Everything We Saw at SXSW 2024

Movies,TV
everything-we-saw-at-sxsw-2024

This SXSW round-up is a bit like our living (and growing) scrapbook from this year’s big event. We’ll continue to update the article as more video interviews and entries become available.

The SXSW festival has changed and changed again in its 35-plus years. Originally begun as “just” a music festival, the event has become an intersection that’s ever expanding. Bringing in the best of film, television, gaming, and even the cutting edge of technology, it is sometimes hard to quantify what isn’t SXSW these days. Even the Film Festival is now the Film & TV Festival. Still, Den of Geek tried to cover it all, so here’s a look at all the exciting projects we got an early glimpse at in our studio.

7 Beats Per Minute

7 Beats Per Minute

For those with the passion—and lung capacity—freediving is an aquatic activity that has divers plunge the depths of great bodies of water without the use of usual breathing apparatus, like scuba gear. The documentary film 7 Beats Per Minute, helmed by filmmaker Yuqi Kang, traces the journey of freediver Jessea Lu, a champion of the sport, who sets out to break the world record. Determined and willing to go to dangerous lengths to achieve this goal, Jessea pushes past her conventional limits and faces her own inner demons driving her to succeed.

7 Beats Per Minute is paced like a meditative thriller, with audiences immersed into the freediving experience as they follow Jessea hundreds of feet under the ocean’s surface. Kang plays with the inherent shadows that only grow darker the deeper Jessea plunges into the sea, heightening the tension with the knowledge that she is relatively alone and without vital oxygen. A juxtaposition of the haunting wonder and constant perils of the open ocean against the limits of a finite air supply, 7 Beats Per Minute keeps its audience riveted.

Arcadian

Nicolas Cage versus the end of the world. It’s probably something you’ve heard before, but Benjamin Brewer’s Arcadian grounds it in an aesthetic that’s a little darker than his star vehicles of yore. The new movie instead recalls other recent sci-fi thrillers about small families facing cosmic stakes as monsters (or aliens?) attempt to break into their farmhouse.

When we spoke with Cage about the film, he said the combination of familial drama and sci-fi elements is what brought him back to the world of genre: “My dad did most of the heavy-lifting, he did the raising, because my mom sadly couldn’t be around. So it was just my father, and in this case myself and my older brother. I saw that family dynamic in the Kazan picture East of Eden [in the script], and I thought wouldn’t it be interesting if this little family nucleus was contending with a post-apocalyptic environment and with an evolution in a species that was there to wipe us out.”

Azrael

If we’re being honest for a minute, the Bible is pretty creepy, innit? With stories of executions, various degrees of smiting, slaughtered firstborns, and an entire epilogue set around confronting the Antichrist by a lake of fire, there’s some bleak stuff in there. So in retrospect, it’s a wonder horror cinema hasn’t turned to those latter day pages sooner for a unique riff on the post-apocalyptic chiller. Hence the story of Azrael (Samara Weaving), a young woman who like many others left behind in the Rapture has been robbed her voice.

Essentially making a silent movie, director E.L. Katz works from genre master Simon Barrett’s screenplay to imagine a tense and religiously tinged terror in which after the world has fallen to darkness and despair, the scariest thing left are those who believe they are still righteous and can be saved. And oh yes, there will be blood.

Ilana Glazer and Babes Cast at SXSW

Babes

Is pregnancy an untapped vein for comedy? Ilana Glazer thinks so. That’s why the Broad City co-creator wrote and starred in Babes, her second feature length script (after the 2021 film False Positive, which also covered pregnancy albeit from a horror perspective). Directed by Pamela Adlon (herself a TV veteran from King of the Hill and Better Things), Babes tells the story of Eden (Glazer), who becomes pregnant from a one-night stand.

Once it becomes clear that the father can’t be around, Eden seeks the help of her married best friend and mother of two (played by Glazer’s real life friend, comedian Michelle Buteau). Described as a raunchy comedy filled with plenty of physical gags, Babes is also a tender exploration of friendship and the challenges of getting older.

Bob Trevino Likes It

Based on writer-director Tracie Laymon’s real-life (and unlikely) friendship with a guy on the internet who just happened to share the same name as her dad, Bob Trevino Likes It is a quiet, unexpectedly human dramedy about the virtues of kindness and connection, even on the general dystopian hellscape we call the internet. It is within this context we meet Lily Trevino (Barbie Ferreira), a twentysomething with the most manipulative and selfish father imaginable, Robert Trevino (French Stewart). So after Papa Bobby ghosts her, she accidentally friends a much better man with the same name on Facebook.

