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Credit: IFC Films

From 'Werewolves Within' to 'False Positive,' your guide to the sci-fi & horror films at Tribeca Film Festival 2021

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Jun 5, 2021, 1:36 PM EDT

The 20th anniversary edition of the Tribeca Film Festival kicks off Wednesday, June 9, and it's got enough genre programming to make your head spin. In addition to werewolves and spine-tingling pregnancies, the event also has an all-star panel of jurors: Sharon Stone, Patricia Arquette, Sanaa Lathan, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Warrington Hudlin, Delroy Lindo, Elijah Wood, Bryan Cranston, Andre Holland, Margaret Cho, Melissa Leo, and Hari Nef.

"Storytellers rallying together, sharing their admiration and inspiring growth in one another’s work is one of the most inspiring parts of Tribeca," Jane Rosenthal, festival co-founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises/Tribeca Festival, said in a statement. “Our jury and incredible community of talented creators are coming back to gather in-person to surround their fellow artists with support." 

For fans of genre entertainment, there's a bevy of sci-fi and horror programming to scope out at this year's fest. Check out our rundown of the films, TV shows, virtual reality experiences, video games, podcasts, and discussions that await you this year. We've listed the dates that they premiere at the festival, but remote audiences can also have the chance to catch certain films virtually. Click here for full schedule and ticketing details regrding the festival's digital component.


 

FILM & TV:

 

 

 

All My Friends Hate Me

Friday, June 11, at 5 p.m. EST

Credit: Endeavor Content

In this horror-comedy from director Andrew Gaynord (The Characters), the "genuine, but increasingly insecure" Pete (Tom Stourton, who also co-wrote the film) gets together with some old college friends for a birthday celebration at a creepy old manor. In addition to the nostalgic revelry, Pete also plans to propose to his girlfriend before the weekend is over, but not all goes according to plan as "one by one, his friends slowly turn against him," reads the synopsis provided by iMDB.

No Running

Friday, June 11, at 8 p.m. EST

Refracting the highly relevant topic of racial injustice through the lens of science fiction, Delmar Washington's debut feature follows Jaylen Brown (The Get Down's Skylan Brooks), a high school student who finds himself under suspicion when his classmates begin to vanish. Billed as "a U.F.O abduction thriller for 21st-century America," the film co-stars Rutina Wesley (True Blood) as Jay's mother, Taryn Manning (Orange is the New Black) as Jay's aunt, and Shane West (Gotham) as the local town sheriff.

The Beta Test

Friday, June 11, at 8 p.m. EST

Credit: Ken Wales

When invited to partake in a night of wild passion, successful Hollywood talent agent Jordan finds his life upended by a whirlwind of lies, suspicion, and conspiracy. That's show business for ya! Jim Cummings (The Wolf of Snow Hollow), who plays Jordan, co-directed and co-wrote the feature with PJ McCabe (American Vandal).

Honeydew

Friday, June 11, at 10:30 p.m. EST

Sam (Sawyer Spielberg) and Riley (Malin Barr) are taking a road trip when their car realizes it's in a horror movie and breaks down. The young couple seek refuge in the isolated home of Karen, a strange old lady who lives with her equally strange son, Gunni. As Sam and Riley wait for someone to show up and repair their car, they realize that stepping into the backwoods home of a total stranger may not have been the best idea in the world.

Shapeless 

Saturday, June 12, at 8 p.m. EST

Credit: Nick Shamblott

Ivy (Kelly Murtagh) is a struggling singer who barely scrapes by on performances at lounges and bars throughout New Orleans. While she doesn't show it in public, Ivy suffers from a terrible eating disorder that begins to turn her into something straight out of a nightmare. If she doesn't get it under control soon, the effects could be permanent.

Agnes

Saturday, June 12, at 8 p.m. EST

When a young nun known as Sister Agnes begins to show potential signs of demonic possession, two men of the cloth — the recently-disgraced Father Donaghue and priest-in-training Benjamin — are dispatched by the church to investigate. The more time they spend at the convent, however, the more they find their faith under attack.

My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To

Saturday, June 12, at 10:30 p.m. EST

Dwight (Patrick Fugit) likes to take walks at night. He also likes to seek out individuals who won't be missed so he can harvest their blood. He's just looking out for his ill younger brother, Thomas (Owen Campbell), who needs this vampiric sustenance in order to survive. Nevertheless, Dwight finds hhimself yearning for another life — one that will take him away from the only family he knows: Thomas and his sister, Jessie (Ingrid Sophie Schram).

