Two tastes at SXSW

Uni's 'Bruno,' 'Hell' test waters with footage

Two of Universal's most anticipated 2009 titles — "Bruno," the latest comedy from Sacha Baron Cohen, and "Drag Me to Hell," director Sam Raimi's return to his stylistic horror films — made appearances Sunday at the South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival.

"Bruno" bowed footage at the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar in an auditorium holding fewer than 150 people. So when the lone screening sold out, a second showing quickly was scheduled.

The clip amounted to 22 minutes from the film, scheduled for a July 10 release. In it, Baron Cohen plays a gay Austrian talk-show host named Bruno who emigrates to the U.S. and winds up traveling through small towns and humiliating locals on camera much as he did as his Borat character in 2006.

Later, the "Hell" screening at the Paramount Theatre downtown drew a more excited crowd than any other festival premiere so far. Crowds began lining up early to get a good spot in line for the screening of a work-in-progress cut of the film, which opens May 29.

"Hell," which was introduced by Raimi and Ain't It Cool News founder Harry Knowles, is a gross-out return to Raimi's vintage brand of pulpy horror, and the 1,200-strong crowd ate it up.

The SXSW specials continued Monday, when those who were able to make a morning screening after the previous evening's midnight event watched Richard Linklater's "Me and Orson Welles."

The historical drama, about the Mercury Theatre's 1937 production of "Julius Caesar," played Toronto in September and opens theatrically in October.

The world premiere of the Seth Rogen starrer "Observe and Report" was set to take place Monday in advance of the closing-night awards tonight. (partialdiff)