Brooklyn Horror Film Festival Announces First Wave Films!
I've got a special place reserved in my heart for the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. You see way back when in 2017 when this site you are reading first went live, we launched with a slate of reviews from BHFF. From Adam Green's Victor Crowley to Can Evrenol's upcoming Housewife (which is still the best film of 2017 that no one has seen yet) my emergence into the world of film analysis and criticism is paralleled with this wonderful festival now in its third year. And what a slate of programming they have in store for us!
On top of the slate of new films, the festival will have some wonderful retrospective screenings curated by RUE MORGUE's Michael Gingold in collaboration for his highly anticipated book Ad Nauseam! On the program is a 35th Anniversary screening of the seminal Sleepaway Camp, along with Tobe Hoopers The Funhouse, The Burning, and My Bloody Valentine!
And if THAT wasn't enough get excited for a special Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies seminar Big Scares on the Small Screen: A Brief History of the Made for TV Horror Film with instructor Amanda Reyes, co-author and editor of Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964 - 1999.
Knife + Heart (NY Premiere)
France, Mexico, Switzerland | 2018 | 100 Min | Dir. Yann Gonzalez
Known for productions like ANAL FURY and HOMOCIDAL, successful gay porn producer Anne (Renowned French actress and model Vanessa Paradis) takes her skin flicks as seriously as the most greatness-minded auteur would his or her own prestige dramas. But Anne isn’t the only one who’s infatuated with her company’s films—one by one, and in an exceedingly brutal fashion, someone is butchering Anne’s actors. As she tracks down the killer, Anne begins recreating the murders as part of an elaborate new project, all while losing track of what’s real, who’s dead, and who’s next on the chopping block.
Shot on 35mm and featuring a killer retro score from M83, Yann Gonzalez’s KNIFE + HEART is an ultra-stylish and blood-soaked ode to ’70s-era De Palma, Argento, and Friedkin. The kills are impeccably staged and gruesome, the performances are campy and spot-on, and the whodunit twists are relentless. Take note, slasher and giallo fans: This will be your new obsession.
The Rusalka (North American Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 80 Min | Dir. Perry Blackshear
Looking for some peace and quiet, Tom rents out a small and isolated lakehouse, one marked by a local legend of a woman who, after drowning, haunts the surrounding woods and drowns anyone she encounters. That myth particularly intrigues Tom’s new neighbor, Al, who’s mourning the recent death of his boyfriend. Starting off rather friendly, Tom and Al’s rapport slowly changes as the former befriends a mysterious woman named Nina, for whom Al can’t shake his negative suspicions.
Back in 2015, Perry Blackshear turned heads with his creepy lo-fi breakout THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE; for his follow-up, the NY-based filmmaker reunites the same cast and tells a story that’s different in scope and tone yet just as subtly powerful. Equal parts supernatural romance and intimate tragedy, THE RUSALKA flips the conventions of star-crossed soul-mates fiction into a lyrical and genre-infused look at the darker side of love.
Writer/Director Perry Blackshear and Lead Actress Margaret Ying Drake in attendance.
ANTRUM: The Deadliest Film Ever Made (World Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 95 Min | Dir. Michael Laicini & David Amito
There’s a reason why you haven’t seen ANTRUM: because you’d be dead. This occult-heavy horror film shot back in the '70s focuses on a pair of young siblings who head into the woods to grieve over a dead pet and unwittingly discover a literal Hell on Earth. The film has achieved notoriety due to it's troubled lifespan: A theater in Budapest screened it in 1988 and burned to the ground; several film festival programmers attempted to play it before mysteriously dying; and a violent and blood-drenched San Francisco riot followed a mid-’90s revival effort. Believed to be cursed, ANTRUM has since been untouched—until now.
Bookending the original 35mm ANTRUM print with an all-new documentary about the film’s legend, filmmakers Michael Laicini and David Amito have packaged a truly singular viewing experience, one part catnip for film historians and a much bigger part experientially demonic cinema.
Directors Michael Laicini & David Amito in attendance.
BOO! (World Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 91 Min | Dir. Luke Jaden
Married with two kids, James and Elyse are struggling to keep it together. Along with the couple’s own rifts, their daughter, Morgan, is hiding her own suicidal thoughts, while younger son Caleb channels his suppressed emotions through troublingly macabre artwork. One night, their true test arrives: a strange Halloween game left on their doorstep that, legend has it, leaves a curse on those who choose not to play. Unfortunately, that’s the choice this family makes—and evil spirits of all kinds are ready to make them pay.
