Halloween may be over, but fear not, because it lives on in New York City, the city that doesn’t sleep, and you may not be able to sleep after watching the best in horror at the New York City Horror Film Festival. Moving from its previous location in Tribeca, the horrorfest is taking place for the first time in the ideal location of Times Scare, New York’s year-round haunted house attraction. Running now through Nov. 15, this year’s fest promises to bring the bloodiest and scariest shorts and features to fans who love their horror, with special premieres and honored guests. The Gore 4 was there on opening night, and it looks as though horror fans are in for a slew of twisted treats this weekend.
The venue itself is sufficiently spooky, with two full bars for fans to mingle and discuss their favorite genre. And drinks are allowed inside the screening rooms too, in case one needs to calm their nerves a bit due to all the mayhem splayed across the screens. The night got off to a rousing start as the hosts presented a clip reel of horror classics from The Exorcist to The Shining, set to Drowning Pools’ “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” It reminded everyone of their love for the genre and why they were here. It definitely set the mood and got the crowd pumped for a night of slashers and ghost stories.
One of the best parts about this festival is the number of short films that are shown, usually two or three before each feature. Shorts are a great way for filmmakers to get their feet wet with blood, allowing them to showcase their skills and get their story ideas up on screen. Ranging in time from as little as 4 minutes to almost half an hour, being able to make a short comes in handy when budgets are limited or stories don’t quite lend themselves to a full length feature. Sometimes, as in the case with Andres Muschietti’s 2013 film, Mama, or Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 sci-fier, District 9, the director’s previous short films are expanded and fleshed out to become feature films. On the NYC Horror Fest’s first night, audiences were treated to a wide variety of chilling tales. There was the spooky Vicious and Hush. Another was the gory Knob Goblins, seemingly inspired by the work of Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Brain Damage). And there was the visually impressive Devil Makes Work, by Guy Soulsby, who apparently had a much bigger budget than most of the others presenting their work here.
One short that was eagerly anticipated by the Gore 4 was Shant Hamassian’s Night of the Slasher, in which a young woman must complete a checklist of horror movie sins in order to lure out and dispatch a killer. Lily Berlina plays the lithesome lass who, with virtually no dialogue, effectively plays out the role of the ‘final girl,’ alas, the only girl. The film is gory and fun, and pays a very clever homage to John Carpenter’s Halloween that’s best not to give away here. It’s already won a slew of awards at other festivals, and one looks forward to more from writer/director Hamassian, who was in the audience at the screening. We also hope to see a lot more of his lovely star, Berlina. Find out where else Night of the Slasher will be showing at their official website.
In addition to all the shorts unreeling this weekend are a number of cool-looking feature length films, some getting their New York City premieres here. One of these is actress Debbie Rochon’s feature film directorial debut, Model Hunger, screening on Sunday. Starring Lynn Lowry, Suzy Lorraine and fellow Scream Queen, Tiffany Shepis, Model Hunger is a look at the dark side of the world of modeling, with a large body count, and bodies that aren’t always in one piece. Debbie, with an impressive list of acting credits numbering well over 200 films, as well as writing for Fangoria magazine and many others, certainly brings a ton of experience in the world of horror to this slasher. The poster alone makes it look like this will be a lot of fun and we wish the film lots of luck, and it too has already won a number of awards on the festival circuit. You can satisfy your craving for more of Model Hunger at their website. Also being shown Sunday is the film, Wrecker, a road trip through hell that looks reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s Duel.
On premiere night, the Gore 4 was able to catch Anthony DiBlasi’s feature, Most Likely to Die, a high school reunion slasher where the killer slays his victims according to what each classmate was destined for according to their school yearbook. The highlight of the first night, though, was the debut film from actress Tara Subkoff, #Horror. You may know Tara from movies like The Last Days of Disco and the awesomely twisted, Freeway, with Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland. In #Horror, she has rounded up a stellar cast in Timothy Hutton, Chloe Sevigny and Natasha Lyonne, but it is her incredible cast of young actresses who bring this tale of cyber-bullying to life – and death.
Tara and most of her young cast were on hand for the screening of her film. As this was the last film shown of the night, and her young stars had school the next day, it was much appreciated that they stayed afterwards for a Q&A and to take pictures. The Gore 4 asked Tara what inspired her to make this film, and she replied that a good friend of hers had daughters who were cyber-bullied, and that she, herself, had been bullied in school, and she wanted to shed light on an important issue that affects many teens today, and that can lead to dire consequences. Plus, she has always loved horror films, citing Poltergeist, The Shining and Suspiria as particular favorites, and dreamed of making one herself. That dream has been realized in this excellent debut. #Horror opens in select theaters and will be available on VOD platforms on Nov. 20 via IFC Midnight. We’ll have a full review to come – keep your eyes peeled for this one.
That pretty much wrapped things up for this first of four frightful nights. Upcoming highlights this weekend include a lifetime achievement award to be presented to Sean S. Cunningham of Friday the 13th and Last House on the Left fame on Friday, and a personal achievement in acting award honor for Tom Atkins, best known for The Fog, Escape From New York and Halloween III: Season of the Witch, on Saturday. And of course, plenty more horror films, both long and short. You can see the full schedule of events and films at the official NYC Horror Film Festival website. Thanks to all the festival organizers and hosts for continuing to bring this special event and all these great films to horror fans. In the meantime, let the bodies hit the floor!