When it comes to putting together SXSW's Midnighters schedule, "I program a lot with my gut," explained producer and senior programmer Jarod Neece. "I was a biochem major, so I don't have a long history as a cinephile, so I book what I like."
2014 was a killer year for the Midnighters strand, with titles like Exists, Starry Eyes, and The Guest. "Last year, Neece said, "all those filmmakers that we love had films ready to go." 2015, by contrast, is a lot of first-timers and new names, but Neece sees the equation staying the same. "There's a mix of everything. A little horror, a little found footage, lots of thrillers and suspense and dread."
So while it may be hard to stick a single genre tag on the titles, Neece explained, "We say 'bonkers' a lot." However, certain themes do emerge, with an emphasis on female protagonists and antagonists, in the growing post-Possession/House of Psychotic Women genre. That includes Karyn Kusama's The Invitation, which Neece called "one of the bigger films, and one of the first ones we had, that we fell in love with right away."
The real ace up Neece's sleeve may well be He Never Died, which continues the artistic evolution of punk elder statesman Henry Rollins into an actor to watch. Neece said, "I've never seen him as a lead, and his performance is so strong in this." He's not the only one to subvert expectations: Adam Mason is infamous for disturbing underground horrors like Pig, but his surprise collaboration with Suburgatory/Law & Order star Jeremy Sisto on the found-footage shocker Hangman "is definitely the most successful thing he's ever directed, and having Jeremy Sisto producing definitely raises it to another level."
The list is dominated by world premieres, but there are a couple of Sundance alums, including the highly touted post-apocalyptic BMX actioner Turbo Kid. "We fell in love with that before Sundance picked it up," said Neece. It's joined by another Sundance alums: The Nightmare by Room 237 director Rodney Ascher, which Neece called "the scariest documentary I've ever seen."
As always, this will be a platform for a whole slate of first-time directors, including rock & roll mayhem from WETA veteran Jason Lei Howden on Deathgasm. Plus, jumping the fence from film publicists is Ted Geoghegan with We Are Still Here, which Neece singled out for its "great storytelling, and it gets really gruesome towards the end."
Here's the full list of Midnighters, as well as the complete list of short films that will be playing throughout SXSW, March 13-21.
The Corpse of Anna Fritz
Director: Hèctor Hernández Vicens, Screenwriters: Hèctor Hernández Vicens, Isaac P. Creus
Anna Fritz, a famous and beautiful actress, has died recently. Three young men sneak into the morgue to see her naked. Fascinated by her beauty, they decide to become the last people to have sex with her. Cast: Alba Ribas, Cristian Valencia, Bernat Saumell, Albert Carbó (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Jason Lei Howden
New kid in town Brodie and bad-boy Zakk quickly bond over their mutual admiration of heavy metal. But when these two metal thrashing losers unwittingly summon malevolent forces, their dreams of stardom may just have to be put on hold. Cast: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Stephen Ure (World Premiere)
Director: Alistair Legrand, Screenwriters: Alistair Legrand, Luke Harvis
When a single mother and her two young children are tormented by an increasingly strange and intense presence, the mother turns to her science teacher boyfriend to help take on the violent forces that paranormal experts are too frightened to face. Cast: Ali Larter, Arjun Gupta, Max Rose, Merrin Dungey, Chloe Perrin, Kurt Carley, Patrick Fischler, Wilmer Calderon, Tom Wright, Laura Margolis (World Premiere)
Director: Patrick Kennelly, Screenwriters: Sigrid Gilmer, Patrick Kennelly
Obsessed with her sexy roommate, Jill violently imprisons Jennifer in their apartment in a twisted attempt to bring them closer together. Cast: Bethany Orr, Mary Loveless, Wes McGee, Sheresade Poblet, Jill Jacobson, Dana L. Wilson, Kristin Minter, Robert Maffia, Jules Bruff, Juan Riedinger (World Premiere)
Director: Adam Mason, Screenwriters: Adam Mason, Simon Boyes
Returning from vacation, the Miller family finds their home has been broken into. After cleaning up the mess, they continue with their lives, shaking off the feeling of being violated. But little do they know, the nightmare has just begun. Cast: Jeremy Sisto, Kate Ashfield, Ty Simpkins, Ryan Simpkins, Amy Smart, Ross Partridge, Vince Ventresca, Bruno Acalinas, Ethan Harris-Riggs, Jamie Lee (World Premiere)
He Never Died
Director/Screenwriter: Jason Krawczyk
Jack is a man battling his eternal struggle with cannibalism. There are very few reasons to live when you can't die. Cast: Henry Rollins, Steven Ogg, Kate Greenhouse, BooBoo Stewart, Jordan Todosey (World Premiere)
Director: Karyn Kusama, Screenwriters: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
While attending a dinner party at his former home, a man thinks his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister intentions for their guests. Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lindsay Burdge, John Carroll Lynch, Mike Doyle, Michelle Krusiec, Karl Yune, Jordi Vilasuso (World Premiere)
Director: Rodney Ascher
The Nightmare is an original horror documentary from the Oscar-winning producer of Undefeated, the producer of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and the producer of The Pact and is directed by Rodney Ascher, the acclaimed director of Room 237.
