Scary Movies XI, the horror festival presented by New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center returns August 17 to 23, 2018. The festival kicks off with the New York premiere of the delightful yet blood-soaked holiday-set high-school musical Anna and the Apocalypse, as a band of Scottish teens fight, sing, and dance to survive the undead horde taking over their small town in John McPhail’s sophomore feature. Closing Night is Jonas Åkerlund’s harrowing black-metal tragedy Lords of Chaos, the true story of legendary Norwegian band Mayhem starring Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, and Sky Ferreira.
Other highlights of this year’s lineup include a trio of creepy Latin American offerings featuring possessions (Guillermo Amoedo’s The Inhabitant), dark fairy tales (Issa López’s Tigers Are Not Afraid), and haunted hospitals (J.C. Feyer’s The Trace We Leave Behind); the new film from last year’s closing night director Colin Minihan, who reunites with his It Stains the Sands Red actress Brittany Allen for What Keeps You Alive; and a selection of new indie horror at its most promising, including Sonny Mallhi’s gruesome slasher flick Hurt, Patrick von Barkenberg’s Swedish novelist nightmare Blood Paradise, and Andy Mitton’s house-flipping horror The Witch in the Window.
Scary Movies XI also presents the retrospective sidebar Tainted Waters, comprising a quartet of 35mm titles whose horrors take place above or below the surface—or sometimes come creeping onto the land: Phillip Noyce’s Dead Calm (featuring an early breakout performance by Nicole Kidman), Lewis Teague’s creature-feature classic Alligator, horror master Stuart Gordon’s H.P. Lovecraft adaptation Dagon, and Ken Wiederhorn’s Nazi zombie flick Shock Waves, starring the late, great Peter Cushing. Finally, the dynamic duo of Glenn McQuaid and Larry Fessenden present a brand new live edition of Glass Eye Pix’s acclaimed radio-play series Tales from Beyond the Pale. Entangling creatures, creeps, and ghouls with observations both personal and political, this special event offers two new Tales written and directed by Fessenden and McQuaid performed live on-stage with actors, foley artists, sound designers, and musicians.
FILMS AND DESCRIPTIONS
All screenings held at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street) unless otherwise noted.
Anna and the Apocalypse
John McPhail, UK/USA, 2017, 92m
New York Premiere
As Anna (an enchanting Ella Hunt) nears the end of high school, the most pressing concerns are her questionable taste in guys and how to break the news to her widowed father that she plans to take a year of travel before heading to college. But those issues lose all importance when an unexplained plague begins spreading in her tiny Scottish town of Little Haven before Christmas break, and she and her classmates must battle hordes of zombies—and their unhinged headmaster (Paul Kaye)—in order to make it to graduation. Oh and they sing and dance, too… A highly accomplished musical, full of infectious songs and performance setpieces, and like one of its clear inspirations Shaun of the Dead, Anna and the Apocalypse features merriment and menace in perfect balance. An Orion Pictures release.
Lords of Chaos
Jonas Åkerlund, UK/Sweden, 2018, 112m
New York Premiere
Pioneering Norwegian black-metal band Mayhem experienced a rise and fall so notorious that it’s provided the subject of multiple books and documentaries. And now a dramatization of their tragic tale finally makes it to the screen courtesy of Swedish music video and film director extraordinaire Jonas Åkerlund. It’s a devastating portrait of youth mixed with power in dangerous doses, yet it humanizes its antiheroes in unexpected ways, in part due to memorable performances from Rory Culkin as Euronymous, Mayhem co-founder and a key figure in the world of black metal; Emory Cohen as Varg Vikernes, his bandmate and eventual murderer; and Jack Kilmer as Mayhem’s ultra-melancholic first lead singer known as Dead. Like the best of Åkerlund’s video work and his dynamite 2002 film Spun, Lords of Chaos is profoundly disturbing but with a macabre, comical touch. A Gunpowder & Sky release.
