Sydney Film Festival reveals seven sinister films for their “Freak Me Out” program

Fans of the dark, weird and macabre side of cinema are once again in for a treat as Freak Me Out returns to the 65th annual Sydney Film Festival. As one of the event’s most popular programs, the collection has once again been carefully stitched together with a far-reaching, open-minded sense of curation from guest programmer Richard Kuipers, who has compiled a list of zingy punk rock slashers, Brazilian werewolf dramas, and two of the most buzzed about horror anthologies in years.

A total of seven films have been rounded up for the SFF sidebar, ranging from classic horror to arthouse terror and even picking up a new venue with The Randwick Ritz in the process. Of course, this means that there should be more room to celebrate the darker side of the film festival, with the new venue joining Dendy Newtown and Event Cinemas to help bolster Freak Me Out’s reach.

You’re going to want to get on these with your Flexipass as soon as possible, as once word spreads it’s looking like packed cinemas all-round. And festival regulars know that there is no better thrill then watching a horror film in a full house.

Upgrade (Australia)

Often credited as one of the biggest names in the reinvention of mainstream horror, Australia’s very own Leigh Whannell of Saw and Insidious fame turns his attention to cyberpunk-horror action thriller with Upgrade. The delightfully gory and beautifully shot film (we’ve seen it, it’s fun) stars Logan Marshall-Green and Get Out star Betty Gabriel, telling the story of tech-resistant Grey Trace (Marshall-Green) who is forced to accept a skin-implanted super chip in order to avenge his wife’s murder; the chip makes him almost super human but that comes at a bit of a cost. This was a huge hit at SXSW and is destined to delight horror fans in Sydney.

You can check out our interview with Leigh and the cast HERE, and also our review of the film HERE.

All tickets and session details for Upgrade can be found HERE.

Ghost Stories (UK)

It’s rare to see a proper horror anthology creep out of the crypt and into mainstream cinema nowadays. Enter Ghost Stories, another film fresh from SXSW success with a very inventive overarching story thread through three separate terrifying tales. The ending will leave the audience’s jaws in the floor (yes, we’ve seen this one too), that much is guaranteed and you’ll most likely be clamoring to see it again. The less said about this surprising anthology the better, so i’ll just leave it at that.

You can check out our review of Ghost Stories HERE.

All tickets and session details for Ghost Stories can be found HERE.

What Keeps You Alive (Canada)

The genius behind 2011 hit Grave Encounters (one of the best found-footage supernatural horrors ever), Colin Minihan, is back with What Keeps You Alive. The film, which premiered at SXSW, seems like an indie cabin horror that flips a romantic weekend in the wilderness into a violent, disturbing fight for survival. If the trailer is anything to go by, this one should be a stand-out of the program strand with a top notch cast and a nightmarish scenario.

All tickets and session details for What Keeps You Alive can be found HERE.

Piercing (USA)

Hellish monochrome horror The Eyes of My Mother made a lasting impact as part of Freak Me Out two years ago, and now its architect Nicolas Pesce is back with something that looks a bit more accessible to a wider audience. While ‘Mother’ was a hard-to-love but incredibly effective and beautifully made ode to the more evil kind of horror movie, it seems Pesce has delivered something completely different with Piercing – thought we assume, no less artful. Mia Wasikowska stars in this adaptation of Ryū Murakami’s 1994 novel about a seemingly ordinary husband and father who has an uncontrollable urge to kill. His plan to murder sex worker Jackie, after calling an escort service during a ‘business trip’, turns out to be anything but straightforward.

All tickets and session details for Piercing can be found HERE.

The Field Guide to Evil (USA, Poland, Hungary, India, Germany, Austria, Turkey, Greece)

Another huge hit at SXSW and another anthology, although this time multiple directors across different countries have hopped on board to participate in this ambitious, sinister project from the producers behind The ABCs of Death , Ant Timpson and Tim League. The concept behind this one is quite brilliant, presenting a unified theme requiring each director to adapt scary folk tales specific to their own country.

All tickets and session details for The Field Guide to Evil can be found HERE.

Good Manners (Brazil, France)

What would a horror movie program be without a good old fashion werewolf movie. This time the classic trope is interpreted via a “classy, scary and seductive Brazilian outing”, offered up by Brazilian duo Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra who won the Special Jury Prize at Locarno and the Critics’ Award at Sitges for this piece of work. It follows the story of Clara, a poor, black and unemployed woman who against all odds lands a job as a live-in nanny in the posh São Paulo apartment of a pregnant white woman who has been disowned by her rich family. A love story builds up between the two, right before the movie is said to twist into a “scary and wonderfully idiosyncratic tale of love and lycanthropy”.

All tickets and session details for Good Manners can be found HERE.

The Ranger (2018)

We’re expecting this one to be loud, unabashed and so, so fun. Described as a punk rock slasher, The Ranger comes at us from – yep, again – SXSW where it remained a festival favourite, telling the tale of a group of teenage punks who encounter a very strict and twisted park ranger while hiding out from the cops. The knife him of course, because that’s what smart teens in horror movies do, forcing them to escape to a cabin in the woods. And we all know what happens when a group of teenagers squeeze into a dusty old cabin in some dusty old woods. The ever reliable Chloe Levine plays in this Jenn Wexler film, so you know it’s going to be a good time.

All tickets and session details for The Ranger can be found HERE.

For more details on all these films head on over to the official Freak Me Out section of the Sydney Film Festival website HERE.


This content has recently been ported from its original home on The Iris and may have formatting errors – images may not be showing up, or duplicated, and galleries may not be working. We are slowly fixing these issue. If you spot any major malfunctions making it impossible to read the content, however, please let us know at editor AT

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review and a freelance travel writer. You can reach him on Instagram by following @chrisdsingh.

Tags: ,