John Leguizamo’s Bob Trevino is happily married, observant, and, somehow, also fairly insulated and lonely. He sees the emotional desperation in Lily and in the process, the opportunity to help another person. There’s a tenderness to Bob Trevino that walks close to the line of saccharine but never crosses it. Instead it finds a humility that will please almost any crowd, assuming they have the right kind of Bob in their heart.

Cheech and Chong at SXSW

Cheech and Chong’s Last Movie

A straight documentary approach to the career and, at times, fractured relationship of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong would fail to capture the long, strange trip these hippie-rockstar weed comedians have been on. Thankfully, in his directorial film debut, Dave Bushell (who produced Academy Award-winning films Sling Blade, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Dallas Buyers Club) takes a fresh approach by inviting audiences on a road trip with the duo. He still, of course, includes a ton of previously unseen footage as we travel through five decades of comedy and conflict.

Bushell has said the film was born out of the failure to make a new Cheech & Chong movie, and yet this feels like it could be a spiritual sequel to their films Up in Smoke or Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, while also filling in their story in the first fully authorized documentary about them. 

Clemente

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente arrived in Pittsburgh in 1955, when there were more African American baseball players than Latino baseball players. Clemente quickly rose to stardom and became a leading voice for latin baseball players around the world.

David Altrogge, the director of Clemente, tells us of the late ballplayer’s impact, “As we interviewed people like Francisco Lindor and the Molina brothers, they 100 percent view Roberto Clemente as their Jackie Robinson. The one who came in and kicked down the doors for latino players.”

Roberto Clemente’s career accolades include two World Series rings, 13 All-Star Game appearances, and the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1966. He ended his career as one of the best to ever play the game and he will always be remembered for paving the way for Latin baseball players to this day. Luis Clemente, son of Roberto, said “I want people to see the icon that my dad is, but also to inspire and to impact people to activate that humanitarian button inside of them”

Tony Cavalero in Cold Wallet

Cold Wallet

There’s a reason Steven Soderbergh awarded this nasty little thriller grant money to finish its post-production: Cutter Hodierne’s Cold Wallet is an evocative slice of social satire and nightmare. At its essence, the story has an almost biblical heft when three Reddit lifers and lurkers (Raúl Castillo, Tony Cavalero, and Melonie Diaz) decide to get revenge on a crypto bro billionaire (Josh Brener) who defrauded users of his online currency exchange. But when they break into his house and truss him up for a shakedown, they still wind up playing his games as one by one, he turns them against each other. The 21st century in a nutshell.

Cuckoo

Cuckoo and Immaculate made for a great double feature for me at SXSW. Both move into bonkers territory that I am here for, and both star Euphoria actresses bringing their full might to quirky horror flicks. In this case, it’s Hunter Schafer as a teen who is uprooted from her home in the States to a resort in the German Alps run by a mad scientist—played by Dan Stevens, clearly enjoying being deliciously creepy—and with some sort of creature roaming the area. The less said about the plot of this film, written and directed by Tilman Singer (Luz), the better. And frankly, the less you know about the particular nature of cuckoo birds, the better. Cuckoo is super weird and immensely watchable. And the trio of Singer, Schafer, and Stevens are damn compelling together, and I was left hungry for another collaboration from them. 

Dead Mail Filmmakers at SXSW

Dead Mail

Filmmakers Kyle McConaghy and Joe DeBoer delve into ‘80s lo-fi horror and neo-noir thrills with their genre-bending indie flick, Dead Mail. The movie opens with a man (Sterling Macer Jr.) desperately trying to mail a letter altering someone before he is brutally subdued, setting the stage for an obsessive mystery. When dead letter investigator Jasper (Tomas Boykin) receives the letter, he sets out to learn more about the ominous note before encountering a strange man named Trent (John Fleck) who has recently become Jasper’s neighbor.

Dead Mail is really a movie about obsession, with each of its main characters fixated on different things, some going to murderous lengths to maintain their interests. The movie is also a love letter to a more analog era, from plot elements like electronic instrumentation right down to its evocative sound design and soundtrack. Moody and led by an impressive cast operating at the height of their powers, Dead Mail is all killer, no filler, drawing audiences deeper and deeper into the dark mystery at its core. 

