Our favorite genre fest is back with a vengeance, this year fully in person! 2023’s SXSW Film Festival is host to a vast array of titles both big and small, so how to choose amongst the plentiful options? Don’t worry, we’re here to help put some of our favorites on your radar! Check out out picks after the jump…
THE ANGRY BLACK GIRL AND HER MONSTER
(Written by Allison Brown) In a time where police brutality, gun violence, and extreme racism are at the forefront, it is surprising that no other horror film until The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster has really tried to explore the “angry black female” archetype. The scene is perfectly set with an atrocious “Karen” to match as lead character Vicaria’s (Laya DeLeon Hayes) teacher. Director Bomani J. Story thankfully handles these sensitive, imperative topics with care and ties them in creatively with a disturbing body horror concept. Step inside “mad scientist” Vicaria’s world, where “death is a disease” and “there’s a cure.” A deliciously gory young adult Frankenstein delight where a well-intentioned endeavor to resurrect fallen family evolves into a monster revenge tale for all to enjoy.
One woman’s inner turmoil becomes a shit-talking outer tumor that grows and grows in writer/director Anna Zlokovic’s cringey little blast of fun, Appendage. The short film of the same name, which played 2022’s Sundance and became part of Hulu’s Bite Size Halloween, was a lean, focused piece that perfectly executed its obvious depiction of externalized self-doubt; the expansion of this fascinating story into a full-length feature is one not to be missed under any circumstances. With a strange mythology, darkly comedic moments that shine through, and noteworthy performances from Hadley Robinson and Emily Hampshire, get ready for one fun ride.
I Used To Be Funny
(Written by Allison Brown) Rachel Sennott’s star continues to rise with a new dramedy from writer/director Ally Pankiw, I Used To Be Funny. After becoming an au pair for a struggling family, Sam (Rachel Sennott) forms a close bond with daughter Brooke (Olga Petsa). Sam is an unconventional nanny with no filter, and an R-rated stand-up comedy career on the side. Following a series of traumatic incidents, Brooke goes missing, and Sam may be the only one who can help. Unfortunately, Sam’s PTSD has taken hold and leaves her unable to move forward. For those who may be triggered by content with sexual assault, press play on I Used To Be Funny with a touch of caution. If one can handle it, prepare for another superb performance from Sennott.
Join or Die
(Written by Intern, Wyatt Frantz) Join or Die places a magnifying glass on a simple, yet surprisingly crucial topic: clubs. Directors Pete and Rebecca Davis unravel Robert Putnam’s novel Bowling Alone, which chronicles America’s declining social interaction. His life’s work on display opens one’s eyes and teaches us all how to work together to become a happier, more successful country. A staggering amount of importance is placed on many small, quaint communities that have proven to be surprisingly influential in American history. When the credits roll, one is bound to want to join a club of their own! Anticipate a handful of surprisingly notable politician cameos, ranging from Hilary Clinton to Pete Buttigieg. Essential viewing for any young political scientist or sociologist, this one is not to be missed!
The Long Game
(Written by Allison Brown) The Long Game teaches a forgotten part of history of which one may be unaware: Mexican-American segregation in Texas. Fans of Radical at this year’s Sundance might be inspired by this film as well. Director Julio Quintana repurposes the true story of Humberto G. Garcia’s book Mustang Miracle into a heartwarming film. A delinquent group of teen caddies employed at the premier local country club where Mexican-Americans are not permitted to play take advantage of a loophole in the system to become a viable team: The Mustangs. This misfit group went on to win the 1957 Texas State High School Golf Championship, and hold their record for another 36 years! Golf enthusiasts are bound to spend their night researching the real history-making team after their time spent with The Long Game.
Multiple Emmy-nominee for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for every season of Better Call Saul, Bob Odenkirk powers through to his next iconic role in dark dramedy, Lucky Hank. This time, Odenkirk stuns as Professor Hank Devereaux, an English department chairman whose patience has officially depleted for his cocky students and underqualified associates. After making the bold claim that Railton College is “mediocrity’s capitol” during a total outburst, Hank becomes the talk of the town—and scourge of the school’s divisive town board. They try to ice him out as Hank devolves into a total meltdown in the midst of a clear midlife crisis. Prepare for dark comedy of the highest order, courtesy of Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly Brothers (There’s Something About Mary, Me, Myself & Irene).
PAY OR DIE
(Written by Allison Brown) The cost of healthcare in the United States is at an all-time high. If one suddenly loses their job or falls off their parents’ insurance, out-of-pocket costs can reach the thousands, leading many to neglect their health. Even with insurance, high deductibles and co-pays make it hard for the average American to afford necessary expenses. Pay or Die, from directors Rachael Dyer and Scott Alexander Ruderman, comes at a time more vital than ever to educate the public. Three stories are portrayed within: politically active parents of a 20-something diabetic who wrongfully passed away, a mother and preteen daughter duo on the cusp of homelessness traveling to Canada to purchase medication, and a millennial woman recently diagnosed during the pandemic trying to decipher her new diagnosis, and the new practices she must take on. For those who prefer their documentaries to inform and educate, this may be a crucial look at the dire straits of our country.
THE WRATH OF BECKY
Almost exactly three years after the first Becky knocked the proverbial socks off everyone at my drive-in theatre showing, The Wrath of Becky returns in a violent blaze of glory. In-universe, four years have passed since Becky almost single-handedly dispatched a Neo-Nazi group and nabbed the key they so desperately sought. Now a sixteen-year-old bouncing from one foster home to the next, Becky’s life is about to be upended when she becomes embroiled in the dastardly orbit of an alt-right group planning the next insurrection. Seann William Scott seems to be the mastermind behind it all, while Lulu Wilson’s return as Becky is a total hoot. A brand-new creative team led by writer/director duo Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote gives The Wrath of Becky a decidedly different feel from the first. Get ready for grenades, bear traps, and crossbows as Becky seeks her bloody revenge!
For more information about this year’s exciting iteration of the SXSW Film Festival, including ticketing and the entire lineup, please head over to the official festival website for full details.