The 42nd Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) runs May 19-June 12 and features more than 400 films from 80 countries. For 25 days, movie houses all over the city will participate in one of the largest film festivals in the United States, with more than 150,000 people attending each year! A cinema fan is liable to lose their mind at the dizzying array of cinematic choices over these next three weeks, but do not succumb. This year, SIFF has arranged the films into specialized genres to fit every mood, and I’m here to break it down even further, so there’s no need to get overwhelmed.
Here are a few must-see choices from some of my favorite SIFF categories: WTF (Wild, Titilating & Fantastic) and Thrill Me.
Festival programmer Clinton McClung calls WTF, “The most outrageous, mind-blowing and unexpected tales in genre filmmaking that will stimulate your brain, keep you up at night, or simply leave you happily exclaiming ‘WTF?!'”
Another Evil USA (2016), 92 min.
Steve Zissis (from HBO’s “Togetherness”) stars in this comedy/horror that I would loosely categorize as mumblecore, a film tradition defined by low budgets and story-driven narratives. Zissis plays an artist and father who finds his secluded summer cabin has been overtaken with ghosts, or demons—their benevolence is up for debate. At his wit’s end, Zissis hires an exorcist (Mark Proksch), and so enters one of the most curiously complex and strange characters I’ve seen in cinema in a long time. Proksch’s portrayal of a troubled man who believes he’s had intimate relations with the devil is instantly relatable, with his trenchcoat, high voice and cowboy hat. We know this person in real life but rarely are his kind portrayed with any believability on screen. It’s his dogged humanity, even in the face of everything that happens, that makes this film so weird and special. Directors Carson Mell and actor Mark Proksch are scheduled to attend the festival.
Saturday, May 28, midnight, SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Monday, June 6, 9:30pm, SIFF Cinema Egyptian
The Blackcoat’s Daughter, USA/Canada (2015), 93 min.
Originally titled February, this Canadian horror film is set to open in theaters nationwide July 15—so why not see it at SIFF two months earlier than anyone else? I can’t decide which title is better—it will depend on how I feel once I see the film this weekend—but how can a Blackcoat have a daughter? The question intrigues. Directed by Osgood Perkins, The film stars Emma Roberts from “American Horror Story” and Kiernan Shipka from “Mad Men.” “Dripping with gothic atmosphere and chilling performances,” so say SIFF organizers, “This demonic horror tale is set at an all-girls prep school tormented by an evil, invisible force.” Yes please!
Friday, May 20, 8:30pm, Lincoln Square
Saturday, May 21, 9:30pm, SIFF Cinema Egyptian
NUTS!, USA (2016), 79 min.
In this partly-animated documentary, a quack doctor makes a fortune by transplanting goat testicles into gullible men in depression era America. The film’s directed by Penny Lane, whose previous film Our Nixon (2013)—comprising archival footage of President Nixon—is a strange little masterpiece. I can’t wait to see what Lane does with a story as bizarre as this one.
Wednesday, June 8, 6:30pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown
Thursday, June 9, 4:30pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown
If none of those do it for you, here’s a few more from the WTF category that deserve your time:
Closet Monster, dir. by Stephen Dunn, the coming of age tale about a hamster voiced by Isabella Rossellini
Evolution, dir. by Lucile Hadžihalilović, a surreal French film about a remote island where children are the subject of strange medical tests
Middle Man, dir. by Ned Crowley is “Better Call Saul” meets the Coen Brothers in style and tone, and it’s making its world premiere at SIFF 2016
Tag, dir. by gonzo Japanese director Sion Sono features a lot of dismembered teenagers in school girl uniforms with a surreal and existential finish on the madness
Wiener-Dog, dir. by Todd Solondz (the man behind a childhood favorite of mine, Welcome to the Dollhouse) features an all-star cast for a collection of character studies told through the eyes of a dachshund.
Moviegoers looking for suspense, thrills and action have come to the right place. Here are a few of my choice selections in a category that seems jam-packed with promise.
Alone, South Korea (2015), 99 min.
Director Hong-Ming Park‘s supernatural, mind-altering thriller Alone makes its world premiere at this year’s SIFF. The film follows Su-min (Ju-won Lee) after he witnesses a woman’s assault in a labyrinthine shantytown. As the film progresses, we see that masked men are after him, and then there’s a headless corpse, and before long we realize that the rules of reality are no longer what they once were. Throughout the day and into the night, Su-min meets his mother, a young version of himself, his father and his girlfriend (You-hyun Song). This is a psychological study of man in horror film’s clothing, and a bold example of what Korean cinema can do.
Wednesday, May 25, 9pm, Pacific Place
Tuesday, May 31, 8:30pm, Renton Ikea Pac
Monday, June 6, 4pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown
Carnage Park, USA (2016), 86 min.
In style and tone, this blood-soaked psycho-thriller recalls the gritty imperfection of grindhouse films from the 1970s, and I for one am champing at the bit to see it. Directed by Mickey Keating, the film stars Pat Healy (star of Cheap Thrills and a million other weird indies) as an “unhinged sniper,” with who-knows-what kind of murderous intentions. Watch this trailer if you dare—I stopped halfway through; I don’t want any of the surprises ruined for me.
Friday, May 2o, midnight, SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Sunday, May 22, 9pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown
The Night Stalker, USA (2016), 89 min.
Seattle local Megan Griffiths (Lucky Them) directs this psychological thriller starring Lou Diamond Philips as serial killer Richard Ramirez. The film makes its world premiere at this years SIFF, and Griffiths, producer Matthew Brady, Alisa Tager will be in attendance. (Phillips will be there for the Saturday show only.) In the 1980s, Ramirez had already stalked and killed thirteen women before he was 25 years old. In the film, we meet a young female attorney who is desperate to get a confession from Ramirez. It’s awesome to see so many female directors at one festival, and I’m especially looking forward to taking in the work of this talented local I’ve been hearing so much about.
Saturday, June 4, 5:30pm, SIFF Cinema Uptown
Sunday, June 5, 1:30pm, Pacific Place
Here are a few more films in the Thrill Me category you won’t want to miss.
In Demon, dir. by Marcin Wrona, a Polish wedding goes terribly wrong when the groom is possessed by demons
The Free World, dir. by Boyd Holbrook, features the director and Elizabeth Moss in a sultry romance gone bad
If There’s a Hell Below, dir. by Nathan Williams, a neo-noir featuring journalists with hot stories set against a rural Washington landscape in a post-Snowden world. The director and producer, Brad Roberts, are both scheduled to attend.
The 42nd Seattle International Film Festival runs May 19-June 12. Visit SIFF.net for exact scheduling, ticketing and other information.