Desert Road star at SXSW

Desert Road

The desert can be an awe-inspiring, expansive space, but also frighteningly overwhelming and capable of holding its own dark, sinister secrets. This sensibility lies at the center of Desert Road, a lean, mean indie thriller written and directed by Shannon Triplett as her debut feature film. The movie centers on a young woman, played by Kristine Forseth, whose car breaks down in the middle of a drive through the American Southwest as she leaves Los Angeles. While waiting for help, the woman is put off by a variety of strange figures in the desert around her, including a nearby gas station attendant (Max Mattern), with her situation only growing more harrowing as the sun sets.

Rapidly leaping right into the unsettling premise, Desert Road is tautly paced and keeps its audience off-balance as it heightens the stakes and throws plenty of narrative curveballs to keep viewers on their toes. Standing at the movie’s center stage is Triplett and Mattern, with Triplett perfectly capturing the anxiety that comes with her character’s increasingly dire circumstance, joined by veteran actors Frances Fisher and Beau Bridges in memorable supporting roles. With its surprising flourishes, the fewer details one knows about Desert Road going in, the better. Instead savor the twists and turns and absolutely gorgeous cinematography of the Southwest desert.

Izaac Wang from Didi at SXSW

Didi

This is a coming of age story about a Taiwanese-American boy in Fremont, California during the 2008 era of MySpace and AIM. Dìdi is heartwarming, sad, and laugh-out-loud hilarious at some points, without veering into emotionally manipulative. As Dìdi (played by Izaac Wang) navigates friendships, how to flirt with girls, skating, and finding a community—as well as coming to terms with his mother as a fully realized human being—writer/director Sean Wang serves up a charming and realistic story. It is sometimes cringe-inducing due to the awkwardness of its title character, but relatable for anyone who knows what it’s like to inadvertently say the weirdest thing to someone you just met. Exceptionally endearing, I suspect this is one that might pick up some awards down the road.

Lilly Singh in Doin' It at SXSW

Doin’ It

So much of the enjoyment in a raunchy R-rated comedy comes from the phenomenon that they usually say the crude or mischievous things we are too polite or embarrassed to admit of thinking. And for American audiences this probably begins in an educational system where even “sex ed” largely consists of “don’t do it.”

Well, Sara Zandieh’s Doin’ It definitely does. And in the process it creates an awkward and often hilarious scenario wherein a thirtysomething woman (Lilly Singh), who was raised in a strictly conservative Indian household, comes to America as a virgin. And through a highly improbable series of events, she finds herself teaching a sex-ed class at the local high school. Of course who is really teacher and who is the student is the source of a lot of raunchy, embarrassing, and, sometimes, educational laughter.

Duplass Brothers Productions Indie TV Showcase

Duplass Brothers Productions is synonymous with independent film. Created by the indie superteam of Mark and Jay Duplass, the outfit has already produced dozens of movies. When it comes to television though, “indie” is not always a term one associates with the medium. That’s what Duplass Brothers Productions is hoping to change. 

Mark Duplass and company president Mel Eslyn came to Austin for SXSW 2024 to promote four of their imprint’s new indie TV offerings. The Long, Long Night was created by Barrett O’Brien and follows two best friends who try to process the events of a disastrous night. The Broadcast was created by Natalie Palamides and Courtney Pauroso and is staged as a surreal television news report from the end of the world. Ryler Walker & Friends is a music docuseries. Penelope is a coming-of-age tale set in nature. Each of these projects has already filmed a full season and is ready to be picked up. Perhaps that’s the future of indie TV. Shoot (the show) first, ask questions (about distribution) later.

Fallout

Video game adaptations haven’t historically enjoyed the best reputation in film and television. That’s begun to change thanks to HBO’s lush take on The Last of Us, and Prime Video looks set to continue that trend with its series inspired by the equally legendary Fallout. Based on the long-running post-apocalyptic RPG franchise, Amazon’s Fallout is set to bring a sense of humor to the end of the world. 

Fallout takes place in a retro-futuristic world where the anxieties and aesthetics of the atomic age never really went away. The show is set to follow three central characters: naive vault dweller Lucy (Ella Purnell), Brotherhood of Steel squire Maximus (Aaron Moten), and a singed, noseless gunslinger known only as The Ghoul (Walton Goggins). Each individual makes sense of the irradiated Earth in their own way 219 years after the bombs fell.

