The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals is celebrating its 30th year (23rd year for Film and Interactive) and is just two days away!  There are more than 50 screenings available to attendees this year.  We’ve already previewed the Midnighters, the films us horror hounds must see, but the fest has a lot more to offer genre fans than that.  Below, we highlight our most anticipated festival offerings outside of the Midnighter schedule.

Valley
A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drags a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody crosshairs of revenge.

Director Ti West marks his first foray into non-horror here, and you’d be hard pressed to convince me that you’re not the least bit curious to see what he can do with a western. You’d also be hard pressed to convince me that his extensive experience in horror won’t bleed over a bit into a genre that openly embraces violence. It’s even in the film’s title. The impressive cast, led by Ethan Hawke, Karen Gillan, John Travolta, and Taissa Farmiga are nothing to sneer at either. Another bonus: Larry Fessenden.

american fable
AMERICAN FABLE is a fairytale thriller set in the 1980s Midwest farm crisis about a courageous girl living in a dark and sometimes magical world. When 11-year-old Gitty discovers that her beloved father is hiding a wealthy man in her family’s silo in order to save their struggling farm, she befriends the captive in secret and is forced to choose between saving the man’s life and protecting her family from the consequences of their actions.

Stories of young children using fantasy as a means of escaping a harsh reality is something that we’ve seen before, perhaps many times over. Yet it’s a means of storytelling that works as it’s both captivating and heartbreaking to watch unfold. While this falls more in the drama category, I’m intrigued by the fantasy thriller aspects of the narrative.

The Alchemist Cookbook
Young outcast Sean has isolated himself in a trailer in the woods, setting out on alchemic pursuits, with his cat Kaspar as his sole companion. Filled with disdain for authority, he’s fled the daily grind and holed up in the wilderness, escaping a society that has no place for him. But when he turns from chemistry to black magic to crack nature’s secret, things go awry and he awakens something far more sinister and dangerous.

While ultimately categorized as a drama, The Alchemist Cookbook deserves a second look. The director, Joel Potrykus, is known for intense character studies (Buzzard, Ape), and has described this project as “Evil Dead by way of Jim Jarmusch.” If that’s not already intriguing, than expect Potrykus to go full on dark and avant garde with this one.

beware the slenderman
BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN tells the story of the internet’s elusive Boogeyman and two 12-year-old girls who would kill for him. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier lured their best friend into the woods, stabbed her 19 times, then set out on an odyssey to meet the tall and faceless man known online as Slenderman. Shot over 18 months with heartbreaking access to the families of the would-be murderers, the film plunges deep down the rabbit hole of their crime, a Boogeyman and our society’s most impressionable consumers of media. The entrance to the internet can quickly lead us to its dark basement, within just a matter of clicks. How much do we hold children responsible for what they find there?

Though this is a documentary, let’s face it: the truth is often scarier than fiction. In this case it’s based on the true crime story of murder blamed on an Internet created Boogeyman. It’s already been proven that documentaries can elicit chills, and a murder blamed on the creepy Slender Man is a compelling premise.

another evil
After encountering a ghost in their vacation home, Dan (Steve Zissis) and his wife Mary (Jennifer Irwin) consult an exorcist. Unsatisfied with the verdict, Dan goes behind his wife’s back to seek a second opinion, and secretly hires Os (Mark Proksch) who promises to get rid of the beings. Os and Dan spend a week together in the vacation home exorcising the “EFD” (Evil Fully Determined) beings, but Dan soon realizes that ridding the home of evil won’t be as simple as it seems.

Who doesn’t love a good horror comedy? One half of this comedic ghost busting duo, Steve Zissis, is no stranger to horror comedies, having previously voiced the titular Milo in Bad Milo. The other half, Mark Proksch, has proven his comedic chops in TV series Better Call Saul and The Office. With their efforts combined, we can expect something far more entertaining than your average haunted house flick.

AMC Preacher
Based on the popular, cult comic book franchise of the same name, PREACHER is a supernatural, twisted and darkly comedic drama that follows a West Texas preacher named Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), who is inhabited by a mysterious entity which causes him to develop a highly unusual power. Jesse, his badass ex-girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga) and an Irish vagabond named Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) come together and when they do, they are thrust into a crazy world populated by a cast of characters from Heaven, Hell and everywhere in between. The AMC Studios and Sony Pictures Television co-production was developed for television by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and showrunner Sam Catlin (BREAKING BAD).

Fans of the source material are skeptical by the changes, and Seth Rogen hasn’t exactly had a great track record with comic adaptations so far. So what? The Walking Dead has veered far from the source material often enough, yet that hasn’t prevented the show from becoming a massive hit for AMC. It’s abundantly clear, with hit after hit, that AMC knows their episodic storytelling. They don’t shy away from production expense, either. A supernatural, dark comedy show with Dominic Cooper as the lead sounds worth checking out to me.

The Waiting
The experiment started with a simple idea: if you had the equipment and the ambition, could you convince another person that they’re being haunted? THE WAITING follows two teenage boys as they attempt to do just that. Through a series of escalating “haunts”, the boys prod an elderly neighbor further and further in order to get a reaction. As their suspicions grow and the tension mounts, they realize too late that the man they’re manipulating is the last person they should’ve chosen for their project.

I love cat and mouse thrillers where it’s not immediately clear who’s the cat and who’s the mouse. These teens seemed to have picked the wrong man for their mean spirited experiment, which is guaranteed to set up some intense sequences. Even better is that the man these teens are pitted against is veteran actor James Caan (Misery).

I Am Not a Serial Killer
Sixteen-year old John Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it. He’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. Terrible impulses constantly tempt him, so for his own sake, and the safety of those around, he lives by rigid rules to keep himself “good” and “normal”. However, when a real monster shows up in his town he has to let his dark side out in order to stop it – but without his rules to keep him in check, he might be more dangerous than the monster he’s trying to kill.

Full confession: I just finished reading the Dan Wells novel on which this is based. It’s excellent. So that alone makes this one a must watch for me. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the novel, trust me, this is one to keep an eye out for. A story centered on a sociopathic teen fearing that he’s destined to become a serial killer already makes this worthwhile, but what if that sociopath actually has to contend with a real serial killer? Throw in supernatural elements and you have the makings for a great narrative with a unique protagonist.

HARDCORE HENRY
Strap in. HARDCORE HENRY is an unflinchingly original wild-ride: You remember nothing because you’ve just been brought back from the dead by your wife. She tells you that your name is Henry. Five minutes later, you are being shot at, your wife has been kidnapped, and you should probably go get her back. Who’s got her? His name’s Akan – a powerful warlord with an army of mercenaries, and a plan for world domination. You’re also in an unfamiliar city of Moscow, and everyone wants you dead. Everyone except for a mysterious fellow called Jimmy. He may be on your side, but you aren’t sure. If you can survive, and solve the mystery, you might just discover the truth behind your identity.

I’m not sure anything else needs to be said about Hardcore Henry at this point. To say we’re excited about this one would be an understatement. Produced by Timur Bekmambetov and starring Sharlto Copley and HaleyBennett, this insane action flick via first person POV is breaking new ground in the most awesome way. Think actual video game in film format. It’s going to be a blast. And the best part? Even if you can’t make it to SXSW, you only have to wait a month for theatrical release.

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