Austin's annual SXSW Festival is one of the best destinations to check out the newest, coolest, and goriest indie horror movies hitting the scene. It's kind of like Sundance for the weird kids. Today the schedule for the Midnighters lineup was released - that is where they screen all those movies your mother warned you about. Long-awaited flicks like [REC] 3 and John Dies at the End made the cut, as well as lesser-known flicks like Iron Sky. FEARnet speaks with SXSW Senior Programmer & Operations Manager Jarod Neece about the Midnighters lineup for SXSW 2012, and after, we've got a look at the lineup. The shorts lineup was also released today. We've highlighted a handful of the 135 shorts that piqued our interest.
This year's Midnighters selection has several films from veteran genre creators as well as well as a handful from newcomers. What are you most excited about in each of those categories?
I've been tracking [Rec] 3 forever. We‘ve been really waiting to see that film, and we're excited that we're able to host the world premiere of the film. It's just more of what you love from those guys. We fell in love with it, and we're thrilled to be able to program it. Another film that we've been tracking forever was Iron Sky. We've done panels with those guys in the past, with Star Wreck. And it's just one of those projects… Nazis go to the moon in 1942 and in 2018 they come back. We were sold from the logline. It's visually stunning and it's hilarious. It's pretty much exactly what you want to see for that one.
For a film like Intruders, with Clive Owen, it's super high-budget and glossy and beautiful, but at the same time it's got a really great story. It just really delivers on so many levels. And he's going on to do the Bioshock film, which is gonna be some crazy, huge thing.
As far as newcomers, Joko Anwar from Indonesia, he made this really crazy psychological thriller [Modus Anomali]. There's tons of action in it. It definitely provoked the most discussion from our programming team. Some people didn't know what happened, and other people had differing opinions on what happened. Just based on that alone, we had to program it. Just based on the conversation that was starting… A film like, Citadel [directed by Ciarán Foy ] – this guy's been doing shorts forever, it's his first feature. It's kind of a paranoid, claustrophobic, bleak film. It's along the lines of the strong Irish and Brit films that we've been playing for the last five years at SXSW. Things like Attack the Block and Charlie Casanova.
Other films that stand out are obviously The Aggression Scale from Travis Stevens, who was producer on A Horrible Way to Die. It's a really cool home invasion thriller. It's got a bunch of actors who we just love, from various genre films. These kids' parents get killed, and the kids have to find their way out of it.
You've also got John Dies at the End, Don Coscarelli's long-awaited follow-up to Bubba Ho-Tep.
We have a funny story about Don. As a kid, The Beastmaster played a huge part of my life. I It was just one of those films. I was kind of raised by television, and – I don't know why; I don't know if it just came on VHS or was on Cinemax all the time – that's just a film that kind of sticks with me throughout my life. Ten years ago, when I first started at the festival, my first screening was for Bubba Ho-Tep, and it was a brand-new print. They just struck the print, and we had done some QC on the projector, and we had focused it wrong. So it burnt the print of the film, the only print in existence of his film.
Oh my God…
I remember being called out of my hotel room at like 1 o'clock in the morning. I was like, "Finally, I made it through the first day." Then I had to run down there and see Don Coscarelli – they were just freaking out. I told him that story this year. I didn't know if he remembered me from that night. He was like, "Oh, that was a stressful night for all of us." So it's really cool that we get to play this film. We're just thrilled to have him back.
On a separate note -- are there any shorts this year that will be especially interesting to FEARnet readers?
Yeah, we're doing a midnight shorts program. Claudette Godfrey programs all that. I've definitely seen a lot of them. I'm sure she'd be happy to talk to you about the genre standouts. But I Am Your Grandma definitely stands out to me as one of the craziest things that I've ever seen, from this art collective out of Miami. There's some really disturbing stuff that they do, but I Am Your Grandma is definitely the funniest thing that I've seen in… It's online now. It's amazing. I think it's one minute. We might play it twelve times. [Laughs.]
Have you observed any new trends among this year's films?
[Laughs.] I wish there were new trends. There are definitely trends. A lot of first-person, found footage. A lot of people in the woods. I guess you don't have to get many permits issued there. A couple of years ago there was a lot of rape. There's not as much rape this year. Not a lot of brutality. There are more thrillers. More indie sci-fi. Which I'm happy about. There's definitely room for brutality and all of that, but I like scares and shocks in thrillers. And the Super Secret Screening film that we're playing is awesome. We can't tell you guys what it is, but it's definitely not one to miss.
