As SXSW winds down, it's time to reflect on all the movies that kept audiences awake past bedtime, notably the 10 Midnight features divided between the "Midnighters" and "SXFantastic" sidebars. It was an unusually strong collection of films that stirred up vigorous debate among viewers. Which ones stood out? Which ones may be coming soon to a theater near you?
Films with Pre-Fest Distribution:
'Hobo With a Shotgun'
Pardon me for saying the obvious, but this movie is a blast, a huge slice of rowdy, rousing action. Rutger Hauer plays the titular hobo. "In an era of too much campy self-awareness, too many grindhouse homages, and too much blood-for-blood's-sake, 'HWAS' is a breath of fresh, sleazy air," our own Eric D. Snider wrote from Sundance. "First-time director Jason Eisener, expanding on the fake trailer that he and writer John Davies made in 2007 as part of a contest, takes exactly the right tone, straddling the line between imitation and parody."
The film will be available on demand (via various providers) on April 1 before hitting select theaters starting on May 6. More information is available at the official site.
After the jump: Three more that now have distribution, prospects for the other six, plus trailers -- all NSFW!
Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson star in this haunted house tale as parents "rocked by tragedy when one morning their little boy can't wake up," Joe Utichi reported for Cinematical. "The doctors are stumped as to what's causing the coma, but mom is convinced it's the strange goings on she's been witnessing in the house. What follows is a rip-roaring ghost story that strikes somewhere between Sam Raimi and 'The Exorcist.'"
'Insidious' debuted at the Toronto Film Festival last fall and then got picked up by FilmDistrict, a new distribution outfit, shortly before it played at Sundance. It's due out in theaters on April 1, but it's not clear how wide a release it will be.
Films Acquired for Distribution During the Festival:
Barely 18 months ago, Ben Wheatley shook up Fantastic Fest with the world premiere of his first feature, 'Down Terrace,' and he returned to Austin with his new film's plot cloaked in secrecy. It's nearly impossible to write about it without disclosing the plot, but it is an outstanding film -- my personal favorite of the fest -- and you can read more about it in William Goss' Cinematical review.
A deal for U.S. distribution rights cleared on Monday, with IFC Midnight emerging as the winner. (More at The Hollywood Reporter.) So it appears the film will be available on demand before receiving a limited theatrical release. We hope it's sooner rather than later.
Imagine surviving the apocalypse, only to be trapped in a bunker with a small group of strangers who are all morphing into vile human beings. 'The Divide,' directed by Xavier Gens ('Frontiers,' 'Hitman') is a stylish, claustrophobic and bleak picture, and this writer had a few problems with it, as expressed elsewhere. Admittedly, the opening sequence is stunning and other critics were more favorably disposed. Lauren German, Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, and Rosanna Arquette star.
Anchor Bay Films acquired U.S. distribution rights late on Tuesday night, according to Deadline, paying in the "low seven figures." Anchor Bay has enjoyed seven-figure success with just two films so far, both ('City Island' and 'Solitary Man') featuring well-known leads (Andy Garcia and Michael Douglas). They haven't done as well with horror flicks like Adam Green's 'Frozen,' but perhaps they'll be mounting a wider release along with promotional efforts to go along with their investment in 'The Divide.' We're waiting to hear about a theatrical release date, but it's likely to be some time this year.
Midnight Films Currently Without U.S. Distribution (listed alphabetically):
'Attack the Block'
In response to seeing this fresh alien invasion / creature feature set in a housing project in Brixton, our own Peter Hall had this to say: "'Attack the Block' is so fast paced, the jolts so visceral and the energy so contagious, no one of the right mindset should be walking away from it at all; they should be stumbling away, intoxicated by its perfect genre high."
This writer concurs with that critical opinion, but it's not just critics who love the film; it also won the SXSW Audience Award for Midnight Feature. It's got a cast of feisty lower-class kids saving the world from aliens, it's funny, it's got heart, and it's got Nick Frost in a stoner supporting role (along with Edgar S. Wright as an executive producer).
So why hasn't it been picked up yet? Jen Yamato at Movieline writes: "According to some reports, buyers may balk at the challenges of selling a movie carried by unknowns with South London accents so heavy that American audiences might require subtitles. And as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World proved last year, enthusiastic geek press doesn't necessarily mean an enthusiastic geek turnout at the box office." Here's hoping that a distributor rises to the challenge.
Nifty, propulsive, nitroglycerin-propelled thriller from Argentina that takes place largely in a creepy apartment building ruled over by an aged mad scientist; he's the scariest old man since the Nazi dentist played by Laurence Oliver in 'Marathon Man.'
'Cold Sweat' is a good, solid flick that could find traction if it gets a home video / streaming release.
'George the Hedgehog'
If you can only see only one adults-only animated feature based on a cult Polish comic this year, make it 'George the Hedgehog.' It's outrageously funny in spots, incomprehensible in some of its cultural references, and potentially offensive in its depiction of human / animal relations.
In other words, it's the perfect midnight film, and there's (sadly) almost zero chance of any U.S. distributor picking it up.
A psycho-sexual anthology film consisting of three segments, written and directed individually by Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson and Simon Rumley, some people admired it greatly, including yours truly, while others were offended, though maybe the more accurate description would be "appalled." (Watch the trailer.)
It's a no-holds-barred independent horror project from the UK that may be tough to watch, but definitely deserves an audience in its full, unrated glory, even if it a smaller one than the upcoming 'Scream 4.'
As minor-key slacker apocalyptic parodies go, 'Phase 7' is a gentle, rewarding little flick. Like 'Cold Sweat,' it hails from Argentina, but it's kind of the flip side as far as urgency or intensity is concerned, at least until later in the story. Our own Christopher Campbell saw it at the Miami International Film Festival just before SXSW and reported: "The Argentine flick was a big hit with the audience, especially those Spanish viewers who seemed to get more of the comedy, some which may not have translated completely. Helped by an awesome villainous turn by Federico Luppi and a warped-sounding Carpenter-like score, it's a fun and eerie ensemble exercise about paranoid residents confined to their apartment building during a global virus epidemic."
Ditto on the awesome musical score. Maybe someone could pick up both this one and 'Cold Sweat' and package them as an Argentinean double feature? Or double it up with a release of the superb soundtrack?
Another post-apocalyptic feature -- yes, we smell a theme by now -- 'The FP' takes still another fresh approach, pitting rival gangs against each other in furious battle "through one-on-one competitions in a dancing arcade game called Beat Beat Revelations," says our own Jacob Hall. (You read that right.) "'The FP' is the rare "ready-made cult hit" that actually works. It's an uncommon combination: a fearless, low-budget indie that's not necessarily made for mass consumption, but made with confidence and skill by guys who grew up devouring cheesy blockbuster cinema, a love letter and a middle finger to Hollywood."
Sales prospects may be chancy, but it's in English, often an advantage for such flicks; perhaps they could play it at sleazy, dangerous dance halls?