SXSW 2012: What To Look Forward To

Austin’s own SXSW film festival 2012 is fast approaching, and now it’s time to fill out those screening schedules and decide what can‘t be missed, and what‘s expendable. The film slate this year looks pretty intriguing, and it really has to be to live up to the edgy films of last year (like James Wan’s spooky tale Insidious, and Xavier Gens’ apocalyptic horror The Divide).

Running from March 9th to the 17th (yes, a mere week away), this year’s festival will open with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s much-anticipated Cabin in the Woods. It‘s a nod to that horror sub-genre that promises to put a spin on the basic cabin-in-the-woods conceit. The fact that the buzz has been pretty positive so far, and that fan boy icons Whedon (Serenity) and Goddard (Cloverfield) co-wrote it, give me great hope.

Cabin in the Woodsd is getting so much buzz that at this point I’m almost getting worried. My expectations will be so high going into this film that–unless it’s completely awesome in every way–I’ll probably have some level of disappointment. Of course, that’s a risk I’ll happily take to see Whedon and Goddard’s creative love child and homage to this horror sub-genre.

The “Midnighters” have me most excited. This could be due to the fact that I’m a horror buff, or it could be due to the fact that most of the non-genre film titles just sound a little uninspired this year. The film portion of SXSW is set up by category, so you basically have film sections like “Narratives” (mostly indie dramas), “Headliners” (the bigwigs, usually less-than-indie), “Documentaries” (self-explanatory), “Shorts” (also self-explanatory), some interesting stuff from around the world (the SXGlobal category), and the “Midnighters” (those brave genre films taking on the Drama Elite).

As for the “Midnighters,” I think some of these might turn out to be sleeper hits much like Insidious. Take V/H/S, an intriguing horror anthology-thingy showcasing the directing talents of Ti West (Innkeepers), Adam Wingard (You’re Next), Joe Swanberg, and others. West’s last festival showing was Innkeepers, which I personally found tedious and plodding. But this co-op film between him and the other directors has to, if nothing else, be an exciting smash-up of styles and creative edges.

There’s also [REC] 3: Genesis, a continuation of the “found-footage” rabies horror series. John Dies at the End also looks good; based on a popular book, it deals with a new designer drug called “soy sauce” that ultimately leads to an otherworldly invasion. International horror/comedy Iron Sky must be mentioned, as it is (and I’m not kidding) a movie about Nazis returning to earth from their hiding place on the moon. Honorable mention includes an Irish feral-children themed pic called Citadel, and a disturbing battle of the sexes in Girls Against Boys.

There’s an intriguing category this year called “Festival Favorites,” which showcases fan favorites that have previously screened or premiered at other film festivals. Most of this list caught my interest, particularly Sundance fave The Imposter, Kid-Thing, and Safety Not Guaranteed.

The Imposter surrounds an abducted child who is returned to his family after years of absence. It soon becomes apparent that things are not as they should be, as his family notices differences in him that can’t be explained by the abduction. Kid-Thing looks to be a twisted psychological thriller, where a little girl without parental guidance roams the wilderness and comes upon a woman trapped in a well. What will she do, given that her world is morality-free?

Safety Not Guaranteed follows some investigative reporters as they delve into a newspaper’s classified ad. What makes this ad so intriguing is that it’s a man seeking a partner for time travel. These three films are just the tip of the iceberg in this category. These titles, among others, merit a must-see slot on my schedule.

21 Jump Street is among the big headliners, and though it’s not a TV-to-film adaptation I have any great interest in seeing, I’ve heard some really good things about it from people who are in the “know.” Same goes for the documentaries. I’m not one who usually gets stoked about documentaries, but the line-up actually has my attention. There’s Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies (title kind of says it all), as well as a documentary on subversive art in the Middle East called The Sheik and I.

All in all, my schedule is already full up, and I’m having to do a Sophie’s Choice on some of the titles I can’t decide between. To check out the film line-up yourself, visit the official SXSW 2012 website. I’ll keep you updated as I get a look at the cinematic goods SXSW has to offer.