2016 SXSW Preview: 10 Things We're Excited To See

Year after year, SXSW proves itself to be one of the best film festivals in the world, offering an astonishing variety of programming that appeals to every taste. Emotional arthouse dramas? Yep. An always stellar documentary line-up? You betcha. An insane midnight program that offers a look at bonkers movies from all over the world? Of course. Gigantic premieres and previews for upcoming studio releases and high anticipated TV shows? Take a guess.

So when we decided to limit our 2016 SXSW preview to only ten titles, we knew we were leaving dozens of fascinating movies on the cutting room floor. But that's the joy of any film festival – you go in with certain expectations, only to stumble over a whole slate of great films you never saw coming. /Film will be in attendance at SXSW, bringing you news and reviews straight from the fest, but here are the screenings we're looking forward to seeing the most.

beware the slenderman

Beware the Slenderman

Synopsis: BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN tells the story of the internet's elusive Boogeyman and two 12-year-old girls who would kill for him. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier lured their best friend into the woods, stabbed her 19 times, then set out on an odyssey to meet the tall and faceless man known online as Slenderman. Shot over 18 months with heartbreaking access to the families of the would-be murderers, the film plunges deep down the rabbit hole of their crime, a Boogeyman and our society's most impressionable consumers of media. The entrance to the internet can quickly lead us to its dark basement, within just a matter of clicks. How much do we hold children responsible for what they find there?

Why We're Intrigued: If you've read New York Magazine's stomach-churning account of the crime at the center of this documentary, you already know that this is a fascinating, heartbreaking, and terrifying true crime story that deserves a long, hard look. This is a story for and about the modern internet age, a portrait of how urban legends are born in the age of web forums and social media. This has the potential to be infinitely more unsettling than a straightforward horror movie about the "Slenderman" mythos.

everybody wants some

Everybody Wants Some

Synopsis: A "spiritual sequel" to DAZED AND CONFUSED set in the world of 1980 college life, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME is a comedy that follows a group of friends as they navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood. Get ready for the best weekend ever.

Why We're Intrigued: We were sold at "A Film by Richard Linklater" and we were further sold by the overwhelmingly positive response at an early screening. There doesn't seem to be much plot here – a group of friends, united by being on the same baseball team, hang out and drink and party and struggle through life while attending college in the '80s – but this is from a filmmaker who has mastered making conversations and genial hangouts so compelling. Plus, how could we attend a film festival in Austin, Texas, where Linklater is regarded as a god among mortals, and not check out his latest opus?

hardcore henry trailer

Hardcore Henry

Synopsis: Strap in. HARDCORE HENRY is an unflinchingly original wild-ride: You remember nothing because you've just been brought back from the dead by your wife. She tells you that your name is Henry. Five minutes later, you are being shot at, your wife has been kidnapped, and you should probably go get her back. Who's got her? His name's Akan – a powerful warlord with an army of mercenaries, and a plan for world domination. You're also in an unfamiliar city of Moscow, and everyone wants you dead. Everyone except for a mysterious fellow called Jimmy. He may be on your side, but you aren't sure. If you can survive, and solve the mystery, you might just discover the truth behind your identity.

Why We're Intrigued: Hardcore Henry looks insane. We're not even sure if it looks good or bad (the jaw-dropping trailers suggest it could go either way) but it certainly looks unmissable. This movie looks like it deserves to be seen on the biggest, loudest movie screen imaginable, preferably in a packed house. The movie's central gimmick, that it's a big, bombastic action film shot entirely from the first person perspective, makes this one of the first modern movies to truly embrace video game storytelling as a narrative device. That alone makes it fascinating.

in a valley of violence

In a Valley of Violence

Synopsis: From Blumhouse, a mysterious stranger, and a random act of violence drags a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody crosshairs of revenge.

Why We're Intrigued: It's been three years since director Ti West's disturbing horror film The Sacrament made the festival rounds and five years since his delightful ghost tale The Innkeepers scared the pants off of people at SXSW. Now, the House of the Devil director is back and he's taken a few steps away from the horror genre. In a Valley of Violence is a western starring an unlikely batch of actors (Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, Karen Gillan) from a director who is a master at turning the screws on the audience, building tension until his stories explode with violence. And as the title of the movie implies, things probably won't end will for anyone in this film. No one makes movies about bad things happening to good people (and occasionally bad people) quite like West.

keanu movie

Keanu

Synopsis: A mysterious catnapping triggers a chain of events that lead cousins Clarence and Rell into the belly of LA's criminal underworld. Suburbanites at heart, the hapless pair are ill-equipped to deal with the threats and illegal activities that lie ahead, but they have no choice but to dive in and rescue Rell's beloved kitten, Keanu.

