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Over the past week, dozens of filmmakers brought their most recent work to Austin for the annual SXSW Film Festival, the first in-person version of the event since 2019, and, as usual, genre films were well-represented. From major studio productions to up-and-coming independent crews, the festival gave us quirky ghost stories, new slasher hits, and one very rewarding trip through the multiverse. So, here's a look back at the best things we saw at the festival this year (arranged in alphabetical order), as well as info on when you might be able to catch them in a theater or on your couch.
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
Made with the same animation style that drove films like Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, Richard Linklater's ode to his childhood in Texas at the peak of the Space Race is both warm and driven by a sense of otherworldly magic that imbues even the mundane moments with something special. Part memoir, part ambitious flight of childhood fancy, it's a gem that, like many of Linklater's other films, defies easy classification.
Apollo 10 1/2 arrives on Netflix April 1.
Bodies Bodies Bodies
A bunch of Gen Z rich kids head to a mansion to party their way through a hurricane, but when one of them turns up dead, they suddenly feel like they can't trust anyone, even the people they've known forever. With an ensemble cast led by a movie-stealing Rachel Sennott and witty direction from Halina Reijn, Bodies Bodies Bodies is one of those horror films that feels like it'll be watched over and over again by the people who get it. It's a blast with a lot of layers.
Bodies Bodies Bodies does not have a wide release date yet.
It would have been easy for Joseph and Vanessa Winter's Deadstream to coast on a fun premise — a YouTube dare bro spends one night in a haunted house and livestreams it all — and make the whole movie simply follow that to its logical conclusion. A few clever tweaks to that formula, though, plus Joseph Winter's own fiercely committed central performance and some amazing creature effects, make Deadstream into something all the more entertaining. It's a blast.
Deadstream does not have a wide release date yet.
Dio: Dreamers Never Die
If you love fantasy, there's a good chance that you love the magical metal lyrics of the late, great, Ronnie James Dio. If the two go hand-in-hand for you, be on the lookout for this documentary that chronicles Dio's rise through the hard rock scene of the 1970s on his way to becoming one of the great metal gods of the 1980s and beyond. It's a loving, even inspiring, look at a guy who was a nerd for swords and dragons just like the rest of us.
Dio: Dreamers Never Die arrives in theaters September 1.
Ava DuVernay's DMZ pilot does exactly what a good first episode of TV should do. It introduces a compelling protagonist (Rosario Dawson), lays out a basic objective, then moves full throttle toward that objective while building out its world, until we get an incredible teaser to set up what comes next. That all makes it solid, but what makes it all the more promising is how little it tries to hold the audience's hand along the way. It's a smart, sophisticated start to what could wind up a great miniseries.
DMZ is currently streaming on HBO Max.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
An impressive technical achievement that also managed to bring an emotional punch to the festival's opening night, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert's Everything Everywhere All At Once was perhaps the most impressive genre effort on display at SXSW this year. Anchored by phenomenal work from Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis, the film is an ambitious, vibrant look at everyday people discovering something more, and learning what's really important to them along the way.
Everything Everywhere All At Once premieres in theaters on March 25.
The live-action series based on the legendary video game franchise of the same name has been in the works for so long that it feels like a minor miracle to even see it, let alone find it as compelling as it turns out to be in its opening episodes. With a story that's both friendly to newcomers and steeped in the lore of the games, it's a surprisingly human story for a franchise of games about an armored super soldier, and a promising start to what could be a new science fiction epic.
Halo premieres on Paramount+ on March 24.
Written and directed by Addison Heiman, Hypochondriac follows a young gay man whose outgoing nature masks a deeply rooted family history of trauma and mental health issues. When phone calls from his long-absent mother start to exacerbate his condition, he goes on a journey that's equal parts reckoning with long-buried pain and journey into a surreal mindscape of terror. Zach Villa is terrific in the lead role, and the depiction of the character's struggle both as a real human piece and a work of effective genre cinema is a winning one.
Hypochondriac does not have a wide release date yet.
