I find that one of the most appealing aspects of the horror genre is its versatility. You can have horror films set in a time and a place that we may never see, that we think we know everything about, that we live in currently. Because fear is a condition of the human experience, horror creeps into everything. It persists no matter the time or place, lurking behind scraggly trees, crawls between the thin walls of a dilapidated house, and stares back us from the faces of our loved ones.
Them That Follow, which recently enjoyed its Texas premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, exemplifies that same kind of quiet, inescapable horror. It’s the kind of scary movie that isn’t interested in crescendos of blood and agony. Instead, Them That Follow focuses on more abstract questions about the personal beliefs and instincts that anchor our lives, the questioning of which leads to quiet but crushing moments of horror.
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.
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.