EVERYBODY DIES BY THE END (2022, USA, dir. Ian Tripp, Ryan Schafer): A documentary crew follows legendary director Alfred Costella as he completes his final practical-effects-driven horror film. This splattery showbiz satire lampoons the concept of the auteur with Vinny Curran (RESOLUTION) starring as the megalomaniacal director, giving a deranged performance that will make you wish you could watch Alfred Costella’s oeuvre in real life. Q&A with directors Ian Tripp and Ryan Schafer, cast and crew.
THE GULF OF SILENCE (2020, USA, dir. Mina Rhodes): The fictional Dr. Laura Gale, PhD, an experiencer and UFOlogist, acts as the subject of this true-to-form documentary as she chronicles decades of extraterrestrial encounters and coverups. The film is styled after the iconic gay documentary PORTRAIT OF JASON (1967, dir. Shirley Clarke) and features spectacular narration, sound design, and editing that come together to create a film that is all at once mysterious, avant-garde, and utterly enthralling. Q&A with director Mina Rhodes.
HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT 2: MINERVA (2023, USA, dir. Dutch Marich): Picking up where the 2021 film left off, HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT 2: MINERVA continues to explore mysterious disappearances in the high deserts of northeastern Nevada, introducing new victims, new forms of media, and plenty of new scares. Investigating the death of a woman in a locked house and a disappearance on an isolated stretch of Nevada highway, the film uncovers chilling similarities to the disappearance of Gary Hinge. HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT 2 builds on the scares and lore established in the first film with terrifying results which will leave you on the edge of your seat. Q&A with director Dutch Marich.
INVOKING YELL (2023, Chile, dir. Patricio Valladares): World premiere—Set in 1997 South of Chile, a trio of metalhead 20something girls venture into the woods to create their demo tape for their black metal band, Invoking Yell. While also documenting the eerie and unsettling process of recording psicofonías (EVP, or electronic voice phenomena) in the woods for the final track, dynamics between the girls begin to reveal a tension much greater than typical band infighting.
MEAN SPIRITED (2023, USA, dir Jeff Ryan): A failed influencer documenting his vacation with his friends for a vlogumentary turns into a nightmare when a demon joins the party. Set in the Poconos, MEAN SPIRITED explores the relationship between two former childhood best friends, one of whom has become an extremely famous actor and the other, an annoying and jealous vlogger. Friendships may die but evil never does. Q&A with producer Owen Williams.
R#J (2021, USA, dir. Carey Williams): California premiere—Up-and-coming director Carey Williams (Amazon’s EMERGENCY) pairs up with the master of in-world camera innovation, Timur Bekmambetov (UNFRIENDED, SEARCHING, MISSING), to bring us this dynamic Screenlife adaptation of the archetypical romantic tragedy. A Sundance premiere, this reimagining of ROMEO AND JULIET blends Shakespeare’s original dialogue with current social media shorthand to create a modern-day love story that could only be told through a smartphone. It’s Shakespearean Screenlife–love between nobles on mobiles.
RAZZENNEST (2022, Austria, dir. Johannes Grenzfurthner): South African enfant terrible filmmaker and artiste-cineaste Manus Oosthuizen meets with Rotten Tomatoes-approved indie film critic Babette Cruickshank in an Echo Park sound studio. With key members of Manus’ crew joining, they record an audio commentary track for his new elegiac feature documentary RAZZENNEST. But the session goes down a different path… Chaos ensues, but to say how and why would be spilling too many of this highly original art-house horror film’s deep, dark secrets.
SAFE WORD (2022, Japan, dir. Kōji Shiraishi): Continental U.S. premiere—Misa the Killer (Chisako Kawase) is a wrestler turned pop idol being filmed for a documentary when the owner of the S&M lounge H, Tsubaki (played by nonbinary model Ryuchell), recognizes her talent and recruits her as a dominatrix. Awakening to the rush of liberation behind the intensity of S&M, she decides to take on the roles of both idol and dominatrix. Found-footage horror icon Kōji Shiraishi takes the chance to play in a very different space in this pink film mockumentary, and with the assistance of a fantastically committed cast, his weirdness and humor truly shine.
SEX HOUSE (2012, USA): Repertory screening—Six sexy singles move into America’s hottest mansion meticulously designed for only one thing: sex. The Onion’s reality television spoof mutates from comedy to horror without breaking form, drawing attention to the ludicrous setup of (a media conglomerate coercing) strangers (into having hot, hot sex) being forced to live together on camera. Released episodically on YouTube, now presented in its entirety as a 75-minute binge.
TINSMAN ROAD (2023, USA, dir. Robbie Banfitch): World premiere—A young man searches for the body of his sister years after her tragic disappearance. Framed as raw documentary footage shot on real MiniDV cameras, TINSMAN ROAD is a chilling mystery uncovered while observing strained familial bonds that diverts from the heartstopping horror of Banfitch’s prior film, THE OUTWATERS. A beautifully eerie soundtrack by Salem Belladonna punctuates this tense thriller. Q&A with director Robbie Banfitch and cast.
TONTINE (2011, USA/Fiji, dir. Ezna Sands): A reality TV show becomes LORD OF THE FLIES, as the contestants quickly turn on each other when they find themselves shipwrecked on a desert island. Described as “BLAIR WITCH meets SURVIVOR on steroids”, real-life reality show star Rob Mariano (SURVIVOR, THE AMAZING RACE) went on an entire press tour promoting TONTINE as an upcoming reality show he was hosting. Shot on film on the island of Fiji with the assistance of Peter Jackson’s post house Park Road, this will be the first time the film is seen by an audience in over a decade, and it is not to be missed. Q&A with Producer Dean Zanuck.
THE TUNNEL (2011, Australia, dir. Carlo Ledesma): Repertory screening—In 2007, the New South Wales government suddenly scrapped a plan to utilize the water in the disused underground train tunnels beneath Sydney’s St. James Train Station. In 2008, chasing rumors of a government cover-up and urban legends surrounding the sudden back flip, investigative journalist Natasha Warner (Bel Deliá) led a crew of four into the underground labyrinth. They went down into the tunnels looking for a story–until the story found them.
THE TUNNEL: THE OTHER SIDE OF DARKNESS (pictured above; 2021, Australia, dir. Adrian Nugent): North American premiere—On the 10th anniversary of the Australian found-footage film THE TUNNEL, this documentary delves into the filmmakers’ endeavors to challenge how films are financed and distributed, and the lasting impact THE TUNNEL had internationally. A rare chance to see the behind-the-scenes footage of a production trying out radical new ideas in the independent film industry.
WHAT IS BURIED MUST REMAIN (2022, Lebanon, dir. Elias Matar): A team of inexperienced young ghost hunters break into a well-known haunted house inhabited by the spirit of a French industrialist who murdered his family inside. WHAT IS BURIED MUST REMAIN acts as a commentary on the creative structure of found-footage haunted-house films by cleverly reworking both the characters’ and viewers’ assumptions and using the setting to observe the impacts of occupation.
There will also be shorts blocks, revival showings of the found-footage landmarks PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and CLOVERFIELD (the latter a pre-festival 35mm showing at the SF Alamo Drafthouse on March 21), and opening-night party on March 23 at Artists Television Access and more. For full details and to order tickets, head over to the official festival website.