The SXSW Film & TV Festival opens in Austin today, which means – it’s time for a rundown of everything we’re excited to see!
This is a swing through everything that we’ve already seen, or that is in the “Midnighters” strand, or is a horror pic, or that just looks like fun to us… a whopping great 20 films have caught our immediate attention this year, and there are bound to be some surprises too! One pattern already sticks out – five of these films have multiple directors. A new trend?
We’ve already seen these six (but are under embargo on most of them, so no reviews or spoilers just yet…!)
1. Appendage (Dir: Anna Zlokovic)
Junior fashion designer Hannah is having a work crisis, a boyfriend crisis, a family crisis… and then, she grows a appendage – a tumorous growth that talks to her, in the style of Kuato from Total Recall meets Belial from Basket Case. You can catch the original short (which starred Rachel Sennet and Eric Roberts as her boss!) here.
2. Deadland (Dir: Lance Larson)
Supernatural tale of the borders between nations, and between this life and the next. A U.S. Border Patrol agent gets more than he bargained for when he tries to intercept a migrant crossing in from Mexico. But when the migrant dies, and an old man claiming to be the agent’s father shows up at his house, things start to take a swerve into the uncanny.
3. Aberrance (Dir: Baatar Batsukh)
A nice middle class couple who come to stay in a house in the woods. Their lower-class temporary neighbour starts checking them out. What are they up to? What is he up to? A twisty-turny tale from Mongolia – so if you haven’t done it before, yo’ll be able to tick Mongolia off your Letterboxd lists.
4. The Artifice Girl (Dir: Franklin Ritch)
Cops use an AI who resembles a little girl to trap pedophiles on the internet. But things don’t go entirely to plan. A three-part set of chamber piece scenes tell the story.
5. Molli and Max in the Future (Dir: Michael Luck Litwak)
A sci-fi romantic comedy about a guy and a girl (Zozia Mamet and Aristotle Athiras) who keep bumping into each other over the course of several years, planets, dimensions, and stages of life.
6. Fancy Dance (Dir: Erica Tremblay)
A Native American woman (Lily Gladstone) tries to track down her missing sister, accompanied by her niece – against the clock and with the cops after them, who want that niece to be taken into the custody of her white grandparents. We saw this at Sundance, so actually we’re not under embargo! It’s an “amateur procedural” with a strong sense of milieu, baring comparison to the likes of Winter’s Bone or Thelma and Louise. Lily Gladstone is, as ever, excellent.
Other SXSW movies we haven’t seen yet but are very excited for (in no particular order):
7. Evil Dead Rise (Dir: Lee Cronin)
This reboot of the Evil Dead series was due to go straight to streaming last year, but sky-high test screening reactions mean it got held back for a full fest-and-theatrical rollout. The trailer has everyone buzzing, and the title puns on its promising “set the sequel in an apartment block” approach (Demons 2, Satan’s Slaves 2). None of the cabin, all of the stabbin’?
8. Raging Grace (Dir: Paris Zarcilla)
A “coming-of-rage” story. Joy is an undocumented Filipina immigrant struggling to care for her daughter when she secures the perfect job; taking care of an extremely wealthy but terminal old man. Good money and a roof over their heads make it seem their troubles are over… but very soon, Joy and her daughter Grace start to realise everything is not as it seems… and then their nightmare begins.
9. Hail Mary (Dir: Rosemary Rodriguez)
A genre-bending retelling of the Mary and Joseph story. Maria, a 17-year-old girl from Belize trying to cross the US/Mexican border finds herself mysteriously pregnant. She’s escaping a deadly virus and being chased by the right-hand man of the devil – BAAL. She meets Jose, a mediocre carpenter who helped build a tunnel under the Rio Grande. They join forces with Gabrielle and face off against Baal, the cartels, and US Border Patrol.
10. Brooklyn 45 (Dir: Ted Geoghegan)
Members of the “greatest generation” gather in a Brooklyn brownstone, 1945… and make the classic horror movie error of conducting an impromptu seance. They are of course soon joined by PURE EVIL. From the director of the very fun horror “We Are Still Here“!
