“Evil Dead” (91 minutes) – Friday, March 8, 9:45 p.m., Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave.
South By Southwest’s opening night has always been genre-heavy, and this year they’re coming out swinging with “Evil Dead,” the highly anticipated remake of Sam Raimi’s horror classic. A few blood-soaked trailers make the cabin-in-the-woods tale look bug-nuts insane, with the same aggressively horrific tone Raimi’s film struck so well the first time. If nothing else, this is going to be one of the goriest films ever to screen at the Paramount, and promises to be one of the must-see events of the festival.
“V/H/S/2” (95 minutes) – Friday, March 8, 11:59 p.m., Topfer Theatre, 1510 Toomey Road
“V/H/S” was the best horror film at SXSW last year, and the sequel premiered at Sundance to massive acclaim. Directors Jason Eisener (“Hobo With a Shotgun”), Eduardo Sanchez (“The Blair Witch Project”), Gareth Evans (“The Raid: Redemption”) and Adam Wingard (“You’re Next,” also playing at the festival) each contributed segments to the found-footage horror anthology, and that particular mix of voices and sensibilities is easy to get excited about.
“A Teacher” (76 minutes) – Saturday, March 9, 11:15 a.m., Violet Crown, 434 W. Second St.
Lindsay Burdge stars as an Austin high school teacher having an affair with one of her students in this well-received Sundance carryover. The film’s material could be presented as pure titillation, but early trailers make it look urgently arresting and show off remarkable focus from writer and director Hannah Fidell.
“Much Ado About Nothing” (107 minutes) – Saturday, March 9, 1 p.m., Vimeo Theater, 201 Trinity St.
Joss Whedon’s modern take on Shakespeare’s classic manner of comedies brings together the casts of almost everything Whedon’s ever worked on, casting a sense of playfulness to the delightful “Much Ado About Nothing.” A low-stakes charmer, the film is a faithful adaptation that still manages to surprise thanks to Whedon’s affable love of wordplay and his ruthlessly funny cast’s full-blown commitment to the material.
“Some Girl(s)” (89 minutes) – Saturday, March 9, 7 p.m., Topfer Theatre
Neil LaBute, adapting from his own play, penned “Some Girl(s),” which stars Adam Brody as a writer whose impending marriage sends him on a tour down memory lane, visiting several of his life’s most significant loves. While the setup isn’t exactly original, LaBute’s acerbic wit and sardonic worldview should lend the film an unexpected edge, and co-starring turns from Kristen Bell, Zoe Kazan and Emily Watson make up an interesting ensemble for Brody to bounce off of.
“Before Midnight” (108 minutes) – Saturday, March 9, 9:45 p.m., Paramount
Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are the central focus of what may be the first romantic trilogy in film history. “Before Midnight,” the newest installment, finds the pair once again wandering a European city, chatting and coming to terms with how their lives have changed since the last film. Writers Hawke and Delpy and director Richard Linklater so fully understand and embody these characters that a third installment of this series is a can’t-miss film.
“Mud” (130 minutes) – Sunday, March 10, noon, Paramount
In just three films, Jeff Nichols has practically mastered the art of telling stories about Southern masculinity, and “Mud” is his most gorgeous work to date,
featuring a marvelous performance from Matthew McConaughey as a fugitive who befriends two young boys. The film has a bafflingly strange slot at the festival, with its only screening taking place at noon the day after daylight saving time kicks in, but it’s well worth getting up early for. It’s one of the only films at SXSW that’s being screened in 35mm, and Nichols’ stunningly beautiful direction demands to be seen on the big screen.
“Hours” (97 minutes) – Sunday, March 10, 9 p.m., Topfer Theatre
Paul Walker stars as a father forced to keep his newborn’s ventilator powered via a hand-crank battery in the midst of Hurricane Katrina. “Hours” has a gripping premise and high stakes, and Walker has surprised us before in this sort of ticking-clock thriller. The film’s trailer promises nonstop intensity, and should be a great alternative to a cup of coffee for audiences looking for a shot of adrenaline.
“Big Ass Spider!” (85 minutes) – Monday, March 11, 11:59 p.m., Alamo Ritz 1, 320 E. Sixth St.
SXSW’s midnight slot is notoriously eclectic, but there’s always one title so audacious that you practically have to see it, and this year, “Big Ass Spider!” is that film. When an unusually large spider starts wreaking havoc, it’s up to exterminator Greg Grunberg to save the day. “Big Ass Spider!” looks like an absolute blast, fully embodying the pulpy, schlocky spirit of its midnight movie origins.
“Grow Up, Tony Phillips” (90 minutes) – Tuesday, March 12, 7:15 p.m., Vimeo Theater
Local director Emily Hagins has made four feature films, and she’s not even old enough to buy beer. Her newest film, “Grow Up, Tony Phillips,” was funded via Kickstarter, and focuses on a high schooler struggling not to outgrow Halloween, his favorite holiday. Star Tony Vespe has consistently been the funniest part of Hagins’ previous films, and it’s great to see him hoisted into the spotlight for one of the festival’s most interesting homegrown premieres.
“Milo” (85 minutes) – Thursday, March 14, 9:45 p.m., Paramount
Ken Marino is one of the most underrated funnymen working today, and the very thought of him playing a man who discovers that his intestines are home to a baby demon is funny enough to get me in the theater for “Milo.” Directed by UT alumnus Jacob Vaughan, the film’s impressive cast and hilarious premise should result in one of the festival’s strangest comedies.
“The East” (116 minutes) – Saturday, March 16, 8:00 p.m., Paramount
Zal Batmanglij came to SXSW in 2011 with his debut feature, “Sound of My Voice,” an engaging sci-fi-tinged exploration of group mentality and faith. Collaborator Brit Marling stars once again, this time as a high-level operative sent undercover into an anarchist group targeting large corporations. The first trailer for the film was unnerving in all the right ways, and Marling’s voice as a writer seems to be getting sharper with every film. SXSW chose this as its Closing Night film, an enormous vote of confidence in one of the most anticipated films of the festival.