Other Worlds Goes Delving into the UnderWorlds
Senior Programmer Dan Repp digs into two days of horror
By Richard Whittaker,
1:00AM, Thu. May 19, 2022
Other Worlds, Austin's film festival dedicated to all things science fiction, has always had a dark side. This weekend it'll have that Mister Hyde side on full display with UnderWorlds 2022, a two day event centered around horror.
Chills and thrills have always been part of Other Worlds' DNA: after all, the very first films shown under its interstellar banner were found footage chiller Dark Mountain and zombie survival/psychological shocker The Dead Within. Up until last year, UnderWorlds was a substrand of the main festival (taking place this year Dec. 1-4), but in 2021 the organizers spun it out into an four-film all-dayer, with only 60 socially-distanced seats available.
Now the beast is back and bigger, doubling in size to a full two days, with the quartet of blood-chilling features roaring in with a host of shorts, running May 20-21 at the Galaxy Highland. But don't worry: this isn't a complete severing of the twin events. Senior Programmer and Event Director Dan Repp said, "The idea was always there to have UnderWorlds be something on its own, but it will always be part of Otherworlds."
The last two years have seen a lot of indie horrors that otherwise would have sat on the shelves get a more high-profile release as distributors looked for titles while the industry was on hiatus. The glut of pre-pandemic productions have been released, "now you're seeing a lot of Covid-made films," Repp said. Within this year's submissions he saw an evolving theme: However, it's not films about Covid, but indie films that worked within the new limitations of pandemic-style production. "It was a couple of characters in a van, a couple of characters in a peep show."
However, that doesn't say anything about the quality of the films. Having the standalone event in late May, in the gap between South by Southwest and Fantastic Fest, "worked out perfect, because a lot of these films are getting releases this summer," Repp said.
That includes Revealer, the latest from Austin-based Paper Street Pictures, which has just been acquired by horror streaming platform Shudder. Old friends to the festival, having brought horror anthology Scare Package to Other Worlds 2019, Repp described the Paper Street team as exactly the kind of filmmakers he likes to support, because they support other filmmakers. "You always hear about people saying, "oh, we'll look out for you when we're doing well,' and very rarely does that turn into anything, but they really do help."
Here's Repp's guide to the four features screening over the two nights of Underworlds 2022:
D: Jason Satterlund
USA, 96 min, Texas premiere
Screens Friday, 7:30pm
A soldier, in the middle of a firefight is hit with a blinding light. He wakes up alone in a strange room with no doors, windows, or exits. Unsure if he is in a hospital, prison, or hell, he tries to radio for help, to no avail. The only person he can reach is a woman who claims to be trapped in a similar room. Together, they work to find a way out before it's too late.
Dan Repp: "This could have been opening night for Other Worlds. It's definitely sci fi, it's horror in the way of being stuck in a small place."
D: Raul Cerezo and Fernando Gonzalez Gomez
Spain, 90 min, Texas premiere
Screens Saturday, 1pm
A group of people in a van transporting a wounded excursionist have to avoid sitting next to her during the trip.
Dan Repp: "That one fell in our lap. It's kind of fun, and I love the set up. If you've ever been in a car with someone you don't know, and they make you uncomfortable? It's the horror version of that. I've had that, where someone gets in a car and you go, 'there's something wrong with them."
D: Christian Schultz
USA, 88 min, Texas premiere
Screens Saturday, 6pm
Two young business partners are invited to a week-long yachting voyage with a potential investor. All is well, until the dreams of one of the partners bleeds into reality. The living nightmares threaten the deal that would change their lives and the safety of everyone on the yacht.
Dan Repp: "I'm not someone who likes when I get confused by a movie, but I was confused in a good way. I was so fascinated by what was happening with this girl on this boat. I've seen a lot of a gaslighting movies, and there's a little of that, but it's mostly internal, and the people around her know something's going on"
D: Luke Boyce
USA, 90 min, Texas premiere
Screens Saturday, 8:30pm
Tensions rise when a stripper and a religious protester are trapped in a peep show booth and must come together to survive the apocalypse in 1980’s Chicago.
Dan Repp: "We're bringing in both the leads for that. Their chemistry in the movie, I'm so surprised how touching it ended up being. It's a very The Apartment kind of setting, where it's two people in a peep show and it's also the zombie apocalypse. They form a bond, and truths come out, and I didn't expect to be so moved by a movie set in a peep show. It turns out to be something special."
Other Worlds Film Festival presents UnderWorlds 2022, May 21-22, Galaxy Highland, 6700 Middle Fiskville. Passes $75, available at otherworldsfilmfest.com.