The next ‘It Follows’? 6 upcoming indie horror movies with breakout potential

05.04.15 2 years ago

With writer/director David Robert Mitchell's Cannes-premiered “It Follows” bringing in over $16 million at the domestic box office on a slim $2 million budget, the theatrical market seems ripe for another arty horror movie hit to arise. So which of this year's festival favorites could follow (no pun intended) in “It Follows'” footsteps?

With the close of the 3rd annual Stanley Film Festival on Sunday, below I've pegged six buzzed-about horror titles from this year's three major festivals so far (Sundance, SXSW and Stanley) that could become the next unlikely breakout in theaters.

“The Witch”

Director: Robert Eggers
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Synopsis: New England, 1630: William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life, homesteading on the edge of an impassible wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another.
Screened at: Sundance
Release Date: N/A
Sample critical rave: “An evocative look at the nature of evil and the inescapability of malevolence, 'The Witch' will dazzle and shake you right to your core.” – Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist
In its favor: Writer/director Eggers' helming debut logged a sensational 89% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 90/100 on Metacritic following its Sundance debut, where it won the Directing Award in the fest's U.S. Dramatic category and became one the most buzzed-about titles. It was acquired by hotshot distributor A24, known for making unlikely hits out of films like Harmony Korine's “Spring Breakers” and Sofia Coppola's “The Bling Ring.”
Against it: The 17th century period setting doesn't exactly scream “surefire blockbuster.”

“The Final Girls”

Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Åkerman, Alexander Ludwig, Thomas Middleditch, Alia Shawkat, Nina Dobrev, Chloe Bridges, Adam DeVine
Synopsis: A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom's most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film's maniacal killer.
Screened at: SXSW, Stanley
Release Date: N/A (the film will screen at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 16)
Sample critical rave: “'The Final Girls' is the kind of film that could only be made by a true scholar of the form. It's just as funny as it is thoughtful.” – Dominick Mayer, Consequence of Sound
In its favor: The fun, accessible premise, recognizable cast and horror nerd-baiting “meta” vibe could go a long way in increasing the film's box-office prospects. Doesn't hurt that no less than Sony Pictures is handling the release, and that it's been pegged to debut in the horror-friendly October 2015 frame.
Against it: Nearly two decades post-“Scream,” this could lose points for feeling too familiar. If the October release plans hold, it could also suffer in a month cluttered with flashier genre fare like “The Last Witch Hunter,” Guillermo del Toro's “Crimson Peak” and the latest entry in the (admittedly waning) “Paranormal Activity” franchise.

“We Are Still Here”

Director: Ted Geoghegan
Cast: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie
Synopsis: In the cold, wintery fields of New England, a lonely old house wakes up every thirty years – and demands a sacrifice.
Screened at: SXSW, Stanley
Release date: June 5
Sample critical rave: “'We Are Still Here' is the first incredibly scary and pure horror film of 2015.” – Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton, Dread Central
In its favor: Supernatural horror movies tend to do well at the box-office, and this one has received strong early reviews that could help lift its profile a la “The Babadook.”
Against it: Distributor Dark Sky Films (“Starry Eyes,” “Stake Land,” “The House of the Devil”) isn't known for making a push theatrically, so this is more likely to be a VOD hit than a big-screen sensation.


Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Cast: Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer
Synopsis: A mysterious virus hits an isolated elementary school, transforming the kids into a feral swarm of mass savages. An unlikely hero must lead a motley band of teachers in the fight of their lives.
Screened at: Sundance, Stanley
Release Date: September 18, 2015
Sample critical rave: “Funny ensemble pic stands a severed head or two above the zombie comedy pack.” – John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
In its favor: A recognizable and beloved cast (Wood, Pill, Wilson, McBrayer) and the attachment of big-name “Saw” and “Insidious” screenwriter-turned-director Leigh Whannell (who wrote and also stars) could go a long way in ensuring a healthy theatrical run, and distributor Lionsgate (“Saw,” “Hostel,” “My Bloody Valentine”) has, shall we say, a solid track record in the genre. A new cut of the film received a mostly-rave response at the Stanley Film Festival over the weekend.
Against it: The film's theatrical prospects will be severely diminished by Lionsgate's plan to release it day-and-date on VOD.

“Knock Knock”

Director: Eli Roth
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Ignacia Allamand, Lorenza Izzo
Synopsis: A pair of femme fatales wreak havoc on the life of a happily married man.
Screened at: Sundance
Release Date: N/A
Sample critical rave: “It”s also nice to see the 'Hostel' and 'Cabin Fever' director ditching grossout tactics and working in a mode where the primary horror is psychological.”
In its favor: With Roth's cannibal flick “The Green Inferno” stuck in release-date limbo (it was originally slated to hit theaters last September), “Knock, Knock” may well become the director's first proper release since 2007's “Hostel: Part II” – a would-be comeback that should garner some interest from genre fans, at the very least. Not to mention, the film has two added enticements: Keanu Reeves and a provocative, sexually-charged premise.
Against it: Roth's long absence from the directing scene may have hurt his brand appeal. Critics weren't uniformly kind.

“Nina Forever”

Director: Ben Blaine, Chris Blaine
Cast: Fiona O'Shaughnessy, Abigail Hardingham, Cian Barry, Elizabeth Elvin, David Troughton
Synopsis: After his girlfriend Nina dies in a car crash, Rob unsuccessfully attempts suicide. As he begins to overcome his grief, he falls in love with a coworker, Holly. Their relationship is complicated when Nina, unable to find rest in the afterlife, comes back to life to sarcastically torment them whenever they have sex.
Screened at: SXSW
Release Date: N/A
Sample critical rave: “A sexy, funny, morbid and beautiful film for horror lovers with a heart, and romantic audiences with a dark side.” – William Bibbiani, CraveOnline
In its favor: Mostly terrific festival reviews and a titillating premise give this one some definite word-of-mouth potential.
Against it: Alas, “Nina Forever” still has no distributor.

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