null Normal is boring.  Give me odd, bizarre, or like the city of Austin, Texas; just plain weird.

The birthplace of the much beloved and revered University ofTexas, the area that is nowAustin, can trace its roots back to  the Paleolithic Era (approximately 11,000 BC).  Later, the region served as a respite for several nomadic Native American tribes, including the Tonkawa, the Comanches, and the Lipan Apaches.  It has been the setting for battles, both physical and political in nature, and was not always the capitol of the Lone Star state.  It took a backseat to Houston until 1839 when it got a name change, from Waterloo to Austin, and was promoted.

Fast forward 172 years and Austin is now a thriving capitol city, whose unofficial slogan is “Keep Austin Weird.”  I am sold!

In 1987, SXSW first arrived in Austin.  Today it is considered the world’s largest musical showcase, with 2,000 performers, playing 90 venues over the length of the festival.  Since 2007, SXSW has also been the largest hatchery of new interactive media.  Web gurus salivate in anticipation of the new technology that is unveiled at SXSW.  In 1987, attendance was approximately 7,000.  The anticipated turnout for 2012 is between 12,000 – 15,000 registrants.

Now that the history lesson is over, I can sink my teeth into what makes me respond in a Pavlovian manner — movies — weird movies, to be precise.  Over the years, SXSW has premiered some of the most inventive films, most of which have earned a place in my treasured DVD collection.

I will again stress that a writer creates the best work when writing about that which is familiar.  Therefore I will only rant about films that I’ve actually seen.

Without question, my favorite genre is horror.  I saw The Exorcist in 1973, when I was 7 years old.  My mother (may she rest in peace) might not have displayed the best parenting skills, but I am thankful for the early introduction to films which are now considered classics.  Even at that tender age, I knew the difference between cinema and reality, although I suppose I should mention that, to this day, “The Exorcist” is one of only two films that I cannot watch alone.

SXSW reserves most horror films for the aptly named “’Round Midnight” screenings.  Some of the horror films went on to become part of After Dark Horrorfest’s “8 Films to Die For,” a movie festival that showcased new and independent horror films and ran from 2006 through 2010.

During SXSW 2009, fans were treated to a screening of Lake Mungo.  The film centers on the disappearance of a young girl and combines a mystery with a ghost story.  Though not one of my favorites, it’s good to know that SXSW provides a platform for new filmmakers.  Lake Mungo and the other After Dark movies were picked-up by Lionsgate Films for DVD release.  Mungo is, thus far, the sole feature film for Australian director Joel Anderson.  Despite winning an Australian Writer’s Guild award for his 2003 short film, The Rotting Woman, it may not have been possible forAnderson to gain exposure in the US market.  SXSW provided him with a platform.

In 2008, SXSW included Otis in its “Midnight” collection.  This independent horror comedy is arguably one of the most unconventional serial killer sagas.  Director Tony Krantz and writers Erik Jendresen and Thomas Schnuaz combined an excellent script with a cast of seasoned actors and talented newcomers.  The result was an extremely entertaining film, with caustic humor and outrageous plot twists.  If nothing else, after viewing Otis, you will question the position of antagonist versus protagonist.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping film to premiere at SXSW was the 2010 Swedish film, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor). Part of the “Millennium” series of novels by Stieg Larsson, (which includes the sequels (The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) it has become wildly popular; so popular that Hollywood is remaking all three films under the formidable direction of David Fincher.  The main character in the franchise, Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace), is an angry, bi-sexual, computer hacker who is hell-bent for vengeance.  Plainly stated, she just kicks-ass and doesn’t bother taking names…and while we’re on the subject, I will move on to the last film for today…

In 2010, SXSW also screened Kick-Ass, which later became a box office blow-out.  Although I wouldn’t consider this a horror film, the story of ordinary people turning themselves into super heroes, won a Saturn Award for Best Horror/Thriller.  I’m certain that no one involved in the making of the film will ever be short of work or money.

These titles comprise a fraction of the films brought to the public courtesy of SXSW.  In the months ahead, I will likely meander back to the bizarre movies of SXSW and how they have helped to keep Austin weird for almost 25 years.