Directed by Pete Ohs and led by a minimalist cast that includes Callie Hernandez and Ashley Denise Robinson, Jethica is one part quirky ghost story, one part meditation on what stalkers take from their victims, and all compelling. It's a film that makes maximum use of a haunted New Mexico landscape, but never lets go of the little character details that make just as funny as it chilling. It's an indie gem from a festival known for indie gems.
Jethica does not have a wide release date yet.
Jim Gaffigan and Rhea Seehorn star as two scientists whose careers didn't turn out the way they wanted. When an object from space crashes in their backyard, Gaffigan's character sees a chance to change that, unlocking a sci-fi-tinged exploration of dreams deferred and roads not taken in the process. Moving, poetic, and full of great performances, Linoleum is a low-key stunner.
Linoleum does not have a wide release date yet.
The Lost City
There's a lot about The Lost City that makes it feel impossible to dislike, from the cast led by Sandra Bullock to the plot hook to the needle drops that punctuate the comedy. Even beyond the surface level, though, there's an absolute commitment running through Adam and Aaron Nee's film that makes it into a tremendous Saturday night at the movies. From Channing Tatum's incredible himbo performance to Daniel Radcliffe's scenery-chewing mayhem and Patti Harrison's scene-stealing brilliance, it's a delight from start to finish.
The Lost City premieres in theaters on March 25.
The Man Who Fell to Earth
The Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet re-imagining of the David Bowie-starring cult classic film of the same name has a lot going for it in its initial episodes. There are great performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor and Naomie Harris, a slightly nonlinear premise that sets up promising stuff ahead, and a script that's willing to deliver something ambitious beyond just retreading the source material. It feels like the start of something fascinating.
The Man Who Fell to Earth premieres on Showtime on April 24.
After garnering buzz at Sundance earlier this year Mariama Diallo's Master won even more fans at SXSW through its captivating combination of atmosphere and very human darkness. The story of a college dean (Regina Hall) who contends with both racism and apparent supernatural forces, it's a chiller that will leave you squirming about more than ghosts by the time it's done.
Master is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
With a pilot directed by the great Michelle MacLaren, this time-bending drama based on Lauren Beukes' novel is off to a compelling start. With a cast led by Elisabeth Moss and Jamie Bell, it's the story of a woman whose reality is warping as memories of a past attack come to light, and a killer stalking a city with plenty of secrets of his own. The pilot, rather brilliantly, uses the premise in a rather sparing way, laying lots of great character groundwork to set up the confrontations to come. I can't wait to see the rest of it.
Shining Girls premieres on Apple TV+ on April 29.
If you love movies about kids going on a dangerous mission when the adults don't have a clue, Slash/Back will absolutely be your jam. Directed and co-written by Nyla Innuksuk, the film follows a group of girls in a small Inuit village on the edge of the Arctic Circle who discover an alien invasion in their midst, and set out to stop it themselves. Funny, inventive, and featuring some truly unsettling creature work, it's a movie fans of both Reservation Dogs and Attack the Block can get behind.
Slash/Back does not have a wide release date yet.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
A movie in which Nicolas Cage plays a version of himself looking for a comeback was always going to be at least interesting, but thanks to a committed cast and a smart script, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent becomes something more along the way. Cage is great, but Pedro Pascal almost steals the movie from him in this story of a movie star trying to remake himself in more ways than one.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent premiers in theaters on April 22.
Driven by a remarkable central performance by It Follows star Maika Monroe, Chloe Okuno's Watcher is a beautifully staged, taut thriller that relies both on the universal feeling of strangeness surrounding a new home and on the specific feeling of being a woman no one wants to listen to. It's a chilling portrait of menace that just keeps ratcheting up the tension until a finale pulled off with the precision of a Swiss watch.
Watcher arrives in theaters on June 3.
Ti West's return to horror films was worth the wait. The story of a porn film crew who runs afoul of a killer out in the middle of nowhere in 1970s Texas, X is at once a love letter to a particular kind of slasher film and an ambitious, forward-looking effort all its own. It's scary, it's funny, and it packs some gnarly kills that are also often shockingly beautiful.
X is now in theaters.