“I didn’t anticipate how lonely it would be for me as the Ghoul,” Goggins told Den of Geek. “It was a process. When I first walked out of the trailer, people either couldn’t take their eyes off you or didn’t want to look at you at all. I felt very closed in by that experience. I was just alone inside of this guy’s head.” The series was created by writers Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Graham Wagner and produced by Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, and Fallout game developer Todd Howard. 

“There were some things where I said, ‘Don’t do this because we are going to do that in Fallout 5,’” Howard said. “[This series] wasn’t the translation of an existing story. It was, ‘What would the next thing be?’ It just happens to be a TV show.”

FLY

Of all the extreme sports, one of the most dangerous and pulse-pounding is BASE jumping, which has participants leap from high altitude points and glide over terrains with either parachutes or wingsuits. This sport and the colorful figures that regularly engage in it is the subject of the National Geographic documentary feature film FLY, directed and produced by Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau. From the sun-baked deserts of the American Southwest to the mountainous forests in Scandinavia, these aerial enthusiasts have a unique perspective on some of the most sweeping landscapes on Earth.

Filmed over seven years, FLY focuses on three romantic couples whose lives are caught up within the death-defying world of BASE jumping and what it takes to be willing to remain with a partner who regularly tempts fate with the sport. At the same time, reminders of the stakes involved with BASE jumping regularly surface, bringing this already tight-knit community closer together. FLY puts viewers right in the perspective of BASE jumpers, with cameras soaring with them and taking the audience along for the ride of their lives.

Grand Theft Hamlet Directors

Grand Theft Hamlet

Prince Hamlet famously said “the play’s the thing,” yet how little could he or his author predict something like Grand Theft Hamlet occurring in an entirely different medium. A project born out of necessity and boredom during the early days of the pandemic, Grand Theft Hamlet evolved as filmmaker Penny Grylls watched her significant other Sam Crane, a professional British actor, develop a production of Hamlet inside GTA Online alongside colleague and unlikely San Andreas dramaturge Mark Oosterveen. Their efforts to mount a show where everyone dies in a context where most online players want to kill him extends beyond just COVID, too, as Grylls and Crane both direct an unusual doc about an unusual (and ultimately award winning) experiment in the interactive arts.

How Music Got Free

The entire music industry shifted as the Information Age brought digital tunes to people’s fingertips for anyone with a steady enough internet connection. This seismic shift is documented in the Paramount+ documentary miniseries How Music Got Free, based on the 2013 nonfiction book of the same name by Stephen Witt. Directed by Alexandria Stapleton, the documentary charts how compressed audio files proliferating on the web effectively shook the music industry to its core and how the artists, record labels, and government responded.

How Music Got Free features talking head interviews with virtually every facet of the true story involved, from record label executives and the platinum-selling artists affected to the tech figures hosting peer-to-peer, file-sharing networks. And perhaps most interestingly of all, the documentary spotlights the North Carolina factory workers who smuggled CDs produced by major labels that eventually led to huge album leaks and changed how the music industry did business forever. Narrated by Method Man, How Music Got Free is as informative and thorough as it is entertaining and accessible, covering every corner of how online technology redefined music in the early 2000s.

Marisa Tomei and Cast of High Tide

High Tide

When Marco Calvani came to Provincetown on the coast of Massachusetts, he had no idea it would be the subject of his feature debut as a film director, but then a lot of his summer might have been kismet. As the one community in the U.S. where it is estimated there are more LGBTQ residents and vacationers than heteronormative ones, Provincetown has been described as a “queer Mecca,” which makes the first film to examine that place something special.

The picture stars Marco Pigossi, a Brazilian immigrant caught in a listless summer where he doesn’t know where he’s going in life, including whether he’ll even be able to stay in the country by summer’s end. But an unlikely meeting with Maurice (James Bland), a Black and gay man with an incredibly different view on the American dream, turns into an opportunity to connect and change your destiny—a bit like Calvani and Pigossi who became engaged after production wrapped.