Await Further Instructions
Johnny Kevorkian, UK, 2018, 91m
New York Premiere
Nick (Sam Gittins) brings his girlfriend Annji (Neerja Naik) home for the holidays after three years of avoiding his massively dysfunctional family. And it’s no wonder he chose to stay away: his grandfather (David Bradley) is a virulent racist, his father (Grant Masters) runs the family like it’s a business, and his mother (Abigail Cruttenden) just tries to hold it all together. Add in Nick’s high-strung pregnant sister (Holly Weston) and her dim-witted boyfriend (Kris Saddler) and Nick and Annji soon reach their breaking point. They attempt to leave early Christmas morning only to discover that a metallic substance has surrounded the house and there is no way out. The only clues to what’s happening come through the television, which, in the first of many cryptic messages, tells them to “STAY INDOORS AND AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.” Familial tensions and paranoia escalate into blood-soaked chaos in this ever-relevant chiller that contemplates the state of today’s technology-ruled world. A Dark Sky Films release.
Patrick von Barkenberg, USA/Sweden, 2018, 82m
English and Swedish with English subtitles
Reeling after her latest novel flops, best-selling crime writer Robin Richards (Andréa Winter) is sent by her publisher to the Swedish countryside to regain inspiration. There alone, she indeed comes across an assortment of peculiar characters, including her driver and most obsessive fan, his explosively jealous wife, and the progressively more unhinged man who owns the farm that’s hosting her. Totally out of place in her new surroundings—for one, she is always dressed for glamorous, big-city life—Robin discovers just how dangerous these oddballs may be. The unpredictable debut feature by Patrick von Barkenberg (who also appears as Robin’s boyfriend) is bathed in dreamy atmospherics and streaked with offbeat humor, but remains grounded throughout by Winter, who holds your attention rapt.
Brad Michael Elmore, USA, 2018, 90m
New York Premiere
Tony (James Paxton) is a punk who dreams of escaping his small town but finds his release in drugs—until a friend gives him a new kind of pill called Wendigo and can’t remember what he did the night before. Meanwhile, Danielle (Dominique Booth), who likes Tony, spends her night taking care of her drugged-out friends at a punk club and getting tied up with the town dealer, Matt (Greg Hill), who is trading in something much darker and more sinister than pills. And three kids from Danielle’s neighborhood have a run in with a bat-wielding, black Cadillac–driving, masked killer. This trio of perspective-shifting stories intersect into a maelstrom of murder, adolescent angst, sex, drugs, and black magic. Set during the course of one summer weekend, this indie film has punk-rock energy to spare and a distinct cinematic vision that transcends its micro budget.
Sonny Mallhi, USA, 2018, 93m
New York Premiere
Halloween in New Caney, Texas, is slow and quiet. Rose (model Emily van Raay, in a striking debut performance) is having trouble connecting with her husband Tommy (Andrew Creer), who recently returned from military deployment and is struggling with PTSD. Rose’s sister and her husband urge them to head to the town’s haunted hayride to relive old traditions and maybe try to rekindle their relationship. The fairgrounds are filled with masked monsters and fake blood and death. Tommy runs off and the night gradually descends into chaos. Sonny Mallhi’s exquisitely realized third feature digs up the violence bubbling under the modern American experience and serves up a smart treatise on trauma. This truly gruesome and terrifying slasher flick reminds us that death is very real, and it’s not only the monstrous villains who wear masks.
Justin Decloux, Canada, 2017, 75m
New York Premiere
Following a bad breakup, aspiring filmmaker Lily (Haley Walker) struggles with a crippling creative block. Unable to sleep, she begins hearing a sinister scream outside her window every evening. Convinced she needs to help, she heads out into the dark night and meets Hannah (Creedance Wright), a veteran scream hunter obsessed with stopping the creepy occurrence. The two women team up to try and locate the source before they become the scream’s next victims. As much a horror movie as a movie about the horror of creation, Justin Decloux’s ultra-indie second feature references everything from Asian horror to giallo, and its DIY spirit and eerie underlying dread secures its place as a small but mighty genre discovery.
