Film festivals aren't just the place for indie flicks with niche audience appeal. Sometimes they can be a launching pad for modern genre classics. In celebration of SXSW, we've picked some of our favorite festival flicks that have gone gangbusters in general release.
A young woman insists on carrying her fetus to term, even though it died at seven months gestation in the same car crash that killed her husband. "Miraculously," when the child is born, she starts to breathe and cry. That miracle is short-lived when baby Grace starts to attract flies and can only consume human blood. This quiet film doesn't rely on big special effects or crazy deaths for its horror; rather, it exploits base human fears of fertility and love to create an unnerving atmosphere. Though you would never know it by the paltry box office returns (partially due to a very limited release), Grace is generally regarded as one of the best horror films of 2009.
Drag Me to Hell
Drag Me to Hell marked director Sam Raimi's triumphant return to horror after nearly 15 years away from the genre that made him a household name. A sympathetic loan officer, Christine, who is gunning for a promotion picks the wrong woman to try out her change of attitude on. After rejecting the woman's pleas that would have saved her family house, Christine faces the wrath of the old lady's curse. While Drag Me to Hell did not have as much slapstick and silliness as Raimi's Evil Dead films, it was a critical and box office success, pulling in over $80 million worldwide, and was a welcome change from Raimi's last directorial effort (*cough* Spider-Man 3 *cough*).
Channeling the horror-comedy of Peter Jackson's early films, this flick from fellow Kiwi Jonathan King is just silly fun. Genetic experimentations turn cute fluffy sheep into crazed, blood-thirsty killers. Black Sheep did well on the festival circuit, collecting awards from the Gerardmer fest in France, the Neuchatel fest in Switzerland, and the New Zealand Film and TV Awards. Though only five years old, Black Sheep is quickly on its way to cult classic status.
The second film in Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy follows Dae-su Oh, who is released from captivity after 15 years and seeks bloody, violent revenge on his captors. In Chan-wook's home of South Korea, Oldboy was the fifth-highest grossing film of 2003 and 44th-highest grossing film of all time. In the United States, Oldboy made admirers of Quentin Tarantino and Roger Ebert, and CNN named it one of the 10 best Asian films ever made. The flick walked away with awards from Cannes, Sitges, the Bergen International Film Festival, the Asia Pacific Film Festival, South Korea's Grand Bell awards, and the British Independent Film Awards.
Zom-Coms: Fido and Zombieland
Between Fido and Zombieland, SXSW could be considered the birthplace of the modern zom-com. Canadian film Fido sees zombies being kept as family pets, while the United States of Zombieland turns the classic humans-looking-for-safety-after-the-zombie-apocalypse on its head with more laughs than screams. While Fido was generally well-received, and took home a number of Canadian film awards, it flopped at the box office. It could be said that Fido paved the way for Zombieland, which premiered three years later to fewer awards (one win at Sitges), but better box office returns.