By MICHAEL GINGOLD
New films from Travis Stevens, Mickey Keating, Kier-La Janisse and Jacob Gentry are among the genre fare in this year’s fest.
SXSW 2021 will run on-line March 16-20, showcasing 75 features including 57 world premieres, three International Premieres, four North American Premieres, one U.S. Premiere, eight Texas Premieres and 53 films from first-time filmmakers. The movies will be launched seven at a time in two-hour increments from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. CT starting with the films with global access and no audience capacity limits. Once a film is available, it will remain so on-demand until it hits its audience capacity or the event ends. Many films do not have a capacity limit, and will be available for the duration of the fest; while SXSW is a global event, certain films will be restricted to access in the United States due to rights and/or filmmaker or distributor discretion.
The features showing in the genre-centric Midnight program are:
• BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION
Director: Jacob Gentry; screenwriters: Phil Drinkwater, Tim Woodall; producers: Greg Newman, Brett Hays, Giles Edwards, Nicola Goelzhaeuser. In the late ’90s, a video archivist unearths a series of sinister pirate broadcasts and becomes obsessed with uncovering the dark conspiracy behind them. Cast: Harry Shum Jr., Kelley Mack, Chris Sullivan, Jennifer Jelsema, Arif Yampolsky, Justin Welborn, Michael B. Woods, Steve Pringle (World Premiere)
• THE FEAST (United Kingdom)
Director: Lee-Haven Jones; screenwriter/producer: Roger Williams. Over an evening, a wealthy family gathers for a sumptuous dinner with guests in their ostentatious house in the Welsh mountains. Served by a mysteriously disturbing young woman, the assembled party do not realize they are about to eat their last supper. Cast: Anne Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis Jones, Steffan Cennydd, Sion Alun Davies, Lisa Palfrey, Rhodri Meilir (World Premiere)
• GAIA (South Africa; pictured above)
Director: Jaco Bouwer; screenwriter: Tertius Kapp; producers: Tertius Kapp, Jorrie van der Walt, Jaco Bouwer. In the depths of an ancient forest, something has been growing. Something older than humanity itself, and perhaps greater too. When a park ranger discovers a man and his son living wild, she stumbles onto a secret that is about to change the world. Cast: Monique Rockman, Carel Nel, Alex van Dyk, Anthony Oseyemi (World Premiere)
• JAKOB’S WIFE
Director: Travis Stevens; screenwriters: Travis Stevens, Kathy Charles, Mark Steensland; producers: Barbara Crampton, Bob Portal, Travis Stevens, Inderpal Singh. The disappearance of a young woman threatens to change the beige and banal lives of Anne Fedder (Crampton) and her pastor husband Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden) forever. Cast: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Mark Kelly, Sarah Lind, Robert Rusler, Nyisha Bell, Phil Brooks (World Premiere) Crampton talks about the film here.
Director/screenwriter: Mickey Keating; producers: Eric B. Fleischman, Maurice Fadida. After receiving a mysterious letter, a woman travels to a desolate island town and soon becomes trapped in a nightmare. Cast: Joe Swanberg, Jocelin Donahue, Melora Walters, Richard Brake, Jeremy Gardner (World Premiere)
• SOUND OF VIOLENCE (Finland/U.S.)
Director/screenwriter: Alex Noyer; producers: Hannu Aukia, Alex Noyer. A young girl recovers her hearing and gains synesthetic abilities during the brutal murder of her family. Finding solace in the sounds of bodily harm as an adult, she pursues a career in music composing her masterpiece through gruesome murders. Cast: Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger, Tessa Munro (World Premiere)
• THE SPINE OF NIGHT
Directors/screenwriters: Philip Gelatt, Morgan Galen King; producers: Will Battersby, Philip Gelatt, Jean Rattle. In this ultraviolent fantasy epic, ancient dark magic falls into sinister hands and unleashes ages of suffering onto mankind. A group of heroes from different eras and cultures must band together in order to defeat it at all costs. Cast: Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, Betty Gabriel, Joe Manganiello, Larry Fessenden, Nina Lisandrello, Abby Savage, Tom Lipinski, Patrick Breen (World Premiere)
•.WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED: A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR
Director/screenwriter: Kier-La Janisse; producers: Kier-La Janisse, David Gregory, Winnie Cheung. WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED is the first feature-length documentary on the history of folk horror, from the 1960s to today. (World Premiere)
Also of horrific interest are:
• HERE BEFORE (UK)
Director/screenwriter: Stacey Gregg, producer: Sophie Vickers. After new neighbors move in next door, a bereaved mother begins to question her reality in this unsettling psychological thriller. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Martin McCann, Jonjo O’Neill, Eileen O’Higgins (World Premiere, Narrative Feature Competition)
• PAUL DOOD’S DEADLY LUNCH BREAK (United Kingdom)
Director: Nick Gillespie; screenwriters: Brook Driver, Matt White, Nick Gillespie; producer: Finn Bruce. When Paul’s chances of winning a national talent contest are ruined and his dreams of fame are slashed, he plans a deathly revenge rampage!! One lunch break, five spectacular murders! Each wrongdoer dispatched in a fitting manner by the sparkly suited Paul! Cast: Tom Meeten, Katherine Parkinson, Kris Marshall, Alice Lowe, Mandeep Dhillon, Johnny Vegas, Steve Oram, Craig Parkinson, Kevin Bishop, Pippa Haywood (World Premiere, Narrative Spotlight)
• ALIEN ON STAGE (United Kingdom)
Directors/producers: Danielle Kummer, Lucy Harvey. A British bus driver’s amateur stage show of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN accidentally makes it to a famous London theater! With awkward acting and special effects requiring more luck than judgement, will their homemade homage be alright on the night? (International Premiere, Documentary Spotlight)
• VIOLATION (Canada)
Directors/screenwriters/producers: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Dusty Mancinelli. A troubled woman on the edge of divorce returns home to her younger sister after years apart. But when her sister and brother-in-law betray her trust, she embarks on a vicious crusade of revenge. Cast: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe, Obi Abili, Jasmin Geljo, Cynthia Ashperger (Texas Premiere, Festival Favorites; our review)
• WITCH HUNT
Director/screenwriter: Elle Callahan; producers: Eric B. Fleischman, Maurice Fadida. In a modern America where witches are real and witchcraft is illegal, a sheltered teenager must face her own demons and prejudices as she helps two young witches avoid law enforcement and cross the southern border to asylum in Mexico. Cast List: Gideon Adlon, Elizabeth Mitchell, Abigail Cowen, Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti, Christian Camargo (World Premiere, 2020 Spotlight)
SXSW will be accessible via multiple on-line platforms; for more information, head over to the festival’s website.