I’m not saying that the 2011 Sundance Film Festival was a complete bust, but I can’t help but feel a little bit let down. Like many B-D readers, I was all sweaty and jacked up for sure-fire winners like Red State, The Oregonian, and Hobo with a Shotgun, only to come away feeling bemused and melancholy and…well, still a little bit sweaty, I guess. Looking back, the 2010 Sundance Film Festival gave us four terrific films (The Killer Inside Me, Frozen, Buried, and 7 Days) , but we only got two truly great ones out of this year‘s fest. Yeah, that‘s right, two.
Still, it’s worth noting that there were more “horror films” at this year’s festival than there have been in a very long time, which has to be a good sign, right? At least it shows that they’re trying. And at the very least, I had a great time. My abiding gratitude to B-D for sending me, and of course, a special thanks to our loyal readers for all of their much appreciated comments.
Inside you’ll find my ranking of this year’s films, along with a complete breakdown of ALL the festival coverage.
Directed and written by Kim Jee-woon. Stars Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik
“A violent revenge thriller about a young secret agent tracking the serial killer who murdered his fiancee.”
A searing tale of man vs. serial killer that practically flounders in debauchery. Fortunately, all of that wonderful, wonderful violence comes fully backed by a riveting story, so there’s no need to make any excuses. For lovers of extreme cinema, this masterpiece is the complete package. – Ryan Daley
Director: Lucky McKee; Screenwriters: Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee. Cast: Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis, Lauren Ashley Carter, Zach Rand.
“When a successful country lawyer captures and attempts to “civilize” the last remaining member of a violent clan that has roamed the Northeast coast for decades, he puts the lives of his family in jeopardy.” World Premiere
From much-beloved director Lucky McKee (May, Red, The Woods) comes a disturbing parable about the legacy of domestic violence. When a family man captures a feral woman and attempts to tame her, his true self is finally revealed. A rich, provocative horror film that pushes the envelope in some very interesting ways. – Ryan Daley
Director: Chris Kentis; Screenwriter: Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Julia Taylor Ross
“Silent House follows a young woman troubled a childhood trauma. Whilst visiting her family’s isolated summer home with her father and uncle, when they learn they are not alone in the house. The terrifying 80 minute period is told from Sarah’s point of view. Elizabeth Olsen, sister to Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, takes the lead role.”
Reputedly shot in one continuous take, this haunted house movie managed to both a) scare the living shit out of Sundance audiences, and b) bust hottie Elizabeth Olsen onto the scene. Endure the slower parts and you’ll be rewarded with some masterfully staged scares. – Ryan Daley
Director: Fernando Barreda Luna
“Atrocious focuses on the case of a brother and sister who investigate a local urban myth while on holiday, resulting in strange occurrences at the family’s summer house.”
A POV found footage film that actually works. Two teenage videographers attempt to film paranormal activity around the family’s vacation house, with ultimately gruesome results. Exactly what you’d expect from this type of film, but extremely well-executed. – Ryan Daley
Director and screenwriter: Kevin Smith. Cast: Michael Parks, Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, John Goodman, Melissa Leo.
“A group of misfits encounter extreme fundamentalism in Middle America.”
Kevin Smith stuffs too many ideas into one basket in this half-baked attempt at a religious “horror” flick. He introduces some interesting themes, but the whole thing is too jam-packed with extraneous nonsense to make a lasting impact. Not bad, not good, it’s a movie that simply exists. – Ryan Daley
Director: Jason Eisener; Screenwriter: Johnathan Davies Cast: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Gregory Smith, Brian Downey.
“A hobo hops from a train with dreams of a fresh life in a new city, but instead finds himself trapped in an urban hell. When he witnesses a brutal robbery, he realizes the only way to deliver justice is with a shotgun in his hands and two shells in the chamber.” World Premiere
The biggest disappointment of the festival. Director Jason Eisener’s exploitation throwback to the 70s has a few of the ingredients that make up a successful homage, but the “fun” is notoriously absent. Labored and wheezing, it’s like a talkative old man who’s desperate to be included in the conversation. Any conversation. – Ryan Daley
Director Shunji Iwai. Kevin Zegers, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rachael Leigh Cook, Kristin Kreuk, Aoi Yu, and Adelaide Clemens all star.
“The Japanese-Canadian production follows a seemingly normal young man prowls online chatrooms and message boards for the perfect girl who will ensure his survival.
An agonizingly-paced art house drama without a single interesting moment. Flat acting and bizarre-as-fuck framing definitely don’t help matters any. If it were any more boring, it would be a cat scan. A movie that doesn’t give a shit if you like it or not… – Ryan Daley
Director and screenwriter: Calvin Lee Reeder. Cast: Lindsay Pulsipher, Robert Longstreet, Matt Olsen, LynneCompton, Barlow Jacobs, Chadwick Brown, Jed Maheu, Roger M. Mayer.
“After surviving a brutal car accident, a simple farm woman limps down the road into the nightmarish unknown.” World Premiere
…which is still better than a movie that intends to annoy the living fuck out of you. Director Calvin Reeder brings his “hipster montage” act to the big screen with a full-length feature guaranteed to frustrate everybody, everywhere. The soundtrack, the “story”, the cinematography….it is all out to destroy your soul. – Ryan Daley
Director: Andre Ovredal. Cast: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Hans Morten Hansen, Johanna Mørch, Tomas Alf Larsen.
“A group of student filmmakers get more than they bargained for when tangling with a man tasked with protecting Norway from giant trolls.” International Premiere