The Sundance Film Festival is one of the biggest events in independent film each year. That’s surprising that it’s so successful to a former Salt Lake City resident like myself, because January is literally the worst time to be in Utah each year. The temperatures are always freezing, snow is constant, and the inversion makes the air hard to breathe. Sundance isn’t a film festival you go to, it’s one you survive. But still, despite the weather conditions, each year sees a new crop of films that stand as some of the best of the year. For instance, one of my favorites of 2014, Blue Ruin, played at Sundance last year. Here are some of the films I’m looking forward to catching this year.
Director: Eli Roth
A year ago, if you would have told me that I’d be this intrigued by an Eli Roth film I would have slapped you and demanded to speak with your parents. But here we are. I’ve never had any interest in Eli Roth. Eli Roth is pretty much the film equivalent of vomiting in your mouth. But add one thing and I’m suddenly excited for this film – Keanu Reeves. Reeves will play a happily married man who lets two young women into his home during a storm while his family is away for the weekend, pretty soon they turn his fantasy into a nightmare. For some reason the idea of Eli Roth’s absolute lack of subtlety and nuance combined with Reeves’s deadpan demeanor has me thinking this could be something special. There are so many possibilities with these two together that will be truly insane, I’m just hoping it’s the kind of insane that makes for a great movie. I’m ready to love Knock Knock, I just hope it’s ready to love me back.
Director: Bruce McDonald
To better prep myself for this film, I watched director Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool, which was a magnificent exercise in minimalist storytelling and claustrophobic filmmaking. His latest will follow a teenager as she tries to survive attacks from evil tric-or-treaters on Halloween. Harkening back to the films of John Carpenter’s heyday and keeping the action in one primary location sparks a lot of anticipation and promise from me. If Bruce McDonald can recapture even half of the claustrophic and Hitchcockian tension he had in Pontypool, then Hellions will make for a wildly engaging thrill ride.
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Following a young father as he tries to reclaim his family’s house by working for the by working for the greedy real estate broker that caused him the grief in the first place, Ramin Bahrani’s latest sounds enticing as it attempts to capture current societal issues. I’m always down for anything with Michael Shannon, plus it will be nice to see Andrew Garfield in an actual film again. His last actual film was in 2010’s The Social Network! With this and Martin Scorsese’s Silence, 2015 appears to be the return of Andre Garfield the actor.
Director: John Watts
“Two 10-year old boys steal an abandoned cop car.” Sometimes a logline is all you need to get you interested in a film. With that description and the photos released, it calls to mind homegrown working-class genre films like Blue Ruin, Cold in July and Shotgun Stories. Any film that reminds me of those films has my attention. Plus, look at Kevin Bacon’s mustache. How can you not want to see this?
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Following a lot of buzz from previous festivals, and a captivating trailer, this film already stands as an early frontrunner for best horror film of 2015. The premise is intriguing, following a teenager who after a strange sexual encounter is plagued by nightmarish visions and the constant unease that something is after her. I always enjoy horror films that physically manifest human fears and anxieties, and I look forward to seeing what director David Robert Mitchell does with the material.
Director: Rick Alverson
From the team that brought The Comedy to Sundance a few years ago comes the tale of an aging comedian as he journeys through the Mojave desert playing dead-end shows on his way to reunite with his estranged daughter. What really struck me about The Comedy was how focused and deliberate the aesthetic of the mumblecore script was, and I look forward to seeing how director Rick Alverson and his team of Gregg Turkington and Tim Heidecker further themselves as filmmakers.
Director: Gerard Barrett
There are two camps of people regarding Jack Reynor. There are those who have only seen him in Transformers: Age of Extinction and have written him off as a cardboard cutout interchangeable young hunk. Then there is the other camp who have also seen his performance in the small Irish indie What Richard Did and are extremely excited for what he can be capable of. In this film he plays a young taxi driver who gets involved in the local criminal underworld in an effort to reunite his family. When given the right material, Reynor can bring out a subdued fury that’s absolutely magnetic to watch, and I believe this film will be another instance of just how much talent is in this young man.