Director/Screenwriter: Mickey Keating A family intervention goes horrifically awry within the snowy confines of an isolated lake house. Cast: Lauren Ashley Carter, Dean Cates, Brian Morvant, Larry Fessenden, John Weselcouch (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: RKSS Collective
In a post-apocalyptic future, The Kid, a young, solitary scavenger obsessed with comic books, must face his fears and become a hero when he meets a mysterious girl named Apple.
We Are Still Here
Director/Screenwriter: Ted Geoghegan
In the cold winter fields of New England, there sits a house that wakes up every 30 years and demands a sacrifice. Cast: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fesseden, Lisa Marie, Monte Markham (World Premiere)
The winner of the Grand Jury Award in this category will be eligible for a 2015 Academy Award nomination for Best Narrative Short.
"09:55 – 11:05, Ingrid Ekman, Bergsgatan 4B" (Sweden)
Directors: Cristine Berglund, Sophie Vukovic
67-year-old Ingrid has decided to deal with cancer on her own. She retreats from the outside world and it retreats from her - apart from sporadic visits from the home care services. But then home care employee Frida knocks on her door and awakens feelings that Ingrid can't shut out.
Director: Jeremy Hersh
Follows the relationship between a 23-year-old aspiring actress and an off-Broadway star.
Director: Matthew Frost
In "Aspirational", a short film for fashion magazine Vs., Frost takes aim at selfie culture with the help of Kirsten Dunst.
Director: Samuel Aaron Bennett
Naomi's got a problem. The vodka in the hotel minibar may not be the answer, but it helps her escape a reality she won't face, at least for a little while. (World Premiere)
"Donald And Jess"
Director: Paul Briganti
A lonely plumber fights for a customer he's fallen for. (World Premiere)
Director: Tim Marshall
We all need something... or someone to follow.
Director: Joshua Tate
A young woman with Down Syndrome (Glee's Lauren Potter) grapples with intimacy, identity, and adulthood after an unplanned pregnancy with her boyfriend. (World Premiere)
Director: Leah Shore
Shot exclusively in a secret sex club in New York City, a drug-induced couple unleash upon each other an existential barrage of delusion and broken dreams. (World Premiere)
"Happy with Bear" (Australia)
Director: Yianni Warnock
A Singaporean exchange student struggles with her inner turmoil by vicariously living through her online persona. (World Premiere)
"Lerato" (USA/South Africa)
Director: Thati Peele
Happy, a short-tempered South African farm laborer, must contend with fate to get his young daughter to a prestigious piano audition on time. (World Premiere)
"Myrna the Monster"
Director: Ian Samuels
A heartbroken alien dreamer from the moon transitions into young adult life in Los Angeles like any other twentysomething.
"Oh Lucy" (Japan/USA/Singapore)
Director: Atsuko Hirayanagi
Setsuko, a 55-year-old single so-called office lady in Tokyo, is given a blonde wig and a new identity, Lucy, by her young, unconventional English-language teacher. "Lucy" awakens desires in Setsuko she never knew existed.
Director: Michael Mohan
A young married couple brings two of their single friends out to Palm Springs for a long weekend. It does not go as planned.
Director: Clara Aranovich
An unlikely love story set along Kenai Lake in Alaska. (World Premiere)
"Room 55" (UK)
Director: Rose Glass
Set in 1950s England, "Room 55" follows the journey of Alice Lawson – strictly self-disciplined wife, mother and celebrated television cook – as she spends an unplanned night alone at the mysterious Clove Hotel...
