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SXSW 2024 HANGOVER EDITION

By Mo Moshaty  March 18, 2024

We're back from Texas and ready to chat about of faves from SXSW's genre slate until you're sick of us!

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7 Keys - Written and Directed by Joy Wilkinson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️️️

Starring: Emma McDonald, Billy Postlethwaite, Kaylen Luke, Joey Akubeze, Amit Shah, Jane Goddard

7 Keys is a sexy cat and mouse film that winds its way through London and gives us the Hitchcock tension bend we were hoping for. Its escalation of not only the relationship of two very lonely people yearning for connection but also the stakes as the two characters get caught in a web of deception, intrigue and murder. McDonald and Postlethwaite are electric on-screen in a push-pull of dominant chemistry. Check our interview with the team behind 7 Keys here!

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Arcadian  Written by Mike Nilon and Directed by Ben Brewer ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jaeden Martell, Maxwell Jenkins, Sadie Soverall

Nic Cage went on record on the SXSW stage to state that his hope was to "marry an independently spirited family drama and dove-tail it with a Scifi horror" and he did a damn fine job! Arcadian had it's definite parallels to A Quiet Place but it's not the noise that troubles the heinous beasts they're forced to defend against but the daylight. Constantly racing sundown, the heartsickness of a budding romance and a near fatal attack, Cage, Martell, Jenkins and Soverall have their blood-soaked work cut out for them. The creature design is off the charts and it's movement and sound has stayed with me long since the film ended. 

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Azrael   Written by Simon Barrett and Directed by E.L. Katz ⭐️⭐️⭐️️️️

Starring: Samara Weaving, Vic Carmen Sonne, Katariina Unt, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Sebastian Bull Sarning 

We do love a Samara under pressure! In this post-rapture world where not one speaks Azrael (Weaving) is due to be a sacrifice to satisfy an ancient evil lurking in the wilderness. The acute silence this film has took me out of it a touch, but the action, tension and bloody bouts brought me right back in. We've got our share of religious fanatic horror on this list so, sit tight, there's more to come!

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Birdeater Written by Jack Clark and Directed by Jack Clark, Jim Weir 

⭐️⭐️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️

Starring: Shabana Azeez, Mackenzie Fearnley, Ben Hunter, Jack Bannister, Clementine Anderson, Alfie Gledhill, Harley Wilson, Caroline McQuade

Birdeater is a psycho-horror rife with mental and emotional abuse, forced complacency, drug-fueled mayhem and friendships gone sideways. Sounds like too much to handle, but with Clark and Weir at the helm its a stunningly uncomfortable but thrilling ride. Allowing guilt to make his fiancee Irene bend to his every whim, Louie makes the decision to invite her to his stag-do under false pretenses. Things begin to percolate quickly as the nature of their bond is thrown into question and an explosive dinner scene sends it off the rails quickly. The research and care the team behind and in front of the camera ingested before the shoot shows: we're dealing with the horrific subject matter of mental and emotional abuse and forced complacency. This film will wreck you, but you'll be all the better for watching. Check out our interview with the team behind Birdeater here!

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CuckooWritten and Directed by Tilman Singer ⭐️⭐️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️

Starring: Hunter Schafer, Dan Stevens, Jessica Henwick, Marton Csókás, Jan Bluthardt

We hooted for Cuckoo in our Berlinale rundown but as we all know, hootin' leads to hollerin' so here we go again! It's been so incredible to see the reactions to this tremendously fun film. Its a Knockout premise and driving home the fact that, in any world, women’s body autonomy is always up for debate. 

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FamilyWritten and Directed by Benjamin Finkel  ⭐️⭐️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️

Starring: Ruth Wilson, Ben Chaplin, Cameron Dawson Gray, Allan Corduner

Noting that writer/director Benjamin Finkel experienced the loss of a parent in his youth brought something so guttural to this viewing. A visceral and heartbreaking examination of a child’s grief at the loss of a loved one and the delusions they hold onto to cope. Ruth Wilson is explosive as the mother, torn between grieving her cancer-stricken husband and her seemingly delusional daughter. Those lovers of grief-horror are in for a distressing but cathartic watch as the pieces and stakes constantly move for Cameron Dawson Grey character of the daughter, who feels invisible to her father's illness but terrified of what he death might cost her. Check out our interview with Writer/Director Benjamin Finkel here!