Nick Kroll and I Don't Understand You at SXSW

I Don’t Understand You

Is there a world record for the number of times someone says “scuzzi” in a movie? If there is, then Nick Kroll certainly breaks it in horror-comedy I Don’t Understand You. Kroll and Andrew Rannells star as married couple Dom and Cole, who take what should be a relaxing trip to Italy to decompress from the stress of their journey to adopt their first child. As you could probably tell by the “horror-comedy” categorization, things don’t quite go as planned. Guided by only Dom’s rudimentary Duolingo lessons (“Scuzzi!”), our heroes end up in a nightmare situation of mistranslation, mud, and blood. 

As revealed to Den of Geek during SXSW 2024, a surprisingly big percentage of I Don’t Understand You’s story is based on the real life experience of directors Brian Cano and David Craig, themselves a married couple who decamped to Italy before adopting their first child. By the film’s third act, however, it becomes clear that there were some creative flourishes added. At least you hope there were—otherwise Brian and David have some ‘splainin’ to do.

I Love You Forever

Cazzie David makes her cinematic directorial debut alongside Elisa Kalani with Gen Z’s very own anti-rom-com. Going into the picture that might be a surprise since Finn (Ray Nicholson) is everything the movies tell you a great boyfriend must be: attentive, present, and big on the grand gestures. But the trick about I Love You Forever is that we follow Mackenzie (Sofia Black-D’Elia) more than a few months after that gesture is made—only to realize we are witnessing nuclear-grade lovebombing. And wouldn’t you know it, this love bomb is highly unstable.

With a witty and razor-sharp script from the two directors (David also appears in a supporting film in the role), I Love You Forever comes from an acutely aware perspective of the modern dating scene for adults who grew up since the cradle terminally online. The result is an, authentic, cagey, and deliciously funny movie which D’Elia hopes will “cause some breakups” among the more toxic relationships out there.

Jane Schoenbrun of I Saw the TV Glow at SXSW

I Saw the TV Glow

Another A24 and SXSW headliner bathed in ‘90s nostalgia, I Saw the TV Glow begins and ends at a bleaker and perhaps more honest place when it comes to remembering the “before times.” A tactile and haunting self-analysis of writer-director Jane Schoenbrun’s own childhood, I Saw the TV Glow imagines an era where it was easier for folks to get lost in the stranger crevices of monoculture—and perhaps desperately necessary to do so when you’re forced to grow up in a suburban America you’ll never belong to.

That is the fate Owen (Justice Smith) finds himself trapped in. While he cannot put his finger on it, he and the audience sense something is intrinsically wrong in a mundane adolescence where the only release is connecting with fellow misfit toy Maddy (Bridgette Lundy-Paine), who gets Owen into watching a fictional TV show that is a cross between Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a cathartic release, but also a distraction from acknowledging the real rot in their world. With the TV Glow, Schoebrun catches a time and place from a distinctly queer and trans perspective while also building a genre piece with surrealist images that’ll burrow into your mind forever.

Immaculate

With Immaculate doing devilishly good business in the indie horror lane during the last few weeks, Michael Mohan’s new nunsplotation film probably does not need much of an introduction from us. But if you haven’t seen it yet, you should know that for any formulaic bits that pad out the beginning and its setup about a sheltered nun who discovers she’s been “blessed” (or cursed) with immaculate conception, nothing can prepare you for its ending. With an absolutely brutal, go-for-broke finale that lets Sydney Sweeney’s freak flag fly, there’s a reason some more devout viewers have shuddered in revulsion at this happy blasphemy. Bless their hearts.

A King Like Me at SXSW

A King Like Me

Few actors have enjoyed more prolific careers than Fisher Stevens. The Chicago-born performer has been a mainstay of film and television with roles in everything from Hackers, Early Edition, The Blacklist, and several Wes Anderson flicks. He also uttered the “woof woof” heard around the world as subservient PR flack Hugo Baker in HBO’s just-wrapped drama, Succession. Of late, however, Stevens has turned his eyes toward the world of documentaries, serving as director on Netflix’s Beckham. Now he has produced A King Like Me.

Directed by Matthew Henderson, A King Like Me follows the Zulu Krewe, a long-running club made up of mostly Black men who serve an important role in the New Orleans hallowed Mardis Gras festivities. Henderson and Stevens were drawn to the story when they discovered that the Zulus had been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their film delves into the history of this hallowed organization and examines the country’s healthcare inequalities in relation to race. 

