Scary Movies XII, the 12th edition of New York City’s top horror festival returns this Summer to Film at Lincoln Center from August 16 to 21.The festival kicks off with the New York premiere of Dan Berk and Robert Olsen’s darkly funny home invasion thriller Villains, a twist on the genre that stars Maika Monroe and Bill Skarsgård as outlaw lovers seeking refuge in a seemingly isolated house that turns out to be anything but deserted.
Closing Night is Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s adrenaline-fueled Ready or Not, a parable of class warfare that finds Samara Weaving’s not-so-blushing bride trapped in a most-dangerous-game night with her new in-laws, followed by a Q&A with the directors, producer Chad Villella, and stars Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, and Andie MacDowell. Both Opening and Closing Nights will feature after-parties open to all ticket holders.
Highlights of the lineup include the World Premiere of Ari Aster’s Director’s Cut of Midsommar, a nearly three-hour extended version of the widely acclaimed folk horror film with Aster in person for Q&A; Søren Juul Petersen’s grisly directorial debut Finale, a menacing surveillance thriller that follows two young women working a convenience store night shift under the gaze of more than just the security cameras; Andrés Kaiser’s visually arresting Feral, which blends The Blair Witch Project with Truffaut’s The Wild Child to craft a deeply haunting found-footage faux-documentary infused with dread; and a special 40th anniversary screening of John Frankenheimer’s ecological horror movie Prophecy, screening on Paramount’s own rarely projected 35mm archival print in a “Terrible Bears” double bill with William Girdler’s Grizzly, a “Jaws in the forest” copycat about a giant prehistoric grizzly bear terrorizing a national park and the chief ranger trying to stop the rampage.
Other standouts in the lineup include a series of thematic pairings. “Extreme Family Values” will have audiences questioning their own family ties with screenings of Henry Jacobson’s Bloodline, starring Seann William Scott as a new dad who works as a guidance counselor by day and a serial killer by night, and All the Gods in the Sky, Quarxx’s unwaveringly bleak fable of festering familial resentment. “Agora-Horror” will make you not want to go outside with screenings of Alistair Banks Griffin’s The Wolf Hour, which traps Naomi Watts’s increasingly paranoid June Leigh inside a sweltering New York City apartment during the Summer of Sam, and Jon Amiel’s sleek 1995 thriller Copycat, following Holly Hunter’s police detective as she teams up with Sigourney Weaver’s agoraphobic psychologist to catch a killer preying on San Francisco. “Exorcisms Abroad” takes demonic rituals overseas with Emilio Portes’s high stakes procedural Belzebuth, a vividly original thriller starring Tobin Bell as an excommunicated priest with satanic affiliations, paired with Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s slyly humorous Extra Ordinary, which finds an Irish widower seeking an exorcism for the pestering ghost of his dead wife. Songs turn sinister in “Villainous Music,” which pairs the North American premiere of Spanish horror veteran Adrián García Bogliano’s mesmerizing Black Circle, about sisters who unleash powerfully dark forces after discovering an old vinyl record, with Andrew Desmond’s chilling debut The Sonata, following a musical prodigy who discovers a cryptic, unpublished score by her estranged late father—a reclusive composer played by Rutger Hauer.
FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS
All screenings take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street) unless otherwise noted.
Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, USA, 2019, 88m
Jules (Maika Monroe) and Mickey (Bill Skarsgård) are young outlaw lovers whose car breaks down in the woods. The couple seeks refuge and a getaway car in a nearby isolated house, but they get more than they bargained for when they make a startling discovery and come face-to-face with the home’s married owners. Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Donovan co-star in this darkly funny, brightly colored twist on gothic horror and the home-invasion thriller. An ALTER release.
Ready or Not
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, USA, 2019, 90m
Filmmaking trio Radio Silence (directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and executive producer Chad Villella) deliver an adrenaline-fueled, booby-trapped funhouse ride in this parable about class warfare and meeting the in-laws. Grace (Samara Weaving) is getting married to Alex (Mark O’Brien), a charming scion of the Le Domas family board game empire, in the family’s grand ancestral home. When a fateful twist reveals the dark side of a generations-old tradition, wedding night turns to most-dangerous-game night, and the new Mrs. Le Domas will have to play dirty to make it out of the mansion alive. Featuring standout supporting performances from Andie MacDowell, Adam Brody, and Henry Czerny. A Fox Searchlight release.
