ByAlisha Grauso, writer at
Editor-at-large here at Movie Pilot. Nerd out with me on Twitter, comrades: @alishagrauso
Alisha Grauso

Ahhhh, July. It's that time of year when people break out the hot dogs, fireworks, bathing suits...and hundreds of thousands of people descend upon San Diego like geek confetti for San Diego Comic-Con. Fans are putting the final touches on their cosplay, and members of the press are frantically making sure our external battery packs are fully charged and ready to go.

This week, dozens of sites will be churning out their SDCC 2016 preview pieces, and we're no different. But instead of talking about the usual things (I mean, hello, who isn't looking forward to Marvel Studios' return to Saturday's Hall H?), I wanted to do a roundup of some under the radar events that will be very cool.

1. Don't Breathe Fan And Press Screening (Screen Gems)

When: Thursday, July 21 at 10 p.m.

Where: UA Horton Plaza 14

Sony Screen Gems' upcoming horror film won't be released in theaters until August, but horror fans and first-to-watch junkies alike can get a sneak peek of Fede Alvarez' sure to terrify flick a month early on Thursday night at Horton Plaza.

The premise is an interesting one, too. Rather than your usual home invasion story, Don't Breathe flips that trope on its head. When a group of kids decide to break into a wealthy blind man's house to rob him, the tables are turned when it's revealed that he's a serial killer and it's actually they who will be fighting to survive. Scary with a twist, it's a good way to kick off the first official night of Comic-Con.

2. The Snowden Panel (Open Road)

When: Thursday, July 21 at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Hall H

Let's be real. We're all there mostly for the big, nerdy, blockbusters. But every once in a while, it's nice to dip your toes into some quality indie drama, too - especially if it comes in a package deal with legendary director Oliver Stone's first appearance at San Diego Comic-Con. Expect him to bring some exclusive footage from Snowden. And don't worry - your nerdy heart will be sated, as well, for fan favorites Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, and Zachary Quinto will also be on hand for the panel and Q&A.

3. Special Trolls Presentation Panel (DreamWorks Animation)

When: Thursday, July 21 at 10 a.m.

Where: Hall H

Have kids? Like animation? Then the DreamWorks Animation panel is your jam on Thursday morning. They're inviting everyone to "find your happy place" with a special Trolls presentation moderated by Chris Hardwick. At this point, the man moderates about 74% of panels and after shows in North America, so you know he's a pro. Plus, there will be some legit star talent as the panel will also boast Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, director Mike Mitchell, co-director Walt Dohrn and producer Gina Shay.

4. Sausage Party Filmmaker Conversation (Sony Pictures)

When: Thursday, July 21 at 5:45 p.m. (pre-party) / 7:45 p.m. (film screening)

Where: Mad House Comedy Club (pre-party) / UA Horton Plaza 8 Theater (film screening)

I've seen both Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg a few times for panels and roundtables, and they are always hilarious. Thursday evening at SDCC should be no different when they go balls to the wall for their Sausage Party, Direct from the site:

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have been the masterminds behind some of the world's most outrageous, inventive, and hilarious comedies, and now they are going into the world of animation for Sony Pictures and Annapurna Pictures' Sausage Party: the world's first R-rated CG animated comedy. The film is about a group of supermarket products on a quest to discover the truth about their existence and what really happens when they become chosen to leave the grocery story. Not only will you hear all about it as Seth and Evan lead a conversation, you can see the movie for yourself. Following the conversation, attend the pre-party starting at 6PM at the Mad House Comedy Club, Horton Plaza and screening at 8PM at the UA Horton Plaza 8 Theater (attendees at the panel should check in at the theater by 7:45PM for guaranteed screening admittance).

So yeah. Go there. Do that. As someone who has cracked up every time she's been around Rogen an Goldberg, I can tell you that the Sausage Party event is not to be missed.

5. South Park Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary

When: Friday, July 22 at 5 p.m.

Where: Hall H

South Park is kicking off its 20th anniversary in a huge way at SDCC 2016. The panel will be held in Hall H on Friday moderated by - say it with me, now - Chris Hardwick, but there's so much more than just a panel. There will also be a 4-day long, interactive fan experience at Martin Luther King, Jr. Promenade Park called the "South Park 20 Experience." Fans will be able to screen episodes and refresh at the Hulu Viewing Lounge, and see exclusive items from the upcoming South Park: The Fractured But Whole video game from Ubisoft. There will also be original animation and art from 20 different pop culture artists, and a slew of other South Park-related events for even the most die-hard of fans.

