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.
And 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 stories.
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.
This 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 slashers.
Personally, I’m most excited for Robert Egger’s The Lighthouse (because I f*cking loved The Witch, come at me) and The Dead Don’t Die.
Here they are, broken down by their official categories. Check them out!
THE OFFICIAL CANNES FILM FESTIVAL
(These are the films that are competing for the Palme D’Or, Cannes’ highest prize and quite an honor.)
Synopsis: “In the sleepy small town of Centerville, something is not quite right. The moon hangs large and low in the sky, the hours of daylight are becoming unpredictable and animals are beginning to exhibit unusual behavior. No one quite knows why. News reports are scary and scientists are concerned. But no one foresees the strangest and most dangerous repercussion that will soon start plaguing Centerville: THE DEAD DON’T DIE — they rise from their graves and savagely attack and feast on the living — and the citizens of the town must battle for their survival.”
Cannes Classics – Restorations
The ultimate horror film for an event screening presented by Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón.
“When writer Jack Torrance (Nicholson)–who has a history of alcoholism and child abuse–takes a job as winter caretaker for a hotel high in the Rocky Mountains, he, his wife (Duvall) and their psychic young son will be isolated until spring. But once the first blizzard closes the road out, the accumulated power of evil deeds committed at the hotel begins to drive Jack mad. Now there may be no escape for his wife and son in this haunting madness, memory and family violence.”
“This French comedy parodies horror movies and detective films. It is set at the Cannes Film Festival. There, Odile, a sincere publicist, tries to promote the horror movie “Red Is Dead.” The movie tells of a killer in a welding mask who wields a hammer and sickle with deadly results. The trouble begins when a real killer with the same m.o. begins knocking off projectionists at market screenings. In true publicist form, Odile immediately brings the film’s star to the festival. To protect him, Odile hires a handsome bodyguard. Odile finds herself romanced by a police commissioner. Meanwhile, a stranger lurks in the distance.”
(NOTE: Oh my god, how have I never heard of this movie until now? I need to see this ASAP.)
(This event isn’t technically part of Cannes, but it is held parallel to Cannes, and both events benefit from each other. This event tends to attract edgier and up-and-coming talent.)
Synopsis: “From Robert Eggers, the visionary filmmaker behind the modern horror masterpiece The Witch, comes this hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.”
Synopsis: “Based on Robert Rodriguez’s experiences in a Medical Research Facility to finance his first feature El mariachi, but with a sci-fi and horror twist. Red 11 is set in the dark, twisted world of the Legal Drug Research business. 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. But things get surreal when he’s not sure if the hospital is really trying to kill him, or if it’s side effects from the experimental drugs.”
Synopsis: “Will is a bartender in New Orleans. He has a great job, great friends, and a girlfriend, Carrie, who loves him. He skates across life’s surface, ignoring complications and concentrating on enjoying the moment. One night at the bar, a violent brawl breaks out, which injures one of his regular customers and causes some college kids to leave behind a cell phone in their haste. Will begins receiving disturbing texts and calls from the stranger’s phone. While Will hopes to not get involved, Carrie gets lost down a rabbit hole investigating this strange malevolence. They’ve discovered something unspeakable, and it’s crawling slowly into the light.”
(Stories for Ghosts has a mostly spoiler-free review of Wounds here.)
(This section of the festival is part of the Marché du Film – Festival de Cannes—where films in varying stages of completion can secure funding or be bought outright for distribution. It’s very exciting! Some examples of horror films that came up through Frontieres are Raw, The Void, Les Affames, and Extra Ordinary. I can’t wait to see what new horror films come from this innovative component of Cannes. Descriptions thanks to this Variety article)
OFFICIAL SELECTION – PROOF OF CONCEPT PRESENTATION
(For films still in the financing stage)
“An anthology of six shorts from an eye-catching list of Indigenous women filmmakers, all featuring themes common across the Arctic north and told using Indigenous storytelling traditions.”
“A modern take on survival horror mixed with a love story in a facility where people are farmed like animals.”
“Five teenagers witness a girl’s death on Instagram Live. However, whether the death was a suicide or something far more sinister is unclear.”
“An American psychology student visits a remote Irish island to try and help a widowed composer deal with severe agoraphobia. Lines blur and it becomes unclear if the shut-in is losing his mind, or if there is something physically keeping him inside.”
“In a small hamlet in the arctic fjords of Nunavut, a group of badass girls must prepare for an incoming attack from a new enemy — aliens. In a world where Inuit myths and legends exist, and vengeful spirits lurk, the invaders may have underestimated their opponent. One thing is clear; you don’t fuck with girls from Pang.”
OFFICIAL SELECTION – BUYERS SHOWCASE PRESENTATION
(For films in post-production or recently completed)
“A feast of color, light, music, and blood, The Furies follows two opposite-side of the tracks lovers on a violent quest for revenge against those who’ve stood against them.”
A NIGHTMARE WAKES
“A young author’s creations come to life in vivid and horrifying ways which see her questioning her friends, loved ones and her own sanity.”
“Skinwalker turns on psychologically fragile Regine, who is trying to build a life for her family – safer and happier than the one she had as a child. Escaping past traumas is not so easy, however, and Regine must revisit the horrors of her past to protect herself and her family.”
“Marionette tells the story of a therapist at odds with a young boy who claims he can alter her future.”
PG (PSYCHO GOREMAN)
“Canada’s Steven Kostanski is a special effects makeup whiz who executes his talents with aplomb on “PG (Psycho Goreman).” The film promises plenty of action and movement, as well as top-notch prosthetics for its often extra-terrestrial characters.”
“A possessed pair of jeans begins brutally murdering the staff of an upscale clothing store, leaving it up to one brave young salesclerk to stop the gory spree.”
Like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but murderous.