Director: Pippa Bianco
A 15-year-old girl returns to school after someone shares an explicit video of her. (World Premiere)
Director: Marie Grahtø
"Teenland" is neo-kitsch fantasy about incarcerated teens so fucked up emotionally that they have developed supernatural powers – like all teenagers, really. It's time to release the teens of the world. (World Premiere)
"Wait 'til the Wolves Make Nice"
Director: Jessica dela Merced
Five kids turn their innocence to ashes on a hot summer day in Detroit. (World Premiere)
"We'll Find Something"
Director: Casey Gooden
A couple struggles to choose a restaurant while visiting New York. (World Premiere)
"What Doesn't Kill You"
Director: Darya Zhuk
After a rare diagnosis, Lily's attempts to flee from war-torn Israel are thwarted when the airport shuts down and her zany cousin forces her to party. (World Premiere)
The winner of the Grand Jury Award in this category will be eligible for a 2015 Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Short.
"Bob Spells Backwards"
Directors: Josh Polon, Ryan Maxey
Bob has this superpower he can do most of the time. (World Premiere)
"Born To Be Mild" (UK)
Director: Andy Oxley
Documentary delving into the peculiar world of the Dull Men's Club. (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Meg Smaker
One woman defies Fidel Castro’s ban on female boxing to follow her dream of Olympic glory. Boxeadora tells the story of her harrowing journey against insurmountable odds to become Cuba’s first female boxer. (World Premiere)
"Calls to Okies: The Park Grubbs Story"
Directors: Bradley Beesley, Ben Steinbauer
In the early 1980’s, a group of disenfranchised Oklahoma teenagers mastered the art of prank phone calls and became known as Park Grubbs. (World Premiere)
Directors: Josh Chertoff, Alfredo Alcantara
"El Porvenir" tells the story of Abelardo Olguin, a third-generation cockfighter struggling to hold on to his family's way of life in the face of a growing movement to ban the sport across the Mexican states. (World Premiere)
Director: Gabe Spitzer
At 86, Joy Johnson was the oldest woman to run the 2013 New York City Marathon. This is the story of an inspiring athlete with an uncommon passion for her sport, and for life.
Director: Mishka Kornai
An ode to the universality of life and its phases, through a collection of personal stories shared by unique individuals. (World Premiere)
"I Thought I Told You To Shut Up!!" (Canada)
Director: Charlie Tyrell
In 1977 David Boswell created comic book antihero Reid Fleming, The World’s Toughest Milkman. Thirty years later, the big-screen Hollywood adaptation remains in limbo. Narrated by Academy Award-Winner Jonathan Demme. (World Premiere)
"The Last Mile"
Director: Ondi Timoner
61% of California inmates return to prison within three years. The Last Mile program at San Quentin Prison helps offenders become entrepreneurs, training them to start their own companies, despite being denied access to computers & the Internet. (World Premiere)
"The Little Deputy" (Canada)
Director: Trevor Anderson
Trevor tries to have a photo taken with his father.
"Love Has No Age"
Director: Eli Born
A love story reunion between a woman who joined a cult called "The Source Family" and a legendary rock photographer. (U.S. Premiere)
"Picturing Barbara Kruger"
Director: Pippa Bianco
How do you make a film about the artist’s image without using it? (World Premiere)
Directors: Adam Roffman, Luke Poling
In the wilds of rural Alabama, a spear-hunter proclaims himself "world's greatest", erecting a museum dedicated to his bizarre obsession. An offbeat cast of lovers and acolytes remember his tactics both for killing and for leaving a legacy. (World Premiere)
"Terms of Intimacy"
Director: Melissa Langer
A glimpse into the emerging industry of professional cuddling and the lives of the clients that use this service. (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Christopher André Marks
Patrick Barr has a passion for golf; what he doesn't have are fairways or golf balls. Undaunted, Patrick, aka "Tiger Hood," swings his way to self-acceptance on the streets of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. (World Premiere)
Directors: Diane Hodson, Jasmine Luoma
Weaving together the life and work of iconoclastic psychogeographer and convicted sex offender, Denis Wood, this meditative portrait unveils the inner workings of a man who unapologetically pushes boundaries both personally and professionally.
The winner of the Grand Jury Award in this category will be eligible for a 2015 Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short.
"All Your Favorite Shows!"
Director: Danny Madden
Anything you wanna watch in the palm of your hands! Crazy convenient. Crazy … (World Premiere)
Director: Matt Reynolds
A hand-drawn animation documenting a parasitic reproductive cycle. (World Premiere)
Director: Julian Petschek
A banana and a hot dog bun are famous.
"Half Wet" (UK)
Director: Sophie Koko Gate
We are all born as wet as a banana, 75% water.
Director: James Ford Murphy
Inspired by the isolated beauty of tropical islands and the explosive allure of ocean volcanoes, "Lava" is a musical love story that takes place over millions of years.
