Hey, Chicago readers (and anyone willing to travel to the Windy City this summer): the Music Box Theatre is bringing back its one-of-a-kind genre festival Cinepocalypse for another round of mayhem, featuring a staggering mix of offbeat classics and wild new features looking to keep you talking.
Among the highlights are a screening of the Wachowskis’ breakout 1996 feature Bound featuring co-writer and director Lana Wachowski, director Stephen Hopkins in attendance for 1993’s cult classic Judgment Night (and its notorious soundtrack), and a 70mm screening of Howard the Duck. That’s to say nothing of the rest of the Music Box’s program, featuring a murderer’s row of hot festival titles and buzzed-about curiosities.
Cinepocalypse takes over the Music Box from June 21st-28th, and four-day passes are already on sale. Single-screening tickets, meanwhile, will be available starting on May 23rd. We’ll absolutely be seeing you there, and in the meantime, take a look at the full schedule for the event.
The Domestics (World Premiere)
Dir: Mike P. Nelson
We’re kicking off Cinepocalypse 2018 with a thunderous bang in what will certainly be one of the most talked about genre films of the year. It’s Mad Max meets The Purge in The Domestics, an absolutely savage survival love story following a young couple (Kate Bosworth and Tyler Hoechlin) as they fight to return home through a post-apocalyptic, mid-western wasteland ravaged by terrifying and sadistic gangs. The Domestics is an action spectacle, boasting explosive set pieces and nonstop action, culminating in a suspense-filled finale that will leave your shattered jaw on the floor. With his feature length debut, writer/director Mike P. Nelson establishes himself as a breakout filmmaker, weaving together incredible performances from Bosworth, Hoechlin, Sonoya Mizuno (Ex Machina), and Lance Reddick (John Wick), into an epic, white-knuckled, roller coaster ride, destined for badass cult status.
Boogeyman Pop (World Premiere)
Dir: Brad Michael Elmore
Set over the course of one summer weekend, a bat-wielding, masked killer in a rusted-out black Cadillac weaves in and out of three interlocking stories awash in sex, drugs, punk rock, black magic, and broken homes. Starring James Paxton (son of the late, great Bill Paxton) and produced by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story screenwriter Chris Weitz, who discovered writer/director Brad Michael Elmore’s micro-budget debut The Wolfman’s Hammer on YouTube, the film was eventually brought to the prolific Blumhouse team, who hopped on board enthusiastically. That’s one hell of a creative force, and because of it Boogeyman Pop oozes with everything we love about genre cinema. Our favorite festival moments are the ones when we get to discover the emergence of a talented and unique filmmaker. This is punk rock filmmaking at its finest, and it’s one of those festival moments you won’t want to miss.
Empathy Inc. (World Premiere)
Dir: Yedidya Gorsetman
In this twisted, sometimes-brutal, black-and-white work from director Yedidya Gorsetman, hotshot venture capitalist Joel (Zack Robidas) has a multimillion-dollar deal go up in smoke, and he and his actress wife Jessica (Kathy Searle) are forced to move in with her parents and start from scratch. At the lowest and most desperate moment in his life, Joel meets old friend Nicolaus (Eric Berryman) and his business partner Lester (Jay Klaitz), who are seeking investors in a new technology known as XVR – Xtreme Virtual Reality – from their company Empathy, Inc., which is said to offer the most realistic and moving experiences for users by placing them in the lives of the less fortunate. Joel gets the startup its funds but soon discovers that the tech’s creators have far more sinister uses in store for their creation and that the reality it provides its customers isn’t virtual.
Gags (World Premiere)
Director: Adam Krause
Remember the photos of a horrifying clown in Wisconsin that went viral and ended up on the nightly news, scaring the hell out of Gags all across the world? This marketing stunt for Adam Krause’s short film, GAGS, sparked a nationwide resurgence in the clown-roaming phenomenon (yes, that’s a thing). Now a feature film designed to send those with coulrophobia (look it up) into a life-threatening panic, a mysterious clown named “Gags” appears in Green Bay, setting off a night of madness in which four separate subplots — involving a reporter, a right-wing podcast pundit, a pair of cops, and a trio of troublemaking teens — converge to solve the creepy case. Fans of “killer clown” cinema (clownsploitation?) will appreciate this flick’s new wrinkles, as well as its sly sense of humor that takes aim at socio-political issues and the news media (as represented by indie horror star Lauren Ashley Carter).Yes, you will be scared shitless, especially when you discover Gags’ true intentions.
