The Sundance Film Festival notoriously kicks off a new year of film, and with it comes a slew of new genre titles for us horror fiends to eagerly anticipate. Last year, Ari Aster’s Hereditary had its world premiere at the fest, spreading whispers of it shocking and terrifying festival audiences like wildfire. This year, Sundance again boasts a heavy list of horror and genre-leaning fair, and we’ve compiled them here for you!
Of the titles announces on Wednesday, there are quite a few genre standouts. Highlights include the Ted Bundy dramatic biopic starring Zac Efron as the charismatic killer himself in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil & Vile, and The Nightingale from Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) in the Spotlight slate.
The 2019 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 24th to February 3rd in Park City, Salt Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort. They received 14 259 submissions from over 150 countries – a record number for the fest. The final slate will include 112 feature films from 33 countries, with 45 of them from first-time filmmakers.
The Spotlight program is a tribute to the cinema we love from throughout the past year. Films that have played in this category in recent years include The Death of Stalin, The Rider, Ida and The Lobster.
The Nightingale / Australia (Director and screenwriter: Jennifer Kent, Producers: Kristina Ceyton, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky, Jennifer Kent) — 1825. Clare, a young Irish convictwoman, chases a British officer through the Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of Aboriginal tracker Billy, who is marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past. Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, Harry Greenwood, Ewen Leslie. North American Premiere
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Presenting the world premieres of 16 narrative feature films, the Dramatic Competition offers Festivalgoers a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American independent film. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Wildlife, Eighth Grade, Sorry to Bother You, The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Swiss Army Man . 53% of the directors in this year’s U.S. Dramatic Competition are women; 41% are people of color; 18% identify as LGBTQIA+.
Them That Follow – U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Britt Poulton, Dan Madison Savage, Producers: Bradley Gallo, Michael Helfant, Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel, Danielle Robinson) — Inside a snake-handling church deep in Appalachia, a forbidden relationship forces a pastor’s daughter to confront her community’s deadly tradition. Cast: Olivia Colman, Kaitlyn Dever, Alice Englert, Jim Gaffigan, Walifcton Goggins, Thomas Mann. World Premiere
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Twelve films from emerging filmmaking talents around the world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Yardie, The Nile Hilton Incident, Second Mother , Berlin Syndrome and The Lure.
Koko-di Koko-da – Sweden, Denmark (Director and screenwriter: Johannes Nyholm, Producer: Johannes Nyholm) — As a couple goes on a trip to find their way back to each other, a sideshow artist and his shady entourage emerge from the woods, terrorizing them, luring them deeper and deeper into a maelstrom of psychological terror and humiliating slapstick. Cast: Leif Edlund, Ylva Gallon, Peter Belli, Katarina Jacobson. World Premiere
We Are Little Zombies – Japan (Director and screenwriter: Makoto Nagahisa, Producers: Shinichi Takahashi, Tahei Tamanishi, Haruki Yokoyama, Haruhiko Hasegawa) — Their parents are dead. They should be sad, but they can’t cry. So they form a kick-ass band. This is the story of four 13-year-olds in search of their emotions. Cast: Keita Ninomiya, Satoshi Mizuno, Mondo Okumura, Sena Nakajima. World Premiere
Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program. Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity promises that the films in this section will shape a “greater” next wave in American cinema. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Searching, Skate Kitchen, A Ghost Story and Tangerine. NEXT presented by Adobe.
Light From Light – U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Paul Harrill, Producers: James M. Johnston, Kelly Williams, Toby Halbrooks, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Headington, Theresa Page) — Shelia, a single mom and sometime paranormal investigator, is enlisted to investigate a possible “haunting” at a widower’s farmhouse in East Tennessee. Cast: Marin Ireland, Jim Gaffigan, Josh Wiggins, Atheena Frizzell, David Cale. World Premiere
Paradise Hills – Spain, U.S.A. (Director: Alice Waddington, Screenwriters: Nacho Vigalondo, Brian DeLeeuw, Producers: Adrian Guerra, Núria Valls) — A young woman is sent to Paradise Hills to be reformed, only to learn that the high-class facility’s beautiful facade hides a sinister secret. Cast: Emma Roberts, Danielle Macdonald, Awkwafina, Eiza González, Milla Jovovich, Jeremy Irvine. World Premiere
A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated narrative films of the coming year. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include The Big Sick, Call Me By Your Name, Boyhood and Mudbound.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile / U.S.A. (Director: Joe Berlinger, Screenwriter: Michael Werwie, Producers: Michael Costigan, Nicolas Chartier, Ara Keshishian, Michael Simkin) — A chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy from the perspective of Liz, his longtime girlfriend, who refused to believe the truth about him for years. Cast: Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Haley Joel Osment, Kaya Scodelario, John Malkovich, Jim Parsons. World Premiere
I Am Mother – Australia (Director: Grant Sputore, Screenwriter: Michael Lloyd Green, Producers: Timothy White, Kelvin Munro) — In the wake of humanity’s extinction, a teenage girl is raised by a robot designed to repopulate the earth. But their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger arrives with alarming news. Cast: Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne, Hilary Swank. World Premiere
Relive – U.S.A. (Director: Jacob Estes, Screenwriters: Jacob Estes, Drew Daywalt, Producers: Jason Blum, Bobby Cohen) —After a man’s family dies in what appears to be a murder, he gets a phone call from one of the dead, his niece. He’s not sure if she’s a ghost or if he’s going mad — but as it turns out, he’s not. Instead, her calls help him rewrite history. Cast: David Oyelowo, Storm Reid, Mykelti Williamson, Alfred Molina, Bryan Tyree Henry. World Premiere
Velvet Buzzsaw -U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Dan Gilroy, Producer: Jennifer Fox) — A thriller set in the contemporary art world scene of Los Angeles, where big money artists and mega-collectors pay a high price when art collides with commerce. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Natalia Dyer. World Premiere
This section of the Festival is especially for our youngest independent film fans. Programmed in cooperation with Utah Film Center, which presents the annual Tumbleweeds Film Festival, Utah’s premiere film festival for children and youth. Films that have played in this category in recent years include Science Fair, My Life as a Zucchini , The Eagle Huntress and Shaun the Sheep.
