What The Fest?! is an annual film festival in New York City that celebrates the most innovative and exciting cinema on screens! These are films that are equally entertaining, surprising and sometimes shocking, making up genre movies–fantastic films that upend conventional limitations to help us escape reality and harbor deeper ambitions to thrill smart audiences. The festival was launched by IFC Center in 2018 to spotlight smart, bold and inventive films from the world of genre and beyond for an audience of the creative and curious looking for a community in which to share experiences and have a blast together. “From cerebral shockers to singular cinematic moments to unforgettable special events, What The Fest!? is more than just movies, it is an experience.“
The annual event kicks off from March 20 – 24 this year! The four day event dedicated to genre films is taking place at the IFC Center, and comes with a warning to “Expect Anything!”. Below is a list of the 2019 lineup of which you can expect to see some of the most unconventional films of the year!
“Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Or The Modern Prometheus is certainly one of the most famous tales not just in literature but in all popular culture, helped immeasurably over the last century by filmmakers the world over – Thomas Edison, James Whale, Terrance Fisher, Jess Franco, Paul Naschy, Mel Brooks and Kenneth Branagh, to name just a few. Few stories ever written are as unique and compelling as the tale of a scientist who dares to play God by bringing the dead back to life. The story of Frankenstein has been told so many times that it seems a fool’s errand to tell it again, but New York indie film great Larry Fessenden is one of the few filmmakers today who understands that the key to this tale lies in its compelling lead characters, the ambitious doctor and his creation, whose tragic fates are the very definition of great drama. Fessenden has risen to the occasion with DEPRAVED, a modern Prometheus for our times and easily the best film version of the Frankenstein legend in decades.”
“THE UNTHINKABLE follows a musician, Alex (Christoffer Nordenrot), who has it rough with his loved ones. Estranged from his father Bjorn (Jesper Barkselius), he longs for home and especially for the good old days with his ex, Anna (Lisa Henni), the love of his life. After his mother unexpectedly dies in a series of what seem like terrorist bombings, Alex travels back to his hometown. As he tries to build up his relationship with his father and win back Anna, Sweden is invaded by a strange force using a chemical weapon that spreads through rainfall and wipes its victims’ memories clean. Expect to pick your jaw up off the floor, murmuring “What The F…est” when amazing, chaos-packed action ricochets off a heart-rending love story that’ll bring you to tears. This low-budget wonder from collective Crazy Pictures is the embodiment of truly bold and wild filmmaking. Officially the most insane disaster picture of recent years, this is the film you had no idea you really needed in your life!” – Maria Reinup
THE ONLY THING I LOVE MORE THAN YOU IS RANCH DRESSING
“Ranch. Dipped. Chicken. Fingers.”
“The Woman, the late novelist Jack Ketchum’s most twisted creation, was first introduced in his 1991 novel Offspring, and when that tale came to the screen in 2009, Pollyanna McIntosh brought the character to life so vividly that Ketchum and Lucky McKee wrote the 2011 film THE WOMAN (later novelized by Ketchum) to continue her story. Now McIntosh herself has taken the reins as writer/director and made a stunning debut feature that honors the author and this demented family saga. McIntosh has assembled a first-class cast, with Irish actress Lauryn Canny excelling in the title role and Nora-Jane Noone and Cooper Andrews (McIntosh’s co-star on The Walking Dead) both lending fine support as Darlin’s few adult sympathizers. And then there’s McIntosh returning as The Woman, fiercer and more feral than ever, but also filled with the love and purity of a devoted mother that makes this her best performance in the series yet. As dark and violent as anything you’ll find at this year’s What The Fest?, DARLIN’ is both a satisfying continuation of the saga of The Woman and her demented family and a terrific directorial debut for its star.” – Matthew Kiernan
ONE CUT OF THE DEAD
“Here’s the thing that you absolutely, positively have to know going into ONE CUT OF THE DEAD: Pay attention to the first third of the movie. Rarely, if ever, in the entire history of cinema (that’s right, we said it) has a comedy’s first act been so essential to the comedic genius of its final act. The payoff is so big, so enormously huge that if you step outside to grab a Coke you’ll miss out on laughs to come. The laughs in ONE CUT OF THE DEAD start small, but they build, and when they hit they hit big, and that respect for the viewer’s intelligence is one of the reasons why audiences around the world have admired it so much. You have to stay with it, follow it and keep track of what you see and the characters you meet because all of it matters in order to savor the sweet, delicious comedy of those last 30 minutes.” – Matthew Kiernan
Lizzy wants to be a good wife – take care of her home, have children and patiently bide her time until her husband returns, while she waits alone in the vast, empty plains of the 19th century west. But being by yourself in the middle of nothing, where just the sound of the wind can curl your toes, isn’t that easy. Slowly the forces of nature start feeding into her paranoia. What if something else is out there? When a new couple settles into a house nearby, Lizzy finds comfort in friendship with another young woman and shares her biggest fears with her. But soon enough, she’ll regret that.
