Sundance Film Festival: 10 Park City picks for sci-fi and horror fans

Jan. 16, 2014 | 11:02 a.m.
000038 2761 onlyloversleftalive still1 tildaswinton tomhiddlesston  bygordonatimpen 2013 11 26 02 54 45pm Sundance Film Festival: 10 Park City picks for sci fi and horror fans

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston star in Jim Jarmusch's vampire film "Only Lovers Left Alive." (Gordon A. Timpen/Sony Pictures Classics)

000036 2776 lifeafterbeth still1 aubreyplaza danedehaan  bygregsmith 2013 11 27 04 20 12pm Sundance Film Festival: 10 Park City picks for sci fi and horror fans

Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan star in the horror comedy "Life After Beth." ( Greg Smith/Sundance)

Thursday evening sees the kickoff to the 2014 edition of the Sundance Film Festival, the annual indie confab that is the site of plenty of industry dealmaking and celeb-spotting as half of Hollywood seems to descend on Park City, Utah, for 10 days of hard-core movie-watching and celebrating.

The 2014 lineup features 117 feature-length films culled from more than 4,000 submissions, and a handful of those have a decidedly Hero Complex bent. With that in mind, here are 10 films to look out for. Some might be hard to find — Sundance movies don’t always land national theatrical distribution — but with VOD and online viewing options multiplying at a rapid clip, chances are good you’ll have the opportunity to see these titles in some fashion in the months ahead.

The Babadook: In Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent’s supernatural thriller, Essie Davis stars as a single mother whose son (Noah Wiseman) becomes fearful of a monster lurking in the house — a creature straight out of a spooky storybook with sinister aims. If the trailer for the film is any indication, the actress-turned-filmmaker appears to have conjured a chilling, evocative horror film, one that just might possibly introduce a new boogeyman into the cinematic pantheon. The film also stars Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West and Ben Winspear.

Cooties: An elementary school gets hit with a virus that turns its students into savages in the oddball horror comedy directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion and written by Leigh Whannell (“Saw,” “Insidious”) and Ian Brennan. Elijah Wood stars as the hero who leads the teachers in their fight for their lives. The cast includes Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer, “Saturday Night Live’s” Nasim Pedrad and Whannell.

Nazi zombies return in "Dead Snow: Red vs Dead." (Tappeluft Pictures)

Nazi zombies return in “Dead Snow: Red vs Dead.” (Tappeluft Pictures)

Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead: After trying his hand in Hollywood with last year’s R-rated fairy-tale action film “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” Norway’s Tommy Wirkola returns to the storyline that helped make his name in indie horror circles with a sequel to 2009’s “Dead Snow.” That film centered on a group of friends who, during a mountain retreat, run afoul of a battalion of former Nazi soldiers that had turned into zombies; the new movie picks up with Vegar Hoel’s Martin taking on the undead menace with a little bit of help. Expect lots of absurd black comedy and, most likely, copious amounts of blood and gore.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: A lonely vampire stalks the unsavory residents of an Iranian ghost town called Bad City in the first feature-length film from writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour. The black-and-white Farsi-language film, which is being billed as a western with an unusual romantic twist, stars Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Dominic Rains, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnó and Milad Eghbali. It’s also one of a number of notable movies playing in Park City this year from and about Iran.

I Origins: Writer-director Mike Cahill (“After Earth”) returns to Park City with a new existential sci-fi indie — this time about a molecular biologist (Michael Pitt) and his lab partner who come to question their thinking about science and spirituality in the face of a startling discovery with potentially life-altering ramifications. The cast includes “Another Earth” star Brit Marling as well as Astrid Bergès-Frisbey (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”) and Steven Yeun (“The Walking Dead”).

Killers: The Indonesian duo known as the Mo Brothers follow up their debut feature “Macabre” with the story of two violent men, one in Jakarta, one in Tokyo, who post videos of their crimes online in an unhinged bid for notoriety. Eventually they meet in a tense, bloody confrontation. Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya and Ray Sahetapy star.

Life After Beth: A new entry in the very, very specific subgenre of zombie romantic comedy, writer-director Jeff Baena’s new film centers on the relationship between Dane DeHaan’s Zach and Aubrey Plaza’s Beth. He’s devastated by her sudden, tragic death, but unexpectedly finds himself with a second chance at love. The cast also includes turns from John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines and Paul Reiser.

Only Lovers Left Alive: Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play immortal lovers in writer-director Jim Jarmusch’s moody vampire romance. The haunting chamber piece centers on the relationship between brooding raven-haired musician Adam (Hiddleston) and platinum-blond bohemian Eve (Swinton), and like last year’s underrated “Byzantium” from director Neil Jordan, underscores that there is still rich narrative territory to be mined when it comes to the mythic (and recently overexposed) monsters.

To Be Takei: Director Jennifer Kroot spends time with “Star Trek” actor George Takei in this documentary that charts his life from his time in an internment camp to his stint on Gene Roddenberry’s landmark series and on through his present-day life as an actor and gay rights activist.

The Voices: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s animated feature-film version of her graphic-novel memoir “Persepolis” earned the duo an Oscar nomination, and the pair’s follow-up, “Chicken With Plums,” also found favor with critics. Which leads moviegoers to expect great things from “The Voices,” an oddball story about a disturbed factory worker (Ryan Reynolds) who accidentally murders a colleague and then finds himself spurred on a fantastical journey by his talking dog and cat. Michael R. Perry wrote the script for the film, which also stars Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick and Jacki Weaver.

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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