It is the announcement of the midnight section of the SXSW festival that always gives me that final nudge to the ribs that finally signifies the end of Sundance and the start of the next phase of my year.  Today, SXSW Midnighters reveals its line-up, and the festival snaps into complete focus, and unsurprisingly, it's going to be a ton of fun in Austin from March 8th to the 16th.

I think the fact that the still they chose to send out today is for "Big Ass Spider," the new film by Mike Mendez, pretty much sums up the attitude of this particular midnight selection.  There is an irreverence that is part of their programming that always makes it a kick.  It is worth it to stay up late at SXSW.  You want to be there in that room when something like "Attack The Block" plays for the first time because you want to feel that energy from that crowd

Much of the SXSW line-up has already been announced, and you can see it at the festival's official site.  Meanwhile, taco-crazed Jarod Neece fired up the e-mails this morning to send out a missive in which he details what kind of lunacy awaits festivalgoers this year.  “Full of scares, sex, madness, laughs, chills and major mind f*cks, we hope there's a little something for everyone.”  What's really scary is that when you're talking to Neece, you can hear the asterisks in his swearing.  It's something else.

And why wouldn't he be swearing when this is the line-up he's helped to program this year?

"Big Ass Spider!"
Director: Mike Mendez, Screenwriter: Gregory Gieras

When a giant alien spider escapes from a military lab and rampages across the city of Los Angeles, it is up to one clever exterminator and his security guard sidekick to kill the creature before the city is destroyed. Cast: Greg Grunberg, Lombardo Boyar, Clare Kramer, Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Patrick Bauchau (World Premiere)

Mendez is a guy who's been revving up for a while now, and I'm curious to see if this big of totally self-aware absurdity is his moment to finally break through.  I just know that so far, this wins the fest's special award for "Truth In Advertising," because there does indeed appear to be a Big Ass Spider in "Big Ass Spider!", which seems like all I need to know to add it to my schedule.

"Cheap Thrills"
Director: E.L. Katz, Screenwriters: Trent Haaga, David Chirchirillo

Recently fired and facing eviction, the married father of a newborn has his life turned upside down when he meets a wealthy couple who offer a path to financial security...but at a price. Cast: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton, David Koechner, Amanda Fuller (World Premiere)

Fun cast, intentionally vague premise, and another filmmaker who's been building to a breakthrough moment for a while now.  Exactly the sort of thing that a Midnighters slot was created for.

Director: Vincenzo Natali, Screenwriter: Brian King

Lisa Johnson is one day shy of her 16th birthday and will be forever. She and her family are doomed to repeat the fateful day before they were all killed in 1985. Cast: Abigail Breslin, Stephen McHattie, Peter Outerbridge, Michelle Nolden, David Hewlett (World Premiere)

Vincenzo Natali has already proven himself to be an exciting voice several times now, and what excites me is that I had no idea he was even working on his new film, much less that it was ready and I'll see it next month.  Awesome.  And this is one more promising ensemble.  It looks like the entire sections overstuffed with talented actors, a good sign to say the least.

Kiss of the Damned
Director/Screenwriter: Xan Cassavetes

Beautiful vampire Djuna tries to resist the advances of human screenwriter Paolo, but eventually gives in to their passion. When her sister Mimi comes to visit, Djuna’s love story is threatened, and the whole vampire community becomes endangered... Cast: Joséphine de la Baume, Milo Ventimiglia, Roxane Mesquida, Anna Mouglalis, Michael Rapaport, Riley Keough, Ching Valdes-Aran (U.S. Premiere)

Okay. Obviously there's no way to read that synopsis in a post-"Twilight" world and not have that thought, but I'm willing to bet that if SXSW set it for midnight, this isn't going to be all sparkle and no spatter.

"The Lords of Salem"
Director/Screenwriter: Rob Zombie

From the singular mind of horror maestro Rob Zombie comes a chilling plunge into a nightmare world where evil runs in the blood. Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, Patricia Quinn (U.S. Premiere)

Saw it at Toronto.  Liked it a lot.

"Plus One"
Director: Dennis Iliadis, Screenwriter: Bill Gullo

When the party of the decade is disrupted by a supernatural phenomenon, the night soon descends in to chaos. Cast: Rhys Wakefield, Logan Miller, Ashley Hinshaw, Natalie Hall (World Premiere)

I have no idea.  I like that feeling.

"The Rambler"
Director/Screenwriter: Calvin Lee Reeder

After being released from prison, a man known as The Rambler stumbles upon a strange mystery as he attempts a dangerous journey through treacherous back roads and small towns en route to reconnecting with his long lost brother. Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Lindsay Pulsipher, Natasha Lyonne, James Cady, Scott Sharot

Saw this at Sundance.  Was not a fan.  I'm going to wait, though, and publish my review once it's played SXSW as well.  At that point, it'll be a conversation worth having.

Directors: Adam Wingard, Gareth Evans, Screenwriters: Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Evans, Jamie Nash, Jason Eisener, John Davies

Searching for a missing student, two private investigators break into his abandoned house and find another collection of mysterious VHS tapes. In viewing the horrific contents of each cassette, they realize there may be terrifying motives behind the student’s disappearance.
Cast: Adam Wingard, Lawrence Levine, L. C. Holt, Kelsy Abbott, Hannah Hughes

"You're Next"
Director: Adam Wingard, Screenwriter: Simon Barrett

A fresh twist on home-invasion horror. A gang of masked murderers descend upon a family reunion, and the victims seem trapped...until an unlikely guest proves to be the most talented killer of all. Cast: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg

I'm on the record on both of these already.  That's a lot of entertainment.  I'm seeing "S-VHS" again.  No doubt about it.  I had a great time with that movie, and I want to see a crowd reel when they get hit by it.  "You're Next" is one of those films that totally feeds off of an audience energy, and I would imagine that's going to be a crowd consisting of a lot of local critics seeing the film a second (or even third) time as well as press and audiences just seeing it for the first time.

You can also see a list of the short films, both narrative and documentary, as well as animated and music videos, and you can register for the festival and see a recap of everything else that's been announced, with one last wave of titles due to arrive next week on the 13th.

Register for a Film, Gold or Platinum Badge today and join us March 8-16, 2013 for unparalleled access to these energetic sessions, exceptional films, exciting parties, the SXSW Trade Show and, of course, a creative and inspirational experience that only SXSW can deliver. Register by February 6 and save off the walk-up rate.

SXSW Film Conference and Festival is sponsored by Miller Lite, Monster Energy, Esurance, IFC, Yahoo!, Pepsi, Brisk,, Chevrolet, American Airlines, AT&T and The Austin Chronicle.

Katie Hasty and I will be at this year's SXSW, and I can only imagine what sort of coverage we'll have for you.  Lots.  Let's just leave it at that for now.  You can count on lots of SXSW 2013 coverage, at midnight and during every other time slot, for both film and music.

A respected critic and commentator for fifteen years, Drew McWeeny helped create the online film community as "Moriarty" at Ain't It Cool News, and now proudly leads two budding Film Nerds in their ongoing movie education.