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.
In anticipation of SXSW, I’ve compiled a handy guide to every single horror title at the festival. There’s a ton to see, and I will review everything I can. For now, check out the complete list here. Enjoy!
SXSW: Narrative Feature Competition
“Ten world premieres, ten unique ways to celebrate the art of storytelling.”
“Rose, a sweet, lonely driving instructor in rural Ireland, is gifted with supernatural abilities. Rose has a love/hate relationship with her ‘talents’ & tries to ignore the constant spirit related requests from locals – to exorcize possessed rubbish bins or haunted gravel. But! Christian Winter, a washed up, one-hit-wonder rock star, has made a pact with the devil for a return to greatness! He puts a spell on a local teenager- making her levitate. Her terrified father, Martin Martin, asks Rose to help save his daughter. Rose has to overcome the fear of her supernatural gift & work with Martin to save the girl, get the guy and be home in time for a light snack…maybe
“Abe is a burgeoning perv with a guilty conscience. Todd is Abe’s spazzed out BFF and partner in grime. Chaz is a girl with a boy’s name who hides her feelings behind a thick layer of goth eyeliner. Ricky is the star jock with a secret in his pants he dare not expose. What these uptight dweebs could never have guessed is that the wholesome movie theater they work at used to have a lot more than just gum stuck to the seats. When a remnant of the theater’s porno past surfaces, the kids are visited by a sex demon that gives them a taste of the dark side.”
“Big names, big talent: Headliners bring star power to SXSW, featuring red carpet premieres and gala film events with major & rising names in cinema.”
“La Llorona. A horrifying apparition, caught between Heaven and Hell. In Latin American lore, she drowned her children in a jealous rage, throwing herself in the river after them as she wept in pain. In the centuries since, she creeps in the shadows, preying on the children of others to replace her own.
Ignoring the warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and single mom is soon drawn into the terrifying supernatural realm of La Llorona. With the lives—and souls—of her own kids at stake, she seeks the help of a disillusioned priest-turned-“curandero,” whose mystic faith and practices may represent their only hope to survive La Llorona’s deadly curse.”
“Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.”
“Us, from Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele (Get Out), stars Oscar® winner Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson, a woman returning to her beachside childhood home with her husband (Winston Duke), and their children for a summer getaway.
Haunted by an unexplainable trauma from her past and compounded by a string of eerie coincidences, Adelaide grows increasingly certain that something bad is going to befall her family.
After a day with friends (Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker), the Wilsons return to their vacation home to discover the silhouettes of four figures standing in their driveway. Us pits an ordinary American family against a terrifying opponent: doppelgängers of themselves.”
SXSW: Narrative Spotlight
“High profile narrative features receiving their World, North American or U.S. premieres at SXSW.”
“The 7th feature-length installment of Blumhouse Television’s Into The Dark series focuses on a man and his sister who endure a night of increasingly frightening practical jokes during a stay at a secluded motel.”
“Visions filmmakers are audacious, risk-taking artists in the new cinema landscape who demonstrate raw innovation and creativity in documentary and narrative filmmaking.”
“Adapted from story notes written 25 years ago that was based on Robert Rodriguez’s experiences in a Medical Research Facility, RED 11 is a Horror/Thriller set in a dark, twisted version of the Legal Drug Research business. At these Facilities, college kids turn Lab Rats to make quick money, and our hero, Rob (who is assigned the color and number RED 11) is here to buy his way out of a huge debt to the tune of $7,000. This story shows the quirks, characters, and comedy of Rodriguez’s experiences of being a human Lab Rat, but with a
“Scary, funny, sexy, controversial – provocative after-dark features for night-owls and the terminally curious.”
“Set deep in the Scottish Highlands, Boyz In The Wood is an anarchic cocktail of generational politics, hip-hop loving farmers, and hallucinogenic rabbit shites.”
“Traumatized 8-year old Luke invents an imaginary friend named Daniel who leads them both into a world of fantasy and imagination. After Daniel tricks Luke into doing something terrible, Luke is forced to lock him away. Twelve years later, Luke brings Daniel back — and he now appears as a charming, manipulative young man with a terrifying secret agenda.”