Malicious (World Premiere)
Dir: Michael Winnick
When young college professor Adam (Josh Stewart of The Collector and Insidious: Chapter Four) and his pregnant wife Lisa (Drag Me to Hell‘s Bojana Novakovic) suffer a traumatic event, they find themselves along with Lisa’s sister Becky (Melissa Bolona) haunted – and connected – to a malicious entity. Only when Adam calls upon colleague Dr. Clark (Delroy Lindo), a professor of parapsychology, does the true horror of what is happening become clear. From Executive Producer Shaun Reddick (Get Out).
Await Further Instructions (World Premiere)
Dir: Johnny Kevorkian
Take the techno-paranoia of Black Mirror, add the intergalactic body horror of John Carpenter’s The Thing, adapt them into a VHS board game, and wrap it all up in a bitingly satirical Christmas-movie package, and what do you get? Await Further Instructions, the new film from British director Johnny Kevorkian that makes its world premiere at Cinepocalypse. David Bradley of Game Of Thrones, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter fame co-stars as a crotchety old grandpa in the story of a family that wakes up on Christmas morning to find their house surrounded by a mysterious, seemingly alien substance and a cryptic message on their TV: “Await Further Instructions.’
Hover (World Premiere)
Dir: Matt Osterman
Set in a near-future where environmental strain has caused food shortages around the world, Hover envisions a world where technology provides a narrow path forward, with agricultural drones maximizing the yield from what land remains. Two compassionate care providers, Claudia (The Last Man on Earth star Cleopatra Coleman, who also wrote the screenplay) and her mentor John (Craig muMs Grant), work to assist sick farmland inhabitants in ending their lives. But after John dies under mysterious circumstances, a group of locals helps Claudia uncover a deadly connection between the health of her clients and the technology they are using. Shane Coffey, Leo Fitzpatrick, and Beth Grant co-star in this science-fiction thriller.
The Russian Bride (World Premiere)
Dir: Michael S. Ojeda
A Russian woman (Oksana Orlan) travels with her 11-year-old daughter (Kristina Pimenova) to America, with plans to marry an eccentric billionaire baron (Corbin Bernsen) offering them hopes for a better life. Arriving at his luxurious estate in the dead of winter and miles from civilization, the two are quickly enchanted by the reclusive man’s charm. But the promise of a fairy tale existence ends as the rich man’s tragic secret past is revealed and his resulting madness surfaces, turning their lives into a living hell. In a shocking final act, the baron’s sinister plans are exposed, and the mother and daughter find themselves fighting for survival.
The Appearance (World Premiere)
Dir: Kurt Knight
Mateho (Jake Stormoen), an officer of the Inquisition and rational man of science, visits a remote monastery to investigate a bizarre murder of a monk. And you guessed it: something evil is afoot. But is the terror man-made or the result of witchcraft? You’ll have a gnarly time finding out in this incredibly eerie, evocative medieval thriller. Plus, Game of Thrones fans should keep an eye out for Kristian Nairn (aka Hodor), who pops up as the Inquisitor’s loyal sidekick Johnny. The follow-up work from the director of the zombie-infused family drama We All Fall Down.
The Brink (North American Premiere)
Dir: Jonathan Li
Reckless police inspector Tung (Zhang Jin) is on a mission to crack down on Shing’s (Shawn Yue) gold-smuggling operation, yet fails to apprehend the criminal. As Tung continues the manhunt, he discovers Shing’s involvement with triad boss Blackie (Yasuaki Kurata), who hides on a casino cruise ship on the high seas. Shing has been involved in a power struggle within the smuggling ring and is forced to kill his adopted father while also losing his share of the smuggling business to Blackie. To get even, Shing appears on the cruise, Tung is there to hunt him down, and bullets and fists start flying. The directing debut from veteran assistant director Jonathan Li, The Brink is a classic shoot ‘em up, concluding with an epic fight sequence on the ship during a typhoon.
The Cop Baby (North American Premiere)
Dir: Alexander Andrushenko
Having failed a large covert operation and being cursed by a vengeful fortune teller, Major Chromov is trapped inside a baby’s body. The only way for Major Chromov to return to his body is to finish the operation and hunt down the most dangerous crime boss of the local mafia as a MUTHAFUCKING COP BABY.
Luciferina (North American Premiere)
Dir: Gonzalo Calzada
Nineteen-year-old nun-in-training Natalia (newcomer Sofia Del Tuffo) reluctantly returns home to say goodbye to her dying father. However, when she meets up with her sister and her friends, they all decide to travel into the jungle in search of mystical plant. But what they find instead is a world of black masses, strange pregnancies, violent deaths, as well as a climactic, shocking clash with the Devil himself that will leave you speechless.
