The third annual Brooklyn Horror Film Festival is set to descend upon its namesake city next month, and today's second-wave announcement adds a host of impressive new titles to an already-strong lineup. Exploring multiple facets of the genre we know and love, it's packed with features, shorts, retrospectives, talks, and events that should make for a highly entertaining week. I'll be attending the festival, bringing reviews of the best things I see there; feel free to say hello!
More information and the rest of the announced lineup can be found at the BHFF website, but here's the rundown on what's been announced today.
Starfish (East Coast Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 101 Min | Dir. A.T. White
Presented by Brooklyn Fireproof Stages
Stricken with grief, Aubrey is having a difficult time coping with the death of her best friend, Grace. To combat the overwhelming sadness, she breaks into Grace’s apartment and quietly picks up where her late friend left off, caring for her pets and using her possessions, not to mention sleeping in her bed. The next morning, though, everything’s changed. The streets outside are desolate, fires engulf the city, and people are being attacked by something inhuman. There’s only one person who can potentially save the world: Aubrey, thanks to clues found on mixtapes left by Grace.
An endlessly creative gambit that fuses multiple genres, including cosmic horror, director A.T. White’s Starfish is one of the most ambitious feature debuts in years. It’s also one of the year’s best films, an emotionally potent, frequently terrifying, and wholly disorienting mash-up of a film that plays like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as remixed by H.P. Lovecraft. (Director A.T. White in attendance)
Welcome To Mercy (World Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 104 Min | Dir. Tommy Bertelsen
After returning to her family’s native Latvia to mourn her father’s death, American single mother Madaline begins suffering from inexplicable visions and physical scars, all of which point to the gift—or curse, rather—the Holy Stigmata. To seek help, Madaline travels to an island convent and ingratiates herself within the sisterhood of nuns. But much to her detriment, Madaline’s new acquaintances pray to something far more sinister than the Holy Spirit, leading her to realize that those newfound afflictions come from anywhere but Heaven.
Providing an effectively retro spin on modern religious horror, Welcome To Mercy utilizes the best sacrilegious genre tropes, everything from evil nuns to weaponized crosses, to weave a powerful story of tested faith and hard-earned redemption. Anchored by a fierce performance from lead actress Kristen Ruhlin, who also wrote the screenplay, Welcome To Mercy packs a serious punch.
In Fabric (East Coast Premiere)
UK | 2018 | 118 Min | Dir. Peter Strickland
There’s something off about the vintage department store in which single mother Sheila finds herself looking for a fancy new dress. The store’s employees are nearly robotic in their stone-faced dedication to sales, the mannequins seem to be whispering to one another, women nearly trample each other to enter as its doors, and its television commercials are hypnotically sinister. Nevertheless, Sheila buys a lavish red dress. Little does she know, her life will soon be overcome by a series of random misfortunes, supernatural phenomena, and living nightmares. And, it seems, the dress is to blame.
Having already proven his singular merits with the giallo-minded brain-scrambler Berberian Sound Studio and the gorgeously erotic Duke of Burgundy, British filmmaker Peter Strickland ups the ante with In Fabric, his most awe-inspiring film to date. Combining the aesthetics and influences of his two previous films into a barrage of visually dazzling surrealism, In Fabric is an inventive, unsettling and mesmerizing ghost story about the doomed pursuit of happiness. Cynicism has rarely been this stunning.
The Wind (East Coast Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 87 Min | Dir. Emma Tammi
A devastating scene sets the stage for a haunting account of demonic terror on the American frontier in the 1800’s. Lizzy and Isaac welcome a couple, Emma and Gideon from Illinois, who take up residence in a nearby abandoned cabin. Not long after, Emma fears she is being hunted down by an evil spirit who wants her unborn baby and violently succumbs to her mania. This event reawakens Lizzy’s buried memories of her encounters with the demons on the land and when Isaac leaves to accompany Gideon back to Illinois, Lizzy is left alone to wage battle against the evil on the land.
Emma Tammi’s narrative feature debut makes astoundingly affective use of the American Western frontier. The wide open, barren and desolate wastelands combined with the atmospheric sounds of the elements and unrelenting gusts of wind (or are they whispers from the dead?) create a sense of helplessness unmatched by the claustrophobia of a haunted house and makes a strong case that we need more western horror films in our lives. (Director Emma Tammi in attendance)
Possum (US Premiere)
UK | 2018 | 85 Min | Dir. Matthew Holness
Following an undisclosed shame, former puppeteer Philip returns to his shabby Norfolk childhood home and only surviving family member, gratingly unpleasant stepfather Maurice. Hanging off the edge of his own sanity, Philip tries to destroy his horrid memories which are encapsulated in the form of Possum, a large and hideous spider puppet. But Possum only pretends to be dead.