Andrés Kaiser, Mexico, 2018, 101m
English, Spanish, and Mixe with English subtitles
The Blair Witch Projectmeets Truffaut’s The Wild Child in this visually arresting, deeply haunting found-footage faux-documentary from first-time director Andrés Kaiser. Feral elegantly deploys the framing and construction of an investigatory expose, weaving together “interviews” with the surviving residents of a small Oaxacan village, and VHS footage recorded by an enigmatic, high-minded priest who, twenty years prior, had discovered an unsocialized “wild child” in the nearby woods, and brought the child to live with him in an isolated mountain outpost. With a slow-burning tension and a claustrophobic intimacy, the film builds to a dread-infused climax while methodically reconstructing the story of one man’s hubris and its consequences.
Søren Juul Petersen, Denmark, 2018, 100m
English, Danish, and German with English subtitles
Søren Juul Petersen’s directorial debut is a gruesome, grisly meditation on the potential for cruelty, exploitation, and violence inherent in surveillance and spectatorship. Gritty and lean in visual style and economical in narrative—which brusquely alternates between a vaguely menacing “before” and a graphically terrifying “after” – Finale follows two young women working a lonely night shift at a gas station on a remote country road, where they soon discover that the convenience store security cameras aren’t the only eyes watching their every move.
Midsommar (Director’s Cut)
Ari Aster, USA, 2019
Scary Movies is excited to premiere the official, nearly three-hour director’s cut of the acclaimed sophomore feature from Ari Aster (Hereditary) in a special Saturday night screening. American grad student Dani (Florence Pugh), grieving after a shocking loss, accompanies her boyfriend and his buddies on their vacation to a tight-knit farming commune in the sunny Swedish countryside. They’ve timed their trip to participate in an extravagant nine-day festival celebrating the summer solstice, with hallucinogenic drugs in abundance and a Nordic sun that hardly seems to set, but things quickly take a dark turn in this singular, unflinching, utterly contemporary entry in the fish-out-of-water folk-horror canon. An A24 release.
The Wolf Hour
Alistair Banks Griffin, USA, 2019, 99m
Naomi Watts gives a spring-loaded performance as an acclaimed writer suffering from extreme agoraphobia in Alistair Banks Griffin’s sophomore feature, a sweaty, intensely atmospheric examination of fear itself as a mortal foe to be vanquished. June Leigh (Watts) lives cloistered in an uptown apartment, struggling to work on her second book during the summer of 1977, when New York was rocked by the Son of Sam serial killings and citywide blackouts. Visitors from the world outside (a friend, a cop, a bodega owner, a gigolo) drift in and out of frame as June grows increasingly paranoid, in parallel with rising tensions on the streets below; meanwhile, the specter of an unseen threat menacing June’s fragile equilibrium draws ever closer. A Brainstorm Media release.
Jon Amiel, USA, 1995, 35mm, 123m
Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter star as an agoraphobic psychologist and a San Francisco police detective who join forces to catch a killer in this sleek thriller from director Jon Amiel. As a psychopath preys on the city, imitating the signature style and methods of a roster of infamous murderers from the past, Inspector M.J. Monahan (Hunter) visits the reclusive Dr. Helen Hudson (Weaver), a renowned researcher specializing in the psychology of serial killers, to seek her insights on the case. What follows is a relentlessly gripping battle of wits, co-starring Dermot Mulroney and Harry Connick, Jr. A Warner Bros. release. 35mm print courtesy of UNC School of the Arts.
Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, Ireland/Belgium, 2019, 94m
Rose (Maeve Higgins), a mild-mannered driving instructor living a quiet life in the Irish countryside, has a gift for communing with restless spirits. Yet she renounced her ghostly profession after being implicated in a tragic exorcism-gone-wrong. When a widowed father (Barry Ward) seeks out her services to perform an exorcism on the pestering ghost of his dead wife, she reluctantly agrees to help—but things get complicated when a has-been American singer (Will Forte) targets the customer’s teen daughter for his own nefarious purposes. Sly humor and outright goofiness are intermingled with real feeling and occasional flourishes of supernatural gore in this unabashedly charming modern-day fairy tale.