The Inhabitant / El habitante
Guillermo Amoedo, Mexico/Chile, 2017, 92m
Spanish with English subtitles
North American Premiere
In an attempt to secure some quick cash, three sisters break into the home of a super-wealthy family—and get a whole lot more than they bargained for. If this sounds tediously familiar, have no fear: The Inhabitant is no simple take on the old home-invasion-gone-wrong scenario. The film has serious political undertones—the house the women target belongs to a high-profile, and highly corrupt, senator—and its action opens up to also make room for a child possession tale like no other. Uruguayan-born, Chile-based filmmaker Guillermo Amoedo has made a name for himself working on screenplays for Eli Roth projects (The Green Inferno, Knock Knock, Aftershock), but this one outshines them all, featuring genuine chills and higher-gloss production values than usually found within such confined spaces. A Pantelion release.
Tales from Beyond the Pale Live Event
Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid’s “Tales from Beyond the Pale” returns to the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a double bill of contemporary audio dramas. Now in its eighth year, the primarily spooky show, produced by Glass Eye Pix, has taken cues from the likes of Inner Sanctum Theatre and the Mercury Theatre Company while putting its own rich spin on the format. Observations both personal and political are often deeply entangled with whatever creature, creep, or ghoul Fessenden and McQuaid conjure up. Two new “Tales” written and directed by Fessenden and McQuaid will be performed live with actors, foley artists, sound designers, and musicians; it’s quite a sight, and if you dare to close your eyes, quite a listen! Previous shows have featured the vocal talents of the likes of Ron Perlman, Michael Cerveris, Lance Reddick, Doug Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Sean Young, and Alison Wright… so you never know who might show up.
Tigers Are Not Afraid / Vuelven
Issa López, Mexico, 2017, 83m
Spanish with English subtitles
New York Premiere
In the midst of a world plagued by gang violence, 10-year-old Estrella (Paolo Lara) is left to her own devices after her mom disappears. As a protection measure—or is it a stroke of the supernatural?—Estrella believes to have been granted three wishes, and she uses one to bring her mother back, though failing to mention that she wanted her alive. Haunted by the dead shell of her mother, she leaves home and ends up taking up camp with a group of local orphan boys in their small Mexican village, nervously trying to remain hidden from murderous drug-dealing local thugs and forming a strong familial bond in the process. A fantastical tale that is also steeped in hard-bitten realities, writer-director Issa López’s alternately heart-wrenching and chilling film inevitably elicits Guillermo del Toro comparisons, mostly for its ability to extract wholly believable performances from its young cast, but stands firmly on its own as inspired cinema. A Shudder release.
The Trace We Leave Behind / O Rastro
J.C. Feyer, Brazil, 2017, 96m
Portuguese with English subtitles
North American Premiere
João (a commanding Rafael Cardoso) is a doctor coordinating the removal of patients from a Rio de Janeiro public hospital that, despite harsh protests from the community, is scheduled to close due to Brazil’s recession. On the night of the transfer, a 10-year-old girl disappears without a trace and João must find her, even if just to prove to his pregnant wife Leila (Leandra Leal) that he can be a dependable father. The more he searches, the deeper he is drawn into a world he wishes he never entered. Long-kept secrets are unearthed and João struggles against the darkness that is closing in around him. Is the hospital haunted? Is he losing his mind? The feature debut by J.C. Feyer—a strong case for the resurgence of Brazilian horror—is relentless in both its dedication to scaring the pants off the audience and to shining a light on the country’s social unrest.
What Keeps You Alive
Colin Minihan, Canada, 2018, 98m
New York Premiere
The follow-up to Colin Minihan’s It Stains the Sands Red, a closing-night selection of last year’s Scary Movies, offers another twisty thrill ride starring the always compelling Brittany Allen. Here, she plays Jules, who heads to a lakeside cabin with her wife, Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson), to celebrate their one-year anniversary. The tranquil setting—the nearest neighbors are Jackie’s childhood friend and her husband across the lake—quickly turns terrifying, but to say anything more would spoil the surprises. Audacious and unsparing, the film veers into pitch-black comedy to keep the bloodletting and betrayal fun and boasts impressive cinematography that captures both the beauty and isolation of its remote environment and the ferocious violence that unfurls within. An IFC Midnight release.
