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The Chicago International Film Festival welcomes spooky season with an After Dark exclusive

The Vast Of Night
Photo: CIFF

Fall is on its way—The Onion’s own Mr. Autumn Man has declared it so. And with the cooler weather and shorter days comes the advent of what social media has collectively dubbed “spooky season,” the extended Halloween celebration that now extends well into September (not that we’re complaining, just an observation). To honor these impending thrills and chills, we’ve got an exclusive announcement from The Chicago International Film Festival unveiling its After Dark slate, described by the festival as encompassing everything from “blood-splattering gore to suspenseful sci-fi to the outrageously wild, weird, and wicked.”

A pair of films The A.V. Club caught at The Overlook Film Festival earlier this year lead the lineup, including the formally innovative indie sci-fi flick The Vast Of Night, which just got picked up for distribution by Amazon; and Knives And Skin from Chicago’s own Jennifer Reeder, a stylish and slyly feminist update on the Twin Peaks/Riverdale teen noir. And although we haven’t seen them yet, Zombieland: Double Tap is a sequel literally a decade in the making, and Girl On The Third Floor has the Chicago connection in a headlock thanks to its starring turn from CM Punk.


Full descriptions of the CIFF After Dark lineup for 2019 are below. The Chicago International Film Festival kicks off on October 16, and goes through October 27. You can find ticket information at this link.

Feature Films:

8: A South African Horror Story

Director: Harold Hölscher

South Africa

Grounded in South African folklore, this moody, menacing supernatural thriller follows a white family newly arrived on an inherited farm. Soon after moving in, they meet a mysterious local outcast named Lazarus, who carries with him a dark secret that will put everyone at risk. With evocative images, spine-tingling sound-design, and a terrific central performance by Tshamano Sebe, director Harold Hölscher conjures up both visceral scares and a heartbreaking narrative. 99 min.

 Deerskin Le Daim

Director: Quentin Dupieux

France / Belgium / Switzerland

After bearded loner Georges acquires a new suede jacket, he becomes so infatuated with the garment that he sets off on an oddball crusade that quickly takes on a murderous turn: To eliminate all other jackets. Along the way, he enlists amateur cineaste and bartender Denise to document his quest. At the heart of this wickedly deadpan black comedy is a committed performance from The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, who plays Georges with unabashedly deranged glee. French with subtitles. 77 min.


Girl on the Third Floor

Director: Travis Stevens


Home improvement can be horrible—but for Don (CM Punk), a tattooed dad-to-be fixing up his newly acquired turn-of-the-century Victorian, they can be downright gruesome. With his wife away, Don tries to clean up his own act and the decaying drywall, but the house has other plans. With a bounty of blood-splattering body-horror, Girl on the Third Floor is a supernatural skin-crawler about how things left to rot can come back to haunt you. 93 min.


Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway Jesús te muestra el camino a la autopista

Director: Miguel Llansó

Spain / Estonia / Ethiopia / Latvia / Romania / U.K.

Special Agent DT Gagano suits up for one final mission when a computer virus, a virtual manifestation of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, infiltrates the CIA’s mainframe. As Gagano straps into the simulated universe known as Psycho Book, reality itself begins to unravel. A gonzo melange of 1970s exploitation cinema, kung-fu fighting, Cold War paranoia, and retro sci-fi fuels the madcap action as this absurd adventure careens towards its thrilling, hilarious conclusion. 82 min.


Knives and Skin

Director: Jennifer Reeder


In this mystical Twin Peaks-ian teen noir, the disappearance of a high school student points to dark forces at work in a sleepy Illinois town. Although friends, neighbors, and family search for Carolyn Harper, the case remains unsolved. Unmoored and adrift, the rural community—from the mother of the missing girl to her fellow choir members—tries to soldier on. Surreal, sly, and shocking, Jennifer Reeder’s coming-of-age tale has a fiercely feminist heart. 112 min.


The Vast of Night

Director: Andrew Patterson


One night in a sleepy 1950s New Mexico town, a high-school switchboard operator hears mysterious sounds bleeding through the phone-lines. Running around town, she teams up with a crackerjack radio host to identify the source of the sonic disturbances. With dynamic, fluid camerawork, a keen use of sound and darkness, and a Spielbergian touch, filmmaker-to-watch Andrew Patterson follows the twosome’s thrilling unearthly investigation as it leads them to dark secrets and realms unknown. 90 min


Zombieland: Double Tap

Director: Ruben Fleischer


A decade after Zombieland became a hit film and a cult classic, the lead cast (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone) have reunited with director Ruben Fleischer (Venom) and the original writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Deadpool) for Zombieland: Double Tap. In the sequel, written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham, through comic mayhem that stretches from the White House and through the heartland, these four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family. 93 min.


Short Film Program:

Shorts 3: Up at Night - After Dark

Living dreams, waking nightmares, and flesh-hungry animals meet in this eclectic mix of late-night short films.

The cows are unsettled and a child escapes one night as a power plant becomes a Monster God (Dir. Augustina San Martin, Argentina). A deer on an evening car ride collides with some unfortunate Roadkill (Dir. Leszek Mozga, U.K.) In Stucco (Dirs. Janina Gavankar, Russo Schelling, U.S.), an agoraphobic woman finds a suspicious, hollow wall in her house. A downtrodden man receives a powerful gift in the sardonic All Inclusive (Dir. Teemu Nikki, Finland). In Who’s A Good Boy? (Dir. Alex Phillips, U.S.), a creepy park urinator gets his comeuppance. A vacation in a haunted house allows an ethereal peek into the spirit realm in White Echo (Dir. Chloë Sevigny, U.S.). Please Speak Continuously and Describe Your Experiences As They Come To You (Dir. Brandon Cronenberg, Canada) delves into dreams during an experimental treatment at a psychiatric facility. 85min


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