Television Event

Sunday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m. EST

Take a look back at what many consider to be one of the most frightening films to ever be produced during the Cold War period with this documentary feature hailing from Jeff Daniels (the documentarian, not the actor). Aired in November of 1983, The Day After presented a fictional, yet extremely accurate, depiction of nuclear annihilation. Television Event  "combines interviews with the film’s director Nicholas Meyer, screenwriter Edward Hume, ABC-TV executives, residents of Lawrence where the film was shot, and many others with production footage, news footage covering the hype, and clips from the film, to trace a story of statement-making versus network censorship," reads the official synopsis.

Death and the Lady

Sunday, June 13, at 2 p.m. EST

The Old Lady and Jackson at home on a dark and stormy night. Credit: Geoff Bailey

Similar to the "Nothing in the Dark" episode of the original Twilight Zone, "Death and the Lady" is a 7-minute short about an elderly woman who finds herself visited by the Grim Reaper.

Blush

Sunday, June 13, at 2 p.m. EST

Credit: Apple/Skydance Animation

Disney veteran Joe Mateo (Mulan, Big Hero 6) wrote and directed this 11-minute short about an astronaut who reevaluates his life after crashing on a desolate planet.

Ultrasound

Tuesday, June 15, at 8 p.m. EST

Dr. Conners and Julie observe Glen and Shannon. CREDIT: Mathew Rudenberg (director of photography)

Rob Schroeder's sci-fi mystery flick follows three different characters: Glen, a man with car troubles who is kindly invited into the home of Arthur and his younger wife, Cyndi. Once inside, Glen is — to quote Vito Corleone — made an offer he can't refuse. Elsewhere, Katie grapples with a secret romantic affair that has her feeling manipulated through gaslighting. Lastly, we have Shannon who is starting to question her involvement in a scientific experiment at a clandestine facility.

We Need to Do Something

Tuesday, June 15, at 8 p.m. EST

Family still — featured: Vinessa Shaw, John James Cronin, Pat Healy, Sierra McCormick. Photo by: Jean Philippe Bernier

Teenager Melissa (The Vast of Night's Sierra McCormick) finds herself trapped in close quarters with her dysfunctional family when a tornado suddenly hits. As the hours stretch into days, Melissa begins to wonder if there's something more sinister than a tornado lurking outside the walls. "Is this the family’s reckoning at the hands of a higher power?" asks the synopsis. "Or was it unintentionally triggered by Melissa and her girlfriend, Amy [Lisette Alexis]? Whatever the cause is, one thing’s for certain: All hell is about to break loose." Penned by Max Booth III, the movie is based on the screenwriter's 2020 novella of the same name. Sean King O'Grady directed.

Werewolves Within

Wednesday, June 16, at 8 p.m. EST

Credit: IFC Films

Forest ranger Finn Wheeler (Veep’s Sam Richardson) is new to the town of Beaverfield, which finds itself under siege from a looming werewolf threat. Think John Carpenter's The Thing meets Joe Dante's The Howling. Written by Mishna Wolff (I'm Down), the film was directed by Josh Ruben (Scare Me).

Father of the Cyborgs

Thursday, June 17, at 5 p.m. EST

David Burke's feature-length documentary shines a spotlight on Dr. Phil Kennedy, a neuroscientist who made headlines for teaching a paralyzed man to control a computer via the electrodes implanted in his brain.

Carmentis 

Thursday, June 17, at 5:30 p.m. EST

Ben Mortley plays a miner on the titular desolate planet. His character must overcome his own grief and demons if he is to survive before the planet freezes over.

Jack and Jo Don't Want to Die

Thursday, June 17, at 5:30 p.m. EST

This 19-minute short takes place at a "suspension" facility where people go to die on their own terms. Jack, an employee of this rather macabre institution, plans to end his own life, but decides against it when he meets Jo.

System Error

Thursday, June 17, at 5:30 p.m. EST

Robots need friends too! George is a lonely convenience store worker looking for some kind of connection. The only drawback? He's a machine, but his isolated existence is about to change.

