The weekend is upon us, and for many of us here at The A.V. Club—writers and readers alike—that means trekking out to the nearest theater to catch a movie (or seven). Sure, you could see that unplayable iPhone game or that unnecessary (but apparently solid) comedy sequel or Civil War for a third time. But if you happen to live in the Chicagoland area, you’ve got better options. A whole festival worth of them, in fact.
The Chicago Film Critics Festival, now in its fourth year, offers a lineup of films curated entirely by the city’s critical community. The fest begins tonight with Sundance selections, including the harrowing frat-house drama Goat (featuring a surprisingly excellent performance by Nick Jonas) and Chad Hartigan’s coming-of-age crowd-pleaser Morris From America (featuring career-best work from Craig Robinson, who will be in attendance). But that’s just a taste of what will be screened at Chicago’s historic Music Box Theatre over the next few days. The slate also includes Hunt For The Wilderpeople, the warmly received new comedy from Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows); a new Werner Herzog documentary, Lo And Behold: Reveries Of A Connected World; and the Western revenge thriller In A Valley Of Violence, directed by House Of The Devil’s Ti West and starring John Travolta, Ethan Hawke, and Karen Gillan.
As in years past, a few A.V. Club favorites made the cut. (Full disclosure: As a Chicago critic myself, I stumped for a few titles.) Horror fans in the area should take special note, as CFCF has managed to secure two outstanding new fright flicks. Under The Shadow is basically an Iranian Babadook, simply replacing that film’s psychological subtext with a socio-political one; it’s as dramatically satisfying as it is scary. And The Blackcoat’s Daughter, formerly February, is a stylish, dread-drenched descendant of such classics as Suspiria and The Shining. (Our own Katie Rife, who saw the film at Fantastic Fest, is also a fan.)