The 30th Annual SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals concluded on Sunday, and Bloody Disgusting had your back when it came to horror coverage. I know it can be difficult to check the site constantly looking for all of the SXSW news coming out of the site, so I thought I would make it a little bit easier with a post that would serve as a central hub for our coverage of the festival. Of course, you could always just visit our SXSW tag, but what fun would that be?
I’ve only been writing for Bloody Disgusting for a little over a year, so I’m still relatively new to this whole festival coverage thing. I’m lucky enough to live in Austin, TX, which is the location of both Fantastic Fest (which centers solely on genre films) and SXSW. The first festival I ever went to (and covered) was Fantastic Fest last September, where I shared coverage with our own Kalyn Corrigan. SXSW was all me this year, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my coverage for Bloody Disgusting as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
For those of you who have never been to SXSW, it is a huge festival that takes over most of downtown Austin and some other areas to the south of the Colorado River that borders the south side of downtown Austin. This can make it particularly difficult if you have screenings that are close together but on opposite ends of the festival. For example, a movie may let out at the Paramount Theater but you need to make it down to the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar in 30 minutes for your next screening (see map below). Road closures and crowds can make this difficult.
What I’ve decided to do is detail my adventures of SXSW day by day, linking to all of the reviews and interviews I posted (think of it as a diary entry). I actually liked or loved most of the films that I watched, which I have been informed is a symptom of being “festival drunk,” but I’ll take it. Anyway, here is a summary of my coverage!
Day 1 – Friday March 11th
The first day of the festival was relatively light. I wanted to make a screening of The Greasy Strangler (read Fred Topel’s Sundance review), but it was at the aforementioned South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse and would get out at 10:33. I had to be up at the Stateside Theater by 10:45 to get into the screening of the new Fede Alvarez movie, which was listed as “UNTITLED FEDE ALVAREZ / GHOST HOUSE THRILLER” until that day when it was officially renamed as Don’t Breathe. Rather than risk missing the Fede Alvarez movie, I skipped The Greasy Strangler and went to a bar after I left my day job and hung out for a bit before making my way to the premiere.
The premiere of Don’t Breathe received an extremely positive response, and turned out to be my favorite film of the festival (it was the only film I gave a perfect score). I may have had two or three drinks before the screening, but I swear my inebriation did not impact my opinion of the film at all. It’s really just that good.
Day 2 – Saturday March 12th
Saturday saw my day start with some interviews. First, I was fortunate enough to interview Fede Alvarez about Don’t Breathe. He also got to briefly talk with me about Evil Dead 2, which unfortunately won’t be happening. He was a great interview and I wish I had had more than 10 minutes with him, but such is life.
After speaking with Alvarez, I was able to interview Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto, who are two of the male leads in the film. Like Alvarez, Minnette and Zovatto were especially chatty and overall just a pair of really nice guys.
My first film of the day was Ti West’s new western In a Valley of Violence. People seemed to be pretty split on the film (it all depends on your tolerance for humor in a western), but I thought it was a blast.
Unfortunately a migraine (which had nothing to do with me drinking the night before) hit me after the screening, so I went and napped in my car for a hour or two before the late-night screening of Mike Flanagan’s (Oculus, Absentia) newest film Hush, which he co-wrote with his wife Kate Siegel (who also stars in the film). My review will be up when the film is released on Netflix on April 8, but you can read Kalyn’s review now.
Day 3 – Sunday March 13th
Interviews took up the majority of my Sunday. First, I rushed to the Four Seasons to meet up with Ti West and Jason Blum to discuss In a Valley of Violence. We did the interview on the outside patio of Trio, the restaurant that is housed inside the Four Seasons. It was sunny and hot and it looked like West and Blum had just finished brunch, but they were still a good conversation.
An hour later was my interview with director Mike Flanagan, actress Kate Siegel and producers Trevor Macy and Jason Blum (again) about Hush. That interview will be posted the week of the film’s release on Netflix (just like my review), but suffice it to say that they were all a bunch of talkers, making for one of the best and most entertaining interviews I’ve ever done. Flanagan really seems to care about his craft and Siegel was just a bubble delight. The interview concluded with Blum showing me a clip from Ouija 2, which Flanagan is directing. While I can’t detail any specifics about the clip, I can say that it looks better than pretty much everything that was in Ouija. Fingers crossed for that one.
My final interview of the day was a roundtable interview with the cast and crew of the new Cinemax TV series Outcast, based on Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel of the same name. Basically, me and a few other members of the press sat at a table with Kirkman and executive producer Chris Black and we all took turns asking questions. After about 20 minutes we were all herded to another table to do the same song and dance with the pilot’s director Adam Wingard and lead actor Patrick Fugit.
At this point I went home to let my dog Coach McGuirk out. Don’t worry, I’m not a neglectful pet owner. Any day neither me nor my partner could run home to let him out, we arranged for one of our friends to do so.
The only film I caught on Sunday was the James Caan-starrer The Waiting later that night. It’s more a psychological drama than it is a genre film, but it has plenty of genre elements. It’s a bit tedious, but the emotional payoff in the film’s climax almost makes it all worth it, which I mentioned in my review.
I closed out the night by heading to Trace (I fully realize the coincidence of me being in a restaurant named Trace), a restaurant in the W Hotel, to attend a private party with the cast and crew of The Waiting. While there, I was able to discuss the film with director Kasra Farahani, but I had to hold back since I had an interview scheduled with him the following day, which leads me to….