“Found at a Catholic hospital filthy and ferocious, feral teenager Darlin’ is whisked off to a care home run by The Bishop and his obedient nuns where she is to be tamed into a ‘good girl.’ However, Darlin’ holds a secret darker than the ‘sins’ she is threatened with, and she is not traveling alone. The Woman, equally fierce and feral, who raised her is ever present and is determined to come for her no matter who tries to step in her way. Continuing the twistedly vicious adventure of Lucky McKee’s cult hit The Woman, Darlin’ sees standout star Pollyanna McIntosh both in front of and behind the camera, expertly commanding an all-consuming feast on the senses and sensibility in equal measure.”
“Bursting pipes, rotting walls, and unidentifiable slime were not what Don Koch (WWE legend Phil “CM Punk” Brooks) expected when he convinced his wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) that he could rehab their new Victorian home himself. In over his head, under duress, and tempted by his old weaknesses, Don soon discovers that the house has its own dark, sordid history and won’t be so easy to renovate after all….”
“In a perfect town filled with perfect families, twelve-year-old Justin Whitter has gone missing. Greg Harper,
“Sara’s one of the cool kids… but she’s totally terrified of losing her status. She’d be a lot more secure if she could just win back her super-hot ex, Skyler, but he’s not interested unless they move to the next level…
She decides to take the plunge — but something about Skyler changed on his summer trip to Mexico… something in his nards.
Sara wakes the next morning only to find that she’s nine-months pregnant. Desperate to keep this under wraps, she turns to the only person she can trust: her nerdy ex-best friend, Hayley.
But after a trip to the clinic results in Sara birthing something other-worldly, the girls realize their night is only just getting started…”
“An isolated lodge somewhere in England. Five old university pals, now nudging 40, gather for a weekend to scatter the ashes of their friend, Jonesy, who drowned himself in the lake three years earlier. They settle in for a fun evening, entertaining each other with stories of murders, ghosts, zombies,
“After losing her job and imploding her latest dysfunctional relationship, millennial Olive leaves the city for a weekend of peace in the country, only to discover the shockingly dark underbelly of rural America. She rents an eccentric, ornate country house from Harvey, an old-fashioned widower who’s struggling to hide his psychopathic tendencies. Soon two generations collide with terrifying results in this home invasion horror film that is also a darkly comedic critique of the bizarre cultural and political climate that currently exists.”
SXSW: Festival Favorites
Acclaimed standouts & selected previous premieres from festivals around the world.
“Dave (ALEXANDER ENGLAND), a washed-up musician, volunteers to chaperone his nephew’s Kindergarten field trip after taking a shine to the plucky schoolteacher, Miss Caroline (LUPITA NYONG’O). Dave’s intentions are complicated by the presence of
“Snake handlers are spiritual renegades belonging to an obscure, but growing,
SXSW: Episodic Premieres
Presenting world premieres of prestige serials slated for release and accompanied by show-runners, directors and cast members featuring extended Q&As.
“NOS4A2 introduces Vic McQueen, a gifted young woman who discovers she has a supernatural ability to find lost things. This ability puts her on a collision course with the evil and immortal Charlie Manx. Manx is a supernatural villain who feeds off the souls of children then deposits what remains of them into Christmasland – a twisted place of Manx’s imagination where every day is Christmas Day and unhappiness is against the law. Vic strives to defeat Manx and rescue his victims – without losing her mind or falling victim to him herself.”
“Set in Staten Island, What We Do in the Shadows follows four vampires who have been roommates for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
SXSW: Episodic Pilot Competition
A pilot showcase introducing fresh work from bright new talent, many with an eye towards finding production, completion funds, or a release platform.
“Diane and Tim, a young American couple, give up their search for his father in Patagonia only to encounter a local con man, Alejandro, who lures them back into their journey. As the three travel deeper into the woods, mysteries abound and the forest plays tricks. Each searching for something, and ultimately discovering much more. They may be hunting a man…but what’s hunting them?”
Are you going to SXSW this year? Let me know in the comments!