While others are getting ready to light the menorah and decorate the tree, the fine folks at the New York City Horror Film Festival are still in pure Halloween mode. The 16th annual film festival, which started Thursday night, November 29th, was dedicated to its late founder and director Michael J. Hein, and emanated out of the Cinepolis Chelsea. Opening night saw an appearance from acclaimed horror producer/writer/director Mick Garris (The Stand, Masters of Horror), who was there to help kick off the festival with the horror anthology Nightmare Cinema, to which he contributed. Also there was Tony Timpone, longtime editor of Fangoria magazine. I made it in time for night 2 and was treated to an amazing evening of short- and feature-length horror from the cerebral to the emotional to the utterly insane.
As is custom, before each program (featuring a full-length and multiple short films), hosts Sean Marks, Chris Rowan, and Alan Rowe Kelly hosted a trivia giveawayâ€¦ of which I am no longer allowed to compete in. Then it was time for the bodies to hit the floor.
The opening program of night 2 began with Bite Size Horror, a collection of over a dozen mini-shorts ranging from 1 – 3 minutes each. Over the years as I attend more film festivals, Iâ€™ve gained such an appreciation for the shorts films. These were fun, well made, and some induced roars from the crowd. The highlight for many was Monstagram, a hilarious riff on parenting and social media where a momâ€™s embarrassing bath time pic of her son backfires horribly. Then it was time for the first feature of the night, Camp Cold Brook. The film certainly has a good horror pedigree as it was executive produced by Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling), and stars Chad Michael Murray (House of Wax) and Danielle Harris (Halloween franchise). The film combined several horror staples including a secluded campground and a Ghost Hunters-esque TV show premise, and Iâ€™d be lying if I said some of the jump scares didnâ€™t get me.
The next program was far and away the craziest set of films Iâ€™ve seen grouped in a long while. We started with a pair of excellent short films. First was the off the wall Gut Punched by NYCHFF veteran Christopher G. Moore. The film follows a lothario home from a bar with his latest conquest and suffice to say, the tables get turned. Sara Gorsky is hilarious as the woman with some surprises in store. This was followed by Heartless by Kevin Sluder. Imagine Poeâ€™s Tell Tale Heart but with the corporate horror twists of American Psycho. This featured another great lead performance by Stacy Snyder.
And then came Killer Unicornâ€¦ and man oh man, this movie lived up to every expectation that a movie called Killer Unicorn has. A group of drag queens and friends in the Brooklyn dance scene are being ritualistically stalked by a sexy killer in a unicorn mask. As director Drew Bolton and writer Jose D. Alvarez said in the post film Q&A, itâ€™s like I Know What You Did Last Summer, but by John Waters. Full review coming soon!
The final program of the night started with a total change of pace: Crybaby, a 16-minute short film by sibling co-directors Nicole and Gregory Van Voorhis that explores parenthood and loss in a powerful and emotional way, while maintaining a creepy tone. As a father myself, this one hit home. That was followed by She Came From the Woods, a fun little campfire ghost story, before blasting us into the final feature, Lost in Apocalypse. This was an awesome Chinese zombie movie that feels like 28 Day Later meets The Raid.
You can find out more about the NYCHFF official website.
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