The New Jersey Horror Con and Film Festival took over the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel in Iselin, NJ this weekend for three days of scary movies, celebrities, cosplay, and more. While much of the fun was held in the convention and ballrooms downstairs, two viewing rooms were set up on the second floor for special screenings, as well as for film festival entrants. I took time to catch a block of short films, as well as a screening of a horror film that had been on my radar for a long time.
I managed to catch the second half of Shawn Jones’ Camp Killer (2016), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. An obvious homage to camp themed slasher horror of the 80s, Jones doesn’t obey to typical genre conventions and the role reversals were fun. There were plenty of moments that had the fans in attendance laughing out loud at the absurdity. This is definitely worth a view for fans of 80s-style horror with a sense of humor and a passion for cheap schlocky effects.
Next up was a block of short films, which I tend to enjoy. Third Date is a film by NYU thesis film by Avishai Weinberger, which is referred to on Indiegogo as ” a horror about romance.” It features a couple on their titular encounter, the girl is awkward and hiding something while the guy is confessing his love (already), which has her rightly curious as to his motives. I liked it, especially since it throws you off as to what the reveal was going to be. Next up was Necromancer, a modern retelling of Bride of Frankenstein by way of Re-Animator directed by Brock Borowczyk. I really enjoyed the premise here, and thought it could make a really cool fleshed out film, though the acting left a lot to be desired.
The final short film I saw was the shortest, at only 8-minutes but was my favorite. Slapface was written and directed by Jeremiah Kipp, and tells the story of a young boy coping with the loss of his mother. At the same time, he also faces a bizarre monster in the woods and a father trying to manage the situation. I was struck by the score, which was uniquely haunting as well as the message about grief and coping skills for both children and adults. After the film ended I met the young star of the film, 13-year old Joshua Kaufman who was there with his parents and two younger brothers. Watch out for this kid! Kaufman was excellent and is brimming with personality. For 13, he balances youthful exuberance with professionalism quite well. He reminded me of Will (Noah Schnapp) from Stranger Things and I wasn’t surprised to hear he received an acting nomination at Horrorhound in Indianapolis for his role here. I expect to see more from him in the future. According to Kaufman (in person) and Kipp (in his Indiegogo video) this was a short version of a much longer full version of Slapface. It felt like something akin to the early work of M. Night Shyamalan.
Finally I got to see The Barn from writer/director Justin M. Seaman, a movie I had been dying to catch since I missed it at last year’s New York Horror Film Fest. My full review will be posted separately, but suffice to say, I loved the film and it hit every right note, evoking memories of long trips to the video stores, and those wonderful horror movie aisles with their orgy of eye candy in the form of VHS boxes.
The New Jersey Horror Con and Film Festival continued throughout the weekend with 5 more short film blocks as well as festival features. They also had special screenings of Big Bear written and directed by Joey Kern, who is there also for the Cabin Fever reunion, and on Sunday the cast of 1988’s Night of the Demons hosted a screening of their film with live commentary. The film festival awards were given out Sunday afternoon.
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