11. It Lives Inside (Dir: Bishal Dutta)
Sam, an Indian-American teen, lives in an idyllic suburb with her conservative mother and her assimilated father. Sam’s cultural insecurities grow due to her estranged friend, Tamira, who mysteriously carries around an empty mason jar all the time. In a moment of anger, Sam breaks Tamira’s jar – and unleashes an ancient Indian demonic force. Sam must band together with her parents and a sympathetic teacher to save Tamira and put an end to the terror of the demon. I love this demon-in-a-jar concept!
12. Late Night With the Devil (Dirs: Cameron & Colin Cairnes)
A down-on-his luck television presenter decides to dabble in a little live occult summoning to boost his ratings – and unleashes pure evil in to the nation’s living rooms. This movie takes the form of the actually footage from that night – a kind of 1970s US Ghostwatch meets The Cleansing Hour?
13. Talk To Me (Dirs: Michael & Danny Philippou)
When a group of friends discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill, until one of them goes too far and unleashes terrifying supernatural forces. It feels like everyone who has seen this movie loves it. We can’t wait!
14. The Wrath of Becky (Dirs: Matt Angel & Suzanne Coote)
The sequel to Becky (2020)! After living off the grid for two years since the end of the last film, the titular Becky finds herself going toe to toe against Darryl, the leader of a fascist organisation, on the eve of an organised attack. Judging by the photos, this looks to be a perfect slice of blood-soaked mayhem.
15. Monolith (Dir: Matt Vesely)
A one-woman, one-location science fiction thriller in which a mystery uncovered through audio – in which a disgraced young clickbait podcaster discovers a strange artefact and begins to convince herself it is evidence of an alien conspiracy. As she interviews others on the strange black brick, she is sucked into a paranoid mystery. Could this be the new The Vast of Night?
16. Furies (Dir: Veronica Ngo (aka Ngo Thanh Van))
The sequel to Furie! B, a Vietnamese country girl who survived a brutal childhood by escaping to the city of Saigon, is recruited by the mysterious Mrs. Lin. Together wth two new friends, she is trained “in the arts of killing and sensuality” to take down a Saigon crime lord. But will she succeed in her mission? This looks to be action packed, and is already set to make its way to Netflix…
17. Tetris (Dir:Jon S. Baird)
The incredible true story of how Nintendo US had to penetrate the Iron Curtain, to reach the one man who could save their company… the Russian nerd who just so happened to have made the most addictive computer game in history,
18. Satan Wants You (Dirs: Sean Horlor & Steve J. Adams)
Who wouldn’t want to see a Satanic Panic documentary? I remember the Panic! It was nuts, and hopefully this will fully convey that. Satan Wants You explains how the Satanic Panic of the 1980s was ignited by Michelle Remembers, a lurid memoir by psychiatrist Larry Pazder and his patient Michelle Smith. Supported by the Catholic Church, the bestselling book relied on recovered-memory therapy to uncover Michelle’s “childhood abduction” by “baby-stealing Satanists”. Amplified by law enforcement and America’s Daytime TV boom, satanic rumors spread through panic-stricken communities across the world, leaving a wave of destruction and wrongful convictions in their wake.
19. Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves (Dirs: Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley)
Let’s hope this transparent attempt to set up a High Fantasy franchise in the Marvel mould will have a more carefully crafted script than the recent films that Marvel themselves have been putting out. One good sign is the stacked cast – led by the very best Chris, Chris Pine.
20. The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (Dir: Bomani J. Story)
When the brother of brilliant teenager Vicaria s brutally murdered, she embarks on a dangerous journey to bring him back to life… Frankenstein style. Modern gothic horror meets systemic oppression… what a stitch-up.
SXSW Film & TV Festival runs from 10-19th March 2023 in Austin, TX.
Lead Photo: The Wrath of Becky.