Every January, the town of Park City, Utah gets overrun by celebrities and filmmakers when the annual Sundance Film Festival commences. It’s where dozens of first-time filmmakers and indie favorites get to premiere their newest features and documentaries, and you can always count on one or two genre flicks to make an impression.
The festival holds a special ‘Midnight’ section, featuring films that “will keep you wide awake, even at the most arduous hour” (per Sundance’s website). And none other than Best Picture contender Get Out happened to premiere there this past January. Other notable horrors that played Sundance are The Blair Witch Project, Saw, The Babadook, The Witch, and High Tension. So will the next festival bring us a new horror classic? Let’s have a look at next year’s genre picks.
Director: Craig William Macneill (2015’s The Boy)
Starring: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Denis O’Hare
Plot: “Based on the 1892 murder of Lizzie Borden’s family in Fall River, MA, this tense psychological thriller lays bare the legend of Lizzie Borden to reveal the much more complex, poignant and truly terrifying woman within — and her intimate bond with the family’s young Irish housemaid, Bridget Sullivan.”
Stewart has been proving herself a much more interesting actor than we saw in Twilight, with this year’s ghostly drama Personal Shopper showcasing some chops we haven’t really seen before. Pairing her with indie stalwart Chloë Sevigny for a biopic of one of the nation’s most notorious murderers sounds like a very promising next step.
Writer/Director: Bridey Elliott (feature debut)
Starring: Bridey Elliott, Chris Elliott, Abby Elliott, Haley Joel Osment
Plot: “Set over the course of a single evening at the Reynolds’ family home in Connecticut, Clara, fed up with the constant ribbing from her self-absorbed showbiz family, finds solace in and guidance from the supernatural force she believes is haunting her.”
This one intrigues me. As you can see by the cast list, it’s a true family affair. But in addition to that, it’s a family full of comedians. This isn’t really a “horror” movie per se, (IMDb lists it as a Comedy/Drama) but given the supernatural touch I think it counts as genre. The film was written and directed by Fort Tilden star Bridey Elliott, who pulls off a hat trick by starring too. This could be the birth of a promising new female voice in film.
Director: Aneesh Chaganty (feature debut)
Starring: John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee, Michelle La
Plot: “After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father breaks into her laptop to look for clues to find her. A thriller that unfolds entirely on computer screens.”
This one I’m not so sure about. 2014’s Unfriended had the same gimmick, taking place entirely on laptop screens. And while it was moderately well received, I can’t help but think it might’ve been due to the incredibly low expectations an idea like that inspires. Search, however, at least has a few familiar faces with Cho and Messing. Perhaps they can elevate the material above the generic title?
Writer/Director: Sam Levinson (2011’s Another Happy Day)
Starring: Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Abra, Bella Thorne, Bill Skarsgård, Maude Apatow
Plot: “This is a one-thousand-percent true story about how the quiet, all-American town of Salem, absolutely lost its mind.”
That’s a rather vague synopsis, but after some digging I found that Jet got a little more specific, saying it “follows four teenage girls in a small suburb who become the focus of unwanted, worldwide media attention after their personal information is leaked by an anonymous hacker.” It’s apparently being called ‘The Crucible for millennials’ and you can color me intrigued.
Director: Panos Cosmatos (2010’s Beyond the Black Rainbow)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough
Plot: “Pacific Northwest. 1983 AD. Outsiders Red Miller and Mandy Bloom lead a loving and peaceful existence. When their pine-scented haven is savagely destroyed by a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand, Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire.”
Another entry in the ‘Nicolas Cage goes batsh*t crazy’ sub-genre. Do I even need to say more?
Director: Nicolas Pesce (last year’s The Eyes of My Mother)
Starring: Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska
Plot: “In this twisted love story, a man seeks out an unsuspecting stranger to help him purge the dark torments of his past. His plan goes awry when he encounters a woman with plans of her own. A playful psycho-thriller game of cat-and-mouse based on Ryu Murakami’s novel.”
This might be my most anticipated one. Abbott is one of the finest young indie actors out there, and Pesce proved himself a very exciting new voice in horror with The Eyes of My Mother offering up some truly disturbing imagery last year. That one also premiered at Sundance so they clearly see some promise in the young filmmaker.
Summer of ’84
Directors: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Starring: Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Gruter-Andrew
Plot: “Summer, 1984: a perfect time to be a carefree 15-year-old. But when neighborhood conspiracy theorist Davey Armstrong begins to suspect his police officer neighbor might be the serial killer all over the local news, he and his three best friends begin an investigation that soon turns dangerous.”
This one sounds like it has shades of Fright Night and has potential to be pretty fun, even if it is pretty blatantly jumping on the “80s-set thriller starring kids” bandwagon.
So there you have it folks. Any of those titles catch your eye? Let us know what ones you’re excited for!