Right now in Austin, Texas, film lovers from all over are converging to revel in their love of film. But not just any kind of films–weird films. Gory films. Films that make people squirm in their seats one minute and laugh out loud the next. I’m talking about Fantastic Fest 2019, the largest genre film festival in the United States.
Fantastic Fest 2019, as in past years, is devoted to horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and “just plain fantastic movies from all around the world.” Further still, the festival “is dedicated to championing challenging and thought-provoking cinema, celebrating new voices and new stories from around the world and supporting new filmmakers.” Over the years, the festival has put its money where its mouth is, having screened the world premieres of John Wick, There Will Be Blood, Zombieland, Split, and Apostle.
This year, Fantastic Fest 2019 has several notable films, including the world premieres of the latest Stephen King adaptation In The Tall Grass and horror anthology The Mortuary Collection. I’m particularly excited for Nic Cage’s Color Out of Space, The Lodge (from the team that scarred me forever with Goodnight Mommy), and documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street. Also, if I’m being honest, this Wrinkles the Clown documentary looks wild.
Earlier this month, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2019) delighted audiences and critics with a brand new slate of exciting films, not least among them being horror movies.
I just love festival horror films. Most of the time, horror
films that make the festival circuit are much more exciting and innovative than
your run-of-the-mill major studio, teen-horror flick. They may not be the best
movies in the world, and they may not be the scariest, but I feel that such
films should be encouraged and promoted. Why watch the 8th Paranormal Activity movie when you could
see something new and daring from some up-and-coming talent?
Enter TIFF 2019, which has done a stellar job of showcasing groundbreaking horror movies, some of which even went on to become huge hits commercially and critically speaking. TIFF 2019 has shown such films as The Grudge (2002), Hostel (2005), À l’Intérieur (2007), Black Swan (2009), The Lords of Salem (2012), The Ritual (2017), and Halloween (2018), among many others.
This year, the star at TIFF 2019 is Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, a moody psychological-horror film starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattison. The film is his follow up to The Witch, which took the horror genre by storm, dividing audiences and igniting a debate about what horror movies can do. Also at TIFF 2019 is the latest Nic Cage B-movie horror flick, Color Out of Space. There’s also a bunch of indie horror films with promising premises and fresh, hungry talent in front of and behind the camera.
Check out the TIFF 2019 lineup below!
You know how sometimes there’s nothing good to watch? So many cable channels, so many streaming services, so many Blu-rays in your house, and yet you can’t find anything remotely interesting to watch? Either you’ve seen all the horror movies you own, or everything airing looks lame. So you end up watching The Office or Parks and Recreation for the five billionth time, or whatever your I’m-bored-and-want-the-TV-on show is.
Well, buckle up buttercup, because it’s time for the 2019 London FrightFest Film Festival! This year marks the 20th anniversary of FrightFest, which is kind of insane when you think about all the amazing horror movies that have graced this horror-focused film festival. The list of groundbreaking and iconic horror FrightFest films is very long—Audition, Ginger Snaps, Pan’s Labyrinth, Martyrs, and The Babadook all count themselves members of this club, just to name a few.
This year, FrightFest will screen over 80 horror films (So. Much. Horror!), which means that BUCKETS of upcoming horror films are about to flood the market looking for distributors. And that means you’ll be seeing those films shortly, either in theaters or on streaming services. Even the most difficult to impress gorehounds and the pickiest psychological horror fans are sure to find something to like.
(To read my past coverage of Cannes, see my 2016, 2017, and 2018 posts.)
One of the more exciting trends in horror over the last few years has been the proliferation of horror movies making splash debuts at renowned film festivals. Horror has been defying expectations and proving the genre haters wrong by showing up and showing out at festivals like Sundance and SXSW. Even genre festivals like Fantastic Fest and Frightfest have increased their profiles to become hotly anticipated in horror and non-horror circles alike.
as a horror fan, I feel like it’s about damn time. Many critics and filmmakers
have turned their noses up to horror, so it’s nice to see the industry not only
embrace horror but start to experiment with how the genre can tell compelling
Cue the Cannes Film Festival, arguably the glitziest and most buzzworthy film festival in the world. In years past, horror films like Evil Dead 2, Pan’s Labyrinth, Train to Busan, and The Neon Demon. have garnered much attention and acclaim at Cannes. Additionally, Cannes serves as an important marketplace and networking nexus for filmmakers looking to secure additional funding or distribution for their horror films. Such attention helps the whole genre do better, which is why I catalog the horror films showing at both the Cannes film festival and the Marché du Film (Cannes’ Film Market) every year.
year’s Cannes festival doesn’t have as much horror as I would like to see
(there’s never enough horror as far as I’m concerned). It’s disappointing that
there aren’t more horror films at Cannes, but rest assured, those that will
screen are ones to watch. This small but strong group of horror films promises
to offer audiences a lot more than the same old tired remakes and half-assed
This year, SXSW was a hotbed of buzzworthy horror movies, many from first-time directors. That’s one of my favorite things about film festivals—new voices and diverse viewpoints are given their time in the spotlight, and we’re all the better for it. This is especially true for horror, which benefits drastically from creative, fresh voices. After all, the same old shit can’t be relied upon to continually explore our fears, and filmmakers shouldn’t try.
Of the horror-comedy films at SXSW, Extra Ordinary was my favorite. Though it wasn’t without flaws, it was a confident debut for its first-time directors. It was an original horror-comedy with a distinctly Irish flair. It is also the most adorable horror-comedy I’ve ever seen, and I enjoyed it immensely. Who knew that sacrificing virgins and exorcizing ghosts could be so uproarious and charming?
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.
Hey Internet! Susie here! Please welcome Chris Shea, the newest Contributing Writer here at Stories for Ghosts! Chris is a Producer, Production Manager, Assistant Director, and Director based in Austin, Texas. He has so much filmmaking expertise, and I’m very excited to have him write for the blog! Enjoy his first piece!
***Note: Mild spoilers for Wounds***
Wounds opens and closes with the same image shown on screen to its audience. It’s dark, reminiscent of an H.P. Lovecraft novel, and it’s the driving force behind the film’s antagonist. The image, which seems more like a place, is a harbinger, a warning of the evils to come and possibly a commentary on our ever-present proximity to evil.
The time has come for the Sundance Film Festival 2019!
You guys, I’m so excited to see what all Sundance has in store for us on a horror front. Year after year, Sundance has provided some really cool cutting edge horror ranging from the commercially and critically brilliant (2017’s Get Out) to some very intense horror films (like last year’s Hereditary).
In fact, Sundance has always been a showcase for up-and-coming horror. Sundance brought us last year’s Mandy and Revenge in addition to The Blair Witch Project, American Psycho, Saw, 28 Days Later, The Descent, and The Witch.
Truly, the Sundance Film Festival is one to watch, which is why I’ve covered it for both 2018 and 2017. This year, I’m excited to see the wide array of horror films. There are so many! And so many different kinds. There’s the arthouse gore of Velvet Buzzsaw, the black comedy of Little Monsters, and survival horror of Corporate Animals. I can’t wait to see what films have legs and become future horror heavyweights.