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10 Genre Films from Sundance That Could Become the Next Hereditary

From fantastical comedies to terrifying horror films and even a riveting documentary, these are the genre movies that could emerge from Sundance as breakout hits.

by | February 3, 2020 | Comments

Sundance may be famous for setting the terms of the indie film conversation of the year, but the film festival also serves as a launching platform for new horror voices that become successes later on. As the home to Hereditary, The Babadook, Get Out, and The Blair Witch Project, the Sundance Midnight program has a bit of a reputation, leaving this year’s selection with some pretty big shoes to fill.

This year, genre spread to other sections of the programming, as fans needn’t have stayed up late at the Park City Library to catch some disturbing — or just plain weird — movies. No matter what your favorite genre is, you were bound to find something up your alley, from unusual documentaries to scary movies to fantastical comedies. And the good news is that distributors and streaming services are likely to snatch them up and make them available to you soon, with some of them already on the way.

With expectations high, the question of what will be this year’s Hereditary-style hit is constantly brought up. We checked out the films competing to become this year’s big breakout hit, and rounded up what the critics were saying, so you can begin preparing your watchlists of what Sundance films are most likely to make a big impression once they get released.


His House (2020) 100%

Aidan Monaghan courtesy of Sundance Institute
(Photo by Aidan Monaghan courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Distributor: Netflix
Release Date:
 TBD

Netflix’s big acquisition at Sundance is this tale of horror both supernatural and human. His House tells the story of a refugee couple who flee the horrors of the South Sudan civil war and come to England to start a new life. What they find is something that doesn’t want them there, with the very walls of the house exuding a sinister vibe. What makes the film truly special is how it balances the supernatural horrors of a haunted house movie with a poignant and equally devastating immigration story of survivor’s guilt. As Benjamin Lee wrote for The Guardian, “The haunting that takes place is one that’s tied to something that feels real.” Netflix will release His House some time later this year, and once it does, you can expect a movie “that will make audiences scream, all while getting people to empathize with a refugee couple’s story by way of a haunted apartment,” as RogerEbert.com’s Nick Allen puts it.


Save Yourselves! (2020) 85%

Matt Clegg courtesy of Sundance Institute
(Photo by Matt Clegg courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Release Date: TBD

We are all obsessed with our phones; there’s no denying that. But what happens if we try to distance ourselves from the internet for a short time? According to Save Yourselves!, you may miss an alien invasion. Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Paul Reynolds) are a hip Millennial couple, ruled by the technology at their disposal. When Su suggests they get away without technology in order to cleanse themselves during a life-reaffirming week, they find themselves having to fight off adorable poof-like aliens that remind us of a cuter version of Critters, as the rest of the world is already under attack. Rachel Wagner from Rachel Reviews writes that the film “is not only a very funny look at modern Millennial life but a sweet romance of a couple who become stronger through facing off with aliens.” Save Yourselves! is currently looking for distribution.


Relic (2020) 100%

Jackson Finter courtesy of Sundance Institute
(Photo by Jackson Finter courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Release Date: TBD

The best horror often manages to be both a terrifying piece of entertainment and a poignant commentary on our reality. A remarkable debut by Natalie Erika James, Relic turns the haunted house story on its head, using the horror genre to tell an emotional story of dementia. Australian stage legend Robyn Nevin gives a terrifying yet emotionally devastating performance as a woman whose mind and body is slowly failing her, while a strange and eerie presence haunts her home. “Like Mike Flanagan before her”, writes Film School Rejects’ Rob Hunter, “Natalie Erika James flawlessly blends terrifying horror with the ache of humanity.” Rest assured, when Relic finally gets released, it will make you scream before it pulls on your heart strings.


Run Sweetheart Run (2020) 71%

Courtesy of Sundance Institute
(Photo by Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Distributor: Blumhouse
Release Date:
 TBD

Blumhouse returns to Sundance with its second “Sweetheart”-titled movie in Run Sweetheart Run. Like last year’s Sweetheart, this movie finds a young woman having to go toe-to-toe with an inhuman monster, as we follow Ella Balinska’s Cherie on her first date in a while. The problem is that her date turns out less than stellar, and she is forced to run through the streets of Los Angeles for an entire night to escape the blood-loving monster she mistook for a chance at romance. Though critics note that the metaphors are thinly-veiled at best, Bloody Disgusting’s Meagan Navarro writes that “Run Sweetheart Run makes for an entertaining and cheeky trip centered around woman’s curse.


