New Films From Kevin Smith, Rob Zombie Announced for Sundance 2016
On the indie-film circuit, Sundance Film Festival is the most important ten-day period of the year. Every winter in Park City, Utah, earnest independent picture jockey for buzz around the festival in the hopes that enough positive murmurs, maybe a star or two in the cast, and a little bit of luck will earn a coveted pickup from a major distributor. It’s at Sundance that scrappy contenders blossom into overnight successes; just last year, fine films such as Dope, James White, Slow West, The Wolfpack, The Witch, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Forbidden Room, The End of the Tour, Mistress America, Brooklyn, Tangerine, Experimenter, and Entertainment first gained traction at the festival. (To be fair, Sundance is also at fault for helping Me and Earl and the Dying Girl get off the ground, but we all have our crosses to bear.)
But after night falls, a stranger class of films creeps out of the woodwork to satisfy the audience’s weirder urges. The “Park City at Midnight” sidebar is a perennial favorite for those in search of entertainment on the fringes, looking to luxuriate in the twisted and disturbing. Last year’s crop yielded such gems as old-school chiller It Follows, Eli Roth’s idiotically fun Knock Knock and the unsettling sleep-paralysis documentary The Nightmare, and so the announcement today of Sundance 2016’s official Midnight lineup arrives amidst a wash of great excitement.
The newly-announced slate includes entries from some familiar faces in the world of underground film and some intriguing unknowns, but the real excitement of the Midnight sidebar is just what a crap shoot actually watching any of them is. The lines separating so-bad-it’s-good from just bad is razor thin, and so there’s no telling whether a Midnight movie will be campy fun or a joyless slog. Exercise your powers of discernment and take a look at the full lineup below, courtesy of the Sundance Institute:
31 / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Rob Zombie) — Five friends are kidnapped on the day before Halloween and are held hostage in a terrifying place named Murder World. While trapped, they must play a violent game called 31, in which the mission is to survive 12 hours against a gang of evil clowns. Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Malcolm McDowell, Richard Brake, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Meg Foster.
Antibirth / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Danny Perez) — In a desolate community full of drug-addled marines and rumors of kidnapping, a wild-eyed stoner named Lou wakes up after a crazy night of partying with symptoms of a strange illness and recurring visions. As she struggles to get a grip on reality, the stories of conspiracy spread. Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Chloë Sevigny, Mark Webber, Meg Tilly, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos.
The Blackout Experiments / U.S.A. (Director: Rich Fox) — A group of friends discover the dark underworld of the ultra-scary, psychosexual horror experience called Blackout. But what starts as a thrill ride through the unknown becomes deeply personal, developing into an obsession that hijacks their lives and blurs the line between reality and paranoid fantasy.
Carnage Park / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Mickey Keating) — The year is 1978. A team of wannabe crooks botch a small-town bank heist and flee with their hostage deep into the California desert, where they inexplicably find themselves in a harrowing fight for survival against a psychotic ex-military sniper. Cast: Ashley Bell, Pat Healy, Alan Ruck, Darby Stanchfield, James Landry Hébert, Larry Fessenden.
The Greasy Strangler / U.S.A. (Director: Jim Hosking, Screenwriters: Jim Hosking, Toby Harvard) — When Big Ronnie and his son Brayden meet lone female tourist Janet on Big Ronnie’s Disco Walking Tour—the best and only disco walking tour in the city—a fight for Janet’s heart erupts between father and son, and the infamous Greasy Strangler is unleashed. Cast: Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo, Gil Gex, Jesse Keen, Joe David Walters.
Outlaws and Angels / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: JT Mollner) — With a notorious bounty hunter closing in on their trail, a gang of cold-blooded outlaws invades the home of a seemingly innocent frontier family, where an unexpected game of cat and mouse ensues throughout the night, leading to seduction, role reversal, and ultimately bloody revenge. Cast: Chad Michael Murray, Francesca Eastwood, Luke Wilson, Teri Polo, Madisen Beaty, Nathan Russell.
Trash Fire / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Richard Bates Jr.) — When Owen is forced to confront the past he’s been running from his whole adult life, he and his girlfriend, Isabel, become entangled in a horrifying web of lies, deceit, and murder. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll be scarred for life. Cast: Adrian Grenier, Angela Trimbur, AnnaLynne McCord, Fionnula Flanagan, Matthew Gray Gubler, Ray Santiago.
Under the Shadow / United Kingdom, Jordan (Director and screenwriter: Babak Anvari) — Tehran, 1988: As the Iran-Iraq War rumbles into its eighth year, a mother and daughter are slowly torn apart by the bombing campaigns on the city coupled with the country’s bloody revolution. As they struggle to stay together amidst these terrors, a mysterious evil stalks through their apartment. Cast: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian, Arash Marandi.
Yoga Hosers / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kevin Smith) — Colleen Collette and Colleen McKenzie are teenage besties from Winnipeg who love yoga and live on their smartphones. But when these sophomores get invited to a senior party by the school hottie, the Colleens accidentally uncover an ancient evil buried beneath their Canadian convenience store. Cast: Lily-Rose Depp, Harley Quinn Smith, Johnny Depp, Justin Long, Austin Butler, Tyler Posey.
Critical decorum be damned, I almost hope that Trash Fire is awful for the rich variety of headline-pun possibilities for all the negative reviews.