As Sundance 2023 approaches, I’m excited but also stressed! There are too many films to choose from – documentaries, dramas, and episodic. Thankfully, Sundance doesn’t overlook scary movies. The selection committee even allows horror its multiple subgenres with this year’s slate ranging from surreal to Frankenstein-esque frights. So read below to see my seven Sundance picks – all from my beloved horror genre.
Laura Moss’s directorial debut is about two women, Rose and Celie, when their two worlds collide. Rose has an obsession with raising the dead. A nurse, Celie, lives for her 6-year-old daughter, Lila. Labeled as horror, sci-fi, and LGBTQ+, birth/rebirth brings to mind Frankenstein or Reanimator. But Moss’ film, starring Judy Reyes, Marin Ireland, and A.J. Lister, could have unexpected twists. The kid may wind up being the scary part, searing into your memory. Let’s hope so.
Sounding more comedic than scary, Polite Society is director Nida Manzoor’s feature debut. And it sounds hilarious, with room for surprises. Martial art trainee Ria Khan’s dream is to be a famous stunt-woman. But when her elder sister, Lena, drops out to marry a wealthy guy she barely knows and moves from London to Singapore, Ria suspects something’s amiss. Recruiting help from her friends, Ria plans a heist to rescue the bride-to-be. Given Ria’s martial art training, there will surely be hilarious hand-to-hand battles – fingers crossed for many rescue mishaps to up the laughs and worry.
Run Rabbit Run
Daina Reid’s Run Rabbit Run sounds similar to the Korean horror Cinderella. The type of horror where the mother’s past comes back to impact their daughter. When Sarah celebrates her daughter Mia’s seventh birthday, strange things begin occurring. A rabbit shows up at their front door, and though Mia’s happy, Sarah is anything but. The horror here promises to be more psychological. Whether Sarah’s recent experiences take a toll on her mental state or her history causes it is something you will have to watch to see. Psychological horror can have a lasting impact on audiences, so expect to be disturbed.
Merging history with the supernatural, Sorcery follows Rosa, a 13-year-old living on Chile’s Chiloe Island in 1880. After her father’s murder by a colonist, she rejects Christianity and learns witchcraft to execute her revenge. The religious conflict brings familiarity, especially Christianity’s lethal, forceful quality. Mixing supernatural elements with Indigenous history brings to mind the much-acclaimed Guatamelan La Llorona, so look out for this film.
Heather’s (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) life is anything but charmed. In a small town and a controlling family helmed by an alcoholic mother, Heather lives as an outcast in My Animal. Locking up every full moon is no fun, either. When newcomer Jonny (Amandla Stenberg) arrives, Heather’s world changes. Werewolf horror has some covert and overt LGBTQ+ roots, and its exciting to see it explored again onscreen. Director Jacqueline Castel brings a classic monster story to life with teen romance, angst, and drama. This one sounds fascinating for any fan of Ginger Snaps or werewolves.
Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls
Director, writer, and lead, Andrew Bowsman brings his online character to life in this horror-comedy feature. Summoning the devil is never a good idea. But that does not stop Marcus Trillbury, a.k.a Onyx the Fortuitous, and some fellow occultists from landing in deadly waters when they visit Bartok the Great’s mansion. Now Onyx and the others are fighting for their lives and souls. Promising monsters and laughs, Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls is aiming for that horror and hilarity sweet spot.
In My Mother’s Skin
Another period horror, taking place around the end of World War II, In My Mother’s Skin sounds like a grim fairy tale, with emphasis on the grim. Writer-director Kenneth Dagatan’s story is about a wealthy family stuck in their mansion in the country with Japanese soldiers plaguing them. While the head of the family, Aldo, sneaks away to get help, their daughter Tala seeks assistance from a flesh-eating fairy. Big mistake. This one reminds you of when Jennifer Connelly gets bit by the fairy in Labyrinth. But since In My Mother’s Skin promises “extreme violence and gore,” maybe the fairy never stops biting. So gore fans rejoice because this one’s for you.