Another Sundance Film Festival is upon us, only this one will be a little different than most. The event is going mostly virtual due to the pandemic, and therefore we’re all covering remotely this year. Not that you should even notice, since the plans don’t really change anything for you the reader. As far as you know, we’re on the ground in Park City watching movies at the Egyptian Theatre and writing reviews while in line for our next screening, and delivering the buzz to you as usual.
Never mind that we’re actually set up in a virtual condo, eating dinner at the virtual Chinese restaurant next to the virtual Holiday Village cinema, where the virtual press screenings are held, and virtually falling down in the snow on our way to the virtual bus stop because we were distracted by a virtual celebrity sighting.
The important thing is the movies, and even though we’re not able to enjoy them with a crowd of festivalgoers and fellow critics, we’ll be doing our darndest to properly steer you in the right direction for what to watch in the future, whether it’s during your own virtual Sundance experience or their eventual release. We’ve selected 21 titles we’re most looking forward to and are set to review during Sundance ’21. Stay tuned for any extras to be added, as well, by bookmarking all of our Sundance coverage here.
Prano Bailey-Bond’s feature directorial debut pays homage to the “video nasty” craze of the 1980s, as well as the hysteria surrounding the violent horror films in Britain at that time. Set during the era, the plot follows a film censor (Niamh Algar) who is set on finding out what happened to her long-missing sister while also dealing with a controversy involving a movie she approved that allegedly inspired a gruesome murder. With its warning/promise of extreme gore, its historical context, and the way those two aspects are thematically intertwined, Censor has something for just about everyone (so long as you’re okay with the imagery), even non-horror junkies like me. (Christopher Campbell)
Coming Home in the Dark
The last sentence of Coming Home in the Dark’s description on the Sundance website reads a disclaimer: “Contains extreme violence and gore.” If you’re into that sort of thing, James Ascroft’s first directorial feature sounds like a road trip movie from hell as a family finds themselves fighting against pure ruthlessness to survive. Horror and carnage fans (like me) can get ready for this experience as the torture is sure to bring out some dark family secrets as well as, you know, blood. (Shea Vassar)
Dash Shaw very well might emerge as the next big thing in animation. So far, the Cryptozoo stills alone have looked fascinating, comprised of several different styles of animation and kaleidoscopic expressions that harken back to Yellow Submarine at a glance. Drawn over a period of four years in Richmond, Virginia, by a relatively small team of artists, the film is about a zoo/sanctuary that houses cryptids, or mutant-like creatures, in hopes of keeping them alive. Lake Bell, Peter Stormare, Michael Cera, and Zoe Kazan are among a strong cast that lent their voices to the hallucinatory project. We can’t guarantee it will be great, but we can guarantee it will be impressive. (Luke Hicks)
Eight for Silver
Werewolf films, like vampire films, offer up an extremely malleable creature mythology that allows room for a wide variety of stories and interpretations. Where they differ, though, is the ubiquitous nature of on-screen vampires and the dearth of werewolf movies. The point being that any new werewolf film is automatically worth a watch. Eight for Silver earns more than just a general recommendation, however, as it also looks to be a sumptuous period piece promising lycanthropic thrills, gothic chills, and bodily spills. Writer/director Sean Ellis (Cashback, Metro Manila) continues to jump between genres, but his latest promises to deliver a solid slice of werewolf horror — and that’s more than enough to get our butts in the seat. (Rob Hunter)
Coming of age movies that see their protagonists veer into wildly exaggerated antics and close calls with dangerous characters and more in the name of catching a girl’s attention are a common enough subgenre, but they’re almost exclusively the domain of white leads. First Date offers a long-overdue shakeup in that regard by featuring a Black teen at the heart of the mayhem, miscommunications, and mixups. The goal is the same, as his efforts to woo his crush result in one crazy night involving stolen goods, dirty cops, drug dealers, and worse, but through it all, his heart remains focused, pure, and hopefully still beating. (Rob Hunter)
How It Ends
Zoe Lister-Jones (Band Aid) and husband Daryl Wein (Mozart in the Jungle) team up to write and direct this apocalypse comedy, about a woman racing to make it to one last party and tie up loose ends before an asteroid destroys the planet. How It Ends seems prescient in its narrative relationship to (*gestures vaguely*) everything going on in the world right now. Lister-Jones proved an astute directing talent with Band Aid, which premiered at Sundance in 2017 (she more recently helmed the soft reboot of The Craft), and now her first co-directed film spotlights an impressive cast, including herself alongside Fred Armisen, Olivia Wilde, Helen Hunt, Lamorne Morris, and Nick Kroll. (Brianna Zigler)