Toto 

Thursday, June 17, at 5:30 p.m. EST

This 13-minute short from director Marco Baldonado tells the story of a 90-year-old grandmother who falls in love with a pasta-making robot. It's your classic story of girls meets noodle-bot.

False Positive

Thursday, June 17, at 8 p.m. EST

Credit: Screenshot from 'False Positive' trailer courtesy of Hulu and A24

 

Premiering on Hulu Friday, June 25, False Positive puts a horrific, Rosemary's Baby-esque spin on the miracle of childbirth. After several failed attempts to produce a child, Lucy (Broad City's Ilana Glazer) and Adrian (The Leftovers' Justin Theroux) put their trust in a fertility expert known as Dr. Hindle (James Bond's Pierce Brosnan). This turns out to be a major mistake when Hindle's sinister motivations are revealed.

To Gerard 

Friday, June 18, at 6 p.m. EST

Directed by Taylor Meacham (a storyboard artist on The Croods: A New Age), "To Gerard" is about an elderly man who brings joy to a little girl via a magic show. It's really as simple as that. The short is also available to stream on Peacock.

The Last Marriage 

Friday, June 18, at 8 p.m. EST

Credit: Paroll Collective AB

What if ordinary life simply continued in the wake of a worldwide zombie outbreak? That's the central premise of "The Last Marriage," a 16-minute horror/comedy short from co-directors Johan Tappert and Gustav Egerstedt.

Settlers

Friday, June 18, at 8 p.m. EST

Think True Grit, but on Mars, and you've got a general idea for this one. Following the decimation of Earth, a family moves to Mars where they live out a humble existence on a harsh Red Planet homestead. That life is suddenly upended by unsavory parties begin to appear out of the surrounding hills. Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary), Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond), Brooklynn Prince (The LEGO Movie 2) Ismael Cruz Córdova (The Undoing), and Nell Tiger Free (Servant) co-star.

Monsters at Work & The Mysterious Benedict Society

Sunday, June 20, at 11 a.m. EST

Credit: Pixar/Disney+

Enjoy a double feature of two new Disney+ series: Monsters at Work and The Mysterious Benedict Society. Serving as a more direct sequel to 2001's Monsters, Inc., Monsters at Work follows a group of terrifying technicians who provide upkeep for a factory now running on screams. Based on Trenton Lee Stewart's YA novels, The Mysterious Benedict Society is centered around a group of talented orphans who are adopted by the incredibly eccentric Mr. Benedict (Toy Story 4's Tony Hale) to take down his evil twin brother, Dr. Curtain (also played by Hale).


VR & Gaming:

 

 

The Changing Same: Episode 1

Like No Running (see above), The Changing Same tackles race through a genre lens. Tribeca describes it as "a magical realist, immersive, episodic virtual reality experience where the participant travels through time and space to witness the connected historical experiences of racial injustice in America."

Mine

Every society needs water, including the utopia known as Blaze. When its liquid life-source source is compromised, "an intrepid teen must save their community before it’s too late," reads the official synopsis.

Paper Birds

Traverse five different levels as a musically talented child looking to rescue his sister from a dark force. To do that, he'll rely on his musical skills to open portals to another world.

Rebels

As its title suggests, Rebels is all about defiance. In this VR experience, you'll join a group of resistance fighters pushing back against the "Darwin Code," a system of mandated conformity.

Harold Halibut

Step aboard an interstellar spaceship fleeing an Earth on the brink of war. Well, it's not really fleeing anymore because it's currently sitting at the bottom of an alien ocean. As the vessel's passengers resign themselves to an underwater existence for the rest of time, you step into the role of Harold, a lab assistant for the ship's lead scientist, Jeanne Mareaux, who has grand plans to restart the ship.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

PlayStation on YouTube

This one goes out to all you Pikmin fans out there, as Kena (developed by Ember Lab) tasks players with cultivating "a team of charming spirit companions called the Rot, enhancing their abilities and creating new ways to manipulate the environment." The titular Kena is a green-horned Spirit Guide who hopes to uncover the secrets behind a fallen village.

Lost in Random

Electronic Arts on YouTube

First teased last summer, Lost in Random takes place in the dark fantasy kingdom of Random where the fate of every citizen is decided by the roll of dice. Along with her sidekick Dicey, the game's heroine, Even, sets out to *ahem* even the odds and find another dice capable of nullifying "the curse of random."

