, all shot with the verve of a genre fanatic hell-bent on honoring his favorite 70s and 80s sleaze through his own unique point-of-view.”
Man, they weren’t kidding about the Brian de Palma influence on this film! Just look at that trailer, which is serving not only Brian de Palma, but Dario Argento as well. Psychopaths sounds kind of like an artsy The Purge, though not as sweeping in scope. An interesting take, to be sure.
“Enjoying their normal lives in mid-’90s suburbia, Zach and Josh are best friends with numerous shared interests, chief of which is an attraction to their classmate Allison. One seemingly routine day, along with two other friends, Zach and Josh borrow the latter’s older brother’s prized samurai sword to goof around in the local park. But the afternoon soon spirals out of control. Wracked with guilt, Zach struggles to assimilate back into high school life, even as Allison begins to show a romantic interest in him. The situation gets even more complicated once Zach notices a disturbingly off-balance change in Josh’s behavior.
Blurring genre lines throughout, Super Dark Times marks a confidently audacious and impeccably assembled feature debut for director Kevin Phillips. In its adult depiction of innocence corrupted, Phillips’ midnight-dark film has shades of everything from Stand By Me to Donnie Darko and Stranger Things. Yet Phillips’ masterful command of mood, cinematographer Eli Born’s stunning use of wide-screen photography, a few unsettlingly horror-movie-like dream sequences, and the cast’s excellent performances all combine to elevate Super Dark Times above pastiche and into uncompromisingly bold filmmaking.”
I couldn’t find a trailer or clip for this movie, but I did find a quote from The Hollywood Reporter saying that this film is “A downbeat, intermittently violent study of friendship, guilt, suspicion and psychosis.” Which, I mean, yikes. Tribeca is known for edgy, inventive, forward-looking films, and Super Dark Times may very well accomplish this.
“By all appearances, struggling filmmaker Joe (Joseph Cross) shouldn’t be so glum. His wife, Joanne (Alexia Rasmussen), is pregnant and fully supports her hubby’s lack of gainful employment and desire to work on a documentary about America’s “Golden Age.” Appearances can be deceiving, though. Amidst Joe’s agitated Trump-inspired political rants, the documentary’s production continues to devolve into paranoid me-against-the-world defiance; late at night, he marauds around the streets of Los Angeles looking for trouble; when at home, he grows increasingly obsessed with Googling a random person’s name. There’s clearly something brewing inside of Joe—something dangerous.
As much a slow-burning character study as any existential horror film, director/co-writer Kasra Farahani’s Tilt uses the plainness of its unhinged protagonist’s seemingly mundane life and Joseph Cross’ deliberately somber performance to establish a mood soaked with powerful dread. The added component of social relevance, sprinkled throughout with subtle shots aimed towards the uncomfortable “new normal” of white male rage and entitlement, only makes Tilt all the more prescient and chilling.”
Tilt is enjoying it’s world premiere at Tribeca; thus, there really aren’t many details out about this movie. I think the premise is promising, especially since 1) an artist gone mad narrative is always going to be relevant and 2) choosing the layer in “white male rage and entitlement” will no doubt prove to be controversial if not insightful.
Shorts – “Big Ideas in small packages.”
“Parents living at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac discover a listening device inside their son’s teddy bear.”
Not quite sure if this qualifies as horror, but at least Cul de Sac does promise “lingering, uncomfortable suspense.” I have a bad feeling about what might happen to that adorable little boy. 🙁
“Maryam’s husband has an accident at home and, rather than saving him, she stops helping and watches him die.”
Again, no trailer for this one. But I’m so intrigued by this film. It is an Iranian film, which, depending on the audience and the intention behind the story, could be a fearless and searing glimpse into gender roles and relationship dynamics. Depending on that audience, that might be a horrifying thing to watch.
TRIBECA N.O.W. – a category to “discover, highlight, and celebrate New Online Work from independent storytellers who choose to create and share their work in the online space.”
“Crypt TV’s Monster Madness features some of the best and biggest character shorts from the digital brand’s scaremakers. From a stunningly terrifying protector of the bullied to a child’s toy that reveals horrors around every corner of a suburban home to the real life tale of a man whose body is stretched and pierced into a piece of daring art, Crypt shorts proudly embrace the horror lifestyle. Title include The Birch, Dead Beat, My First Day, Odd Jobs: Body Modification, Stereoscope, Sunny Family Cult, The Thing in the Apartment.
“Midnight Service is a true-crime series about urban legends, notorious criminals, occult pop culture, and first-hand accounts of the unknown.”
“A darkly hilarious webseries about two broke NYC artists who become hitmen to make ends meet.”
“The local coal mine in the town of Black Rock becomes a crime scene when a miner’s daughter is assaulted in its tunnels. She utters only one word, which leaves the town baffled: “pineapple.” Tensions rise as the mine’s opportunistic owner uses the investigation as an excuse to shutter the dying operation indefinitely.”
“Like many traditional Chinese families, Mona still lives at home with her stern but loving Ma. When she meets cute Erica, their instant chemistry awakens something dormant inside. But Ma is not going to let her daughter go easily. Because nothing is allowed to come between a mother and daughter.”