Back in 2015, Detroit-raised teenage filmmaker Luke Jaden made waves with the proficiently made and brutal short KING RIPPLE, starring a then-unknown Lakeith Stanfield. Three years later, with BOO!, the now-22-year-old filmmaker has delivered on that potential, crafting a supernatural chiller that’s big in scope yet intimate in character. Leading up to a whopper of a spook-show climax, Jaden’s debut feature is the real deal.
Director Luke Jaden in attendance.
THE CANNIBAL CLUB (North American Premiere)
Brazil | 2018 | 81 Minutes | Dir. Guto Parente
Life is a dream for Octavio and Gilda. Residing on Brazil scenic waterfront coast, the rich-as-all-hell couple spends their non-work hours sipping fancy drinks, basking in the sun, and eating the finest of meats. The only problem? That’s human meat, pulled from the bodies of young, financially strapped victims that Gilda lures into their home. They’re part of a secret society of wealthy flesh-eaters, all of whom answer to a charismatic yet dangerous leader. And when Gilda starts getting cold feet about eating, well, cooked limbs, she and Octavio’s marriage, as well as their lives, are put in jeopardy.
The goriest satire of 2018 so far, Brazilian up-and-comer Guto Parente’s THE CANNIBAL CLUB is the best kind of, pun intended, food for thought, a razor-sharp indictment of classism that’s also raucous and viscera-laden. Politically charged and gruesomely shocking, it’s proof that horror remains the best channel through which to bomb the hierarchical system.
Field Guide To Evil (NY Premiere)
Various Countries | 2018 | 117 Min | Dir. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Peter Strickland, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Katrin Gebbe, Can Evrenol, Calvin Reeder, Ashim Ahluwalia, Yannis Veslemes
No matter where you’re from, two things are universal: fear and death. To exemplify that in the most horror-minded way possible, the minds behind the ABCS OF DEATH films have assembled THE FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL, an anthology of eight shorts that explore nightmare-geared legends specific to the filmmaker’s own native country. The sights include an Austrian ghoul known as the Trud (via GOODNIGHT MOMMY directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala), a Polish heart-eating ritual (THE LURE’s Agnieszka Smoczynska), a Turkish djinn (BASKIN helmer Can Evrenol), and backwoods American mongoloids (THE RAMBLER’s Calvin Reeder).
Keeping its culture-fueled mission at the forefront, THE FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL separates itself from the recent wave of horror omnibuses through its uniquely measured vibe. There are scares, for sure, but its segments thrive more on Gothic unease and patient folk-tale creepiness than any supercharged shocks. The result is one of the most ambitious, diverse, and altogether fascinating horror anthologies you’ll ever see.
House of Sweat and Tears (East Coast Premiere)
Spain | 2018 | 104 Min. | Dir. Sonia Escolano
An older woman known only as “She” leads a religious cult using violent methods of control and forcing painful punishments unto her followers in order to prove their devotion. When a mysterious man arrives claiming to be the messiah, the followers are offered another way of life beyond the path of pain. A deadly struggle for power ensues as all hell breaks loose.
Claustrophobic dread drips through the narrow halls and dim candlelit rooms of the HOUSE OF SWEAT AND TEARS while moments of brutal intensity are captured by cinematographer Pepe de la Rosa’s unforgiving close up frames. Director Sonia Escolano’s atmospheric horror show sneaks up on you and leaves you gripping your chest by its shocking conclusion.
Luz (NY Premiere)
Germany | 2018 | 70 Min. | Dir. Tilman Singer
On an otherwise nondescript night, taxi driver Luz walks into a police station, claiming that she’s been assaulted. Nearby in a bar, a mysterious woman named Nora is working her magic on Dr. Rossini, recounting how her lover recently jumped out of a taxi. As both situations transpire, the connections between Luz and Nora set the stage for a demonic night from hell for those unfortunate souls who’ve encountered the two women on this particular evening.
Mind-blowingly enough, Tilman Singer’s LUZ was made as a student thesis film and is the most audacious and flat-out impressive horror debut in years, a disorienting descent into madness that’s shot on 16mm and genuinely feels like an unearthed ‘70s movie somehow rediscovered and unleashed onto the genre scene. Think Lucio Fulci if he’d moved to Germany and totally lost his already deranged mind and you’ll just be scratching the surface of Singer’s incredibly assured breakthrough gem.
Piercing (NY Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 80 Min | Dir. Nicolas Pesce
The stress of parenthood is seemingly too much for Reed (Christopher Abbott), who, as a soul-cleansing ritual, meticulously plans the perfect murder. But as his plan unfolds, he realizes that meticulous planning has nothing to do with execution as Reed's cat-and-mouse game quickly becomes a visually arresting, strange, S&M-infused battle between he and a mysterious call girl named Jackie (Mia Wasikowska).