Magpie

By playing a character she co-created with her husband Tom Bateman (who also serves as screenwriter on the film), Daisy Ridley has developed a protagonist who is about a million lightyears away from Rey Skywalker. With Magpie, we see Ridley as Anette, a young woman bedeviled by a bad marriage, and (maybe) demons that aren’t just marital—though her hell is definitely a domestic one. Left by hubby Ben (Shazad Latif) at home all day with an infant while he plays Stage Dad to daughter Matilda (Hiba Ahmed) on a film set with a popular starlet (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz), Anette has plenty of reasons to fixate on Ben’s coldness and attempted infidelity, even before he starts trying to text Lutz’s Alicia on the DL.

Directed by Sam Yates, Magpie has a frosty and noir-ish veneer that invites you to second-guess all of its three main characters and their motives. But the teeth of the thing is in a brutal ending that no one will see coming.

Cast of Musica on Amazon

Musica

Written, directed by, and starring Rudy Mancuso, Música is billed as a coming-of-age romantic comedy. But it’s also a “non-musical musical” where student and aspiring puppeteer “Rudy” (Mancuso) experiences the condition of synesthesia where everyday sounds take on musical rhythms and colors. The film is inspired by Mancuso’s own life, as anyone who already knows the popular YouTube creator’s channel will recognize. It’s sweet, funny, and quirky.

Mancuso delivers a likable performance that suitably pays homage to his hero Charlie Chaplin. Co-stars Camila Mendes (who also executive produces the film) and Francesca Reale play Mancuso’s love interests from very different worlds. Reale manages to be likable despite the role of Haley being one that could easily be reduced to the demanding girlfriend trope. And Mendes is rock solid in a believable performance that I hope people will take note of. Also, the Brazilian-American community of New Jersey is a character in the film, and it’s a joy to see it represented—especially in the form of Mancuso’s real-life mother Maria playing his onscreen mom. This is one that’ll have you craving music and a caipirinha after watching.

Natalie Morales in My Dead Friend Zoe

My Dead Friend Zoe

The Audience Award winner in the Narrative Spotlight selection for a reason, Kyle Hausmann-Stokes’ My Dead Friend Zoe is an impressive feature debut from a filmmaker with a story to tell. More than a decade after Hausmann-Stokes was deployed in Iraq (and after making it a personal mission to tell the story of modern American veterans on the big screen), the co-writer and director has crafted a sweet and poignant dark dramedy about two women: one is a veteran trying to get on with her life after serving in Afghanistan (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the other is her service BFF who’s long since died but remains as a snarky trauma ghost haunting her steps (Natalie Morales). Trust us, it’s funnier than it sounds.

Also featuring strong supporting work by Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman, the former of which plays Martin-Green’s Vietnam vet grandfather and counterpoint, My Dead Friend Zoe provides a warm and authentic portrait of American service families. And their grief. In other words, something cinema has largely ignored off the battlefield for the past 22 years.

Karan in a Nice Indian Boy

A Nice Indian Boy

Rosha Sethi helms this pleasant crowdpleaser based on a Madhuri Shekar play of the same name. An unabashed romantic comedy that wears its heart on its sleeve, A Nice Indian Boy essays a specific kind of love story between the son of Indian-American immigrants (Karan Soni) and the boy (or thirtysomething) next door played by Jonathan Groff. It’s a soft-spoken but bighearted laugher that modernizes the LGBTQ rom-com with a protagonist who is out, but still not entirely proud given he hails from a household where even his overachieving sister (Sunita Mani) walks on eggshells. Still, that doesn’t mean they (or you) cannot enjoy a wedding by movie’s end.

Oddity

Irish filmmaker Damian Mc Carthy brings his latest indie horror movie to SXSW 2024 with Oddity, a supernatural chiller set in a remote house out in the countryside. After learning that her twin sister Dani (Carolyn Bracken) was brutally murdered while renovating a home, Darcy (also Bracken) sets out to learn what happened on the anniversary of her death. Darcy possesses psychic abilities and a strange, creepy mannequin she claims she inherited from a witch as she launches her paranormal investigation.

Bracken delivers a magnetic dual performance as Dani and Darcy, with the latter always commanding full attention whenever she’s onscreen. Right from the outset, Mc Carthy imbues Oddity with a quietly unsettling quality that only mounts as the film progresses, turning this already disturbing murder mystery all the more terrifying. A masterclass in escalating tension and cinematic unease, Oddity is Mc Carthy firing on all cylinders, knowing right when to ratchet up the scares and supernatural elements to great effect.