Under-appreciated character actor Sean Harris (recently recognizable as Mission: Impossible antagonist Solomon Lane) stars with an insanely nuanced and chilling portrayal of isolation and trauma. Shot on 35mm with a fittingly yellow-and-brown-rotted palette and a puppet that delivers some seriously disturbing imagery, writer-director Matthew Holness’ first feature is a twisted psychological thriller that deep-dives into a bleak surrealist nightmare.
Party Hard, Die Young (North American Premiere)
Austria | 2018 | 93 Min | Dir. Dominik Hartl
To celebrate graduating from high school, Julia and her classmates take off for a party-resort in Croatia to experience the banger to end all bangers. As the epic party rages on, Julia’s best friend Jessica mysteriously disappears leaving nothing but a suspicious text and a Snapchat photo with her face scratched out. Then another friend slips off a roof to her death—and Julia receives another Snapchat photo. Uh oh.
Energetic and aesthetically gorgeous (mostly shot at the actual X-Jam Festival), Austrian director Dominic Hartl’s glossy homage to ‘90s teen slasher films is high on style while choosing to embrace new age connectivity when so many recent genre films would rather run from it, updating the slasher for the iPhone and EDM generation.
The Clovehitch Killer (East Coast Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 109 Min | Dir. Duncan Skiles
Young churchgoing boy scout Tyler’s reputation takes a hit when his crush finds a pornographic bondage picture in his dad’s truck, believing it to be his. Ostracized from his group of friends, he falls in with Kassi, a teenage orphan obsessed with the Clovehitch Killer, a serial killer with a penchant for the clove hitch knot who once terrorized their town and was never found. After discovering more photos hidden in his dad’s work shed he’s left to fear the worst.
Rising talent Charlie Plummer is excellent as the innocent Tyler, but it’s Dylan McDermott playing his father, Don, who really owns the film with his paternal suburban transformation that’s every bit as campy and creepy as you would hope it to be. Directed by newcomer Duncan Skiles and written by Christopher Ford, frequent collaborator of Jon Watts on films such as Clown and Cop Car, this small town thriller has a sinister edge and sports an exciting narrative device that flips the story on its head.
Ghost Mask: Scar (US Premiere)
South Korea | 2018 | 81 Min | Dir. Takeshi Sone
Miyu travels from Japan to Seoul, Korea trying to track down her older sister who has been missing for two years. Shortly after she arrives she meets plastic surgeon Hana, who invites her home to meet her lover Hyoshin. The three women cohabitate as Miyu’s search for her sister intensifies meanwhile Hyoshin, haunted by disturbing nightmares, becomes suspicious of Hana and Miyu’s relationship.
A tragic story of two Japanese sisters separated at childhood and plagued by jealousy, negligence and abandonment, Ghost Mask: Scar is directed and shot by prolific cinematographer Takeshi Sone (he also shot recent festival hit One Cut of the Dead) and features a ricocheting narrative that comes together beautifully in a bloody, gonzo final act.
Blood Harvest (World Premiere of New Restoration)
USA | 2018 | 88 Min | Dir. Bill Rebane
Within the slasher movie canon, there are the indisputable giants: Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers. But what about Marvelous Mervo? Sure, he’s not the omnipresent icon that those other homicidal maniacs are, but there’s something to be said about a madman who’s played by eccentric ’80s music star Tiny Tim dressed like a clown and who leaves victims’ bodies hanging upside down in a barn like cattle.
If that sounds weird enough on its own, just wait until you experience the entirety of Blood Harvest, one of the strangest ’80s slasher movies you’ll ever see. BHFF is thrilled to host the world premiere of a newly restored print of director Bill Rebane’s unnerving and often uncomfortably hilarious oddity, courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome. Full of gnarly kills, Tiny Tim’s signature brand of weirdness, and relentless unpredictability, Blood Harvest is ripe for watch-it-with-a-rowdy-crowd rediscovery.
??? | ??? | ?? Min | Dir. ???
For the first time ever, the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival is excited to present a mystery film, and, sorry, we won’t give any easy-to-solve hints for all of you proud cinema sleuths out there! Okay, fine, we’ll give you a little something: Our inaugural “Secret Screening” film will either be a can’t-miss new horror gem that everyone, both genre folks and general film lovers alike, will be talking about for years to come or an unexpected yet prescient genre classic from deep in the vaults. Sorry, that’s all you’re going to get. Now let the speculation begin!