Bad Hair (2020) 54%

Courtesy of Sundance Institute
(Photo by Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Release Date: TBD

A social thriller starring a killer weave, Bad Hair is a campy throwback to ’80s horror B-movies with a whole lot on its mind. Writer-director Justin Simien returns to Sundance with a film about the importance of and controversy surrounding hair in the Black community, focusing on a lowly assistant at a TV show who gets a new hairstyle that helps her move up in her career – with some deadly, bloodthirsty consequences. Writing for That Shelf, Victor Stiff explains that the film “is a delightful horror dramedy that interrogates black women’s struggle to be true to themselves in the face of a system hellbent on snuffing out their blackness.” Bad Hair is looking for distribution.


Possessor (2020) 93%

Karim Hussain courtesy of Sundance Institute
(Photo by Karim Hussain courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Release Date: TBD

Playing like a horror version of Inception, Brandon Cronenberg (yes, son of David) takes us on a disturbing, bloody nightmare that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. The film stars Andrea Riseborough as a contract killer whose consciousness gets implanted into others so she can control them into committing murders for hire — that is, until she finds herself struggling to control a particularly difficult body. This is a movie that’s not for the faint of heart, as Slashfilm’s Chris Evangelista writes: “This isn’t a work designed to thrill and entertain. Instead, it’s meticulously crafted to horrify. The violence on display here is graphic to the extreme, yet it never feels cartoonish.” While the violence and blood may be too much for some viewers, critics agree that this film is a unique experience worth seeing; as Rob Hunter writes for Film School RejectsPossessor “is fantastically and cruelly unforgettable.” Keep an eye out for Possessor as it looks for distribution.


Into the Deep (2020) 100%

Courtesy of Sundance Institute
(Photo by Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Distributor: Netflix
Release Date:
 TBD

The rare documentary to play at the midnight slot, this bone-chilling film started as an homage to Danish amateur inventor Peter Madsen before turning into an exploration of evil when Madsen murdered and dismembered Swedish journalist Kim Wall during the time the doc was being shot. Emma Sullivan’s Into the Deep features stunning footage both pre-murder and in its immediate aftermath, dealing with the shock of the filmmakers realizing what kind of subject they’re following as their film begins to resemble something akin to a horror flick. Writing for Vanyaland, Nick Johnston says, “Into the Deep is a unique beast in a documentary landscape that’s more consumed than ever with the true-crime genre, and it is a must-watch for anyone even slightly curious about the events of this bizarre and tragic crime.” Netflix will release Into the Deep later this year.


The Night House (2020) 86%

Elisha Christian courtesy of Sundance Institute
(Photo by Elisha Christian courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Distributor: Searchlight Pictures
Release Date:
 TBD

Like A Quiet Place in 2018, The Night House relies on sound to create a terrifying horror experience that will make your bones vibrate. After the loss of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) begins to spend her nights plagued by strange dreams and creepy noises around the house. Critics spoke highly of Hall’s performance, with Birth.Movies.Death’s Ed Travis calling her a “scream queen.” They also commended the string of jump scares that shook audiences at the fest; Bloody Disgusting’s Meagan Navarro explains “[the film] leaves you breathless and your heart pumping hard.” Searchlight Pictures bought the distribution rights for the film and will be releasing at a later date.


Scare Me (2020) 73%

Brendan Banks courtesy of Sundance Institute
(Photo by Brendan Banks courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Distributor: Shudder
Release Date:
 TBD

No matter how elaborate or grand a horror movie is, the scariest memories most of us have still belong to the nights we spent as youngsters listening to scary stories after dark. Scare Me takes the tale of an aspiring horror screenwriter trapped in a snowy cabin with a best-selling horror novelist telling each other stories and turns it into an exploration of the creative process and even gender politics, all while delivering a minimalist yet still spooky experience. As Daily Dead’s Heather Wixson writes, “Scare Me is an absolute delight and a real gift for both horror fans as well as those of us who can’t get enough of hearing a good story.’” Shudder will release Scare Me at a later date.


Spree (2020) 64%

Rylan Perry courtesy of Sundance Institute
(Photo by Rylan Perry courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Distributor: RLJE Films
Release Date:
 TBD

Eugene Kotlyarenko’s Spree asks, “What if Joker was a streamer and wannabe influencer?” The thriller-comedy, which is shot found-footage style, features Joe Keery doing his best Arthur Fleck impersonation as a guy obsessed with becoming internet famous by streaming a night of violent mayhem. It’s a commentary on our collective obsession with social media, privilege, and the darkness of comment sections. What makes the film more than just a Black Mirror episode is how it infuses jokes and gags into the horror – and then seems to ask why we’re laughing. Nick Allen wrote for RogerEbert.com that “Spree brilliantly shows influencer culture for the totally demented lifestyle that it is.” RLJE Films will release Spree later this year.


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