Many film festivals have gone virtual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but so far only one new festival has emerged during quarantine: Nightstream. The inaugural edition of the online horror festival came together over Oct. 8-11 thanks to a collaboration between a group of prolific regional genre festivals that included the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival and the Overlook Film Festival.
The beauty of attending a film festival, whether virtually or in-person, is finding hidden gems amongst the dozens of highlighted films. The New Flesh podcast, in conjunction with Yahoo Entertainment, immersed itself in Nightstream’s freaky offerings and emerged with this list of nine upcoming horror movies that you’ll definitely want to see, including one that features the big-screen acting debut of Steven Spielberg’s son. No spoilers!
Lawrence Michael Levine’s Black Bear feels like the biggest blockbuster on the indie horror festival circuit, if only because it stars two seasoned pros: Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Recreation and Christopher Abbott, formerly of HBO’s Girls. In a career-best performance, Plaza plays a female filmmaker stuck at a creative impasse, and seeks solace from her tumultuous past at rural retreat, only to find that the surrounding woods summon her inner demons in intense and surprising ways.
Much will be made of the meta plot turn that happens about 45 minutes into the movie and, in truth, it’s hard not to feel at least mildly disappointed by the fake-out. Regardless, it’s worth watching for the performances alone, and the conversations it’ll inspire after the credits roll.
Black Bear will be released in 2021 by Momentum Pictures.
Best described as an art-house riff on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre by way of the incredibly unsettling Resident Evil VII video game — although that feels like we’re giving away too much! — Devereux Milburn’s thoroughly depraved and tasteless debut feature unfurls as a masterful slow burn that you won’t be able to look away from. A couple’s road trip through rural America gets interrupted when they’re forced off their campsite and stumble across a lone house owned by a strange older woman living with her wheelchair-bound son whose head is covered in bandages. “Got kicked by a bull about six months ago, right in the face,” she explains. “Hasn’t been the same.”
Do we really need to say that things only get stranger from there? Honeydew also boasts the acting debut of Sawyer Spielberg, son of legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg, as well as a memorable cameo that’s perhaps more bizarre than the actual horrors on display. It’s a disorienting journey that’s sure to make you uneasy.
Dark Star and Bloody Disgusting are planning a theatrical release for Honeydew in March 2021 with a VOD/digital release and DVD to follow in April.
Anything for Jackson
Go check the IMDb page for Justin G. Dyck. We’ll wait...
All done? Yes, the man behind almost 25 Hallmark-y Christmas movies with titles like A Puppy for Christmas, My Dad Is Scrooge and Operation Christmas List is responsible for Anything for Jackson, a darkly funny, but also totally terrifying horror film about how far seemingly “normal” people are willing to go to save someone they love. Like, when you say you’d “do anything” for someone, do you consider “Satanism” part of that equation?
That’s what happens to Audrey and Henry after they lose their only grandson in a car accident. Grief-stricken, Henry kidnaps a pregnant woman with the intentions of performing a “reverse Exorcism” — putting Jackson’s spirit inside her unborn child. The film has been described as Misery meets Rosemary’s Baby, and it’s every bit as deranged and demented as that sounds... not to mention twice as fun.
Anything for Jackson will be released in 2021 by A71 Releasing.
Noah Hutton’s sophomore film may not be a horror film in the traditional sense; with its sci-fi overtones, the movie is basically an extended episode of Black Mirror, but like that series, it’s deeply unsettling enough to include on this list. In a parallel present, deliveryman Ray Tincelli is struggling to support himself and his ailing younger brother. After a series of two-bit hustles and unsuccessful swindles, he takes a job in a strange new realm of the gig economy: the quantum trading market.
Trekking deep into the forest, while pulling cable over miles of terrain to connect large metal cubes, Ray encounters various threats, and must choose whether he wants to help his fellow workers or get rich and get out. Boasting a fully-realized world and a clear allegorical connection to our current moment, Lapsis is great low-budget sci-fi that any gig economy worker will get a kick out of.
Lapsis will be released in 2021 by Film Movement.
Quentin Dupieux — the man behind cult genre hits like Deerskin and Rubber, that movie about a killer car tire — returns with a French comedy in the vein of Dumb and Dumber where the humor (and surreal scares) come from the silliness of every idea the main characters have. The premise is simple: Two simple-minded friends discover a giant fly in the trunk of a car and decide to domesticate it to earn money. Mandibles’s central joke turns out to be that this giant CGI monster fly doesn’t really have much to do with anything... or does it? Undeniably hilarious, Dupieux’s film is filled with quotable and kooky moments. And at a little over 70 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Mandibles will be released in 2021 by Magnolia Pictures.
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist
The behind-the-scenes horror stories about William Friedkin’s The Exorcist have been picked apart in countless books, documentaries and making-of articles — including by Yahoo Entertainment’s MVPs of Horror series — but there’s still nothing better than hearing them all from the horse’s mouth. Made in the vein of Noah Baumbach’s terrific Brian De Palma documentary, Leap of Faith consists of a single talking-head interview with Friedkin talking about his most popular film at length.
Director Alexandre O. Philippe, who previously helmed non-fiction features about Psycho and Alien, explores the uncharted depths of his subject’s mind, touching on the nuances of his filmmaking process, and the mysteries of faith and fate that have shaped his life and filmography. For fans of Friedkin or The Exorcist or just movies in general, Leap of Faith is a real treat.
Leap of Faith premieres Nov. 19 on Shudder.
My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To
While Jonathan Cuartas’s feature-length debut My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is far from the first movie to treat vampirism as a terminal illness or an addiction, the familiarity doesn’t dampen the impact of this effectively moody and contemplative horror drama that’s in the same... uh, vein of Let the Right One In. Owen Campbell and Almost Famous star Patrick Fugit — who gets to brood around with a beard! — headline this very understated film, and if you can deal with the pacing, you will be richly rewarded.
My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To will be released in 2021 by Dark Sky Films.
May the Devil Take You Too
If you enjoyed the 2018 Indonesian horror film May the Devil Take You — currently available on Netflix — you’re sure to love the sequel, which premiered on Shudder on Oct. 30. The original film had plenty of Sam Raimi-esque flourishes to it, and this one only ups the ante with even more direct references and homages. While the story requires a lot of set-up, once it gets to the third act, it all pays off rather well and the demons are just as scary as they were in the first movie.
May the Devil Take You Too is currently streaming on Shudder.
The Dark and the Wicked
Back in 2008, Bryan Bertino’s memorably creepy debut film, The Strangers, raised the bar for home invasion horror. Now he’s got another scary win with The Dark and the Wicked, which was one of the highlights at this year’s Fantasia Fest. A man is dying on a secluded farm in a nondescript rural town, and his family gathers to mourn even as evil forces assemble. The scares in the movie are genuinely shocking — so much so that you forgive the familiar premise and well-trodden archetypes.
The Dark and the Wicked will be released in theaters, digital and on demand on Friday, Nov. 6 from RLJE Entertainment.
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