SXSW: The hottest cult movie hits that premiered at the fest
The latest edition of the South By Southwest Festival is quickly approaching, due to kick off on March 9 and run through March 18 in Austin, Texas. Each year filmmakers converge at the festival for a bevy of tech news, panels, speeches – a real smorgasbord of events. It’s also home to a thing called movies. You know? These things we like,
In celebration of this year’s event, Film Daily is taking a look back at some of the films which made their opening at the festival, from James Franco’s hilarious turn as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist to Alex Garland’s directorial debut Monsters.
The Cabin in the Woods
A meta-horror film that delves deep into the tropes and nonsense that the genre has built up over the decades. It’s a real cleansing of the stuff that we love about horror flicks, one that ditches the usual bolt-ons.
The flick has a somewhat unusual production cycle. Produced back in 2009 with a crazy-hectic production schedule that struggled to contain a coherent script, it took a while before Hollywood bigwigs finally snapped up the film ahead of its screening at the South by Southwest Festival in 2012.
We’re big fans of The Cabin in the Woods. It’s funny, fresh, and writer-director Drew Goddard and his co-writer Joss Whedon make an exceptionally fun splash out of this excavation of traditional horror.
It’s not that bad, we promise! Well, released during a time when the horror genre was entrapped in gore fests and Saw rip-offs, Insidious was a formidable attempt to bring things back into the fold – to return to the basics. Sure, there’s some jump scares scattered about the film, but it’s well worth a viewing. It made for one heck of a treat when it opened at SXSW in 2011.
The debut feature from Gareth Edwards, Monsters was produced on a budget comparable to a kettle and a bit of string. Set six years after Earth’s invasion by extraterrestrials, the film follows a cynical journalist who agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone to the safety of the U.S. border. We won’t spoil the rest of it for you, but suffice to say, Monsters is brilliantly tense and has an erratic tempo of terror.
Edwards would later go on to helm Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, having been presented with a whole wad of money to make a fun-if-flawed examination of the terror of war. But in Monsters, you can see his taste for wide-eyed fear during its first outing.
The flick opened way during the South by Southwest Film Festival in 2010 and made such a huge splash that it was scooped up near-instantly by Magnet Releasing. A sequel, Monsters: Dark Continent, came out in 2015 but went mostly unnoticed – for good reason. The original still holds up, and there’s a neat structural trick that we’d hope you’ll find as fascinating as we did. Well worth checking out!
After having helped to launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the likes of Iron Man, Jon Favreau decided to return to his independent roots. And that is how we ended up with Chef, a warm hug of a delicious foodie-frenzy film.
Playing a down-and-out chef who changes up his life to reconnect with his son, Favreau’s good-hearted comedy is an injection of feels into the soul. The film will undoubtedly make you completely hungry for everything on-screen – a scrumptious delight that’ll warm the very cockles of your heart.
Favreau’s charming flick premiered at the SXSW back in 2014 to instant critical appraise, a solid indie-level break before he’d move on to tackle the live-action adaptation The Jungle Book and, soon enough, The Lion King.
Alex Garland’s debut film, Ex Machina is a mind-bending sci-fi thriller that subverts all expectations before subverting them again. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) is spellbinding to watch as Ava, the central android.
There’s a jolt of commentary hidden underneath the film, which received it’s North American premiere at SXSW in 2015. And though audiences remain split on the ending, we loved the twist of it. Well worth checking out if you’re in the mood for a thoughtful and hypnotic story that treats the viewer as an intelligent human being.
Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, the Key & Peele duo, are the driving force behind this incredibly underrated comedy. Before Peele made one of the best films ever made and scored four Oscar nominations, he helped write this comedy about a pair of assassins who take it upon themselves to become embroiled in a kitten-filled plot.
Mishaps and hijinks ensue, in a film that also features the likes of Tiffany Haddish and Will Forte. Keanu slipped under everyone’s radar when it first appeared at SXSW in 2016, but it’s a stellar comedy that deserves a viewing.
The Disaster Artist
Na-ha-hah! What a story! James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, an adaptation of The Room co-star Greg Sestero’s tell-all memoir, chronicles the making-of the worst movie ever made.
Franco directs and plays bad-sterpiece mastermind Tommy Wiseau, in a film that’s as soulful and sweet as much as it is just utterly hilarious. Franco stars opposite his real-life brother Dave Franco (The Little Hours), who takes on the role of Sestero.
Roomaholics will find plenty to enjoy in this film, weaving a tale of friendship into one that explores the improbability of breaking into the Hollywood system. The Disaster Artist made its debut at last year’s festival where it was praised by critics and received a standing ovation.
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