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If there is any section of Sundance that I can claim as my own here at HitFix, it is Park City at Midnight. Just as Greg Ellwood is our primary guy for the Competition sections, since those are the film most likely to end up in the conversation about awards as the year progresses, it makes sense for me to cover the midnight movies because I am King Nerd of the HitFix team.
This year's line-up is immediately interesting, and it's funny how many overlaps I can already see in this year's programming, places where you'll have one person in Park City to represent several films. Makes sense, too. There's a momentum that starts to gather around certain people, and sometimes they're just having a moment and it seems like everything's ready at the same time. It's not just at festivals, of course. Steven Spielberg's having a big fat crazy December in theaters in the US, with both "The Adventures Of Tintin" and "War Horse" opening within days of one another. But when it happens at a festival, it can create some really strange and fun echoes that link films that otherwise have nothing in common.
For example, Mark Duplass, one of the hardest working men in rock'n'roll these days, was announced as part of the cast of "Safety Not Guaranteed," which is about a group of reporters assigned to track down a man who placed a Craigslist ad looking for a partner in time travel. Duplass co-stars with Aubrey Plaza in that one, but does not write or direct. He's also one of the stars of "Your Sister's Sister," which is playing as part of the Spotlight section in the festival this year, and that one was written and directed by Lynn Shelton, who he starred for in "Humpday."
Now he's got a third film showing up, part of the line-up that I just love to dig into first each year...
PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT
"Black Rock" / U.S.A.
Director: Katie Aselton, Screenwriter: Mark Duplass
Three childhood friends set aside their personal issues and reunite for a girls' weekend on a remote island off the coast of Maine. One wrong move turns their weekend getaway into a deadly fight for survival.
Cast: Katie Aselton, Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth.
WHY WE CARE: If you're a fan of "The League," then you're already familiar with Katie Aselton as a performer. She's married to Duplass, and her last film as a director was the very good "The Freebie," which wasn't a thriller at all. Seeing her as star and director here in a script by Duplass with Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth co-starring sounds like a big bundle of things I like, and I have a feeling that synopsis barely scratches the surface of what we can expect from this one.
"Excision: / U.S.A.
Director and screenwriter: Richard Bates, Jr.
A disturbed and delusional high school student with aspirations of a career in medicine goes to extremes to earn the approval of her controlling mother.
Cast: AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart, John Waters.
WHY WE CARE: I love that John Waters acts in films he doesn't write and direct, because it means I don't have to wait forever to see one of the most entertaining filmmakers alive ham it up a bit. This description sounds like it is vintage Waters territory, too, and AnnaLynne McCord seems like the sort of actress who would make Waters cheer with approval during her trashiest moments on "Nip/Tuck" or "Beverly Hills 90210." I've got no sense of Richard Bates Jr. as writer or director yet, since this is his first feature, but that cast promises a certain type of movie, and I sincerely hope this one's played up for all the awful, awful fun possible.
"Grabbers" / Ireland, United Kingdom
Director: Jon Wright, Screenwriter: Kevin Lehane
When the residents of an idyllic Irish fishing village are attacked by mysterious, blood-sucking sea creatures, a high blood alcohol content could be the only thing that gets them through the night.
Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Bronagh Gallagher.
WHY WE CARE: I know nothing about the writer or the director, but that premise is awesome. A monster movie where being drunk might actually help you. Set in Ireland. If you're not already laughing, then I guarantee "Grabbers" is not for you, but I'm intrigued, and I want to see what the heck this is.
"The Pact" / U.S.A.
Director and screenwriter: Nicholas McCarthy
As a woman struggles to come to grips with her past in the wake of her mother's death, an unsettling presence emerges in her childhood home.
Cast: Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien.
WHY WE CARE: Here's another first-time feature director, and he's been kicking around for a while, working crew on behind-the-scenes pieces about films. In fact, he was part of the crew for a making-of on "Starship Troopers," which may be how he met Casper Van Dien. I don't know Caity Lotz's work, but she's a regular on "Death Valley," and a film like this will depend largely on her chemistry with Van Dien, since it sounds like they are both a major part of the movie. That description is about as vague as possible, too, so hopefully there are some major surprises in store when we see it.
"SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS: / United Kingdom
Directors: Dylan Southern, Will Lovelace
A documentary that follows LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy over a crucial 48-hour period, from the day of their final gig at Madison Square Garden to the morning after, the official end of one of the best live bands in the world.
WHY WE CARE: Well, because LCD Soundsystem is awesome, and now they're done performing live, so this is pretty much it, our last record of this band at the height of their creative power. And with the news that James Murphy is also part of the film "The Comedy," which is the film that features dramatic performances from Tim and Eric, it's obvious that he's going to have to be at the festival, which should be fascinating.
"Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie"/ U.S.A.
Directors and screenwriters: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim
After two guys are given a billion dollars to make a movie, their Hollywood dreams run off course and they decide to rehabilitate a run-down shopping mall in an attempt to make the money back.
Cast: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim.
WHY WE CARE: And here's the Tim and Eric we expect. I know that I can't really watch more than two episodes of their show "Tim and Eric Great Job! Awesome Show!" without feeling like I'm mentally ill, so I can't imagine what a feature film from these guys is going to feel like. I know people who worked on this one, and the word is that it's completely and utterly insane, even by the admittedly deranged standards that they've set for themselves over the years. Here's the teaser trailer…
… which pretty much sums it up.
"V/H/S" / U.S.A.
Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence, Screenwriters: Simon Barrett, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence
When a group of misfits is hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for.
Cast: Joe Swanberg, Calvin Reeder, Adam Wingard, Sophia Takal, Kate Lyn Sheil.
WHY WE CARE: For one thing, this was co-produced by Bloody Disgusting's Brad Miska, and we always root for one of our Internet brethren to do well when they make the jump. But this is a great roster of talent for an anthology film. Ti West's proven himself to be a very skilled genre mimic with his work in films like "House Of The Devil," and David Bruckner was part of the skilled team behind "The Signal." Throw in polarizing talent Joe Swanberg and the duo behind "A Horrible Way To Die" and "You're Next," and this looks like it could be something special. Besides, we have a fondness for movies about things you shouldn't see but are compelled to watch.
That sort of describes our whole attitude about midnight movies in general. In addition, I'd like to point out that "The Raid" is playing in the Spotlight section this year, and if you haven't seen the new uber-violent trailer for "The Raid," prepare to get your nose kicked up into your brain…
… oh my GOD, I love that movie. Love love love. Can't wait to see it again, and I can't wait to see which of these films is also worthy of that sort of excitement when the Sundance Film Festival kicks off on January 19th, 2012.
Everything: Sundance Film Festival
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