Empathy, Inc. (East Coast Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 96 Min | Dir. Yedidya Gorsetman
In the “high risk, high reward” world of venture capitalists, rising star Joel lets it all ride on a deal that, sadly for he and his actress wife, painfully falls apart, leaving him with no other choice than to move in with his wife’s parents for financial reasons. Feeling like a huge failure, Joel unexpectedly finds some hope via a run-in with an old friend, whose business partner asks Joel to invest in a new experiential technology called XVR, or Xtreme Virtual Reality, the latest product of which allows wealthy folks to see life through the eyes of the less fortunate. Unfortunately for Joel, XVR’s makers’ intentions aren’t what they seem.
Shot in stark black-and-white and going into exceedingly dark narrative places, NYC-bred director Yedidya Gorsetman’s Empathy, Inc. is the best kind of lo-fi sci-fi, an intimate character piece rooted in big ideas and blending doses of brutal horror into its cerebral tapestry. Comparable to an extended and decidedly bleak Black Mirror episode, Empathy, Inc. is a homegrown slice of pure genre-mashing ambition. (Director Yedidya Gorsetman in attendance)
HOME INVASION (Shorts Program)
Covering the expansive scope of the genre from coming-of-age body horror to child-eating boogeymen, our annual local filmmaker showcase proves you don’t have to go far to find the future of horror. It’s right here at home—standing right next to you.
An Actor Prepares, dir. Carey Knight, The Trouble With One-Night Stands, dirs. A.K. Espada, Belén Ferrer, Hushed, dir. Chase Kuertz, El Cuco is Hungry, dir. Daniel Garcia, Abeyance, dir. Charles Beale, The Woods, dir. Robbie Lemieux, Fell, dir. Holly Voges, Lucy's Tale, dir. Chelsea Lupkin, 4:48 Psychosis, dir. Ariel Sinelnikoff, Witch Hunt, dirs. Conor Shillen, Justin Paul Ramirez, Midnight Delivery, dir. Nathan Crooker, The Invaders, dir. Mateo Márquez
NIGHTMARE FUEL (Shorts Program)
There’s no messing around here—it’s time to go straight for the jugular. Sleep will be scarce thanks to the sadists, human-eating fairies, shape-shifting demons, and faith-based reapers that inhabit these shorts.
Milk, dir. Santiago Manghini (Canada), Welcome to Bushwick, dir. Henry Jinings (USA), Special Day, dir. Teal Greyhavens (USA), BEC, dir. Tony Morales (Spain), Salt, dir. Rob Savage (United Kingdom), Mother Rabbit, dir. Emma Skoog (Sweden), Nose Nose Nose EYES!, dir. Jiwon Moon (South Korea), The Girl in the Snow, dir. Dennis Ledergerber (Switzerland), Feast on the Young, dir. Katia Mancuso (Australia)
HEAD TRIP (Shorts Program)
At its boldest, horror doesn’t play by any rules. As you’ll see in these unclassifiable shorts, complete with punk-rock lunatics, malevolent aliens, lovesick fish, and nefarious pre-teens, the genre’s scope is boundless.
The Beaning, dir. Sean McCoy (USA), Tick, dir. Ashlea Wessel (Canada), Voyager, dir. Kjersti Helen Rasmussen (Norway), Atomic Spot, dir. Stéphanie Cabdevila (France), Le otto dita della morte, dir. Frédéric Chalté (Canada), A Death Story Called Girl, dir. Nathalia Bas-Tzion Beahan (USA), 42 Counts, dir. Jill Gevargizian (USA), Proceeds of Crime, dir. James Chappell (Australia)
CREEPING TERROR (Shorts Program)
What’s more frightening than visceral shocks? When it comes to these shorts, it’s the dread-soaked and methodically unsettling horror marked by otherworldly presences, murderous weather, and soul-claiming ghouls. Jump-scares need not apply.
Blood Runs Down, dir. Zendashe Brown (USA), Circle, dir. Martin Melnick (USA), Acid, dir. Just Philippot (France), Essere Amato, dir. Nathalia Bas-Tzion Beahan (USA), Bye Bye Baby, dir. Pablo S. Pastor (Spain)
SLAYED: LGBT HORROR SHORTS (Shorts Program)
Co-Presented by NewFest
Representing the underrepresented, this collection of divinely crafted queer shorts mines chills from unexpected places, such as a close-minded church community, a sinister artist, and an erotically haunting dreamland, to explore connection and love through a horror lens.
