NYCHFF 2016: Night 1 Was Dark and Full of Screams
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For the 14th straight year, the New York City Horror Film Festival (NYCHFF) opened last night. Started by the late Michael J. Hein, the NYCHFF is the largest and most recognized film festival to deal solely in the horror and sci-fi genres. It is running through Sunday, November 13th at the Cinepolis Chelsea, 260 West 23rd Street, in Manhattan. The festival screens approximately 50-60 films each year, welcomes horror legends, and honors the best work with an award ceremony. After a fairly disappointing week, I showed up last night to take in six (!) total horror films: two very good feature films, and four incredible shorts.

Check it out below.

The convention began with a ten-minute short from Anthony Cousins called When Susurrus Stirs. Talk about getting off on a good foot. The only way I can describe this is to call it “beautifully disgusting.” A body horror short, straight out of the 80s, a man is inhabited by a parasite that bonds with his body and mind and slowly morphs him into a blob-like monster, before a conclusion that needs to be seen to be believed.

Next up was A Knock on the Door (read my full review here). A unique take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, AKATD was made by an all-female crew, on one night, in only 8 hours. Co-writers and directors Katrina Rennells, Wendie Weldon, and producers/stars Kelley Mack and Drew Jenkins were on hand for a Q&A after discussing the struggles of making the film in such a short time and the role of women in the horror industry.

This led to the first full-length feature film, Abattoir by SAW 2, 3, 4 helmsman Darren Lynn Bousman. Abattoir starts as a creepy crime thriller. After her sister and her family are murdered, Julia (Jessica Lowndes) wants answers. A killer is behind bars, open and shut case. Except, that days after the murders, her sister’s house is sold and the murder room removed. Julia starts digging and makes connections to several other properties in which tragedies occurred – murders, deaths, accidents… and all these properties were immediately purchased by the same person and the kill rooms removed.

This investigation leads back to Julia’s hometown of New English, a town which holds a dangerous and deadly secret related to a mysterious cult-like figure Jebediah Crone (Dayton Callie). Co-starring horror veterans Lin Shaye (A Nightmare on Elm St), Joe Anderson (The Ruins/Hannibal) and Bryan Batt (MTV’s Scream), Abattoir is a psychological thriller that blends crime drama and the supernatural to create a unique film that succeeds at maintaining the creepy atmosphere. Kudos to Lin Shaye for a gleefully over the top performance.

After an intermission, it was time for round 2. First up was The Fisherman’s Wife, by Ben Leonberg, about a woman’s search for her fisherman husband, turning up a monster. The end to this was actually refreshing and has the audience in stitches. Next up was Conscian Morgan’s Immure and wow, that was subtle and unique. A quiet young man, longing for his pretty next door neighbor is bound to his home by his “sick” mother. I was left wanting more of this.

The second feature was Enclosure by festival veteran Patrick Rea. The film stars Fiona Dourif (daughter of Brad) and Kevin Ryan as a married couple out for one last getaway, before he goes off on a months long music tour. Their camping trip is interrupted by the combination of crazed gun toting hunters, led by Jake Busey, and a group of monstrous beings lurking in the woods. Great makeup effects for the creatures highlight the film. Rea joined NYCHFF hosts Chris Rowan and Sean Marks for a Q&A afterwards. We learned the film will get a small theatrical release, and hit the VOD sections sometime between December and January, albeit with a different title. Rea relayed the truth of alpha-stacking, data used by distributors suggesting the most successful VOD titles often start with “A” or “B” since people scroll alphabetically.

New York City Horror Film Festival continues tonight and throughout the weekend at the Cinepolis Chelsea in Manhattan. Tickets are available at the box office or at NYC Horror Film Festival. Saturday night, they are honoring scream queen Adrienne Barbeau, and Sunday night is the NYCHFF award show.

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