If horror movies were somehow constructed via a sports-style draft, imagine what visual and storytelling elements would be top picks. Flickering lightbulbs? Sure thing. Mysterious basement? You bet. Shrieking children? Most definitely. So it’s a testament to Australian director Jennifer Kent’s feature debut "The Babadook" that it manages to incorporate so many of these ingredients from lesser films to create something that's compelling even when it's not disturbing on a primordial level. Read more here.
"Under the Electric Sky"
To the untrained eye, the Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas (known as EDC to the initiated) looks like a gigantic theme park. It features rides, ferris wheels, giant artwork sets and, most notably, a near-impossible volume of people. But in place of roller coasters, EDC has a different kind of entertainment based on ups and downs: Eight stages house some of the biggest electronic dance music acts in the world. Through the experiences of six different groups of festival-goers, Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz' "Under the Electric Sky" combines personal stories with an overarching sense of what it might be like to spend a weekend in the desert with hundreds of thousands of spiritual allies. Read more here.
"Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead"
There’s something unappetizing about a genre that derives its comical foundation from viscera in the most absurd, graphic, and repetitive sense. Like its predecessor, “Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead” heaps entrails and endless liters of blood onto the screen as straight-faced actors combat a Nazi zombie uprising. There are those who want nothing more, but the excesses of this sequel are resoundingly empty. Read more here.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly where does William Eubank’s "The Signal" goes from being an alluring and contained science fiction thriller into a full blown parade of slow-motion-driven visual effects. Its irreverent stylistic choices range from found footage to romance tropes and a heavy dose of high-tech alien robotics. The director's sophomore film, following his debut "Love," is defined by immeasurable ambition. While that previous effort reached for existentially profound ideas, here the narrative and its numerous components suffer from a gratuitous, empty feel. Read more here.
Gore can only go so far in the service of humor. Fortunately, the team behind "Cooties"—which includes "Saw" creator Leigh Whannell" and "Glee" creator Ian Brennan—manage to pit comedy and horror together in a satisfying package. Whannell and Brennan's unapologetically absurd script pairs nicely with Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion’s terse direction in this solid midnight movie, where the laughs outnumber the body count tenfold. Yet, when Milott and Murnion dial it up, we forget we spent the last ten minutes cracking up. Read more here.
How Sundance's New Frontier Section Confronts Age-Old Ideas and New Questions
Now in its eighth year, New Frontier is the Sundance Film Festival's series highlighting innovation and experimentation in modern storytelling. Read more here.
"Through a Lens Darkly"
Mainly tailed to function for educational purposes, Thomas Allen Harris' “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People” contains a collage of images that tell the story of African Americans’ photographic representation within the context of the country's broader history. Extremely ambitious in scope and meticulously assembled, the movie is undeniably a passion project sporting the filmmaker's investment in its themes. Read more here.