Norco

In Norco, you'll be dropped into what developer Raw Fury describes as the "industrial swamps of Louisiana's petrochemical hinterlands" (yeah, we know it's a mouthful) to look for your missing younger brother, Blake. To do that, you'll need to rely on an on-the-run cyborg who guides you through a "sci-fi Southern Gothic" version in a point-and-click journey through strip malls and drainage pipes.

Sable

Board a hoverbike as Sable, a young woman embarking on a rite of passing known as "gliding." She travels through a seemingly endless desert (one that doubles as a spaceship graveyard), encountering mysteries long since forgotten.

“Having such a small team meant we needed a space that we could populate in a believable way but still let us play with scale and evoke a sense of loneliness,” developer Gregorios Kythreotis explained to Vice 2019. “So having a lot of sparse areas wouldn't feel dissonant or take someone out of the experience. The thought of driving around on a hoverbike and exploring monuments that could be vast distances away felt really exciting."

Signalis

Playing as Elster — "a technician Replika looking for a lost dream" — you'll be tasked with solving puzzles, fighting off truly horrific creatures, and uncovering a dark secret. Per the description on Steam, Signalis is a "classic survival horror experience with a unique aesthetic, full of melancholic mystery." 

Twelve Minutes

Panic Room meets Groundhog Day, Twelve Minutes places you into the shoes of a man who finds himself stuck in a 12-minute time loop after being knocked unconscious during a home invasion. James McAvoy (X-Men), Daisy Ridley (Star Wars), and Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse) lend their voice talents to the game.


Podcasts:

 

Anomaly 

Thursday, June 10, at 11 a.m. EST

When an "earth-changing event" sparks a civil war on America's east coast, young Kory Hernandez (voiced by Jessica Darrow) finds herself moving from Queens, New York to the town of Keensboro — a small Illinois hamlet grappling with the effects of climate change. "Unsure of her place in this new world, she wonders: what, and who, can one trust in a world turned upside down?" teases the official synopsis. The supporting cast features Maite Bonilla, Gabriel Awan, Al Pagano, Loretta Anne Miller, Jessica Krueger, and Addison Anderson. Heather Taylor and Hillary Nussbaum co-wrote the podcast. Taylor serves as showrunner, while Nussbaum handles directorial duties.

Red Frontier

Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m. EST

Follows Commander Taylor Fullerton, an astronaut who lost her entire crew to a mysterious illness on their way to colonize Mars. A mentally shaky Fullerton has carried on the mission by herself, but when another crew arrives on the Red Planet, she must prevent the newcomers from suffering the same fate as her own comrades. Written and directed by Sarah Nolen, the podcast features the voice talents of Betty Gilpin, Charlie Barnett, Maria Dizzia, Ashley Park, Finn Wittrock, and Kara Young.

Earth Eclipsed

Friday, June 11, at 11 a.m. EST

Credit: The Lunar Company

Set in the distant future, Earth Eclipsed tells the story of Dr. Alexine Prometh, a brilliant neuroscientist attempting to save the human race with a top-secret project to read memories. Her clandestine work is eventually leaked to the public, along with the fact that some of her participants have vanished. As if that wasn't enough, Dr. Prometh finds herself the target of Nico Dunn, a renegade miner who wants her to locate a memory for him.

"It’s an honor to be premiering Earth Eclipsed at Tribeca,” Earth Eclipsed director Nicholas Prufer said in a statement. “Our goal was to create a highly immersive auditory experience, bringing contemporary themes to the pillars of classic sci-fi.”

Something Strange is Happening

Sunday, June 13, at 11 a.m. EST

Similar to Neil Gaiman's American Gods, this horror anthology revolves around the concept of immigrants bringing their native monsters to the United States. "Set in L.A.’s Historic Filipino Town, Season One features monsters and evil spirits of Filipino folklore, back for vengeance in modern times," reads the official synopsis. "Each season travels to a different immigrant town for an American horror story like you’ve never heard."

Tribeca Talks: Jad Abumrad with Jason Reitman

Sunday, June, 13 at 5 p.m. EST

Credit: Eric Charbonneau

Award-winning audio producer Jad Abumrad (More PerfectDolly Parton's America) sits down for a conversation with Ghostbusters: Afterlife director, Jason Reitman.


Panels

Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic