The poster for this year’s Beyond Fest depicts an escalator extending through a series of Rocky Horror-esque lips, and finally into a black plasma ball. Designed by ILOVEDUST, the imagery is a trippy and appropo promo for the genre film festival, which routinely blows the minds of its Los Angeles attendees with multi-dimensional works, many that defy categorization. Approximately 15,000 attendees are expected to attend the Hulu-sponsored event making the festival one of the biggest in the world for horror, sci-fi, comedy, crime, and fantasy. Screenings take place Sept. 25 – Oct. 8 at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.
In advance of the festival, whose proceeds go to the 501(c)3 nonprofit American Cinematheque, L.A. Weekly spoke with legendary filmmakers Richard Stanley and Oliver Stone.
Stanley will be joining producers Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah, Lisa Whalen at the West Coast Premiere of their highly anticipated H.P. Lovecraft adaptation The Color Out of Space on opening night, Sept. 25. The film will be on a double bill with Daniel Isn’t Real (which shares the same trio of producers and will also feature an appearance by director Adam Egypt Mortimer). Stone will appear with actors Juliette Lewis, Woody Harrelson, and producer Don Murphy for the 25th anniversary screening of the satirical crime classic Natural Born Killers on closing night, Tues., Oct. 8.
“Our first obligation is to make certain that people are entertained. I don’t like to be put to sleep. And I think the subtext should never get in the way of the emotion and the action,” says Stanley of his approach to filmmaking. “But at the same time, I’m a great subscriber to the sort of Roger Corman recipe for genre films. I mean, we’re in a more politically correct time now. So I know Roger set this up. He always liked to have maybe a car accident, some breast nudity, and a slight social comment. Probably a guy in a monster suit too. But there was always that slight social comment, which is always, I think, an essential ingredient. So I think everything I do, I like to make certain is connected to the present day in some way that it’s something with a fear or a possibility that the audience can in some way recognize them in their own life.”
Stone of course, has always been concerned with social commentary in his work, and Killers in particular, is more relevant than ever, showcasing the media’s obsession with violence, exploitation and fame.
“I remember definitely having had my fill of the culture at that time. I thought it was going to shit. Television was absorbed in the sensationalist violence phenomena,” Stones recalls. “The O.J. Simpson trial was like the first in the sense that it crossed a volume threshold of luridness in terms of, let’s call it unproductive things… the darker side of human nature. That trial choked up the television airwaves in America like no other had ever done in terms of volume of advertising capacity. I would estimate ten billion dollars in that era- nothing had been seen like it. It exemplified a time when sensationalism went to the headlines, even the top newspapers. It’s disgusting. The bigger issues are war and peace, national health, education, health, welfare- these are the important issues. They’re always overlooked in favor of crime. [It seems like the] big tabloid of our time, one of the biggest selling things is violence.”
As Stanley and Stone exemplify, an enormous spectrum of influences fuel the colorful narratives of genre films. This year’s Beyond Fest line-up showcases as much through a variety of films, touching upon our guilty pleasures as well as the collective failures of humanity and much that resides in between. For a full list of the festival’s various screenings and live presentations — as well as ticketing information (heads up, some of the programming is free) — visit their site. In the meantime, here are some of the promising genre titles that will have premieres at the festival (many great ones didn’t make this list).
In Search of Darkness
David A. Weiner directed this documentary, which serves as a love letter to ‘80s horror films. This world premiere is a film marathon unto itself. With a running time of four hours and 20 minutes, it’s a trip through arguably the best era of genre films (hell, half of today’s genre films and series’ are homages to this era). It’s got interviews with John Carpenter, Joe Dante, Tom Holland, Cassandra Peterson, Sean S. Cunnigham, Greg Nicotero, Barbara Crampton, and many more, plus it’s fully loaded with choice clips from iconic films of the period, need we say more? Sun., Oct. 6, 6 p.m.
This German / American production of director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do in the Shadows) uses a fantasy spin to turn a WWII war drama into a comedy. Festival attendees will get the first West Coast look at this highly anticipated film, which casts a buffoonish Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) as the imaginary friend of young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis). Scarlett Johansson stars as Jojo’s mother, who is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in her attic. Navigating their way through a world of blind nationalism, Jojo and his imaginary friend must come to terms with what is right. Thur., Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.
Four directors helmed this sci-fi horror hybrid, which will have its world premiere at Beyond Fest. Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto and Liam O’Donnell each take a turn in this anthology film. Each of the four segments showcases a scenario in which cosmic anomalies occur following a series of global blackouts. All of the episodes are uniquely flavored as per the respective styles of the storytellers involved. Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.
This is the West Coast premiere of Australian director Abe Forsythe’s sophomore effort, and it sounds like it’s gonna be a doozy! Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o stars as Miss Caroline, a kindergarten teacher, who must keep her class safe from a horde of zombies. Miss Caroline is assisted in this task by field trip chaperone / washed-up millennial musician Dave (Alexander England) and TV personality Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad). It appears as though this horror / comedy explores the age old question: “Who are the real monsters: the zombies or a classroom full of children?” Sat., Sept. 28, 10 p.m.
Eric Notarnicola’s comedy takes a documentary approach to follow the journey of an unlikely character’s political career. After having beat a murder charge for selling bad e-cigarettes at a music festival, Tim Heidecker (portrayed by himself) runs a revenge campaign to unseat the San Bernardino D.A. The film expands upon a narrative from “On Cinema,” a podcast cum web series cum TV series cum touring production created by Heidecker and Mister America co-star Gregg Turkington. World Premiere on Fri., Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. (Appearing at the screening: Nathan Fielder [moderator], and stars Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington)
Dolemite is My Name
This comedy, drama, biopic by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) stars Eddie Murphy as real-life comedy and rap pioneer Rudy Ray Moore. The film centers on Moore’s adventures writing and starring in the 1975 film Dolemite, which will be screened afterwards as part of a double-bill. Bear witness as Murphy and an all star cast, including Wesley Snipes, Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and many more envision what it was like to make a blaxploitation film about a framed pimp who seeks revenge with the aid of his martial arts expert “hoes.” Advance screening Thu., Oct. 3, 7:30 p.m. (Appearing at the screening: Stephanie Allain [moderator] with writers Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander)
See full Beyond Fest schedule at beyondfest.com/2019-films/