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Hoodwitch Written by Saïd Belktibia, Louis Penicaut and Directed by Saïd Belktibia ⭐️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️1/2

Starring: Golshifteh Farahani, Denis Lavant, Jérémy Ferrari, Amine Zariouhi, Issaka Sawadogo

Proving that sometimes, no matter what she does, a mother can never do right. Nour, an exotic animal smuggler for marabouts, has an idea for an app to connect clients to those magically inclined so she can raise enough money to get her and her son Amine out the area and onto a better life. Thwarted by an untrustworthy neighbor after a tragic accident, Nour is on the run, her son Amine weaponized against her. In a race against time, Nour must find her son, a way out and reinforced trust in order to survive. Action-packed and fist-shakingly upsetting as we watch Nour be demonized by her ex-lover to enrage the public and start a very real witch hunt. 

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Hunting Daze - Written and Directed by Annick Blanc ⭐️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️1/2

Starring: Nahéma Ricci, Bruno Marcil, Frédéric Millaire-Zouvi, Marc Beaupré, Alexandre Landry, Maxime Genois, Noubi Ndiaye

Talk about a lovely mix of gender dynamics, hallucinatory atmosphere, and horror and you've got Hunting Daze. Writer/Director Annick Blanc says, "In Hunting Daze, things are never quite what they seem; the dynamics are always shifting. Take the scene where Nina asks to be hosted by the group—it starts with her seeking their acceptance but ends with them pleading for her to stay. Nina has a knack for owning the situation and manipulating the room to her advantage. She knows when to play the victim and when to assert herself as a strong, tough woman." A tense and uncomfortable tale with an ending that will have you shouting. Check out our conversation with Annick Blanc here!

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Immaculate Written by Andrew Lobel and Directed by Michael Mohan

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Starring: Sydney Sweeney, Álvaro Morte, Dora Romano, Benedetta Porcaroli, Giorgio Colangeli, Simona Tabasco

Who doesn't love a little nun-sploitation, religious fanaticism and womb horror? The haunting Immaculate brings sheer terror. Depicting women’s loss of body autonomy at the hands of the Catholic church, it smashed expectations, and Sydney Sweeney gave EVERYTHING in this. She's not afraid to dig deep and sell it.The last ten minutes of the film were our the biggest HOLY SHIT of the fest!

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It's What's Inside Written and Directed by Greg Jardin ⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️

Starring: Brittany O'Grady, James Morosini, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Devon Terrell, Gavin Leatherwood, Reina Hardesty, Nina Bloomgarden, David Thompson

To say that this was the absolute most fun Sci-Fi twisty film of the fest would be an understatement. Putting relationship issues past and present on full, messy and raucous display does this who-dunnit good. With a huge chunk I personally promised Greg Jardin I wouldn't give away, it's a definite must see if you like Clue....that's as far as I can go!

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The MoogaiWritten and Directed by Jon Bell ⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️1/2

Starring: Shari Sebbens, Meyne Wyatt, Tessa Rose, Clarence Ryan, Toby Leonard Moore, Bella Heathcote

Taking the global tale of otherworldly child-stealers & blending it with mental health, respecting your heritage & the recognition how troubling caste is, it was snappy and scary ride. Note: if you get infuriated by watching doctors demean women and their mental state - boy have I got a film that will make you boil. 

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OddityWritten and Directed by Damian McCarthy ⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️  

Starring: Gwilym Lee, Carolyn Bracken, Tadhg Murphy, Caroline Menton, Steve Wall, Jonathan French, Joe Rooney 

One of our faves of the fest. This hands over face, shout-ridden watch was the kick-off horror we needed! The tranquil countryside becomes the backdrop for a chilling mystery when Dani is brutally murdered at a remote country house. Suspicions fall on a patient from the nearby mental health institution where her husband, Ted, works as a doctor. Dani's determined sister, Darcy, refuses to accept easy answers and enlists the help of a wooden mannequin in her quest for the truth.

That mannequin y'all. NOPE.

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Sew Torn Written and Directed by Freddy Macdonald ⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️

Starring: Eve Connolly, Calum Worthy, John Lynch, K Callan, Ron Cook, Thomas Douglas, Werner Biermeier, Veronika Herren-Wenger, Caroline Goodall

A gripping tale that follows a seamstress who finds herself embroiled in a dangerous game after stealing a briefcase from a botched drug deal. As the stakes escalate, each of her choices leads to drastically different outcomes, showing the profound impact of even trivial decisions on our lives. MacDonald's narrative is rife with suspense, offering the audience a glimpse into the terrifying consequences of tangled circumstances.