The Witch in the Window
Andy Mitton, USA, 2018, 77m
A divorced dad (Alex Draper) takes his 12-year-old son (Charlie Tacker) to the farmhouse he’s purchased to flip in middle-of-nowhere Vermont. It was cheap—and for a reason: there is an old witch, Lydia (Carol Stanzione), haunting the premises, mainly planted in a chair by an upstairs window. At first her presence seems harmless enough, but as the renovations continue, it becomes more apparent that she, the previous owner, has no interest in sharing her home. As in the two previous features he co-directed, YellowBrickRoad and We Go On, Andy Mitton’s solo directorial debut proves that big scares can come in small packages, and his latest refreshingly character-driven film, which sees a father desperately trying to protect a child he wants to reconnect with and the house he has always fantasized about, has way more on its mind than it initially lets on. A Shudder release.
Tainted Waters Retrospective Sidebar
Lewis Teague, USA, 1981, 35mm, 91m
Twelve years after a little girl’s alligator is flushed down the toilet by her father, body parts start showing up at the local sewage treatment plant. David Madison (Robert Forster) is the detective (haunted by his past, of course) assigned to the case, who must contend with his captain, city hall, the tabloids, an unscrupulous pharmaceutical company, and male pattern baldness, all while a giant gator is picking off cops and sewer workers, and starting to chomp its way up the socioeconomic ladder. David teams up with herpetologist Marisa Kendall (Robin Riker)—the girl who bought the alligator now all grown up—to try and stop the rampaging reptile. Featuring notable character actors (Henry Silva chewing his way through the scenery as the big-game hunter brought in to handle the beast is a particular highlight) and a script from John Sayles that’s smarter than it has any right to be, this is one of the all-time creature-feature classics.
Stuart Gordon, Spain, 2001, 35mm, 98m
English, Spanish, and Galician with English subtitles
Horror master Stuart Gordon has looked to H.P. Lovecraft as an inspiration for many of his works, and this adaptation of the famed writer’s tale “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” ranks as his second finest—following the inimitable Re-Animator—even if it never received a proper U.S. theatrical release. The modern-day set Dagon sees two couples’ paradise sailing getaway quickly descend into hell. Their boat hits stormy waters and in the process of finding help on shore, Paul (Ezra Godden) is mysteriously separated from his travel mates. Alone, he learns that the Spanish island, infested with fishmen, is under the worship of Dagon, who demands blood sacrifices and women to procreate with in return for the town’s prosperity, and makes the acquaintance of Uxia (the great Macarena Gómez of past Scary Movies selections Sexykiller and Shrew’s Nest), a mermaid who has appeared in his dreams—which increasingly become a terrifying reality.
Phillip Noyce, Australia, 1989, 35mm, 96m
Mourning the tragic loss of their young son, Rae and John Ingram (Nicole Kidman and Sam
Neill) take to the open seas with their dog for some peace and healing. Aboard their yacht mid-Pacific, they cross paths with the Orpheus, a sinking schooner whose sole survivor Hughie (Billy Zane) takes refuge with them. Loosely based on Charles Williams’s crackerjack 1963 novel—also the source of Orson Welles’s unfinished film The Deep—Dead Calm is the ultimate in edge-of-your-seat suspense, as John becomes trapped on the submerging vessel while investigating Hughie’s suspect account of the his crew’s demise, as his wife is left alone with a man who becomes progressively more unhinged. Featuring spectacular direction (by Phillip Noyce), cinematography (by the Oscar-winning DP Dean Semler), and performances (by its three leads), particularly a gorgeously natural Kidman in an early breakthrough role, the film is a true terror treat, not to be missed on the big screen.
Ken Wiederhorn, USA, 1977, 35mm, 85m
The same year he appeared as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, Peter Cushing also played another grand villain in Shock Waves: a former SS commander involved in the creation of aquatic Nazi zombies as secret weapons. The “Death Corps” project was a failed endeavor to say the least, and now, after their boat begins to sink, a group of tourists find themselves on the island where the commander and the water-based menaces still reside. With a cast that also includes Brooke Adams as one of the shipwrecked and John Carradine as the captain, this odd, atmospheric little shocker by Ken Wiederhorn (who dabbled again with the walking dead for Return of the Living Dead II), started a long tradition of Nazi zombie flicks, and it still remains the finest.