THE WIND is a superb slow-burner of a western horror movie that, from the opening scene until the very end, holds you in its dreadful grip. The breathtaking panoramas and nearly wordless, complex sound design immerse you in the scary emptiness of a Wild West where anything can happen. – Maria Reinup
“This deliciously twisted comedy is set in a demented, timeless suburbia where every adult wears braces on their straight teeth, couples coordinate meticulously pressed outfits, and coveted family members are swapped in more ways than one in a competition for acceptance. It’s got a dash of everything that we love and look for in movies – uncanny storytelling, a filmmaker vision that pops off the screen, some proper kick to its humor and the ability to generate a casual “What The F…” every once in a while. A movie that’s made for us–and for you, our dear friends–GREENER GRASS is a cult film in the making and an absolute delight! – Maria Reinup
P.S… It’s one of PCR’s favorites from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival too 🙂
TO THE NIGHT
“Norman (Caleb Landry Jones) is an installation artist living in a spacious, seemingly half-abandoned loft building by the East River. He’s obsessed with the fire that killed his parents when he was a child, and his life and his art become more and more consumed by that obsession. Pain takes over reason, understanding and moral judgment. Loss fills the spaces he inhabits, like a fire that is given oxygen, roaring and destroying everything on its way.”
THE DEAD CENTER
“In a dark morgue one night, an unidentified suicide victim comes to life and hides nearby. The next day, Edward, the coroner who’s supposed to perform the autopsy, can’t find the corpse of this “John Doe.” Instead, the revived man is found by Daniel, a psychiatrist who, believing he’s a catatonic amnesiac, signs him into a hospital ward, ignorant of the fact that the man was previously dead. Completely unaware of each other, Edward and Daniel each start to seek answers to the same, unsettling case from the opposite ends of this hypnotic and horrifying mystery.”
BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK
“Wendy works as a park ranger, but sometimes she’s a little sloppy at her job. She can be a little careless, a little too chill. When she gets an assignment to take care of the mountain trails that would mean being completely on her own way out in the woods, her friends try to talk her out of it. But Wendy ignores their concern and heads out–ending up stranded overnight at Brighton Rock with a decaying body. What could go wrong?”
“To some, Zhang Yimou is a master of cinema known for such classic dramas as RAISE THE RED LANTERN, JU DO and TO LIVE. But to others, Zhang is as much a master of cinematic action, delivering remarkable set pieces in such martial arts landmarks as HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS and CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER. Zhang’s films are known for their luxurious use of colors, exquisite staging and moments of both quiet beauty and immense grandeur. SHADOW, his latest film, delivers all of that in spades, combining a compelling drama of palace intrigue and deception during the Three Kingdoms period with some of the greatest battle sequences in the history of film to make what may be Zhang’s greatest spectacle yet (and yes, we’re taking into account his 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony).”
SATANIS: THE DEVIL’S MASS
“This 1970 American documentary takes us inside the infamous “Black House” in San Francisco, where the Church of Satan was established. We also get a glimpse of the neighborhood around it, more and more specifically of the none-too-pleased neighbors, who have quite a few things to say about that damned house. But the heart of the film is a study of Anton Szandor LaVey, former lion tamer and the leader of this cult of devil worshippers, and their ideology that centers around the rejection of guilt, sexual freedom, and self-indulgence.”
“Chloe (Lexy Kolker), is a young girl who lives with her father Henry (Emile Hirsch) in a massive, abandoned house that’s tricked out like a kind of fortress. Chloe’s never been outside the house before, but she trains every day to make sure she can keep up with the false identity she’ll have to assume when she’s ready to venture outdoors. Henry entertains his daughter and seems like a sweet dad, until a day when she almost gets out and he flips, shouting at her “You’re not normal yet! You’ll die if you go outside!” But Chloe has other plans, which not-so-accidentally collide with an ice-cream truck and its driver (Bruce Dern) who’s trying to lure little girl out into the big, bad world.”
Penny Lane has a unique, political voice in the documentary landscape and her latest work tackles a truly unexpected topic – The Satanic Temple.
“Fresh from its Sundance premiere, the film follows the rise of The Satanic Temple, a mysterious organization led by Lucien Greaves that’s calling for Satanic revolution to save America’s soul. The Temple’s first rally was on the steps of Florida’s state Capitol in 2013, in which the group sported demonic masks and carried a banner proclaiming “Hail Satan! Hail Rick Scott!” But despite its name, the Temple’s true purpose is to remind people that our nation was founded on a separation of church and state, arguing that if you welcome Christianity into the classroom, you’ve got to invite Satan too. As the organization grows, it focuses on promoting social justice, exposing hypocrisy and supporting true religious freedom in all its forms. Focusing on the Temple’s enigmatic founder and the group’s expert-level political trolling as it gets its message out, Lane’s documentary is an absolute blast to watch.” – Maria Reinup
WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE!
“The term “Tarantinoesque” tends to bring to mind the legions of lackluster Tarantino wannabes that sprung from the wake of RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION, so we’d understand if that term makes you a little wary. But every so often a movie comes along that actually mirrors Tarantino’s ability to make something fresh and original that was inspired by a deep love of movies. Kirill Sokolov ‘s WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! does just that, taking a tale of crime, corruption, greed, dysfunctional families, unrequited love and lots and lots of blood and becomes something new, a film that proudly displays its influences while it forges its own path.”
Which films from the WTF?! 2019 lineup intrigue you the most? Tweet us at @PopCultureRevs with your thoughts!