By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist March 5, 2013 at 1:19PM
A couple of months on from Sundance, and a few weeks after Berlin wrapped up, and we're about to hit the third major movie event of the year, as the SXSW Film Festival gets underway on Friday. The festival has grown in importance, giving a certain kind of indie picture (and studio flick) a boost as spring gets underway, and the last few years have seen "Undefeated," "Monsters," "Bridesmaids," "21 Jump Street," "Weekend" and "Cabin In The Woods" among those buoyed by SXSW audiences.
On the surface, the 2013 line-up doesn't seem to be as strong as in previous years: there are fewer big high-profile premieres, and more leftovers from Sundance and other festivals. But dig a little, and you'll find plenty that should make the trip to Austin more than worth it. And isn't discovering a hidden gem or two what a film festival is all about? Check out our ten picks below, and let us know what you're looking forward to.
Synopsis: Five friends head to a remote cabin in the woods and find a spooky book that unleashes all kinds of evil on them.
What You Need To Know: Another SXSW, another spooky cabin in the woods. The runaway hit of last year's festival was Drew Goddard's meta-horror "The Cabin In The Woods," but this year, the irony quotes are being removed, with the remake of Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" getting its world premiere at the festival. While some have been wary about this one, the "Evil Dead" remake has smacked of confidence from the get-go. Raimi and Bruce Campbell are producing, so have presumably signed off on things, Diablo Cody helped rewrite the script, and the posters proclaim that it's "the most terrifying film you will ever experience." We don't know about that, but trailers suggest that first-time director Fede Alvarez has gone back to the intense feeling of the first film, really putting his cast (toplined by excellent "Suburgatory" star Jane Levy) through the wringer, with an emphasis on practical effects over CGI. Everyone's been talking the right talk on the film, and it does look unusually promising for a horror remake, but we'll see if walks the walk at SXSW.
When: Friday March 8th at the Paramount. Opens in wide release on April 5th.
Synopsis: Two friends, Kate and Luke, work together in a craft brewery. Their relationship has been platonic, and they're with other people, but just as Luke's girlfriend starts to demand a commitment, sparks begin to fly.
What You Need To Know: The prolific, sometimes infuriating figurehead of the mumblecore movement, Joe Swanberg is a talented and important filmmaker, but his output in recent years has taken the quantity-over-quality approach, the films increasingly becoming self-involved, and looking like excuses for the actor/writer/director to make out with topless actresses. His last few films have made little impact, but his contribution to horror anthology "V/H/S" marked a move towards the mainstream, one that seems to continue with "Drinking Buddies," which sees him work with big-name actors for the first time. Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson take the lead roles, with Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick in support (and Swanberg nowhere to be seen on the cast list). Everyone involved is talented, and it'll be interesting to see how they adapt to the Swanberg style. Will this do for him what "Cyrus" did for the Duplass Brothers? Or is the same old thing with more recognizable faces involved? We'll find out in a few days.
When: Saturday March 9th at the Paramount, with further screenings on Sunday 10th at the Alamo Village, Wed 13th at the Topfer Theatre, and Sat 16th at the Rollins Theatre.
Synopsis: Lisa and her family were killed in 1985, but Lisa has only just realized that she's a ghost. When a new girl moves into their home, she must protect them from the spirit of a serial killer.
What You Need To Know: Vincenzo Natali is one of those talented genre filmmakers whose work, starting with debut "Cube," has been consistently interesting without ever quite taking him to the next level. Four years on from his gleefully perverse, underrated "Splice," Natali's back with "Haunter," an intriguing spin on the haunted house tale that sounds like a straight-faced take on "Beetlejuice," with "Little Miss Sunshine" star Abigail Breslin in the lead and veteran character actor Stephen McHattie as the villain, the Pale Man. It's a neat conceit, and one with serious crossover potential if it works. Recent festivals have seen horror hits like "Insidious" and "Sinister" get big boosts -- could we see the same happen with this?
When: A midnight screening on Saturday March 9th at the Alamo Ritz, followed by screenings at the Violet Crown on Sunday 10th, and the Alamo Ritz again on Wednesday 13th.
Synopsis: Grace, a twentysomething supervisor at a foster-care facility, is forced to confront her own past when she forms a bond with a troubled new arrival.
What You Need To Know: Everytime we think we have Brie Larson figured out, she turns around and surprises us. The former popster and Disney Channel star first turned up on our radar in "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," she's continued to impress over the last few years in "Rampart" and "21 Jump Street" among others, and she now gets her first proper lead role in "Short Term 12." The second feature from "I Am Not A Hipster" director Destin Daniel Cretton, and an expansion of his short film of the same name, the film already has a degree of acclaim attached to it: the short won the Jury Prize at Sundance in 2009 ,and the feature script took a prestigious Nicholl prize. Larson has what seems to be a pretty meaty part, she's got solid support from John Gallagher Jr ("The Newsroom"), Rami Malek ("The Master") and Melora Walters ("Magnolia"), and we've heard some seriously great buzz about not just her performance, but also the film in general. Definitely one to keep an eye on.
When: Sunday March 10th at the Alamo Ritz, with extra screenings on Monday 11th at the Violet Crown, and Thursday 14th at the Topfer Theatre.
Synopsis: A man learns that his long-running stomach problems are caused by a demon baby living in his colon.
What You Need To Know: What, you need to know more than that one sentence log-line? What part of "demon baby living in his colon" doesn't sound appealling? Well, if you need more to convince you, "Milo" marks a new film from Jacob Vaughan, who's spent the decade since his acclaimed debut "Dear Pillow" doing editing work on films like "In Search Of A Midnight Kiss," "Jeff Who Lives At Home" and "Black Rock," with sometime collaborators the Duplass Brothers executive producing. This one marks something of a change of pace, being a horror-comedy toplining ex-"The State" member Ken Marino, and with the welcome faces of "Community" star Gillian Jacobs, Peter Stormare, Patrick Warburton, Mary Kay Place and Stephen Root also featuring. The genre's notoriously tricky to get right (as Marino's old colleagues Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant discovered at Sundance with "Hell Baby"), but the premise is so bonkers, and the cast so full of ringers, that we're certainly prepared to find out if Vaughan can deliver.
When: Sunday March 10th at the Alamo Ritz, also screening at the Alamo Slaughter on Monday 11th, the Paramount on Thursday 14th and the Topfer on Fri 15th.