What to Watch at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival: Genre-Bending Films That Contain Multitudes

By Vanessa Zimmer

Consider the title Handling the Undead. Undead = zombie, so it must be a zombie movie.

But wait — there’s more. The recently deceased may reawaken in this film, but notice how their families gather hopefully around them, rather than running away. Here is a story about grief, about the human tendency to resist letting go of the ones we love. 

Zombie movie, no question. An examination of grief? Most definitely. 

Why can’t it be both? After all, genre-bending cinema is like getting two films for the price of one. 

Handling the Undead is in good company — check out the list below for 10 more genre-bending films screening at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

Handling the Undead (World Cinema Dramatic Competition) — This Norwegian film, based on a book by John Ajvide Lindqvist and adapted by director Thea Hvistendahl in her feature-film debut, follows three families whose loved ones return to life when an unexplained event in Oslo awakens the newly dead. Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie return to Sundance screens after having been paired together in The Worst Person in the World (2022 Sundance Film Festival). Available in person and online.

Desire Lines (NEXT) — Top trans scholar Jules Rosskam co-writes and directs an experimental film that involves an intellectual exploration of transmasculine sexuality, including intimate interviews, and an erotic time-travel journey through an LGBTQ+ archive. Available in person and online.

A Different Man (Premieres) — Sundance alum Sebastian Stan (FRESH, 2022 Sundance Film Festival) portrays an actor who undergoes a radical surgery to change his appearance, only to find the transformation has robbed him of his dream role. The film, written and directed by Aaron Schimberg, merges a psychological thriller with magical realism and gothic fairy-tale elements. Renate Reinsve is also in this cast, which puts her at two appearances in these genre-bending films (Handling the Undead). Available in person.

Freaky Tales (Premieres) — Writer-directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden — first seen at the Festival in 2004 with their short film Gowanus, Brooklyn — have created a loving ode to the 1980s and the underdogs of Oakland, California, with this mixtape of a story that throws in a bundle of cinematic influences, pulp, comic books, Old Testament fury, horror, and martial arts. Or something like that. With a cast featuring Pedro Pascal, Jay Ellis, Normani Kordei Hamilton, and more, this film is sure to be a big draw. Available in person.

Krazy House (Midnight) — Headline: Wholesome ’90s sitcom family goes unhinged in this horror comedy. Nick Frost plays Bernie Christian, the timid patriarch who gets violent when the workers in his house turn out to be criminals. And Alicia Silverstone matches him step for step as Bernie’s wife. Renowned Dutch filmmaking duo Steffen Haars and Flip van der Kuil make their English-language debut with this film. Available in person.

Little Death (NEXT) — Remember that nugget about getting two films in one? Well, this one combines a dark comedy about a screenwriter’s (David Schwimmer) midlife identity crisis with a crime drama about two food truck entrepreneurs looking for an opioid fix. Music video veteran Jack Begert directs and co-writes his first feature film, with an array of effects and styles that might be associated with a music video master. Available in person and online.

The Moogai (Midnight) — Writer-director Jon Bell’s film is a horror story about an Aboriginal mother (Shari Sebbens) convinced a malevolent being is trying to steal her newborn baby. It’s also a story about history, alluding to Australia’s Stolen Generations, when tens of thousands of Indigenous children were removed from their homes under government assimilation policies. Available in person.

Porcelain War (U.S. Documentary Competition) — This nonfiction film illuminates the power and beauty of art amid the relentless tragedy and destruction of war in Ukraine. A directorial debut by Brendan Bellomo and artist Slava Leontyev, the documentary follows three artist soldiers — Leontyev; his wife, Anya Stasenko; and Andrey Stefanov. They use their art to battle the effects of war. Available in person and online.

Thelma (Premieres) — Sweet Grandma — portrayed by veteran character actor June Squibb — becomes an action hero in this heartwarming feature debut from writer-director Josh Margolin. After Thelma Post, 93, is scammed over the telephone by someone pretending to be her grandson, she sets out to make things right. The action-adventure genre will never be the same. Sundance regular Parker Posey plays Thelma’s daughter. Available in person and online.

Veni Vidi Vici (World Cinema Dramatic Competition) — Call it the lifestyles of the rich and serial-killing famous. Amon Maynard (Laurence Rupp), successful entrepreneur and the head of a wealthy Austrian family, likes to hunt. But he wouldn’t want to hurt an animal. So he trains the scope of his rifle on… random humans. What sport! In this dark satire, everyone ignores his crimes. Writer-director Daniel Hoesl and co-director Julia Niemann examine a society where the rich attain ultimate privilege. Available in person and online.

Your Monster (Midnight) — Writer-director Caroline Lindy’s feature debut is part rom-com, part monster movie. This riff of sorts on Beauty and the Beast takes a playful look at humans’ dark interiors through the story of young actor Laura Franco (Melissa Barrera), who meets the monster in her closet. Available in person.

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