Is it really almost time for Sundance again?
For the last few weeks, I've been discussing Sundance strategy with Richard Rushfield, my editor-in-chief. He and I are attending at least part of the festival together, and it's going to be a very different year for us. HitFix looks different than it did even a year ago, and the way we approach festivals in general is going to be different starting in 2016.
That doesn't mean I'll abandon the things that I think are interesting about a fest. I've always been drawn to the midnight programming at the different festivals I attend, and I'm intrigued by the differences in the way each section is programmed. I think the king of the midnight sections is, without question, Colin Geddes. His Midnight Madness selections may not always work for me, but there is a personal touch to the way he curates the ten nights he has with his audience each year. I can see Colin's personality and his interests and his sense of what his audience is going to enjoy, and that's part of the pleasure. It's not just about seeing a bunch of movies. It's about seeing films that have been carefully selected to have a particular effect on you.
Sundance's Midnight section is always a stranger assortment, and there's more of a feeling of these films all colliding, all competing for attention. If Toronto feels like a carefully curated rhythm from night to night, then Sundance feels like you're shoved into a room with all of these totally different films that just fight it out. I've had some great Midnight experiences at Sundance with films like “The Woman” or “The Babadook” or “V/H/S 2,” and some memorably terrible experiences as well.
How will this year's line-up shake out? They snuck the announcement out in the wee small hours of Monday, and now we've got a list of titles and some trailers and images that will give us a hint of what to expect. And when I say “trailers, ” what I actually mean are personalized tease videos starring the directors of the films. It's an interesting take, one I've never seen a festival do before, and the filmmakers certainly try to make their case for each of the films.
directed by Rob Zombie
written by Rob Zombie
Sheri Moon Zombie, Malcolm McDowell, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Richard Brake, Meg Foster
Five friends are kidnapped on the day before Halloween and are held hostage in a terrifying place named Murder World. While trapped, they must play a violent game called 31, in which the mission is to survive 12 hours against a gang of evil clowns.
directed by Danny Perez
written by Danny Perez
Natasha Lyonne, Chloe Sevigny, Mark Webber, Meg Tilly
In a desolate community full of drug-addled marines and rumors of kidnapping, a wild-eyed stoner named Lou wakes up after a crazy night of partying with symptoms of a strange illness and recurring visions. As she struggles to get a grip on reality, the stories of conspiracy spread.
directed by Mickey Keating
written by Mickey Keating
Ashley Bell, Pat Healy, Alan Ruck, Larry Fessenden, Graham Skipper
The year is 1978. A team of wannabe crooks botch a small-town bank heist and flee with their hostage deep into the California desert, where they inexplicably find themselves in a harrowing fight for survival against a psychotic ex-military sniper.
“Outlaws and Angels”
directed by JT Mollner
written by JT Mollner
Chad Michael Murray, Francesca Eastwood, Luke Wilson, Teri Polo
With a notorious bounty hunter closing in on their trail, a gang of cold-blooded outlaws invades the home of a seemingly innocent frontier family, where an unexpected game of cat and mouse ensues throughout the night, leading to seduction, role reversal, and ultimately bloody revenge.
“The Blackout Experiments”
directed by Rich Fox
written by Kris Curry
Josh Randall, Kristjan Thor, Russell Eaton
A group of friends discover the dark underworld of the ultra-scary, psychosexual horror experience called Blackout. But what starts as a thrill ride through the unknown becomes deeply personal, developing into an obsession that hijacks their lives and blurs the line between reality and paranoid fantasy.
“The Greasy Strangler”
directed by Jim Hosking
written by Toby Harvard and Jim Hosking
Joe David Walters, Jesse Keen, Gil Gex
When Big Ronnie and his son Brayden meet lone female tourist Janet on Big Ronnie”s Disco Walking Tour-the best and only disco walking tour in the city-a fight for Janet's heart erupts between father and son, and the infamous Greasy Strangler is unleashed.
directed by Richard Bates Jr.
written by Richard Bates Jr.
Adrian Grenier, Angela Trimbur, AnnaLynne McCord
When Owen is forced to confront the past he's been running from his whole adult life, he and his girlfriend, Isabel, become entangled in a horrifying web of lies, deceit, and murder. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll be scarred for life.
“Under The Shadow”
directed by Babak Anvari
written by Babak Anvari
Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi
Tehran, 1988: As the Iran-Iraq War rumbles into its eighth year, a mother and daughter are slowly torn apart by the bombing campaigns on the city coupled with the country's bloody revolution. As they struggle to stay together amidst these terrors, a mysterious evil stalks through their apartment.
directed by Kevin Smith
written by Kevin Smith
Lily-Rose Depp, Harley Quinn Smith, Johnny Depp, Justin Long, Kevin Smith
Colleen Collette and Colleen McKenzie are teenage besties from Winnipeg who love yoga and live on their smartphones. But when these sophomores get invited to a senior party by the school hottie, the Colleens accidentally uncover an ancient evil buried beneath their Canadian convenience store.
Oh, boy. Rob Zombie, Kevin Smith, Iranian horror, something greasy from the Spectrevision boys, and a new one from the guy who made “Excision”?
I'm not getting much sleep this Sundance, and I hope you'll be there for all of it.
The 2016 Sundance Film Festival will take place in Park City, UT, from January 21 -31.