6. The Woods Fan Screening (Lionsgate)

When: Friday, July 22 at 7 p.m.

Where: TBA (Fans must stop by Lionsgate Booth #4045 to score tix to the exclusive event)

Lionsgate is also offering a screening of its upcoming, Adam Wingard-directed horror film, The Woods. This one looks to be a bit more exclusive, however - fans must stop by Lionsgate's booth (#4045) for insider info on where the screening will be held. The synopsis isn't much to go by - a group of college students on a camping trip discover they are not alone - but the early reviews have been buzzy and it looks like it could very well be one of those sleeper hits that redefines the horror genre. Some of the best horror films of the last few years have been little gems like these, so if you're a fan of all things horror, I highly suggest checking out the exclusive event.

7. AMC Comes To SDCC With Preacher, The Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead, And Geeking Out

When: Friday, July 22 at 12 p.m. (Fear the Walking Dead) / 1 p.m. (The Walking Dead) / 6:30 p.m. (Preacher) / Saturday, July 23 at 7:00 p.m. (Geeking Out)

Where: Hall H

Okay, so maybe The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead aren't exactly under the radar, but AMC's panels are worth heading to for Preacher alone. Now that Game of Thrones and TWD are wrapped for the season, Preacher is hands-down the most bonkers, batshit, weird, well-written show currently airing and unlike anything on TV or streaming at the moment. Just trust me on this one. I've spent a lot of time with the cast, and they're an absolute blast to be around and hilarious on stage. Plus, it's being moderated by...Kevin Smith! And you thought I was going to say Chris Hardwick, didn't you? But no, it's nerd icon Smith, who will also be showcasing his own panel the next day for the launch of his new late-night talk show, Geeking Out. Plus, both Rogen and Goldberg will be there (these guys are everywhere this year) and comic book legend and Preacher creator Garth Ennis, as well. Definitely not to be missed.

8. The American Gods And Ash Vs. Evil Dead Season 2 Panels (Starz)

When: Friday, July 22 at 3:15 p.m. (American Gods) / Saturday, July 23 at 6:45 p.m. (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Where: Room 6BCF (American Gods) / Room 6A (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Starz has gotten into the original scripted series game with Ash vs. Evil Dead, which, much like the classic '80s movie trilogy upon which it is based, has garnered itself quite the cult following. How could it not with nerd icons Bruce Campbell in the lead and Lucy Lawless on board? And AMC's year at SDCC will be even more exciting as it will be the first panel for American Gods, based on Neil Gaiman's beloved, award-winning novel. It's one of the most highly-anticipated new series of the year, and it will be especially exciting to see the cast assembled for the first time at SDCC along with Gaiman, who is easily one of the most celebrated authors of our time.

9. Luc Besson Brings Valerian To Comic-Con (Relativity/Europa Corp.)

When: Thursday, July 21 at 1:00 p.m.

Where: Hall H

Love him or hate him, you can't deny that director Luc Besson has made some of the most iconic sci-fi and action movies of our time, including La Femme Nikita, Léon: The Professional, and The Fifth Element - I mean, you still see Leeloo cosplay to this day. The always-experimental director is bringing his upcoming movie, Valerian, to SDCC this year. Even though it's not due to be released for another year, it boasts an all-star cast including Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, John Goodman, Clive Owen, Rihanna, and Ethan Hawke. Plus, it's shaping up with what appears to be some bonkers visuals - a trademark of his sci-fi films - judging from the description:

Under directive from their Commander (Owen), Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Delevingne) embark on a mission to the breathtaking intergalactic city of Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis comprised of thousands of different species from all four corners of the universe. Alpha’s seventeen million inhabitants have converged over time- uniting their talents, technology and resources for the betterment of all. Now unfortunately, not everyone on Alpha shares in these same objectives; in fact, unseen forces are at work, placing our race in great danger.

What underrated gems are you most looking forward to at SDCC 2016? Share with me in the comments!


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