If you’re up for some risky filmmaking, some sexy exploration, some truly terrifying territory… well, look no further than these dark Sundance 2014 highlights, including Australian psychological horror The Babadook, real-life Palestinian-Israeli spy story The Green Prince and sex and murder in the French thriller Stranger by the Lake.
1. Cold in July
After killing a home intruder, a small town Texas man’s (Michael C. Hall) life unravels into a dark underworld of corruption and violence.
2. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
A lonely Japanese woman (Rinko Kikuchi) becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried in a fictional movie is, in fact, real. Abandoning her structured life in Tokyo for the frozen Minnesota wilderness, she embarks on an impulsive quest to search for her lost mythical fortune.
3. Last Days in Vietnam
This documentary follows the chaotic final weeks of the Vietnam War, when the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as the panicked South Vietnamese people desperately attempt to escape. On the ground, American soldiers and diplomats confront a moral quandary: whether to obey White House orders to evacuate only U.S. citizens.
4. Stranger by the Lake
Frank (Pierre Deladonchamps) spends his summer searching for companionship at a lake in France. He meets Michel (Christophe Paou), an attractive, mysterious man and falls blindly in love. When a death occurs, Frank and Michel become the primary suspects. Stranger by the Lake is an erotic thriller testing the limits of sexual desire.
5. The Babadook
A single mother (Essie Davis), plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s (Noah Wiseman) fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.
6. The Green Prince
This real-life thriller tells the story of one of Israel’s prized intelligence sources, recruited to spy on his own people for more than a decade. Focusing on the complex relationship with his handler, The Green Prince is a gripping account of terror, betrayal and unthinkable choices, along with a friendship that defies all boundaries.
7. The Guest
A soldier on leave (Dan Stevens) befriends the family of a fallen comrade. He soon becomes a threat to everyone around him when it’s revealed he’s not who he says he is.
8. The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
Programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz achieved groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing. His passion for open access ensnared him in a legal nightmare that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26.
9. The Sleepwalker
A young couple, Kaia (Gitte Witt) and Andrew (Christopher Abbott), are renovating Kaia’s secluded family estate. Their lives are violently interrupted when unexpected guests arrive (Brady Corbet and Stephanie Ellis). The Sleepwalker chronicles the unraveling of the lives of four disparate characters as it transcends genre conventions and narrative contrivance to reveal something much more disturbing.
10. To Kill a Man
When Jorge (Daniel Candia), a hardworking family man who’s barely making ends meet, gets mugged by Kalule (Daniel Antivilo), a neighborhood delinquent, Jorge’s son (Ariel Mateluna) decides to confront the attacker, only to get himself shot. Even though Jorge’s son nearly dies, Kalule’s sentence is minimal, heightening the friction.
Check out the darkly-comedic Michael Cera short “Gregory Go Boom” (below) which won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize in 2014.
Watch more shorts on SundanceTV.
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