Day 4 – Monday March 14th
My first task of the day was to do a roundtable interview with Farahani and actors James Caan (yes, the James Caan) & Logan Miller. This interview (which was also done with several other members of the press) took place in the back of a bar called TenOak, which I thought was odd since we were, you know, interviewing James Caan and all, but whatever. The interview was illuminating but was cut short due to the fact that we were interviewing them on a stage where a band needed to set up. Again, it was very odd.
Not only did I get to interview James Caan, but I was also able to interview Christopher Lloyd (along with the rest of the cast and crew of I Am Not a Serial Killer). This interview took place at the Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Hotel, just a few blocks away from TenOak. At 25 minutes, it was my longest interview but was a lot of fun. I didn’t catch a screening of the film because I was sent a screener before the festival started, but you can catch my review of that film here.
I didn’t have to catch a screening until later that night, so I headed to the Retail Innovation Lounge for the “Carnage Park + Darling Listening Party” where writer/director Mickey Keating compared and discussed the soundtracks for his two latest films (read my Fantastic Fest review of Darling here) with composer Giona Ostinelli. It was a fun diversion from the rest of the festival, and the banter between Keating and Ostinelli was highly entertaining.
At this point I went home to let my dog out (See? I told you I wasn’t a neglectful pet owner), then headed back downtown to catch a screening of Beware the Slenderman, which I thought was a pretty scary documentary. Beware the Slenderman will premiere on HBO later this year.
Day 5 – Tuesday March 15th
I had to go back and work my day job on Tuesday morning. I took a half day and used the rest of the day to go home and catch up on reviews & transcribing interviews which, in case you didn’t know, is the absolute worst. This was the one day I stayed far away from downtown and did not do any SXSW-related activities.
Day 6 – Wednesday March 16th
I spent Wednesday morning transcribing more interviews (I told you it was the worst) and caring for my dog before heading down to my first screening at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar: Thomas Dekker’s Jack Goes Home. I wasn’t a huge fan, but it proved to be one of the more polarizing films of the festival. Check it out whenever it gets a release. Maybe you’ll like it!
After a short break, I walked into a screening of the Iranian horror film Under the Shadow, which is getting compared to The Babadook and for good reason. It also centers around a mother learning to cope with her somewhat bratty child while they are both haunted by a malevolent spirit. As similar as the films are, I think Under the Shadow is the better film.
Day 7 – Thursday March 17th
Back to the day job, as I spent my morning there before heading home in the early afternoon to let my dog out. Then I went downtown to catch Doug Benson’s and Master Pancake’s Interruption of Leprechaun 4: In Space. This wasn’t something I was covering, just something I really wanted to see. For those of you who don’t know: Master Pancake is a comedy troupe that basically makes screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse a live version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The members of the troupe (and in this screening’s case, Doug Benson) sit at the front of the theater with microphones and make jokes about the screening. Needless to say, there were plenty of jokes to be made about Leprechaun 4: In Space. They’re doing Leprechaun In the Hood next year and I’m pretty stoked about it (though I’m pissed I missed last year’s screening of Leprechaun 3, my favorite in the franchise).
After that I was able to catch a screening of Pet, which I had been hearing rather lukewarm things about all week (hence me saving it for the latter half of the festival). Much to my surprise, I ended up really liking it! It’s not a perfect film, but it’s got a good sense of humor around itself and has a pretty nifty twist that occurs halfway through its runtime.
Day 8 – Friday March 18th
My day job overtook my morning again, but mid-afternoon saw me at a screening for Anne Hamiton’s debut feature American Fable. I liked it well enough, but it didn’t leave much of an impression. It clearly drew a lot of inspiration from Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, as it tells the tale of an 11-year-old girl named Gitty who discovers that her father is hiding a wealthy man in her family’s silo in order to save their struggling farm, she is forced to choose between saving the man’s life or protecting her family from the consequences of their actions. It’s a 3/5 for me (beautifully shot with some strong performances, but the script leaves a lot to be desired), but it didn’t really have any horror elements so I opted not to review it.
What I did enjoy on Friday night was Mickey Keating’s Carnage Park, which is a fun throwback to 70s exploitation films. Since Fred Topel had already reviewed the film at Sundance, I didn’t prioritize it for a review, but I liked it a bit more than he did so I wrote one anyway. It’s no secret that I like Keating’s films (see my aforementioned review of Darling and my inclusion of Pod on my Top 5 Horror Films list from last year), and Carnage Park is no different. It’s a lot of fun and features a fantastic performance from The Last Exorcism’s Ashley Bell
Day 9 – Saturday March 19th
I saved the worst film for last, and that film is Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Stand. I have liked pretty much every film I’ve seen at SXSW, save for Jack Goes Home and Another Evil (which I also saw as a screener before the festival), so it figures that the last film I was able to see is the one I would like the least. You can read my review of it. Or don’t. Just don’t watch the movie.
9 days and 13 films later, my coverage was done. My biggest regret is that I wasn’t able to catch the Japanese zombie film I Am a Hero, which won the Audience Award for the Midnighters (a group of films described as “Scary, funny, sexy, controversial – provocative after-dark features for night owls and the terminally curious.”), but c’est la vie. Overall I’d say it was a pretty successful festival, and I’m excited for all of you to see many of the films that I was able to see. Hopefully this post gave you an idea of what it’s like to attend a festival and you got some entertainment out of it. I know I did!