Omni Loop

Here is one of several films that fit within the recurring “time travel with a twist” theme of this SXSW. Set in the seemingly timeless setting of Miami, Omni Loop tells the story of a scientist (Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds) who has a lethal black hole growing inside her chest. She also coincidentally has access to some time travel pills, which leads to her on a Groundhog Day trip throughout her final day of life, and then into her own past. The film is quite thoughtful as Parker’s character resolves to solve the time travel mess alongside a young student played by Ayo Edebiri (The Bear). Written and directed by Bernardo Britto, Omni Loop is technically a sci-fi film, but time travel is simply the storytelling mechanism used to explore loss, regret, and acceptance.

Dan Winters in Photographer

Photographer

National Geographic’s documentary series Photographer spotlights the world-renowned people behind the camera who share the world they capture in their lens. Among the figures celebrated in the first season is Dan Winters, who has been working steadily as a professional photographer since 1986. Winters is well-known and sought after for his work with celebrity portraits and extensive aviation and aerospace photography, often related to numerous NASA missions.

The Dan Winters episode of Photographer traces his upbringing and early fascination with spaceflight and photography fueled by his love for the original Star Trek series. By providing an intimate and informative look at the man behind some of the most memorable photojournalism and professional photographs in the past 30 years, Photographer develops one of its best episodes around the subject of Dan Winters.

Saying goodbye is a hard thing to do for any TV show. For the folks behind Star Trek: Discovery, however, it’s particularly bittersweet. Sure, the crew of the USS Discovery won’t traverse outer space together anymore (“It’s sad not to be able to go to work and see aliens smoking cigarettes walking around outside,” star Blu del Barrio notes). But at the same time: they were never supposed to make it this far in the first place.

Sasquatch Sunset

It is easy to be familiar with the pace and cadence of a good nature documentary. There are the long unhurried shots of a day in the life of an animal; the quiet beats punctuated by sudden primal movements or acts of violence; and sweeping shots of natural world vistas that appear increasingly alien to us. But when the creatures occupying it are alien too—a clan of literal Bigfoots—the whole thing takes on an absurdist surreality that lives in a genuinely original space.

Is David and Nathan Zellner’s Sasquatch Sunset a comedy? Well, it’s pretty amusing to realize that it’s Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough underneath those mountains of prosthetic makeup. Yet your inability to recognize either actor at all as they totally commit to the bit of playing two pieces of a Sasquatch quartet gives the thing an earnestness which is immersive. You’ll laugh, wince, and maybe even mourn. It’s a one-of-a-kind movie that needs to be seen to be believed.

Eve Connolly in Sew Torn

Sew Torn

The feature directorial debut of Freddy Macdonald, Sew Torn is a quirky and tense, yet also twee, Choose Your Own Adventure small town-meets-big city crime film. Think Fargo. And it revolves around a seamstress heroine who has Rube Goldberg-esque skills with her needle and thread.

Don’t be thrown off if the previous paragraph has you scratching your head, because Sew Torn has so many things going on with it that it could feel like a mismatched outfit but instead fits together like delightful charmingly weird tapestry. When the “Mobile Seamstress” Barbra—played by Eve Connolly of Vikings’ and River Wild in a performance that manages to be very quiet but fiery, and all with very little dialogue—comes across two criminals on the run, she must make the decision to steal the loot, alert the cops, or keep driving. Each decision plays out with different consequences for her and the baddies. Plus, Barbra shows off impressive survival skills utilizing her sewing kit. 

Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery had one of the most turbulent beginnings of any Star Trek series since Kirk and Spock first boldly went where no man had gone before. The Paramount+ series (which launched as a CBS All-Access series) was subject to many changes both behind the camera and in front of it before finally achieving some stability. Going into the show’s fifth and final season, producer Alex Kurtzman was in a reflective mood. 

“It was an incredibly bumpy first year,” Kurtzman told Den of Geek before adding, “There would be no Star Trek Universe without Star Trek: Discovery. It was the first one in the door. It took all the knocks, but it also carved all this new ground.” Star Trek: Discovery did indeed take all the knocks and now it’s happy to breezily jet off into retirement… but not before one last adventure.

Things Will Be Different Director

Things Will Be Different

When an estranged brother and sister reunite to pull off a robbery, they ultimately rely on an isolated farmhouse to lay low—and it just so happens the farmhouse is also part of a larger time travel mystery. When they travel back in time to wait for the heat to die down, it’s a pretty easy staycation with a constantly replenished pantry and fridge full of food (and some booze). But their check out is delayed significantly as a larger shadowy force in the future assigns them a task involving a temporal aberration—a variant, if you will.

