We are through the first big weekend of SXSW Film 2015 and already there have been some amazing stand out genre films premiered. This strong slate of Midnighters is a very encouraging sign for the other Genre film fests to come later in the year. I’m doing my best to catch them all at SX and I’ve already got a few call-outs I found worth mentioning to look out for this year at other fests and in release. Let’s take a look:
This film from Alex Garland (writer: 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Dredd), in his directorial debut, will be in theaters April 10th and is a must see. The premise is very simple, but full of huge ideas. Nathan (Oscar Issac), is a Mark Zuckerberg type entrepreneur, who believes that he has perfected AI (and put it in a robot body modeled after a beautiful woman). He orders employee Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) to his secluded wilderness home to test the AI, named Ava (Alicia Vikander), and determine if she passes the Turing test.
This film was a massive hit with the audience and I hope the rest of the country responds the same way. Ex Machina is not overly techie and does not linger on the ethics of AI; instead it is a character driven story with Garland masterfully interweaving questions about the dangers of playing god with new life forms. What pushes the film head and shoulders above similar films is an incredibly strong cast and some of the best dialogue I’ve seen in some time. Garland creates three fully fleshed out, unique characters and then locks them in a house together almost like a beautifully filmed play. It is easy to empathize with all three of them and laugh with them. This is going to be a stand out Sci-Fi film this year and absolutely worth checking out.
Deathgasm is the horror-splatter comedy you’re been waiting for. Heavy metal is crossed with Evil Dead and Dead Alive and then turned up to 11. This film is so much fun I’m certain its going to be in all the fests so it should be easy to find. Brodie (Milo Cawthorne)is a teenager who has moved to a new town and is having trouble making friends. He meets some other misfits and they eventually start a metal band called Deathgasm. Through a chance encounter with a reclusive metal superstar; Milo comes into possession of a satanic piece of music. Believing that it will bring him power he plays it and unleashes demons on the town.
Deathgasm is a hilarious, high energy, blood splattered good time. Quips abound as demons are dismembered left and right. The audience cheered for the characters and the wall to wall great metal music throughout. If you like any of these elements then Deathgasm is a must see, you will not regret it. This one is bound to be extremely popular on the midnight circuit.
We Are Still Here
We Are Still Here is a very lean horror film. First time director Ted Geoghegan trusts his audience is familiar with the concept of a haunted house and doesn’t linger through a lot of set up before getting to the good stuff. Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig play a grieving couple who have recently lost their son. They move out to a country home to try to heal and almost immediately they are beset by the house’s ghosts. Mysterious neighbors drop in to convey the story of the house’s mortuary past and the first owners who were supposedly run out of town, but as the title confirms, they are still there.
When I call it lean I mean tight and efficient, with Geoghegan packing a huge number of scares into a trim 84 minute runtime. ‘Here’ moves with the frantic pace of a home-invasion thriller plugged into a haunted house story. It starts fast and then builds into a frenzy of action. The ghost effects and make up are astounding and the gore is plentiful. The film is set in New England in the dead of winter and they beautifully captured the snowbound and desolate, yet picturesque landscape. We Are Still Here is a terrifying ride that’s sure to satisfy your hunger for dread.
Adam Ruhl is a writer and life long Cinephile. He is the Executive
Cinema Editor of Pop Culture Beast’s Austin branch; covering festivals,
conventions, and new releases. When not filing reports, Adam can be
found stalking Alamo Drafthouse Programmers for leads on upcoming
DrafthouseFilms titles. Adam once blocked Harry Knowles entrance to a
theater until he was given extra tickets to a Roman Polanski movie.