SXSW thrills audiences with horror headliners, must-sees this spring


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‘Us’ currently has a 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The film has quadrupled its production budget, earning over $88 million worldwide.

Alex Childers, Writer

Horror fans were treated to several scary films at SXSW this year. This year’s lineup boasted thrills that made audiences shiver and shake.



SXSW opened its film festival with “Us” to great fan anticipation following Peele’s acclaimed film “Get Out.”

For someone on their sophomore film, Peele commands the camera like a much more experienced director. The stunning visuals build a world not far from our own, but with a twist, like a Grimm’s fairy tale set in the modern day. The cinematography builds suspense by holding shots of ambiguous darkness longer and making the audience search for what makes them uncomfortable. Peele never releases this suspense with cheap jump scares, making the audience squirm in their seats as they await relief.

Peele is able to balance gut-wrenching anxiety with humor. This comes naturally from Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke), who offers all the dad jokes one can expect. The sibling rivalry of Jason and Zora (Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph) echoes my own family road trips. Lupita Nyong’o rounds out the family as Adelaide Wilson, a mother dealing with mysterious past trauma.

But it’s the family’s creepy doppelgangers that demonstrate the actors’ skills. Where Gabe is a nerdy father, “Abraham” is intimidating. Where Zora is a stereotypical, uninterested teenage girl, “Umbrae” is terrifyingly mischievous. Where Jason is a younger brother, still growing into his own, “Pluto” is animalistic, yet somewhat sympathetic.

And again, Nyong’o’s performance is what really stands out here. As Adelaide, she’s a scared but determined mother. But as “Red,” she’s something else entirely, speaking in a raspy voice and moving in a stiff, unnatural way.

Cynical viewers will most likely see the twist coming, but I pride myself in being oblivious to these sorts of things, and therefore got to enjoy the gut-punch that the last five minutes offered. While the film leaves more questions than answers, it’s the mystery of it all that makes “Us” even more terrifying than “Get Out.”


“Pet Sematary”

Stephen King film adaptations fall into one of two categories: either it’s a classic, but so old it’s no longer scary, or it’s just bad. Luckily, with 2017’s “It,” Hollywood is finally putting some effort into their adaptations — not just simply remaking the old films.

The movie knows the expectations of fans of the book and 1989 version, and plays on them only to pull the rug from under them. While “Us” never stops building suspense, “Pet Sematary” favors constantly reminding the audience of the impending doom to come with random, deafening semi-trucks passing by.

“Pet Sematary” is another horror film focused on family, but this time focuses on the struggling Creeds. Louis (Jason Clarke) is a father trying to do right by his family by moving to a small town in Maine after working nights as a doctor.

When his daughter Ellie’s cat dies, their kind neighbor Jud (John Lithgow) shows Louis a spot in the woods beyond the cemetery to bury him. When he comes back, he’s different, and not in a good way.

While the grown-ups did a fine job portraying the variations of grief their characters go through, it’s Jeté Laurence’s portrayal of Ellie that is the centerpiece of the film. Laurence portrays not only Ellie, but a sinister reincarnation of herself. It’s always impressive to see a child actor in a horror movie, but it’s even more impressive when they are the horror.

A look into death and grief, “Pet Sematary” doesn’t really get much deeper than “don’t mess with necromancy,” but it doesn’t need to. It’s a worthy adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, and will reintroduce the story to future generations without going through the same motions as previous versions.