Written and directed by Michael Felker, Things Will Be Different relies on the incredible performances of Adam David Thompson and Riley Dandy as the siblings who are forced to confront family traumas and deal with an expansive yet claustrophobic snowglobe setting they can’t escape. While this godlike future authority sends them messages via analog tape recorder in a safe, their trust breaks down as they wait out time, no to mention an eventual threat coming to this place. Thompson and Dandy make for a great onscreen duo, and though this isn’t an action film, per se, there is action in it, and we were left wanting to see them together again in more genre work where they could kick some ass together.

This is a Film About the Black Keys

The nice thing about putting together a documentary about Grammy award-winning rock band the Black Keys is that you have access to the Black Keys’ music to score it. 

“We used 48 of their songs,” said Jeff Dupre, director of This is a Film About The Black Keys. “The greatest thing about the film is the music drives the story. It really captures all these moments in their lives.” This is a Film About The Black Keys (cheekily named after the blunt cover art of the band’s sixth album “Brothers”) is all about the meteoric rise of this rock duo. Beginning with incredible footage from their native Akron, Ohio, the film follows singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney as they endure life on tour before graduating to arena-level success. 

“That’s that band life when you first get going. Your day consists of waking up at 7:30 and driving for six to eight hours. And then being in the worst possible building you can imagine usually with no toilet seat, no toilet door,” Carney said. 

Like any good rock documentary, This is a Film About The Black Keys doesn’t shy away from the band’s struggles as much as it does the successes. Thankfully, however, those no toilet seat days appear to be a thing of the past. 

Alice Lowe in Timestalker

Timestalker

Eight years after her wild and delicious directorial review, Prerevenge, helmer, star, and writer Alice Lowe returns to the world of indie cinema for this absurdist comedy that is appropriately timey-wimey.

In the film, Lowe plays Agnes, a woman who has been chasing the same man (Aneurin Barnard) through various stages of reincarnation for centuries. Agnes believes it’s true love, but the title should clue you into the fact that The Time Traveler’s Wife, this ain’t. What you get instead is a sardonic and witty sendup of various period piece clichés, from witchy folk horror to Jane Austen-adjacent punchlines that draw literal blood, all before culminating in an ‘80s synth singalong. Plus, you’ve never seen Nick Frost like this before.

Y2K

After eight seasons on Saturday Night Live, Kyle Mooney brings his acquired taste for idiosyncratic weirdness to the big screen in Y2K. A shameless indulgence in elder millennial nostalgia, Y2K reimagines a New Year’s Eve on the cusp of 2000 that actually played out like the doomsayers and conspiracy theorists believed it would—with the world ending to the pop sounds of Sisqo and Limp Bizkit.

The A24 horror-comedy mash-up is all style, plus novelty of the first time the movies went in for turn-of-the-century wistfulness, but it worked for us due to its undeniable affection for even the trashiest elements of its setting (we already mentioned Limp), as well as a game cast of Gen Z up-and-comers, including Rachel Zegler, Julian Dennison, Lachlan Watson, Mason Gooding, and Jaeden Martell.

Trevor of World of Star Trek

World of Star Trek

If there’s one thing that’s been true about Star Trek across the iconic science fiction franchise’s nearly 60-year history, it’s that it constantly survives with the changing times. Overseeing the franchise’s television resurgence on Paramount+ is Trevor Roth, executive producer on all the current Star Trek programming and chief operating officer of Roddenberry Entertainment. The company, founded by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, maintains the Star Trek vision and ethos that defines it across generations and mediums as it moves boldly forward.

More than just having a major hand in the future of Star Trek onscreen, Roddenberry Entertainment produces a growing and varied podcast network and philanthropic mission. Working closely alongside Gene Roddenberry’s son and current Roddenberry Entertainment CEO, Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, Roth is an important figure, not just in Star Trek’s ongoing legacy, but also in the footprints left by Andromeda and Earth: Final Conflict. Roth also produces several of the company’s documentary films, including the acclaimed Trek Nation, as new generations of Star Trek fans embrace Roddenberry’s enduring creation.

The post Everything We Saw at SXSW 2024 appeared first on Den of Geek.

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