The Secret Poppo (U.S. Premiere)
Dir: Kevin Cline, Zach Harris, and Sean Pierce
In this largely improvised comedy from the directors of Meathead Goes Hog Wild, Hall of Fame Architect and untrained actor Nick Luzietti (also a Chicago local!) shines in easily the most peculiar, wild, and just down-right fucking crazy performance you’ll see at this years festival (he’s incredible). Shot on location in Chicago, The Secret Poppo follows Luzietti as he discovers that not only does he have a granddaughter he never knew about, but she’s also missing! What happens from there can only be described as The Pink Panther crossed with an acid trip (yes of course that’s a compliment).
The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From A Mythical Man (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Tommy Avallone
You’ve heard the tales – random chance encounters with funny man Bill Murray – some of which sound more like urban legend than reality. The Bill Murray Stories chronicles one man’s journey to find meaning in Murray’s many unexpected adventures with everyday people, using rare and never-before seen footage of the comedic icon popping in on events like he was beamed in from outer space. Whether he’s singing karaoke late at night with strangers, crashing a kickball game in the middle of the afternoon, or posing as part of a wedding party, Bill Murray lives in the moment and, by doing so, gives us all hope that a similar kind of magic will touch our lives as well. Bill Murray is NOT expected to attend … but you never really know, do you?
The Captain (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Robert Schwentke
Based on a disturbing true story, the film follows Willi Herold (Max Hubacher), a German army deserter who stumbles across an abandoned Nazi captain’s uniform during the desperate final weeks of the Third Reich. Emboldened by the stolen suit, Willi discovers that many of his countrymen will follow anyone in a uniform giving orders, and the result is a parade of fresh, deprived atrocities that serve as a profound reminder of the consequences of social conformity and unchecked political power.
Clara’s Ghost (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Bridey Elliott
In a true family affair, actor Ted Reynolds (Chris Elliot) and Clara (Elliot’s real-life wife Paula Niedert Elliott), his scattered, homemaker wife, welcome their 20-something daughters – a pair of former child stars (real sisters SNL alum Abby Elliott and and writer/director Bridey Elliott) – back to their Connecticut home so Ted and the girls can be in a family-themed photo shoot for an airplane magazine. The hard-drinking clan’s banter becomes increasingly bitter and petty, and the reunion devolves into a drunken, hurtful, and darkly funny mess. As if that weren’t enough, a ghost that only Clara can see urges her to confront her self-centered family.
The Devil’s Doorway (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Aislinn Clarke
If you spend much time on the horror film festival circuit, you know that we’ve had a fantastic infusion of Irish genre films over the past few years – and this creepy, novel import from the Emerald Isle seems likely to keep that trend cooking. And if you think you’ve seen everything “found footage” has to offer, feel free to settle in with this eerie tale of two priests who travel to a secluded home for “fallen women,” only to discover a horrifying conspiracy that may or may not be supernatural in nature.
Heavy Trip (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren
Hailing from a small village in Northern Finland, musician Turo (Johannes Holopainen) is trying to overcome his fears by leading the an unknown heavy metal cover band, Impaled Rektum, to Norway’s biggest metal festival. This road trip comedy includes a musical brotherhood, grave robbing, Viking heaven, and an armed conflict between Finland and Norway. Heavy Trip marks the feature debut for co-directors Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren.
A Prayer Before Dawn (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire
Based on the remarkable true story of Billy Moore (Joe Cole), a young English boxer incarcerated in two of Thailand’s most notorious prisons. He is quickly thrown into a terrifying world of drugs and gang violence, but when the prison authorities allow him to take part in the Muay Thai boxing tournaments, he realizes this might be his chance to get out. Billy embarks on a relentless, action-packed journey from one savage fight to the next, stopping at nothing to preserve his life and regain his freedom. Shot in a an actual Thai prison with a cast of primarily real inmates, A Prayer Before Dawn is a visceral, thrilling journey through an unforgettable hell on earth. Directed by rising newcomer Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire (Johnny Mad Dog).
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund
Astute horror fans know the long and colorful history of the Puppet Master franchise: kicked off in 1989 and boasting no less than ten wild sequels, it has blossomed into one of the most beloved series on the indie horror circuit. (Probably because the flicks are loaded with crazy little homicidal puppets, many of which are available in nifty replica form.) But now the franchise is getting a reboot of sorts, courtesy of the man who wrote Bone Tomahawk; a pair of directors who are more than willing to get gory, nasty, and politically incorrect; and a top-notch ensemble cast that’ll keep any horror fan happy.
