Tomorrow is the official kick-off of the Sundance Film Festival! That means you should get ready for a fresh round of groundbreaking, artistic, and unsettling indie horror films.
Sundance is the largest independent film festival in the United States and one of the beacons for upcoming independent horror films. Among the slate of prestigious arthouse flicks and top-tier foreign films, Sundance makes room for imaginative and innovative horror and genre films. Being the largest independent film festival in America and one of the most important film festivals in the world, Sundance provides invaluable exposure for horror films that buck the studio system and push the envelope.
All of which is great news for horror fans of all stripes.
Regardless of whether you’re into gorier fare or you prefer more psychological horror, Sundance has a reputation for delivering the horror movie goods. In the past, Sundance has screened indie films like The Blair Witch Project, American Psycho, Saw, 28 Days Later, The Descent, and The Witch, all of which went on to earn rapturous critical acclaim and loyal fan followings. As I wrote in my post on horror at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Sundance was where brave audiences watched the French-horror gem Raw and brutal Australian survival horror flick The Killing Ground. Sundance also hosted the debut of Get Out as its annual secret screening pick. There, in Park Place, Utah, Get Out sent off shock waves across the film community and began its reign as one of the most commercially successful horror movies of 2017 and one of the best-reviewed movies of the year.
Yes, Sundance promises exciting new horror movies. It’s always hard to tell what will go one to be a bona fide hit and what will be a dud, but it sure is fun to guess.
With that, let’s review this year’s offering, which features lots of moodiness, blood, dark humor, survival horror, and death metal horror (seriously!).
Midnight – this is the subsection of Sundance’s program devoted to genre films, and the breeding ground for impressive indie horror.
“The Graham family starts to unravel following the death of their reclusive grandmother. Even after she’s gone, the matriarch still casts a dark shadow over the family, especially her loner teenage granddaughter, Charlie, whom she always had an unusual fascination with. As an overwhelming terror takes over their household, their peaceful existence is ripped apart, forcing their mother to explore a darker realm in order to escape the unfortunate fate they’ve inherited.
The feature-film debut of writer/director Ari Aster captivates the audience with a delicate and deliberate take on domestic turmoil, and it’s filled with haunting manifestations. Aster’s script ratchets up a feeling of delirious dread as the family members isolate themselves, only furthering their descent into madness. While consistently surprising in its twists and turns, this is a horror story firmly grounded within the desperate emotions of its compelling lead performances.”
“Based on an astonishingly true story, Lords of Chaos recounts the exploits of the Norwegian black metal movement’s most notorious band: Mayhem. Its founder, Øystein Aarseth, better known as Euronymous, was one of the originators of the annihilating metal guitar sound that burst onto the scene in the early ’90s. After the gruesome suicide of vocalist Per Yngve Ohlin, who performed under the pseudonym “Dead,” Euronymous used the opportunity to inject a mix of satanism, havoc, and murder into the music to sell more records. Bassist Varg Vikernes began to take Euronymous’s headline-grabbing talk too seriously and went on a spree of church burnings, forming a deadly rivalry between the two bandmates that culminated in an infamous and bloody end.
Drawing from the 1998 book of the same name by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind, director Jonas Åkerlund injects his distinct visual style into the material. Vigorous performances from Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Sky Ferreira, and Jack Kilmer bolster this unhinged account of black-metal brotherhood gone wickedly wrong.”
“Bubbling up from somewhere in the realm of madness and chaos comes the eagerly awaited latest from grandiose filmmaker Panos Cosmatos. Somewhere in the primal wilderness near the Shadow Mountains in the year 1983, Red Miller (Nicolas Cage, in an adrenaline-inducing performance) has fallen deeply for the beguiling Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). But the life he has made for himself comes suddenly and horrifyingly crashing down when a vile band of ravaging idolaters and supernatural creatures penetrate his idyllic paradise with vicious fury. A broken man, Red now lives for one thing only—to hunt down these maniacal villains and exact swift vengeance.
In his delicious follow-up to cult hit Beyond the Black Rainbow, Cosmatos gleefully demonstrates an audacious command of tone and atmosphere, conjuring an ethereal treat for the senses that begs to be seen on a big screen. Awash in a salacious sea of gloriously unhinged performances, carnage, colors, and sounds, Cosmatos grinds up beloved genre tropes into a fine pulp and sculpts them into something altogether otherworldly.”
“Reed (Christopher Abbott) is going on a business trip. He kisses his wife and infant son goodbye, but in lieu of a suitcase filled with clothes, he’s packed a toothbrush and a murder kit. Everything is meticulously planned: check into a hotel and kill an unsuspecting victim. Only then will he rid himself of his devious impulses and continue to be a good husband and father. But Reed gets more than he bargained for with Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), an alluring call girl who arrives at his room. First, they relax and get in the mood, but when there’s an unexpected disruption, the balance of control begins to sway back and forth between the two. Is he seeing things? Who’s playing whom? Before the night is over, a feverish nightmare will unfold, and Reed and Jackie will seal their bond in blood.
Based on the critically acclaimed cult novel by Ryū Murakami, director Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother, 2016 Sundance Film Festival) blends psychological horror with comedy and stylish neo-noir, resulting in a sly take on the fantasy of escape and the hazards of modern romance.”
“Jen joins her married lover, Richard, for a romp at his secluded desert villa before his annual hunting vacation. However, when his leering pals arrive, they’re a far cry from Richard’s millionaire-Adonis charms, and they feel entitled to make their own advances on Jen and ignore her rejections. After being violently assaulted and left for dead in the middle of the desert, Jen comes back to life, and the men’s hunting game is transformed into a ruthless manhunt.
Like its protagonist, Revenge (which premiered to shocked audiences at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival) rises like a phoenix from the ashes of its exploitation-film, rape-revenge forebears and celebrates grind-house style and excess while upending genre expectations with its director’s unapologetically female gaze. In her sunbaked, blood-soaked feature directorial debut, Coralie Fargeat brazenly and playfully embraces the intense violence of Jen’s retribution, creating a revelatory, righteous, gore-filled assault on misogyny that is not for the faint of heart. Actress Matilda Lutz embodies with ferocity and physicality Jen’s transformation from self-confident object of desire to superhuman survivor.”
“Every serial killer is somebody’s neighbor. For 15-year-old Davey, the thought of having a serial killer in his suburban town is a scary yet exciting prospect at the start of a lazy summer. In hormonal overdrive, Davey and his friends dream of sexual conquests until the news reports of the Cape May killer. Davey convinces his friends that they must investigate, and they uncover that his next-door neighbor, an unassuming, single police officer, could be the prime suspect. Could Davey possibly be right, or is it his overactive imagination?
Directing trio François Simar, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell (Turbo Kid, 2015 Sundance Film Festival) return to Midnight with this eerily resonant coming-of-age horror flick. The throwback synth score injects the tone with fun, thrills, and an escalating danger that ultimately tracks Davey’s loss of innocence. Indeed, the ’80s setting is less about the nostalgia hard-on than an essential parallel of that Reagan-era American fear that we are not as safe as we think.”
Midnight Shorts Program – This program is the same as the regular Midnight section but for short films.
A woman gets stuck in a Red Lobster commercial.
In a black hair salon in gentrifying Brooklyn, the local residents fend off a strange new monster: white women intent on sucking the lifeblood from black culture.
What looks good to you? Are you super lucky and attending Sundance? I hate you! No, I don’t, I’m just kidding!
Leave me your comments!