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.
World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Knowing their relationship is falling apart, Elin and Tobias embark on a mirthless camping trip hoping to find their way back to one another. Instead, they find themselves in an endless loop of torment, humiliation, and tangled dreams at the hands of a troupe of outlandishly distorted nursery-rhyme antagonists.
“Festival alumnus Johannes Nyholm (whose short Las Palmas played at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival) creates a savage riff on Groundhog Day set to the haunting rhythm of a music-box melody. He deploys the darkest of circumstances to explore how a couple crippled by despair and embittered against each other try to fight their way back to one another. Injected with bursts of sadistic imagination and twisted slapstick, Koko-di Koko-da is a psychological horror film set within the nightmarish landscape between wakefulness and sleep, giving a tangible, physical manifestation of a relationship in disrepair.”
Los Angeles detective Jack Radcliff fields a distressed phone call from his niece Ashley and rushes to the rescue—only to find the girl and her parents dead in an apparent murder-suicide. Then, just as the police department declares the killings an open-and-shut case, Jack gets another call from Ashley. With the cell-phone connection acting as a link between the past and the present, Jack urges Ashley to collect clues that will help him to solve her murder and change her fate.
“Part supernatural thriller, part time-warped police procedural, Relive is the newest release from Blumhouse Productions, the innovative horror hitmakers behind Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017 Sundance Film Festival). Writer-director and Sundance Film Festival alumnus Jacob Estes (Mean Creek, The Details) infuses this heady hybrid with the chills of an old-fashioned ghost story and the paranoia of a conspiracy thriller. David Oyelowo gives a nervy performance as the haunted hero, and Storm Reid, star of last year’s A Wrinkle in Time, is remarkable as the spectral teen detective.”
In the cutthroat world of fine-art trading and representation, up-and-coming agent Josephina (Zawe Ashton) stumbles across a secret weapon: hundreds of dazzling paintings left behind after an elderly tenant in her building dies. Ignoring the instructions the clandestine artist left to destroy his work, she promptly starts circulating the paintings, which soon attract the attention of the heavy hitters around her—including her boss Rhodora (Rene Russo), art critic (and Josephina’s sometime lover) Morf (Jake Gyllenhaal), and competing collectors, managers, and curators like Bryson (Billy Magnussen) and Gretchen (Toni Collette). Yet as the deceased artist’s portraits gain posthumous acclaim, they also awaken something imperceptible and sinister that threatens to punish those who have profited from his work.
“Master of suspense Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler) has assembled an all-star cast for this dark, uproarious, and painfully accurate spoof of the art world. With strong supporting turns by John Malkovich, Daveed Diggs, and Natalia Dyer, Velvet Buzzsaw invites us into a traditionally insular world that’s suddenly splattered wide open, where art and commerce collide with dire consequences.”
Lucy (Demi Moore) is the egotistical, megalomaniac CEO of Incredible Edibles, America’s premier provider of edible cutlery. In her infinite wisdom, Lucy leads her staff, including her long-suffering assistants, Freddie (Karan Soni) and Jess (Jessica Williams), on a corporate team-building caving weekend in New Mexico. When disaster strikes, not even their useless guide, Brandon (Ed Helms), can save them. Trapped underground by a cave-in, this mismatched and disgruntled group must pull together in order to survive.
“Director Patrick Brice brings together an unlikely cast of characters, locks them in a cave, and lets them go. What follows is a nightmarish study of human social interaction, all the while asking the question: What happens when people stop competing against each other and band together against their oppressor? Brice creatively weaves each character’s arc into the larger theme, playing their humanity against their animality as they fall prey to their base nature. Twelve people trapped in a cave, food is depleting, truths are revealed, betrayals and manipulations are exposed, alliances are made—what could possibly go wrong?”
After a rough breakup, directionless Dave (Alexander England) crashes at his sister’s place and spends his days expanding his young nephew’s questionable vocabulary. When an opportunity arises to chaperone an upcoming school excursion alongside the charming and enigmatic teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), Dave jumps at the chance to impress her. What he wasn’t anticipating was Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad), an obnoxious children’s television personality who shapes the excursion’s activities. What he was expecting even less was a zombie invasion, which unfolds after an experiment at a nearby military base goes awry. Armed only with the resourcefulness of kindergartners, Dave, Miss Caroline, and Teddy must work together to keep the monsters at bay and carve a way out with their guts intact.