Director: Ryan Gillis
An old crop duster discovers a mysterious crate floating in the Florida Everglades. Bringing the crate onto his airboat is just the first in a series of decisions he learns to regret.
Director: Steven Subotnick
The pig is everything. (North American Premiere)
Director: Xaver Xylophon
Julius can't sleep. To get his head empty he decides to go on a road trip, but somehow he can't manage to leave. A hand-drawn film about failure, insomnia, a red motorbike, pretty bar girls, the desolateness of Berlin and waterproof socks.
Directors: Daniel Gray, Tom Brown
The point of no return cannot be crossed twice.
Director: William Reynish
whole is a film about heartache. (U.S. Premiere)
"World of Tomorrow"
Director: Don Hertzfeldt
A little girl is taken on a mind-bending tour of her distant future.
"Anal Juke" (Japan)
Director: Sawako Kabuki
A dream about my ex-boyfriend and the uneasy atmosphere of Japan after the earthquake are remixed.
Directors: Josh Baker, Jonathan Baker
"Bag Man" is the understated story of a 12-year-old African-American boy, who takes us on an introspective journey out of the city and into the remote countryside of upstate New York, with a mysterious duffel bag in hand. (World Premiere)
Director: Brian Lonano
A "CAW"tionary tale!!! (North American Premiere)
"Interesting Ball" (USA/UK)
A red ball bounces past a cafe and a couple folks’ houses and then goes to the beach.
"Kiss Kiss Fingerbang"
Director: Gillian Wallace Horvat
A nice guy discovers a darker side of his personality when his girlfriend reveals her hidden weakness. (World Premiere)
Director: Jeff Betancourt
Val and her friends play a game that allows them to communicate with the dead. The Knock Knock Game turns any doorway into a portal to the hereafter, but the girls soon learn that there are rules that should never be broken. (World Premiere)
"Le Pédophile" (Canada)
Director: Ara Ball
"Le Pédophile" tells the hard-hitting story of a woman coping with a history of being sexually abused, and the violence and tenderness which helps her leave it behind. (World Premiere)
"Welcome to Willits: After Sundown"
Director: Trevor Ryan
Some deals go wrong. Some deals go very wrong. (World Premiere)
Blood Orange – "You’re Not Good Enough” Director: Gia Coppola
Boy & Bear – "Bridges" (Australia) Director: Summer DeRoche
Chet Faker – "Gold" Director: Hiro Murai
clipping. – "Body & Blood" Director: Patrick Kennelly
Dent de Cuir – "She’s Bad" (France) Directors: Dent De Cuir
DJ Snake featuring Lil’ Jon – "Turn Down for What" Director: Daniels
Donn Bhat – "Disco Disco" (India) Director: Aakash Bhatia
Duke Dumont – "Won’t Look Back" (UK/USA) Director: Tim Main
Hercules and Love Affair – "I Try to Talk to You" Director: David Wilson
Hudson and Troop – "Frameless" (Australia) Directors: Andrew Goldsmith, Darcy Prendergast
Jack Kovacs (feat. Huxlee) – "The Empty House" Director: Anna Zlokovic
Moody Good feat. Eryn Allen Kane – "Musicbx" (UK) Director: Max McCabe
Mr Little Jeans – "Good Mistake" Director: Ian & Cooper
Nils Frahm – "Re" (Hungary) Director: Balázs Simon
Paolo Nutini – “Iron Sky” (UK) Director: Daniel Wolfe
Saint Pepsi – "Fiona Coyne" Director: Matt Walker
Taggart and Rosewood – "The Kink" Directors: Brandon LaGanke, John Carlucci
Toys – "Golden Line" (France) Director: Vladimir de Fontenay
Valentino Khan – "Make Some Noise" Director: Tim Hendrix
"+ / -"
Directors: Andy Irvine, Mark Smoot
A young couple examines their relationship as they await the result of a pregnancy test. (World Premiere)
Director: Jazmin Diaz
Brothers David and Oscar Juarez have until sunset in rural Mexico to turn a profit on their father’s business, or face the consequences of his belligerence. (World Premiere)
"Darknet Delivery: A Silk Road Story" (USA/Germany)
Directors: Lacey Dorn, Mafalda Millies
In the era of Internet hyper-connectivity, four friends order drugs online, only to reveal how disconnected they really are.
Director: Austin Tolin
When a new piece of evidence arrives for an unsolved case, Detective Lenny Calzone decides to put in a late night at the crime lab. (World Premiere)
Director: James M. Johnston
Marcus is dealing with some serious shit. (World Premiere)
"The OceanMaker" (USA/Belize)
Director: Lucas Martell
After the seas have disappeared, a courageous young female pilot fights against vicious sky pirates for control of the last remaining source of water: the clouds.