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TimestalkerWritten and Directed by Alice Lowe ⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️

Starring: Alice Lowe, Jacob Anderson, Aneurin Barnard, Tanya Reynolds, Nick Frost

Alice Lowe's 'Timestalker' takes readers on a karmic journey with Agnes, a hapless heroine who reincarnates each time she repeats the same mistake: falling for the wrong man. This side-splitting and joyous romp through hopeless romanticism, reincarnation, and unexpected decapitation is infused with solid Sci-Fi vibes. It's a delightful exploration of love, fate, and the quirks of the universe.

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Monkey Man - Written by Paul Angunawela,  John Collee, Dev Patel

Directed by Dev Patel ⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️ 

Starring: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Vipin Sharma, Sikandar Kher, Sobhita Dhulipala, Ashwini Kalsekar, Adithi Kalkunte,, Makarand Deshpande

This gorgeous debut from Dev Patel thrusts viewers into a gritty underworld where Kid, a nameless protagonist, navigates a brutal existence in an underground fight club, masked as a gorilla, enduring relentless beatings for survival. But when Kid uncovers a pathway to confront the city's corrupt elite, years of pent-up fury ignite into a visceral quest for vengeance. As childhood trauma fuels his explosive campaign, Kid's mysteriously scarred hands become instruments of retribution. This revenge thriller pulses with heart, delivering a relentless onslaught of action, blood, and betrayal. With stunning cinematography and a gripping narrative, "MONKEY MAN" propels Dev into the spotlight as the next action hero!

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Things Will Be Different - Written and Directed by Michael Felker 

⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️ 

Starring: Adam David Thompson, Riley Dandy, Chloe Skoczen, Justin Benson, Sarah Bolger, Jori Lynn Felker

A brilliant Sci-Fi with a psycho-horror twist. As two estranged siblings grapple with the consequences of a robbery gone wrong, they find themselves thrust into a farmhouse that transcends time itself. Sibling rivalry and other-worldly forces blend to deliver a captivating exploration of family bonds pushed to their limits. With its immersive sound design Things Will Be Different offers a refreshing take on the genre while providing a thrilling ride from start to finish.

Desert Road - Written and Directed by Shannon Triplett ⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️ 

Starring: Kristine Froseth, Frances Fisher, Beau Bridges, Ryan Hurst, D.B. Woodside, Max Mattern, Ratchel Dratch, Edwin Garcia II

Shannon Triplett's Twilight Zone-esque Desert Road pulls uis on a surreal loop of time and space. Kristine Froseth shines as a woman stuck in a bizarre time loop on a lonely desert highway. Despite some plot twists, Froseth's performance keeps you hooked as you navigate this mind-bending journey. "Desert Road" is a wild ride that's both eerie and captivating.

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I Saw the TV Glow - Written and Directed by Jane Schoenbrun ⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️ 

Starring: Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Ian Foreman, Helena Howard, Lindsey Jordan, Danielle Deadwyler, Fred Durst

Seeing this a second time reinforced our love for it's nostalgia and the psychological and physical damage of not being able/refusing to live in your truth. 

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Y2K - Written by Evan Winter and Directed by Kyle Mooney ⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️⭐️️️️

Starring: Rachel Zegler, Julian Dennison, Jaeden Martell, Lachlan Watson, Daniel Zolghadri, Alicia Silverstone, The Kid LAROI, Fred Durst

Y2K delivers a nostalgia-filled blast from the past as two high school misfits crash the ultimate celebration on New Year's Eve 1999. With the chaos of Y2K looming, the night takes unexpected twists and turns, culminating in a wild ride that's both hilarious and heartwarming. Julian Dennison, Rachel Zegler, and Jaeden Martell shine in their roles, perfectly embodying the teenage dream and outcast to the letter! Plus, the surprise appearance by Fred Durst (what isn't he in these days?) adds an extra layer of fun to this absolute banger of a film that'll make any '00s graduate feel right at home.

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Mo Moshaty is a horror writer, lecturer and producer. As a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and life long horror fan, Mo has lectured with Prairie View A&M Film & TV Program as a Keynote, BAFSS Horror Studies Sig  and The University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. Mo has partnered with horror giant, Shudder Channel, to co-produce the 13 Minutes of Horror Film Festival 2021 and 2022 with Nyx Horror Collective and her literary work "Love the Sinner" was published with Brigid's Gate Press in July of 2023 and her two volume collection, "Clairviolence: Tales of Tarot and Torment Vol. One and Two" will be published with Spooky House Press in the Spring of 2024

Mo is the creator and Editor-in-Chief of NightTide Magazine

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