“Doused with a generous helping of absurdity, and pitch-perfect in its timing, this genre comedy forges a path all its own, blending gore and wit like
Memory was a script that Dan O’Bannon started in 1971, abruptly hitting a wall at page 29. But after the idea gestated for several years, it ultimately took the form of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien.
“Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentaries—most recently 78/52, about Hitchcock’s Psycho shower scene—have interrogated cinema’s cultural ripples. If MEMORY—The Origins of Alien were only a comprehensive account of Alien’s origins—ancient myths, comic books, H.P. Lovecraft, sci-fi movies, and parasitic wasps—it would still be fascinating. But how did Alien lodge itself so indelibly into our cultural imagination? Philippe’s real interest lies in the deep resonance of myths and our collective unconscious. The strange symbiotic collaboration between Alien creators O’Bannon, Scott, and H.R. Giger suggests a greater synchronicity across history, art, and storytelling, a synchronicity that gives us the Furies, creatures of Renaissance painting, and even chest-bursting aliens.
Propelled by a pure joy of cinema (and sociology), the film is strewn with unearthed archival material, designs, and story notes. It’s safe to say you’ll never think of Alienthe same way again.”
Washing ashore onto a desolate island, Jen (Kiersey Clemons) has already survived a harrowing ordeal. Stranded and alone, she searches for shelter. Finding only the scattered remains of a long-abandoned campground and weary from her terrible journey, she collapses in hope of a peaceful rest. But night is when it’s most dangerous here. That’s when the creature comes. And when it slithers out of the water, it must feed.
“Returning to the Sundance Film Festival after the genre-bending Sleight wowed audiences in 2016, director JD Dillard brings a refreshingly scrappy yet sophisticated sense of urgency and ingenuity to the classic creature feature. Kiersey Clemons owns every frame of the story, shining each step of the way as she’s forced to outrun, outwit, and outfight an otherworldly thing that hunts her each night. Methodically stripping this Blumhouse Productions chiller down to the raw essentials, Dillard shrewdly keeps the tension on a calculated simmer until the moment it boils.”
Sarah moves her precocious son, Chris, to a secluded new home in a rural town, trying to ease his apprehensions as they hope for a fresh start after a difficult past. But after a startling encounter with a mysterious new neighbor, Sarah’s nerves are set on edge. Chris disappears in the night into the forest behind their house, and Sarah discovers an ominous, gaping sinkhole while searching for him. Though he returns, some disturbing behavioral changes emerge, and Sarah begins to worry that the boy who came back is not her son.
“Lee Cronin’s exquisitely crafted and sublimely atmospheric feature debut pairs unsettling camera work with a deeply ominous score, casting even such innocuous images as a row of toys or a children’s recital in
Devoted to their devastated mother, siblings Aidan and Mia resent Grace, the younger woman their newly separated father plans to marry. They flatly reject Grace’s attempts to bond, and they dig up dirt on her tragic past—but soon they find themselves trapped with her, snowed in at a remote holiday village after their dad heads back to the city for work. Just as relations begin to thaw, strange and frightening events threaten to unearth psychological demons from Grace’s strictly religious childhood.
“An unblinking study of human frailty, The Lodge offers a haunting exploration of the traumatic aftershocks of religious devotion while positing that some evils just don’t die. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala build an overwhelming disquiet from this visceral and stylish film’s very first scene, before nestling their claustrophobic thriller within a disorientingly endless snow-filled landscape. Riley Keough exudes fragility as well-meaning Grace’s every good intention leads her deeper back toward the hell of her own past, while Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh do impressive work as the kids’ practiced defiance turns to fear.”
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.
“Writer/director Babak Anvari returns to terrify at the Sundance Film Festival Midnight section with this adaptation of the novella The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud. From its opening scene, Wounds strikes an uneasy tone that begins to fester and continues to spread until its shocking climax. Armie Hammer revels in this unlikely turn that allows his attractive smile to fade away and reveals the true creature that may be lurking on the inside.”
From the Collection
On October 21, 1994, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams hiked into Maryland’s Black Hills Forest to shoot a documentary on local legend “The Blair Witch.” They were never heard from again. One year later, their footage was found, capturing the terrifying events that led up to their disappearance.
What Sundance Film Festival horror movies are you looking forward to? Any you’ve seen already? Are you at the festival? Let me know in the comments!