Monday , 6 February 2023

NYC Horror Film Fest is here!!!

For a lot of people, the most joyous and wonderful time of year is once again upon us. But, for many of us, the holiday season we hold closest to our bloody hearts has already ended. While us horror lovers lament the passing of Halloween and all that it entrails, I mean, entails, there is hope on the horizon in the form of the New York City Horror Film Festival. Haunting Manhattan now for twenty years, the NYC Horror Film Fest offers its minions the newest and ghoulest horror features and shorts, some making their U.S. and even world premieres. Entries come from all over the globe and compete for a variety of awards, ranging from Best Actor/Actress to Best Cinematography and Special Effects, plus the most prestigious of all, Best Feature. There’s even awards for Best Unproduced Screenplays.

In normal times, the festival would be held at a deluxe cinema in the Chelsea district of Manhattan over the course of several days and nights. But when the movies, The Andromeda Strain, Outbreak and Contagion came to life last year, that all changed. However, the fangtastic festival organizers and programmers managed to keep the annual tradition alive in tribute to their beloved family member, friend and founder, the late Michael J. Hein, by going virtual. While nothing compares to watching films on the big screen, and getting a chance to meet and mingle with the filmmakers and other fans in person, by providing access to the festival online, this enabled horror fans from around the world to watch any and all of the movies they chose in the comfort of their own hellish homes on their laptops or giant screen TVs, and at any time of day or night. This truly was a virtual success in every sense of the word. And while it was hoped to resume the in-person festival this year, circumstances dictated an online experience once again.

Last year’s festival gave us the wild, weird and wonderful, Sky Sharks, from director/co-writer, Mark Fehse. Winner of Best Special Effects, this over-the-top gorefest features appearances by genre vets, Tony Todd, Lynn Lowry, Friday the 13th, Part VII‘s Lar Park-Lincoln and Master of Horror, Mick Garris. This story of zombified Nazi supersoldiers riding genetically modified flying sharks has to be seen to be believed, and even then, you might not believe what you’ve seen. Neil Marshall, who’s given us the werewolves of Dog Soldiers and the cave-dwelling creatures of The Descent, unveiled his latest feature, the witchy period piece, The Reckoning. Led by a strong performance by Charlotte Kirk, the film went on to win the awards for Best Feature and Cinematography. From Australia, we got to witness a dinner party gone horribly wrong in director Robert Wood’s An Ideal Host, winner of Best Comedy Feature and Best Screenplay. The most awarded film of the festival came from France, in the form of Meander, winner of Best Sci-Fi Feature, Best Director, Mathieu Turi, and Best Actress, Gaia Weiss. This claustrophobic tale follows a woman through a harrowing series of tubes full of deadly traps at every turn. And the one and only, Lloyd Kaufman, delivered the goods and bodily fluids in his latest opus, #Shakespeare’s Sh*tstorm. It’s probably best not to watch this Troma version of The Tempest on a full stomach.

In addition to all the full-length films, the festival featured plenty of shorts. Some of those which stood out were, winner of Best Comedy Short, Live Forever, Bark, The Fourth Wall, Red Light, The Girl in the Woods, The Greatest Horror Film Ever Made, Circle of Stone, Best Sci-Fi Short, Human Trash, and Best Short, The Remnant. Often times, the filmmakers, themselves, were on hand to discuss their work afterwards, adding insight and information. As if all that wasn’t enough, the festival hosted a number of panels, including a two-part Women in Horror panel, featuring scream queens supreme, Debbie Rochon and Tiffany Shepis, and a Latin Filmmakers panel, hosted by Edwin Pagan, along with cohort, Christian Moran, filmmakers themselves, and the men behind the influential horror website, Latin Horror. Both women and Latin filmmakers have long been underserved by the industry, but that thankfully looks to be changing, as they offer their own unique perspectives to audiences.

This year’s fest kicks off with the feature film, The Changed, starring Candyman himself, Tony Todd, and co-produced by Todd and another Tony, Timpone, horror emeritus and festival programming consultant. Other notable entries include the vampire tale, Red Snow, the mind-bending, The Alternate, the racially-charged, The Welder, from friend of the Gore 4, Lisa Ovies (Puppet Killer), her new short, Witches Midnight, and the documentary on grassroots horror filmmakers, The Brilliant Terror. Add in several more horrifying features, terrifying shorts, and panels on Women in Horror, Latin X Filmmakers (once again moderated by Latin Horror’s Edwin Pagan), plus Special Effects and more, and you have a bountiful bevy of frightful fare to last you all week long.

The NYC Horror Film Fest runs from Dec, 2nd through Dec, 9th, and you can get tix for as many of the programs as you want, or get them all in one package. Just head on over to the NYC Horror Film Fest event page to see everything they have to offer and to get your tickets. Thanks in advance to the Hein family, festival hosts, Sean Marks and Chris Rowan, Brian Smith, for reading through all those screenplays, a special shout-out to Fatima Boone-Brixton, who does such an amazing job of making sure everyone has access to all the various films and panels, and everyone else who brings this incredible festival to life. Let the Bodies Hit the Floor!

— by Brian de Castro