Thursday night, October 26th, this year’s New York City Horror Film Festival (NYCHFF) took over the Cinepolis Chelsea in Manhattan. It’s year 15 for the festival, which was started by the late Michael J. Hein. The festival, which ends Sunday night, will feature over 40 feature length and short genre films. The highlight will be the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Chucky himself, Brad Dourif on Saturday. Thursday night kicked off with two film programs, Q&As with directors and actors, and trivia giveaways by the hosts.
The first major film was 3, a revenge thriller written and directed by Lou Simon. Simon took questions after, and discussed the challenges of being a female director in a genre dominated by certain feminine tropes. Program 2 started with a trio of short films, which from my experience are my favorite parts of film festivals. The abbreviated run times allow for more focused scares. The first was Hada, a tremendously effective 9-minute film written and directed by Tony Morales out of Spain. The story, set in one childâ€™s bedroom, a simple â€œkid afraid of the darkâ€ story that scared the heck out of me. Next up was A Fatherâ€™s Day, a 10-minute zombie story written and directed by Mat Johns. This was one of the most original takes on zombie lore Iâ€™ve seen, a story that was shockingly emotional, nearly bringing a tear to my eye as it focuses on a zombified dad helping his zombie daughter transition to the undead. Johns does a great job bringing humanity to the undead. Finally in the short block was The Scared One from French director Romain Lafargue. Appropriately paired with Hada, The Scared One is also about a young boy alone in a room, haunted by an evil force, in this case a nasty-looking scarecrow come to life.
The feature film was Close Calls written and directed by Richard Stringham. With a pulsing score from Rocky Gray of rock band Evanescence and the film The Barn, Close Calls is a wild rise that toys with horror tropes, introduces fun characters and puts them in crazy situations. The heroine here is Morgan (Jordan Phipps). Her dad is going out on a date and the punished Morgan has her phone confiscated. Even worse she’s alone to watch her creepy old gramma (Janis Duley). Gramma is locked away is the most ridiculously scary attic ever, complete with cockroaches, rats, and tarantulas, atop a staircase adorned with smiling pictures of Morganâ€™s deceased mom.
With no phone and no shirt (for most of the movie), Morgan starts getting strange calls and is soon victim to the insane and hilariously over the top Barry Cone (Greg Fallon). Also of note in the cast is Morganâ€™s would-be evil stepmother Brynn, played with flair by Carmen Patterson.
Director Richard Stringham milks every dime out of the $350,000 budget and creates a pretty effective piece of indie retro horror. The poster is fantastic, a call back to 80’s style video store VHS boxes, and both Phipps and Fallon play their characters cut and pasted out of an 80’s sex-filled slasher. It reminded me of Slumber Party Massacre Two on drugs. That’s a compliment. Greg Fallon was in attendance and discussed his crazed villain character and the making of the film, taking questions from the audience and being an overall awesome guy.
The New York City Horror Film Festival runs through the weekend at the Cinepolis Chelsea, 260 West 23rd Street. Check out the full schedule at www.nychorrorfest.com.