Based on Ryū Murakami's novel, Nicolas Pesce's sophomore film (the follow-up to his 2016 black-and-white shocker THE EYES OF MY MOTHER) is a remarkably unusual experience, infused with colorful visuals and an intoxicating score. An Argento/De Palma homage hidden behind the facade of a dark comedy about stabbing, PIERCING cements Pesce as one of the boldest and brightest new directors in the genre.
Tower. A Bright Day. (East Coast Premiere)
Poland | 2018 | 106 Min. | Dir. Jagoda Szelc
To celebrate her daughter’s Holy Communion, Mula invites her estranged and mentally unstable pagan sister Kaja to stay with her family. She condemns Kaja from being alone with the child and insists she must never find out the truth that Kaja is her actual birth mother. Tensions instantly flare among the family while an ominous sense of danger surrounds the home leaving Mula to wonder if her paranoia is unfounded or has she invited a terrible evil into her home.
In her feature debut, Polish writer-director Jagoda Szelc crafts a spell-binding mystery with two commanding central performances by Anna Krotosca and Malgorzata Szczerbowska (Mula and Kaja, respectively). Their back and forth battle over the daughter crackles with urgency and dire desperation. Completely unpredictable and powerfully transfixing, TOWER. A BRIGHT DAY. is one of the more exciting genre discoveries in recent memory.
WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS (NY Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 91 Min | Dir. Andre Gower
For a whole generation of genre fans, Fred Dekker’s 1987 horror-comedy THE MONSTER SQUAD is their very own THE GOONIES, a formative and beloved masterpiece of adolescence and Universal-Monster-inspired mayhem. THE MONSTER SQUAD’s 30-plus-year relevance isn’t just the benefactor of tireless nostalgia—it’s a genuinely great movie, treating its scares with an effective seriousness and treating its pre-teen hero characters without figurative kid gloves. Because of that, Dekker’s classic remains a fixture at repertory theaters and continues to both influence today’s filmmakers and be discovered by modern-day youngsters.
Directed by MONSTER SQUAD star Andre Gower, WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS is the ultimate love letter to that late-’80s horror staple, collecting testimonials from lovers both famous and not and Gower’s old SQUAD collaborators. But it’s more than just fan service. As the best documentaries always do, WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS peels beneath its subject’s top layers and mines profound insights into something deeper: why horror is such a universal passion, especially for those who are young at heart.
USA | 2018 | 94 Min | Dir. Daniel Goldhaber
After introducing shocking acts of self-mutilation to her performances, webcam girl Alice flies up the charts of FreeGirlsLive.com just like she’s always wanted. Before she can enjoy her newfound success, her account is stolen by someone who looks exactly like her and performs in an identical room yet is nowhere to be found.
Inspired by writer Isa Mazzei’s experiences as a cam girl, CAM pulls back the veil on an industry that’s mystery is predicated on the separation between fantasy and reality, proving ripe cinematic ground for exploring obsession and paranoia. A modern erotic thriller with a fire lead performance from Madeline Brewer, Daniel Goldhaber’s feature debut details in disturbing fashion just how obsessed we may be with our online lives.
Family (North American Premiere)
Israel | 2017 | 100 Min | Dir. Veronica Kedar
In their dilapidated living room, Lily positions herself between her motionless family members on the sofa as her camera snaps a picture. Arriving at her therapist’s home at night, she is disappointed to find that the only person home is her cold and insensitive daughter yet has no choice but to confide in her, instead. Lily is desperate to explain why she killed her family.
Israeli triple threat talent Veronica Kedar writes, directs and stars in this intimate look into a scarily dysfunctional family. Using non-linear structure and even some musical genre elements, Lily’s traumatic past is parsed through creating a framework mimicking that of a truly screwed up therapy session, adding layer upon layer to an intricate and tragic character study of a murderess.
Holiday (NY Premiere)
Denmark | 2018 | 93 Min | Dir. Isabella Eklöf
HOLIDAY explores the relationship between Sascha, a beautiful young woman and Michael, a successful drug lord as they're on holiday with their friends in Turkey’s gorgeous Turquoise Coast. Upon first glance, the group appears to be having a fun and glamorous time in an idyllic seaside setting, until the true horrific nature of Michael is revealed.
Swedish writer-director Isabella Eklöf’s unnerving debut was considered one of the darkest films at Sundance, as it examines the difficult topic of how some women stay with and protect their abusers.