Relaxer (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Joel Potrykus
With the impending Y2K apocalypse fast approaching, Abbie (Joshua Burge) is issued the ultimate challenge by his older brother (David Dastmalchen) – to conquer the unbeatable record set by the notorious Billy Mitchell and get past Level 256 on Pac-Man – and he can’t get off the couch until he conquers it…no matter what. Abbie must survive with no food or water, and with idiot friends and toxic gas getting in his face. And somewhere along the line, his secret 3D glasses begin to give him new abilities, controlling the powers of his tiny universe. A survival story set in a living room.
Satan’s Slaves (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Joko Anwar
Joko Anwar’s remake of the 1980s Indonesian horror classic Satan’s Slaves proves that two things are universal: Nostalgia and the power of a good haunted house movie. Anwar uses every filmmaking trick at his disposal to create a giddy roller-coaster ride of a film, powered by strong performances from its child cast and a sustained bombardment of scares that starts early and doesn’t let up until the all-out Satanic madness of the climax. A gigantic hit in its native Indonesia, Satan’s Slaves will have you clutching your armrests no matter what language you speak.
Seven Stages To Achieve Eternal Bliss By Passing Through The Gateway Chosen By The Holy Storsh (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Vivieno Caldinelli
A small-town Ohio couple (Kate Micucci and Sam Huntington) thinks they’ve found the perfect, inexpensive Los Angeles apartment, except for one catch: the domicile is home to the ritualistic suicides of a deranged cult, led by its mysterious leader (Taika Waititi). And the guru’s followers keep breaking into the couple’s home to kill themselves in his honor. But rather than move out, the pair become increasingly fascinated by the cult’s belief system. Filled to the brim with funny cameos from the likes of Mindy Sterling, Mark McKinney, Dan Harmon, Maria Bamford, Brian Posehn, and Dana Gould, this surreal pitch-black comedy (courtesy of first-time feature director Vivieno Caldinelli) moves from unpredictable to unconventional while maintaining a great deal of charm and heart.
Summer of ’84 (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: RKSS (Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell)
For 15-year-old Davey (Graham Verchere), the thought of having a serial killer in his suburban town circa the 1980s is a scary yet exciting prospect at the start of a lazy summer. In hormonal overdrive, Davey and his friends dream of sexual conquests until the news reports of the Cape May Killer. Davey convinces his friends that they must investigate, and they come to the conclusion that his next-door neighbor, an unassuming, single police officer, could be the prime suspect. Is this a case of successful amateur sleuthing, or simply an overactive imagination fueled by Reagan-era paranoia? From the directing trio that brought the world 2015’s Turbo Kid.
What Keeps You Alive (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: Colin Minihan
What Keeps You Alive, Colin Minihan’s artfully suspenseful follow-up to his 2016 film It Stains The Sands Red, opens with two women pulling up to a remote cabin to celebrate their wedding anniversary. But don’t expect your standard pick-‘em-off slasher storyline. Both a brutal tale of survival horror and a devastating relationship drama, What Keeps You Alive turns on a shocking act of betrayal early in the film and only gets more twisted from there.
Wolfman’s Got Nards (Midwest Premiere)
Dir: André Gower
A heartfelt documentary exploring the power of the 1987 cult film The Monster Squad and its 30-year impact on its rabid fan base, the cast and crew, and the future of tween horror comedies. Making his feature debut, actor-turned-director André Gower brings us behind the scenes on the making of the film and digs into what made viewing it such a defining part of many genre fans’ upbringing.
The Ranger (Illinois Premiere)
Dir: Jenn Wexler
Jenn Wexler’s feature debut The Ranger has been tearing up film festivals across the South since its premiere at SXSW, and now this wildly energetic love letter to punk rock and ‘80s slasher movies is crowdsurfing its way to its Midwest premiere at Cinepocalypse. Starring Chloe Levine as a pink-haired punk on the run with her bratty friends and Jeremy Holm as the unhinged ranger who enforces park rules with bear traps and a shotgun, The Ranger is best played at maximum volume.
Bound (Writer/Director Lana Wachowski in attendance)
Dir: Lilly and Lana Wachowski
Three years before they delivered The Matrix and redefined action movies forever, the Wachowski siblings offered up a sensual, razor-sharp film noir throwback as their debut feature. Bolstered by career-best performances from Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, and Joe Pantoliano, Bound centers on two women scheming to rip off a dangerous gangster by stealing two million dollars from his money launderer, whose unexpected reaction to being a scapegoat threatens to derail the plan. With a groundbreaking lesbian love story at its driving force, the filmmakers bring copious amounts of wit, style, brains, sexiness, and a refreshingly progressive attitude to this landmark crime drama.
