For the most part, film festival SXSWGenre offerings tend to adhere closely to its Midnighter section, dedicated to nighttime chills. However, it does extend to other categories of festival programming. That’s certainly the case for this year’s Episodic Premieres, a programming category dedicated to world premieres of series scheduled for release.
Almost all of the episodic releases of SXSW 2021 dabbled in the genre space, from cryptid-based true-crime conspiracy to young adult psychological thrills set in the ’90s. The best part is that each and every one of them will be released in the upcoming weeks.
Here’s a rundown of the SXSW genre series coming very soon.
Made for love –April 1 on HBO Max
Based on the tragicomic novel by Alissa Nutting, Made for love, this series begins with a premise eerily similar to last year’s The invisible man. It opens with an exciting and slightly bloody introduction to Hazel Green (Cristin Milioti), thirty-somethings in the middle of an intense escape from her husband, technology mogul, Byron Gogol (Billy magnussen). She is on the run from a suffocating 10-year marriage trapped inside her “hub,” a high-tech biosphere. The romance turns into a nightmare for Hazel, the full extent of which remains to be seen.
The premiere cuts between Hazel’s current attempt to find safety and the events that led to her escape, and cleverly alternates between science fiction, comedy and horror. The main tone here is humor. The series begins with a short 30-minute episode, and Milioti instantly hooks the audience, landing Hazel in the middle of the absurdity of this world. Seek out Ray Romano to embrace the stranger, too, as Hazel’s sex doll’s father in love.
They – April 9 on Amazon Prime Video
If you only have time to watch one series, do this one. Not only is They Firmly planted in horror, but intense from start to finish, at least for the two episodes screened on SXSW. Read the full review here or watch the trailer here.
Executive produced by Little marvin other Lena Waithe, They stars Deborah Ayorinde, Ashley Thomas, Alison Pill, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Melody Hurd, Y Ryan kwanten.
Facing a serial killer – April 18 at Starz
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 director Joe berlinger has made a career out of true crime documentaries. More recently, he has tackled the Netflix series. The Ted Bundy Tapes, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, Crime Scene: The Disappearance at Hotel Cecil, Y Murder among Mormons. That series of Netflix releases instantly begs the question, why the premium Starz channel instead? The answer comes almost immediately, with graphic descriptions of sexual assault and murder, many via audio from serial killer Samuel Little.
The limited series follows the best-selling author / journalist Jillian Lauren while establishing a relationship with Little to identify all of his victims. Little may be in jail serving life sentences, but his very extensive record indicates an incredible number of crimes that he has gotten away with in his lifetime. Lauren struggles to extract confessions from Little, but realizes that she may be becoming his latest victim on a psychological level. It is this critical tug of war between journalist and psychopath that makes this documentary series so gripping and chilling.
Cruel summer – April 20 in free form
This Jessica Biel-produced psychological thriller follows the lives of two Texas teenagers. Kate Wallis (Olivia holt) is the popular girl with a lovely life, and Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia, Gerald’s game) is the nerdy outcast. Kate disappears and Jeanette takes her place as the hot new girl until she is accused of being connected to Kate’s disappearance. Cruel summer alternates between 1993, 1994 and 1995 to follow Jeannette’s rise and fall from social grace, raising a series of intriguing questions in the process. The SXSW premiere provides an overview of Jeannette’s changing home life and friendships, laying down multiple mysteries tied to the core of Kate’s disappearance.
The alternate timelines, steeped in ’90s nostalgia, work to create interest, but diminish it with revelations that suggest the focus could be more related to stalking than murder. Addressing a young adult audience probably means more melodramatic answers to the questions posed, but the timeline hook gets off to an interesting start.
Sasquatch – April 20 on Hulu
director Joshua Rofé and the producers Duplass Brothers Merge the cryptid conspiracy with real crime in this three-part documentary series that investigates a bizarre 25-year-old triple homicide said to be the work of Bigfoot. The series follows investigative journalist David Holthouse as he investigates the 1993 murder of three mangled men in Northern California.
Using animation and a mix of eccentric talking heads, along with Holthouse, the premiere paints a picture of a conspiracy set in the cannabis farms of the early 1990s. However, unlike most true crime documentaries, it doesn’t there is a clear case to follow here. Holthouse describes it as the craziest story he’s ever heard, and many talking heads in the first episode regard Bigfoot as fact or fiction. While there is a base of lighthearted humor throughout, there is also a tedious dryness to the narrative that makes Sasquatch seems to be only for avid cryptid hunters.