The Witch Hunters – Serbia, Macedonia (Director: Rasko Miljkovic, Screenwriters: Marko Manojlovic, Milos Kreckovic, Producer: Jovana Karaulic) — 10-year-old Jovan is often escaping reality to immerse himself into a fantasy world. It all changes when he befriends his new classmate Milica and the adventure to hunt her ‘witch’ stepmother starts. Cast: Mihajlo Milavic, Silma Mahmuti. U.S. Premiere
From horror and comedy to works that defy genre classification, these films will keep you wide awake, even at the most arduous hour. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Hereditary, Assassination Nation , The Little Hours and The Babadook.
Greener Grass – U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe, Producer: Natalie Metzger) — A deliciously twisted comedy set in a demented, timeless suburbia where every adult wears braces on their straight teeth, couples coordinate meticulously pressed outfits, and coveted family members are swapped in more ways than one in this competition for acceptance. Cast: Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe, Beck Bennett, Neil Casey, Mary Holland, D’Arcy Carden. World Premiere
Little Monsters – Australia (Director and screenwriter: Abe Forsythe, Producers: Jodi Matterson, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky, Keith Calder, Jessica Calder) — A film dedicated to all the kindergarten teachers who motivate children to learn, instill them with confidence and stop them from being devoured by zombies. Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Alexander England, Josh Gad. World Premiere
Memory – The Origins of Alien – U.S.A. (Director: Alexandre O. Philippe, Screenwriter: Alexandre O. Philippe, Producer: Kerry Deignan Roy) — The untold origin story behind Ridley Scott’s Alien – rooted in Greek and Egyptian mythologies, underground comics, the art of Francis Bacon, and the dark visions of Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Giger. A contemplation on the symbiotic collaborative process of moviemaking, the power of myth, and our collective unconscious. World Premiere
Mope – U.S.A. (Director: Lucas Heyne, Screenwriters: Lucas Heyne, Zack Newkirk, Producers: Kelly Hayes, Brian Cooper, Kern Saxton, Danny Roth) — Two ‘mopes’ – the lowest-level male performers in the porn industry – set their sights on an impossible dream: stardom. Cast: Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Kelly Sry, Brian Huskey, Max Adler, David Arquette, Tonya Cornelisse. World Premiere
Sweetheart – U.S.A. (Director: JD Dillard, Screenwriters: JD Dillard, Alex Theurer, Alex Hyner, Producers: Jason Blum, JD Dillard, Alex Theurer, Alex Hyner, Bill Karesh) — Jenn has washed ashore a small tropical island and it doesn’t take her long to realize she’s completely alone. She must spend her days not only surviving the elements, but must also fend off the malevolent force that comes out each night. Cast: Kiersey Clemons, Emory Cohen, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Andrew Crawford. World Premiere
The Hole in the Ground – Ireland (Director: Lee Cronin, Screenwriters: Lee Cronin, Stephen Shields, Producers: John Keville, Conor Barry) — One night, Sarah’s young son disappears into the woods behind their rural home. When he returns, he looks the same, but his behavior grows increasingly disturbing. Soon, Sarah realizes that the boy who returned may not be her son at all… Cast: Seána Kerslake, James Cosmo, Kati Outinen, Simone Kirby, Steve Wall, James Quinn Markey. World Premiere
The Lodge – U.S.A., United Kingdom (Directors: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala, Screenwriters: Sergio Casci, Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala, Producers: Simon Oakes, Aliza James, Aaron Ryder) — In this psychologically chilling slow burn, a young woman and her reticent new stepchildren find themselves isolated in the family’s remote winter cabin, locked away to dredge up the mysteries of her dark past and the losses that seem to haunt them all. Cast: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Alicia Silverstone, Richard Armitage. World Premiere