Juice (Writer/Director Ernest R. Dickerson in attendance)
Dir: Ernest R. Dickerson
After years of working as a celebrated cinematographer on such iconic films as John Sayles’ The Brother from Another Planet and Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, Ernest R. Dickerson made his directorial debut with this story of four Harlem teens who plan a grocery store robbery to earn “the juice,” or respect – but their pursuit of power and happiness takes an unexpected and dangerous turn. This landmark work for fans of hip-hop culture features early screen appearances by Tupac Shakur, Omar Epps, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight (Director Ernest R. Dickerson in attendance)
Dir: Ernest R. Dickerson
For his third time in the director’s chair – after the celebrated Juice (1992) and the cult classic Surviving the Game (1994) – Ernest R. Dickerson teamed up with Tales from the Crypt producers Richard Donner, Walter Hill, and Robert Zemeckis to bring the popular HBO series to the big screen. The result is a tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top comedy/horror mash-up about a demon who lays siege to a sleepy bed and breakfast. Plus, like the finest Tales from the Crypt episodes, this flick is stocked with lovable performers like Billy Zane, Dick Miller, Jada Pinkett Smith, CCH Pounder, Thomas Haden Church, and, of course, Cinepocalypse favorite William Sadler.
Judgment Night (Director Stephen Hopkins in attendance)
Dir: Stephen Hopkins
Already a veteran of rough, tough genre flicks after A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1985) and Predator 2 (1990), director Stephen Hopkins went with Judgment Night (1993) for his third American feature, and created one of the most celebrated street cred bad-ass urban thrillers of our generation. Featuring a now legendary ensemble cast (Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jeremy Piven, Stephen Dorff) this pre-GPS “Holy shit, we got off the wrong exit” nightmare scenario follows four friends as they get lost in downtown Chicago (!!), witness a murder, and then have to run for their lives when the villainous Denis Leary shows up. What more can we say then “this is one of our all time favorites”. We’ve been planning this screening for years, and if you’ve seen it, you’ve been waiting for this screening for years. So, breakout that hall of fame soundtrack (the first to ever merge hip-hop acts with heavy metal bands) and bang your head in anticipation for (Biohazard/Onyx scream): JUUUUUUUDGEMENT NIIIIIGHT!
Howard the Duck (Rare 70mm Screening)
Dir: Willard Huyck
Is it a guilty pleasure, a trainwreck, or a misunderstood masterpiece? The world may never agree, but there’s one thing you can definitively say about George Lucas’ cinematic interpretation of the cult favorite Marvel comic book about a wise-quacking duck trapped in a world he never made: it sure isn’t boring. Whether you’re amazed at how weird this mega-budget adaptation turned out to be (made all the more bizarre via this rare 70mm screening), or you’re savoring the underappreciated comedic contributions from Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins, there’s no denying that Howard the Duck gives movie geeks and comic book nuts something to talk/argue about.
Doctor X (Rare 35mm Screening)
Dir. Michael Curtiz
The great granddaddy of body horror movies, Doctor X is a 1932 genre mash-up that may as well have been grafted together on the operating table with a healthy dollop of synthetic flesh. Simultaneously a gruesome moonlight murder mystery and a saucy pre-Code newspaper comedy, Doctor X was photographed in the two-strip Technicolor process, which renders the morgue visits and grisly medical experiments in an eerily unreal color palette. Starring Fay Wray (King Kong) and Lionell Atwill (Mystery at the Wax Museum). Says Hollywood Babylon’s Kenneth Anger, “There is something for everyone in this picture: cannibalism, dismemberment, rape, and necrophilia — and a piquant kinky bonus when Atwill displays erotic arousal at the sight of Preston Foster unscrewing his artificial arm.”
Also at Cinepocalypse 2018…
’80’s All Over – Live Podcast Recording with special guest Jonah Ray!
The podcast that covers every film released in the 1980s (month after exhaustive month) will be at Cinepocalypse to record its first-ever LIVE show! Co-hosts and well-respected film bloggers/critics Drew McWeeny (who is based in L.A.) and Scott Weinberg (a Philadelphia native) will, on this rarest of occasions, converge in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre – with special guest Jonah Ray, the lovable pop culture geek from “The Nerdist Podcast,” “The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail” series, and the recently rebooted Mystery Science Theater 3000, which he hosts.