South by Southwest, the annual conference of film, tech, music, gaming, and comedy, kicks off in Austin this Friday, March 8, and we’re pumped. The 26th edition of the SXSW Film Festival — or “South-By,” as it has affectionately been dubbed — is looking just as promising as last year’s, during which Certified Fresh favorites A Quiet Place, Isle of Dogs, and Hereditary delighted festivalgoers and rode the Texas-sized buzz to box-office success.
SXSW 2019 will be bookended by two of the most anticipated horror titles of the year. As previously announced, Jordan Peele will open the festival with Us, his follow-up to the Oscar-winning, genre-bending phenomenon Get Out; the world premiere of Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Pet Sematary will close things out. We have pored over the slate of 131 films and singled out these nine features as the ones we’re most excited to see with that infamously raucous SXSW crowd. You can find the full list of films that will screen Austin here.
Director/Screenwriter: Josephine Mackerras
Cast: Emilie Piponnier, Martin Swabey, Chloe Boreham
Synopsis: According to Director Josephine Mackerras, Alice is about personal revolution. When Alice discovers her husband is leading a double life, everything she once believed to be true is shattered. Abandoned with a child to take care of and pushed beyond her own boundaries, she discovers a strength she never knew she had, her sense of self expands, and a new personal revolution of self and identity begins.
Why we’re excited about it: This is Mackerras’ feature debut after several promising shorts, and looks to be a woman-on-the-edge French thriller mash-up of Notes on a Scandal and Blue Jasmine.
Directors: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
Screenwriters: Jeff Buhler, David Kajganich
Cast: Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz
Synopsis: This remake of an adaptation of Stephen King’s terrifying novel about zombie pets tormenting families first caught our attention when a trailer for the film dropped late last year. The Starry Eyes directing duo bring their version – led by John Lithgow and Jason Clarke – to the Lone Star State’s premiere film festival exactly 30 years after Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary hit theaters in 1989.
Why we’re excited about it: Mary Lambert’s 1989 Pet Sematary definitely had us thinking twice about where to bury the family dog. This updated tale looks set to lean into all the decomposing critters with even more lost-in-the-woods creepy feels. Lithgow’s casting is giving us serious 1980s throwback vibes, and Clarke might just be able to finally break into leading man status with a strong showing here.
Directors/Screenwriters: Dan Berk, Robert Olsen
Cast: Bill Skarsgåard, Maika Monroe, Kyra Sedgwick, Jeffrey Donovan
Synopsis: A couple of wannabe gangsters rob the wrong home, are thrust into a dark web of sadism at the hands of a seemingly normal suburban family, and must do everything they can to break out.
Why we’re excited about it: After IT, just saying the name Bill Skarsgård kinda gives us chills. Director duo Berk and Olsen have primarily worked in the VOD-style horror genre, but have brought some star power to their latest effort with Skarsgård and Greta star Maika Monroe.
Director: Michael Chaves
Screenwriters: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
Cast: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez
Synopsis: The Latin legend of La Lorona is roaming the streets of Los Angeles during the 1970s. A social worker brushes off a mother’s terrified warnings and is in turn pulled into a frightening world of supernatural horror.
Why we’re excited about it: You had us at James Wan. The modern-day horror master who launched the Conjuring, Saw, and Insidious franchises is in the producer’s chair for this adaptation of the Latin American folk legend of La Llorona, the “Weeping Woman” who cries over lost her children and wreaks havoc by kidnapping kids and terrorizing mothers with her haunting cries. Sounds like a perfect recipe for scares.
Director: Michael Dowse
Screenwriter: Tripper Clancy
Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan
Synopsis: An unassuming uber driver picks up a cop on the hunt for a brutal killer and inadvertently gets caught up in harrowing action.
Why we’re excited about it: Though not a completed effort, other films have headed to SXSW with the “work-in-progress” label and gone on to great success (The Disaster Artist, Keanu, Sausage Party). With two Guardians in tow, this was already one to stop for, but adding the red-hot Nanjiani just adds to the “must see” factor. Guardians showed us that Bautista has comedic chops, and if there’s a chance we could pull some Avengers: Endgame clues from him or Gillan while in Austin, it will be worth our time.
Director/Screenwriter: Harmony Korine
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Stefania Lavie Owen, Jimmy Buffett, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence
Synopsis: A hilarious examination of an aging hippie. Moondog, a lovable rogue who is living life by his own rules, encounters an equally entertaining cast of characters along the way.
Why we’re excited about it: Austin’s own son, Matthew McConaughey, looks to return to his roots with some help from Zac Efron and Snoop Dogg. (Some of us still remember McConaughey playing the bongos in the nude outside his home.) Needless to say, it’s not a stretch for the University of Texas grad to embody an aging beach hippie living by his own rules. Plus there is more than a likely chance that McConaughey’s old friend Willie Nelson will be around for the premiere.
Director: Jonathan Levine
Screenwriter: Dan Sterling
Cast: Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Ravi Patel, Alexander Skarsgård
Synopsis: A romance between Hillary Clinton type diplomat and a fratboy journalist looks threaten her stellar reputation and presidential ambitions.
Why we’re excited about it: This Knocked Up–styled odd couple comedy pairs Rogen and Theron, she as a presidential candidate and he as her speechwriter. A comedic version of Scandal, perhaps? Rogen has had a long history of Certified Fresh premieres at SXSW as a star and producer: Blockers, The Disaster Artist, Sausage Party, and TV’s The Preacher each enjoyed a Texas-sized welcome from fans and critics. We also spied some surprising chemistry between the two in the freshly released trailer, leaving us more than a little intrigued.
Director/Screenwriter: Jordan Peele
Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright-Joseph, Madison Curry, Cali Sheldon
Synopsis: An upper-middle class African American family takes off with their two children for a once-in-a-lifetime beach vacation that turns into the ultimate nightmare when deranged doppelgangers invade. In Jordan Peele’s next horror flick, we look to find out what happens when you become your own worst fear.
Why we’re excited about it: Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out starring a Black Panther scene-stealer and our vote for 2019’s Scream Queen? Who isn’t excited?
Director: Jeremy Teicher
Screenwriters: Alexi Pappas, Jeremy Teicher, Nick Kroll
Cast: Nick Kroll, Alexi Pappas, Gus Kenworthy, Morgan Schild, Jamie Anderson
Synopsis: At the Winter Olympics, a cross-country skier befriends a volunteer dentist after her Olympic dreams are dashed following a disappointing finish. They share a brief but heartfelt romance in an unlikely place.
Why we’re excited about it: Pulling double duty as writer and star, Nick Kroll (Big Mouth, Oh, Hello on Broadway) looks set to make a successful comedy-to-drama crossover. Filmed on location at the 2018 winter Olympics, the movie sees Kroll step into his first lead role as a cross-country skier who falls for another athlete (played by Alexi Pappas, who was an Olympic long-distance runner and co-wrote the script). The rom-com also co-stars Winter Olympics superstar Gus Kenworthy.