Can you drop any hints to tease us?
[Laughs.] It's highly anticipated. They literally don't want me to use any descriptors on that. We tried to get them to write a little bit more about that. But they want to keep it pretty secret. So we're gonna stand behind it. [Laughs.]
Fair enough. [Laughs.] Another anticipated title you have is the anthology film V/H/S, which recently played Sundance.
Yeah. Anthologies are hard. Some parts can be good, but some parts can bring it down. But the way they put the film together, and the whole premise behind it – it's a really, really original idea. The found-footage thing I felt was just getting played out, and I've definitely heard other people say that, but it's definitely breathed new life into found footage. The way that they put it together, the individual pieces of the film are equally across the board… They're different, and there are different things about them, and some are better than others, and some are more raw, and some play out more of a story, but I think overall the film is enhanced by each of their different crazinesses and all of the stuff that they're doing. I was skeptical. But there are just so many filmmakers in it that I love, from Bruckner to Ti West and Swanberg and all those guys. It just really came together. And the way that they put it together, Simon [Barrett] and Roxanne [Benjamin] and all those guys deserve a lot of credit. It's solid. It's a really solid film.
Can you talk about the process by which films are selected for the Midnighters lineup? How many are they chosen from?
It's all the genre films that we were submitted. Then I got to a few festivals, Fantastic Fest and Toronto and Sitges, and we go to AFM too. So there's a combination of us all following up with filmmakers we have relationships with, all those festivals, and then all the films that were submitted to us. So we were submitted about two thousand features. Out of that there's probably a few hundred genre titles. For the whole festival there's about a hundred pre-screeners that we use. They're filmmakers, professors, people whose opinions we really trust. They're watching films and we're also watching a lot of films too. Every film gets viewed at least a couple of times. The films that are watched by all the pre-screeners that are liked or that have differing opinions, that's the stuff that we take a look at personally. So the goods films kind of rise up to the top, and it's just this constant funneling to, this year, eleven films. A couple from Sundance, one from Toronto, a few things I saw at AFM, a few submissions that were just submitted. So it's a combination of a lot of different things.
A lot of countries are represented too…
Almost six or seven out of the eleven. It's cool. I like to have diversity. I have a lot of films with distribution – it's about half that have distribution, half that are looking for distribution. Half that are high budget, half that are kind of DIY. I definitely wanted a mix, everywhere from Indonesia to a couple of Spanish titles. Things from, obviously, Ireland. I'm pretty happy with the way it came together.
Have you noticed any trends emerging within certain countries?
I guess you just see regions that sort of become good on your radar. Obviously with The Raid and Modus, Indonesia has stood out to us with some new voices taking chances. It's just really exciting filmmaking that is happening. Spain has always been solid. That just continues to be so with [Rec] 3 and with Intruders. American indie horror is definitely alive and well, but I don't know if John Dies at the End is considered Canadian. The V/H/S guys are definitely where it's at for indie American horror. Genre films overall are… We have a lot of indie sci-fi throughout the program. I think overall there's just a step up in filmmaking in general happening. We see that with filmmaking overall in all the different programs, it's getting harder and harder. There used to be the obvious yes's and the obviously no's, and now there's an embarrassment of riches we had to choose from.
What else should folks know about this year's Midnighters selection?
For the past ten years, Tim League programmed about half the program. When Janet Pierson took over about three years he came in and wanted to offer services. We've had midnight programming since the festival started back in '97. So we've been programming horror forever. Tim saw an opportunity, and we did too, for him to come on and helps us program the SXSW Fantastic program. This year I programmed all [eleven] films. Tim is now with Drafthouse Films, and the ever-expanding Drafthouse. He has twin daughters now. The relationship kind of ran its course. But Tim obviously now has a whole Oscar campaign he's working on too. [Laughs.] We were thrilled to have him as part of the program, and hopefully we'll be working with him, showing Drafthouse films down the road.
Thanks for your time, Jarod. We're looking forward to covering the festival!
My pleasure. Thank you.
The Aggression Scale
Director: Steven C. Miller, Screenwriter: Ben Powell
4 hitmen + $500,000 of stolen cash + 1 family = WAR
Cast: Fabianne Therese, Ryan Hartwig, Dana Ashbrook, Derek Mears, Jacob Reynolds, Joseph McKelheer, Boyd Kestner, Lisa Rotondi, Ray Wise (World Premiere)
CITADEL (Ireland, Scotland)
Director/Screenwriter: Ciarán Foy
An agoraphobic father teams up with a renegade priest to save his daughter from the clutches of a gang of twisted feral children.