Director: John Bryant
A salesman faces the most difficult and important negotiation of his life. (World Premiere)
Director: Tomas Vengris
A young girl's contemplation of her budding sexuality takes us on a dark psychological journey about love, sex, and manipulation. (North American Premiere)
Director: Joe Nicolosi
For two star pilots on a deep space patrol mission, hostile alien races aren't the biggest threat … boredom is. (World Premiere)
"Woman of the World"
Director: Allison Cook
On a visit to Los Angeles, Rachel has an encounter with a celebrity that reminds her she is right where she belongs. (World Premiere)
"Art-O-Mat: The Art Machine"
Director: Jose Couvillion
"Art-O-Mat: The Art Machine" is a short documentary exploring Clark Whittington's original creation, the Art-O-Mat, a vending machine that sells small pieces of original art.
Director: Jonah Goldberg
A boy who has trouble with controlling his anger begins to take medication, but not everyone agrees with this choice.
"Awake After Sleepless Nights"
Director: Nathan Jowers
Joshua, a young student, struggles against sleep deprivation, turning to online games for relief.
Directors: Katie Dai, Rachel Davis
"Dolls" is the story of two girls getting ready for a party in conventional - and unconventional! – ways.
Director: Gretchen Lynch
"Evelyn Parker" is a short kids film about a nine-year-old girl who realizes she might just need math to make it big in the fashion world.
Director: Abbey Perez
During her college application process, Mira must constantly brag about herself, but she can't think of anything good to say. In this coming-of-age story, Mira relies on help from her friends to figure out what makes her special.
"Greg The Magnificent"
Directors: Umar Qadeer, Nick Chaviers
"Greg The Magnificent" follows Greg Smith, an under-appreciated kid who is constantly picked on. A magic kit mysteriously arrives at his front door that motivates him to become "someone."
Directors: Garrett Monk, Calvin Herbst
A short film illustrating the Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as the five stages of grief. The film reflects each stage through a group of friends as they struggle to overcome the loss of someone close to them.
Director: Caitlin O’Brien
"Home" is a dramatic science fiction short about a young girl who is faced with the frailty of life and the humanity of home.
"I am not a Hero"
Director: Murphy Studebaker
"I am not a Hero" explores the significance of knowledge, creativity, and self-expression.
"It's A Thing"
Directors: Meredith Morran, Sage McCommas
A short exploration of two quirky high school students with irrational fears. They find each other and the power of love.
"It's Really Odd"
Directors: Elisabetta Diorio, Joshua Leftwich
A hopelessly romantic eighth-grader finds herself about to experience what she once admired from a safe distance on a black-and-white screen.
"Just Your Average Joe"
Directors: Pearl Basinski, Jade Basinski
Life is a long dark tunnel and you're the light at the end.
Director: Alexia Salingaros
"Kers" is a short documentary on a female graffiti artist. Braving the general public's critical eye, she reveals her talents and takes us through the struggles she faces in her art form.
Director: Alexia Salingaros
In a fast-deteriorating world, a lonely hero must join together with an unlikely crew of misfits to uncover a secret and save their dying civilization.
Directors: Caila Pickett, Gray Deuber
A chef redefines success.
Director: Michael Morrison
"Noel" is a dramatic film representing the immature and irrational decision of a teen who is maltreated.
"Pokemon Rivals Trailer"
Directors: Josh Ulmer, Branden Shoemaker
"Pokemon Rivals Trailer" is a live action film based on the popular card and TV show Pokemon. It follows the characters Ash, Brock, and Gary from a different perspective than the light hearted TV show.
"Professor Hancock's Orchestra"
Director: Charlie Ozburn
"Professor Hancock's Orchestra" is a documentary showcasing the work of a band, led by high school senior Colin Hancock, who recreated the sound and analog recording technique of Jazz legend Buddy Bolden.
"Shadows in the Woods"
Director: Anthony Martino
"Shadows in the Woods" is a horror film following a couple on a camping trip in the woods. Things take a dark turn when the man's sick fantasy is carried out.
"The Passion of the Mime"
Director: William Hoinoski
An aging detective and his rookie partner stumble upon a unique crime scene.
"Turtle: A Super 8 Short Film"
Director: Cameron Fisher
In a wordless tale, a lonely boy's heartfelt encounter with an unexpected visitor (a tortoise) develops into an unlikely friendship based on trust.
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