Why We're Intrigued: Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele may have brought their beloved sketch comedy series Key & Peele to an end, but they didn't even give us time to mourn before they were together again in a feature film directed by frequently collaborate Peter Atencio. The red band trailer for Keanu, which follows two suburbanites who enter the criminal underworld to rescue a kidnapped kitten, is the single best preview we've seen in 2016 and if the movie lives up to it, we're in for a very good time at the movies. This is technically a work-in-progress cut of the film, an excuse for the filmmakers to test their film and gauge what works and what doesn't, which could prove fascinating. Seeing what changes between now and when it opens in April could be very revealing.

midnight special tv spots

Midnight Special

Synopsis: In the sci-fi thriller MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, writer/director Jeff Nichols proves again that he is one of the most compelling storytellers of our time, as a father (Michael Shannon) goes on the run to protect his young son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), and uncover the truth behind the boy's special powers. What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Ultimately, his father risks everything to protect Alton and help fulfill a destiny that could change the world forever, in this genre-defying film as supernatural as it is intimately human.

Why We're Intrigued: Jeff Nichols' first foray into studio filmmaking landed on a few of our most anticipated of 2016 lists and for good reason – of course we want to see a science fiction adventure starring Michael Shannon that looks like it escaped from the golden age of Amblin. The trailers have done a fine job of masking major story details, so we're left with what looks like an intriguing mystery with shades of Starman and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Then again, all you really have to say is that this is from the director of Take Shelter and Mud to get our butts in the theater.

pee-wee

Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday

Synopsis: In PEE-WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY, a fateful meeting with a mysterious stranger inspires Pee-wee Herman to take his first-ever holiday in this epic story of friendship and destiny.

Why We're Intrigued: Paul Reubens' Pee-Wee Herman exists on the fine line between nostalgia and genuine quality. Pee-Wee's Playhouse is the rare show from your childhood that remains weird and enchanting to your adult self and Tim Burton's Pee-Wee's Big Adventure is nothing short of a classic that delivers on every level. So the biggest enemy Pee-Wee's Big Holiday has to defeat is expectations. Can this new film, which will arrive on Netflix less than a day after its SXSW premiere, capture that same magic? Our fingers are crossed.

2016 sxsw preview

Preacher (TV Pilot)

Synopsis: Based on the popular, cult comic book franchise of the same name, PREACHER is a supernatural, twisted and darkly comedic drama that follows a West Texas preacher named Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), who is inhabited by a mysterious entity which causes him to develop a highly unusual power. Jesse, his badass ex-girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga) and an Irish vagabond named Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) come together and when they do, they are thrust into a crazy world populated by a cast of characters from Heaven, Hell and everywhere in between. The AMC Studios and Sony Pictures Television co-production was developed for television by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and showrunner Sam Catlin (BREAKING BAD).

Why We're Intrigued: The brainchild of the diseased writer Garth Ennis and the equally deranged artist Steve Dillon, the original Preacher comic remains shocking and vulgar and totally fascinating 16 years after it wrapped up its 75-issue run. And after more than a decade of false starts, the supernatural adventures of lapsed preacher turned Jesse Custer are coming to AMC. Word on the pilot has been mixed from early screenings (and fans need to prepare for the show to wildly diverge from the source material), but we remain fascinated. We still have no idea what Preacher looks like when ripped off the page. But we'll know soon enough.

sausage party sxsw

Sausage Party

Synopsis: Written by the team that brought you SUPERBAD, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and THIS IS THE END, SAUSAGE PARTY is a hilarious and eye-opening look into the secret world of food as it comes alive in ways you could never possibly imagine.

Why We're Intrigued: When it was initially heard that Sausage Party was going to play SXSW in a work-in-progress cut, we made a joke about how SXSW is one of the only major film festivals in the world that would proudly screen a raunchy, R-rated animated film about talking food. That was intended as a compliment then and it's still a compliment now. The pedigree behind the scenes here is incredible, with a script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and a cast that includes Jonah Hill, James Franco, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Edward Norton, and Michael Cera. And if someone is going to make a vulgar takedown of the "inanimate objects come to life and have an adventure" subgenre, we're glad it's the guys behind This is the End.

under the shadow

Under the Shadow

Synopsis: Tehran, 1988: Shideh lives amidst the chaos of the Iran-Iraq war. Having been accused of subversive behaviour and blacklisted from medical college, she is in a state of malaise. Furthermore, her husband Iraj is at war, leaving her alone to protect their young daughter, Dorsa. A missile hits their apartment building and doesn't explode. Soon afterwards, Dorsa falls ill and her behaviour becomes increasingly disturbed. Searching for answers, Shideh learns from a superstitious neighbour that the cursed, unexploded missile might have brought in Djinn – malevolent spirits that travel on the wind. She becomes convinced that a supernatural force within the building is attempting to possess Dorsa.

Why We're Intrigued: When Under the Shadow made the initial festival rounds last year, the response was glowing. Writer/director Babak Anvari's film received comparisons to The Babadook, another horror movie directed by a female filmmaker that uses the monster movie as an avenue to explore motherhood and family. The best horror films have something on their mind and the unique setting and creepy premise makes this one sound like a winner for genre fans and the arthouse crowd alike.