Cult central at Slamdance

'Weirdsville,' 'Zombie' in lineup

Boasting such quintessentially irreverent features as "American Zombie" and "American Fork," the 13th annual Slamdance Film Festival on Tuesday announced its lineup of competitive features and special screenings.

The screwball comedy "Weirdsville" from veteran cult director Allan Moyle ("Pump Up the Volume") launches the fest Jan. 18 as the opening-night gala film. Scott Speedman, Wes Bentley and Taryn Manning star in what fest programmers describe as "the story of two junkies on the run from a satanic cult, a cabal of midget knights, a vengeful drug dealer and a mouse."

Programmers say a record 3,600-plus films, up from more than 3,000 last year, were submitted this year to fill fewer than 100 slots.

"What sets Slamdance's program apart this year is a passionate combination that offers a high level of entertainment, social and commercial value," festival president and co-founder Peter Baxter said. "In most ways, the program represents the spirit of the Slamdance id. This 13-year-old teenager breaks rules, has stayed true to its roots and embodies the spirit of independent creativity."

Each of the 10 narrative and 10 documentary films is made by a first-time feature director with budgets of $1 million or less.

The narrative feature competition sports six world premieres, including "American Fork," Chris Bowman's chronicle of an obese grocery clerk; "American Zombie," Grace Lee's deadpan look at filmmakers shooting the undead; and "Over the GW," Nick Gaglia's portrait of two brothers in a rehab program.

Other world premieres include three films centering on murder: Will Slocombe's "Crime Fiction," Daniel Casey's "The Death of Michael Smith" and Slamdance best narrative short winner Jeremy Saulnier's "Murder Party."

The narrative competition also includes "Bangkok," Colin Drobnis' story of the friendship between an ex-soldier and a pickpocket; "The Path of Most Resistance," Peter Kelley's portrait of a thief; "Tijuana Makes Me Happy," Dylan Verrechia's prostitution-themed love story; and the U.S. premiere of Baran bo Odar's 1980s coming-of-age tale "Under the Sun."

The documentary competition covers topics ranging from baseball-playing prisoners (Tiller Russell and Loren Mendell's "Bad Boys of Summer"), an obsessive Bob Dylan fan (James Bluemel and Oliver Ralfe's "Ballad of AJ Weberman"), a first-person account of growing up in a cult ("Children of God: Lost and Found") and a post-Sept. 11 revenge killing (Tami Yeager's "Dream in Doubt").

Other docus explore competitive gamers (Seth Gordon's "King of Kong"), an identical twin facing a sex-change operation (Brooke Sebold, Benita Sills and Todd Sills' "Red Without Blue"), a hoped-for Wu-Tang Clan reunion (Casey Suchan and Denis Hennelly's "Rock the Bells") and a transcontinental rowboat race (Luke Wolbach's "Row Hard No Excuses.")

Jeremy and Randy Stulberg's "Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa," a portrait of a New Mexico outland, and Adam Hootnick's Middle East tale "Unsettled" round out the list.

Two stories about the lives of young adults, Gary Walkow's "Crashing" and Henry Pincus' "You Are Here," will be shown in narrative special screenings. Three docu special screenings offer varied looks at interesting lives: Andrew Neel's painter portrait "Alice Neel"; Janine Hosking's tale of an accused drug smuggler, "Ganja Queen"; and Arturo Perez Torres' chronicle of Mexican vigilantes, "Super Amigos."

The late-night "21+" screenings feature Sean Meredith's update on the classic "Dante's Inferno"; Roar Uthaug's horror film "Cold Prey"; and Adam Rifkin's caveman comedy "Homo Erectus."

As always, Slamdance runs concurrently with the indie fest that inspired it, the Sundance Film Festival, from Jan. 18-27.