Emilio Portes, Mexico, 2017, 114m
English and Spanish with English subtitles
Five years after his infant son is murdered in a horrific, senseless massacre, police detective Emmanuel Ritter (Joaquín Cosio) is drawn into the mystery of another mass killing that eerily parallels the first. Begrudgingly teaming up with an American priest who’s become a paranormal investigator (Tate Ellington), Ritter follows the trail of an increasingly disturbing series of clues that point to the involvement of an elusive, excommunicated man of the cloth with satanic affiliations (Tobin Bell). This high-stakes procedural drama rapidly evolves into a vividly original outing in the subgenre of exorcism horror and a potent political allegory.
“Extreme Family Values”
All the Gods in the Sky / Tous les dieux du ciel
Quarxx, France, 2018, 110m
French with English subtitles
This uncanny and unnerving fable—adapted from a short by Quarxx, here making his feature directorial debut—takes as its subject the moral, psychological, and practical consequences of lingering guilt and festering familial resentment, and the havoc they wreak on a mind in isolation. The exquisitely restrained story centers on Simon (Jean-Luc Couchard), a brooding, haunted factory worker who cares for his disabled and severely disfigured sister while preparing for the long-awaited arrival of mysterious visitors who just might be the siblings’ salvation.
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 W 65 St
Henry Jacobson, USA, 2018, 95m
How well do you know the people closest to you? And are you sure you want to know more? Evan (Seann William Scott) is a happily married new father, supporting his family with a respectable job as a high school guidance counselor, and preserving his internal equilibrium with an outrageously violent late-night hobby. The debut directorial outing from producer and cinematographer Henry Jacobson is simultaneously a blood-spattered portrait of a serial killer and a wry valentine to the ties of mutual devotion that bind mother and son, and husband and wife.
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 W 65 St
William Girdler, USA, 1976, 35mm, 91m
One of the first of the many Jaws rip-offs, exploitation director William Girdler’s spin on the natural horror film brazenly supplants Spielberg’s underwater threat with an 18-foot prehistoric grizzly bear hell-bent on terrorizing a national park. With the elusive animal running rampant in the deep woods of northern Georgia, it’s left to the chief ranger (Christopher George)—with a Vietnam vet helicopter pilot and naturalist by his side—to subdue the grizzly threat, whose victims are mostly women. Produced and distributed by mockbuster pioneer Edward L. Montoro, Grizzly became the most financially successful independent film of 1976.
Special 40th Anniversary Screening
John Frankenheimer, USA, 1979, 35mm, 102m
Director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate) imparts straight-faced camp and a “social conscience” to writer David Seltzer’s affectionate love letter to 1950s American bug movies. In rural Maine, the recently formed Environmental Protection Agency sends a doctor (Robert Foxworth) and his secretly pregnant wife (Talia Shire) to investigate an ongoing clash between a Native American tribe and the local paper mill, whose waste mismanagement has damaged the environment and created a hulking mutation in the woods. When this outrageous ecological horror film came out in 1979, it failed to fully resonate in a decade already defined by such recent classics as Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, and Alien, but its surprisingly serious ideas about environmental destruction, colonialism, and abortion—not to mention an iconic death scene involving a sleeping bag—make it a creature feature worth revisiting.
Black Circle / Svart Cirkel
Adrián García Bogliano, Mexico/Sweden, 2018, 101m
Swedish with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Spanish horror veteran Adrián García Bogliano teamed up with iconic Swedish actress Christina Lindberg for this trippily mesmerizing tale about the mysterious power of music and the existential perils of self-improvement. Sisters Isa and Celeste are intrigued by the promises of an old vinyl record, which claims to induce auditory “magnetic hypnosis” capable of unlocking realms of latent potential in its listeners. Soon, it becomes clear that by submitting to the record, the sisters have unleashed dark, otherworldly energies into the world.
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 W 65 St
Andrew Desmond, France/UK/Russia/Latvia, 2018, 90m
In this chilling, lushly visualized first feature from director Andrew Desmond, a young musical prodigy, Rose (Freya Tingley), learns that she has inherited the mansion inhabited by her recently deceased father (Rutger Hauer in a stone-faced cameo), a famous and reclusive composer from whom she was estranged. So she decamps to the sprawling old house alongside her protective manager (Simon Abkarian). There, she discovers among his belongings an unpublished score whose cryptic notations hint at sinister, possibly supernatural secrets—to which Rose herself might just hold the key.
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 W 65 St