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RLJE, IFC, and Shudder are bringing the heat to SXSW 2024, with four must-see premieres sure to create a buzz at the influential fest.

SXSW

Every year, the combined superpower of RLJE Films, IFC Films, and Shudder (all part of the AMC Network Film Group) seems to deliver a tour-de-force showing at the nation’s biggest film festivals, including SXSW and Fantastic Fest.

The outstanding indie distribution companies and the powerhouse genre-dedicated streaming site have developed a reputation for premiering some of the most buzzed-about genre films of the year, including 2023’s surprise sensation When Evil Lurks and what promises to be the next big thing in indie horror, the incredible Late Night With the Devil (making its world premiere at SXSW 2023 and hitting U.S. theaters on March 22, 2024 before landing on Shudder on April 19, 2024).

Whenever I receive the slate of films from RLJE/IFC/Shudder ahead of a film festival I’m attending, I immediately move them to the top of my critical viewing queue and plan everything else around these essential picks. Thus, having just received the highly anticipated release radar ahead of SXSW 2024, I’m eager to report that the trio has once again secured their absolute chokehold on my peak attention.

Here are just a few of the films I will be anxiously seated for and eagerly reporting back to you on, dear reader.

ARCADIAN (RLJE Films) – World Premiere

Arcadian SXSW

If you know me at all or follow my writing and/or podcasts, you know that the incomparable thespian Nicolas Cage is the cinematic love of my life. I will giddily show up for any project he’s attached to. Sure, some of his projects are more memorable than others, but he never fails to deliver a charismatic screen presence like none other.

In the past couple of years, he’s been making some stellar choices and delivering career-defining performances (in films like Pig, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, and Dream Scenario) — no small feat for an Oscar-winning actor whose illustrious career has spanned more than four decades and includes well over 100 films.

So, you better believe when I saw his name in the cast for an upcoming RLJE release, I was fully invested, even before getting to the truly intriguing premise of the film.

Directed by Ben Brewer and written by Mike Nilon, Arcadian takes place in the near future, when normal life on Earth will be decimated. Paul (Cage) and his two sons, Thomas (Maxwell Jenkins, Lost in Space and Reacher television series) and Joseph (Jaeden Martell, IT, Knives Out), have been living a half-life – tranquility by day and torment by night. When the sun sets, ferocious creatures of the night awaken and consume all living souls in their path.

Want to get more excited? Ben Brewer did visual effects for Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Writer Nilon has served as producer on countless Nic Cage joints, including The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Willy’s Wonderland, Running with the Devil, Vengeance: A Love Story, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, Pay the Ghost, Left Behind, and Rage. I’m unsure why the two men have worked together so extensively, but I’m taking it as a good sign.

Brewer, Cage, Martell, Jenkens, and Sadie Soverall (who recently dazzled in Saltburn) are scheduled to attend the film’s premiere at SXSW.

DANDELION (IFC Films) – World Premiere

Dandelion SXSW

Directed and written by Nicole Reigel (Holler), the dramatic/musical/romance Dandelion has been getting tremendous buzz since being picked up by IFC Films. Featuring an original score and music from Grammy-winning artists Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National (The Revenant, Cyrano), Dandelion (Kiki Layne, Don’t Worry Darling, If Beale Street Could Talk) follows a struggling Cincinnati singer-songwriter in the midst of a downward spiral.

She takes a last-ditch effort gig at a motorcycle rally in South Dakota, where she meets Casey (Thomas Doherty, The Invitation), a guitarist who walked away from his dream long ago. As Dandelion joins Casey’s nomadic group of struggling musicians, the kindred spirits make music together and strike up a whirlwind romance. The experience moves Dandelion from a narrow view of success to a deeper appreciation of her artistic journey and the discovery of a voice that is authentically her own.

Bryce Dessner won a Grammy for his album Murder Ballades with Eighth Blackbird, and Aaron Dessner won one for Album of the Year with Taylor Swift’s Folklore.

Reigel first earned critical acclaim with her SXSW breakout film Holler, making Variety‘s 10 Directors to Watch list, as well as earning an Indie Spirit nomination for Best First Feature. Layne’s breakout role was in Barry Jenkins’ 2018 drama If Beale Street Could Talk, which gained accolades amongst critics groups and a Gotham Award nomination for Breakthrough Actor. And I’ve been a fan of the talented Doherty since (don’t laugh) Descendents 2; the man has a sizzling screen presence.

Reigel, who describes the film as being “about dreams and a love of process,” will be in attendance at the premiere with stars Layne and Doherty.

GHOSTLIGHT (IFC Films) – Texas Premiere

Hot off rave reviews out of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, Ghostlight, directed by Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson, has been hailed as a charming, funny, and tender story about family tragedy and human connection.

The threadbare plot synopsis reads: When a construction worker unwittingly joins a local theater’s production of “Romeo and Juliet”, the drama onstage starts to mirror his own life. Honestly, one of my favorite parts of film festivals is going in pretty blind to most screenings, which only seems to enhance my viewing enjoyment. So I love that I don’t know much about this film outside of its Sundance buzz.

I was also an English major and have a natural affinity for anything related to the Bard. Rumor has it this one will focus heavily on the healing power of art — and the power of theater to move its audience and its actors — and that description alone has already bewitched me mind, body, and soul.

O’Sullivan and Thompson caused a splash at SXSW in 2019 with the outstanding Saint Frances. Both will be in attendance at SXSW, along with stars Keith Kupferer, Katherine Mallen Kupferer, and Tara Mallen.

ODDITY (Shudder) – World Premiere

Perhaps the film that should be most on the radar for genre fans and Morbidly Beautiful readers is the Shudder original Oddity, written and directed by Damian McCarthy.

McCarthy has proven himself to be one to watch following his extraordinary feature debut Caveat. At this point, let me stop right here and urge you to do yourself a huge favor. If you haven’t already seen Caveat on Shudder, this is your siren call to change that immediately.

A masterpiece of understated horror and expertly crafted creeping suspense, 2020’s Caveat is about a drifter named Isaac (Jonathan French) who accepts a job to look after his landlord’s niece, Olga (Leila Sykes), in an isolated house on a remote island. The film is set almost entirely in one location, with two people trapped in a moldy, dimly-lit house. And if that doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, I assure you it’s far more compelling and immersive than it sounds on paper, thanks to a great script, stellar direction, and jaw-dropping set design. 

Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked about McCarthy’s sophomore effort. According to the synopsis, Oddity is about a blind medium who uncovers the truth behind her sister’s death with the help of a frightening wooden mannequin. Billed as a supernatural spectacle, I’m anticipating this will be one of my highlights of SXSW 2024.

McCarthy will be in attendance at the fest, with stars Gwilym Lee and Carolyn Bracken.

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