(September 18) Schoolkids become zombies in this horror-comedy that stars Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, and Alison Pill.

From the twisted minds of Leigh Whannell (co-creator of Saw and Insidious) and Ian Brennan (co-creator of “Glee”), COOTIES is a horror comedy with unexpected laughs and unapologetic thrills. When a cafeteria food virus turns elementary school children into killer zombies, a group of misfit teachers must band together to escape the playground carnage. The film stars Elijah Wood (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings), Rainn Wilson (“The Office”), and Alison Pill (“The Newsroom”) as teachers who fight to survive the mayhem while hilariously bickering in an uncomfortable love triangle on the worst Monday of their lives. COOTIES will be one of the debut releases of the newly-launched Lionsgate Premiere label, which will release the film on September 18th in select theaters and on demand.

Prophet’s Prey

(September 18) Amy Berg documents the criminal and sexually abusive actions of an offshoot of the Mormon church in this chilling doc. There’s an argument to be made that Berg fails to give much in the way of background story to the main investigation here, but the core of the film — a look into a megalomaniac who has scary control over his followers. On, and the score is by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Like any good religious tale, it boils down to sex, greed, and the preservation of wealth. When Warren Jeffs rose to lead the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), he brought his dictatorial and sadistic desires to bear on a society that was all too vulnerable to exploitation. The FLDS was already a paternalistic religion with a history of polygamous and underaged marriage, yet Warren managed to expand these practices in unprecedented ways, bridging the gap between sister wives and ecclesiastically-justified rape. This film will examine Warren Jeffs’ life to show how he seized control of people’s lives and an organization worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Warren has a devout following, numbering in the tens of thousands – many who would give their life at any moment with just one word from the Prophet. Despite a trail of abuse and ruined lives, Warren has maintained his grip on power and created a more obedient following. Meanwhile, the world has turned a blind eye toward his fundamentalist fiefdom in Southern Utah.

The Primary Instinct

(September 22 on VOD) Conflict of interest alert: The Primary Instinct is directed by our own Dave Chen, based on the podcast he created with Stephen Tobolowsky as a spin-off from the /Filmcast. The film documents one of Tobolowsky’s spoken-word performances in Seattle.

THE PRIMARY INSTINCT is a concert film in which Tobolowsky plays himself and uses the art of storytelling to take the audience through a journey of life, love, and Hollywood. The movie takes place as a series of stories performed and filmed at the Moore Theatre in front of a live audience of a thousand people. With a folksy style, Tobolowsky describes the trials and tribulations of being a character actor, the joys of childhood and parenthood, and the bonds of family. Along the way, Tobolowsky just may answer one of the questions that’s dogged storytellers since the beginning of time: Why do we tell stories in the first place?

Finders Keepers

(September 25) One of the weirdest true story docs we’ve run across in a while was also one of our Sundance favorites.

When his amputated leg is discovered in a grill sold at a North Carolina auction, John Wood finds himself at the center of a worldwide media frenzy. Believing the new-found attention to be his chance at doing some great things in an otherwise disappointing, wayward life, he’s quickly swept up in the hysteria as the leg’s enterprising buyer, Shannon Whisnant, then sues to regain its custody. But the stranger-than-fiction chain of events, fueling John’s drug addiction and compounded by generations of his familial dysfunction, soon sets John on the streets and heading to his certain demise. Just in time, however, another twist in these fantastical occurrences gives John a final shot at becoming whole for the first time in his life.

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story

(September 25) The documentary about Lizzie Velasquez has been rending hearts as it took the spotlight in preview screenings over the last couple months, thanks to an impossible to resist story of determination and motivation.

A BRAVE HEART follows the inspiring journey of 26-year-old, 63-pound Lizzie from cyberbullying victim to anti-bullying activist. Born with a rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Velasquez was first bullied as a child in school for looking different. As a teenager, she was bullied even more prominently online when she discovered a YouTube video labeling her “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” The film chronicles unheard stories and details of Lizzie’s physical and emotional journey up to her multi-million viewed TEDxAustinWomen talk (#1 TEDWomen event of 2013) and follows her evolution as motivational speaker and activist as she lobbies Congress for the first federal anti-bullying bill; the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA). The film features private moments with Lizzie’s family including her parents, Rita and Lupe, and siblings Chris and Marina Velasquez. Also appearing in the doc are Anti-bullying advocate and Founder of the Megan Meier Foundation, Tina Meier, anti-bullying expert Dr. Bob Faris and Congresswomen Linda Sanchez, author of SSIA.

Continue Reading 25 Independent (and a Few Other) Movies We’re Excited to See in Fall 2015 >>

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