Cast: Anuerin Barnard, James Cosmo, Wumni Mosaku, Jake Wilson, Amy Shiels (World Premiere)
Girls Against Boys
Director/Screenwriter: Austin Chick
A psychological thriller about two girls on a killing spree. With edgy and ironic humor and a darkly meditative tone, it is also a coming-of-age story about a girl learning how the world really works.
Cast: Danielle Panabaker, Nicole LaLiberte, Liam Aiken, Michael Stahl-David, Andrew Howard
Intruders (Spain, UK)
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Screenwriters: Nicolás Casariego, Jaime Marques
The haunting story of two children living in different countries, each visited nightly by a faceless being who wants to take possession of them.
Cast: Clive Owen, Carice Van Houten, Daniel Brühl, Pilar López de Ayala (U.S. Premiere)
Iron Sky (Finland, Germany, Australia)
Director: Timo Vuorensola, Screenwriters: Michael Kalesniko, Timo Vuorensola
In 1945 the Nazis went to the moon; in 2018 they are coming back.
Cast: Julia Dietze, Götz Otto, Christopher Kirby, Peta Sergeant, Stephanie Paul, Tilo Prückner, Michael Cullen, Udo Kier (North American Premiere)
John Dies At The End
Director & Screenwriter: Don Coscarelli
On the street it's called "soy sauce," a drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit. Suddenly, a silent otherworldly invasion is underway. Can college dropouts John and Dave save humanity? No, they can't.
Cast: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman
Modus Anomali (Indonesia)
Director/Screenwriter: Joko Anwar
A man tries to save his family who go missing during a vacation in the forest.
Cast: Rio Dewanto, Hannah Al Rashid, Izziati Amara Isman, Aridh Tritama, Surya Saputra, Marsha Timothy, Sadha Triyudha, Jose Gamo (World Premiere)
[REC] ³ GENESIS (Spain)
Director: Paco Plaza
Screenwriters: Luiso Berdejo, Paco Plaza
Koldo and Clara's wedding is horrifically interrupted when some of the guests start showing signs of a strange illness. Before they know what's happening, the bride and groom find themselves in the middle of a hellish ordeal, as an uncontrollable torrent of violence is unleashed on the wedding.
Cast: Leticia Dolera, Diego Martin (World Premiere)
Super Secret Screening
Be the first to see this feature film coming to theaters near you.
The Tall Man
Director/Screenwriter: Pascal Laugier
When her child goes missing, a mother looks to unravel the legend of the Tall Man, an entity who allegedly abducts children.
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jodelle Ferland, Stephen McHattie, William B.Davis (World Premiere)
Directors: Ti West, Adam Wingard, Joe Swanberg, David Bruckner, Glenn Mcquaid, Radio Silence, Screenwriter: Ti West, Simon Barrett, David Bruckner, Radio Silence, Glenn Mcquaid
A group of misfits are hired to burglarize a house in the countryside and acquire a rare tape. The guys are confronted with a dead body and an endless supply of cryptic footage, each video stranger than the last... Cast: Joe Swanberg, Calvin Reeder, Kate Lynn Shiel, Sophia Takal, Lane Hughes, Helen Rogers, Adam Wingard
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
A young couple trapped in a remote estate of empty houses and shrieking foxes are beckoned from their isolation into a twilight world. A world of the paranormal or perhaps insanity.
Shoot the Freak
Director: Bradford Willingham
Through the freak's musings, this film chronicles the last days of the iconic, abrasive Coney Island attraction Shoot the Freak. In masked anonymity, the nihilistic teen indulges in drug-induced daydreams of violence and oceanic abandon.
Once It Started It Could Not End Otherwise
Director: Kelly Sears
A terrifying look back at high school.
Jacuzzi Boys, "Glazin''
Directors: Lucas Leyva, Jillian Mayer
Glazin' is part of a larger narrative where a group of 6 anonymous girls innocently paint their privates and rig them to lip-synch their favorite song as a gift to the band.
Directors: Aaron McCann, Stefan Androv Radanovich
Sometimes survival is worse than death.
Director: Todd Cobery
A stuffy dinner party is interrupted by the zombie apocalypse.