The Sermon, dir. Dean Puckett (United Kingdom), Disposition, dir. Eric Thirteen (USA), Payment, dir. Ben Larned (USA), Instinct, dir. Maria Arida (USA), Islands, dir. Yann Gonzalez (France)
LAUGH NOW, DIE LATER (Shorts Program)
The best way to combat terror? Through laughter, of course. And when these shorts aren’t scaring you silly via women-trolling zombies, body-swapping spirits, madcap slashers, and killer classroom appliances, they’ll leave your sides split.
The Bloody Ballad of Squirt Reynolds, dir. Anthony Cousins (USA), Hair Wolf, dir. Mariama Diallo (USA), Attack of the Potato Clock, dirs. Victoria Lopez, Ji Young Na (USA), My Monster, dir. Izzy Lee (USA), Crying Bitch, dir. Reiki Tsuno (Japan), Comeback Kid, dir. Ian Robertson (United Kingdom), Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre, dir. Ilja Rautsi (Finland)
DRUNK EDUCATION: BAD RELIGION
Drunk Education returns to the Brooklyn Horror Festival for another absolutely not TED-affiliated discussion of some of our favorite horror tropes. This year, we worship at the altar of religious horror. Why are nuns so spooky? Is there something inherently scary about churches? Join a star lineup of writers, critics, and producers as we get to know the devil with Heather Buckley, Karen Han, Kristen Yoonsoo Kim, and Anya Stanley.
DRINKING WITH THE DREAD: THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
Are you a gore-drenched horror nut with an unquenchable thirst? Matt Donato’s “Drinking With the Dread” series on Dread Central will cure (or cause) what ails ya! Each month Matt shines a spotlight on notable party-horror ragers best watched with friends, zero judgment, and a towering stack o’ booze. Follow the rules, drink when instructed, and just maybe you’ll make it through the night alive.
As part of this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, Dread Central will be hosting a live “Drinking With the Dread” drink-along game at Williamsburg’s Videology Bar & Cinema. To which movie, you ask? Dan O'Bannon’s punk-panic midnight masterpiece The Return of the Living Dead. Rules will be provided and explained upon entry, all of which have been carefully curated and irresponsibly tested by Matt to ensure a buzzworthy slice of horror gratification. Come out and rave to the grave with Dread Central, Brooklyn Horror Film Festival and a cemetery full of corpses hungry for brains. You might even earn a free beer by correctly answering horror trivia beforehand!
Spirits is a mythology, folklore and urban legends podcast hosted by two New Yorkers, Amanda McLoughlin and Julia Schifini. In this special live performance, learn about some of the more famous New York-area monsters and hear first-hand accounts of local urban legends. It will be creepy. It will be cool. It will be Spirits: LIVE!
And here's a quick overview of the first wave:
Knife + Heart (NY Premiere)
France, Mexico, Switzerland | 2018 | 100 Min | Dir. Yann Gonzalez
The Rusalka (North American Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 80 Min | Dir. Perry Blackshear
ANTRUM: The Deadliest Film Ever Made (World Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 95 Min | Dir. Michael Laicini & David Amito
Boo! (World Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 91 Min | Dir. Luke Jaden
The Cannibal Club (North American Premiere)
Brazil | 2018 | 81 Minutes | Dir. Guto Parente
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
House of Sweat and Tears (East Coast Premiere)
Spain | 2018 | 104 Min. | Dir. Sonia Escolano
Luz (NY Premiere)
Germany | 2018 | 70 Min. | Dir. Tilman Singer
Piercing (NY Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 80 Min | Dir. Nicolas Pesce
Tower. A Bright Day. (East Coast Premiere)
Poland | 2018 | 106 Min. | Dir. Jagoda Szelc
Wolfman’s Got Nards (NY Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 91 Min | Dir. Andre Gower
USA | 2018 | 94 Min | Dir. Daniel Goldhaber
Family (North American Premiere)
Israel | 2017 | 100 Min | Dir. Veronica Kedar
Holiday (NY Premiere)
Denmark | 2018 | 93 Min | Dir. Isabella Eklöf
USA | 1981 | 91 Minutes | Dir. Tony Maylam
USA | 1981 | 96 Min | Dir. Tobe Hooper
My Bloody Valentine
Canada | 1981 | 90 Min | Dir. George Mihalka
Sleepaway Camp (35th Anniversary Screening)
USA | 1983 | 84 Min | Dir. Robert Hiltzik
Michael Gingold's Ad Nauseam NY Book Launch
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies presents Big Scares on the Small Screen: A Brief History of the Made for TV Horror Film
With instructor Amanda Reyes
Woof. A lot of information to take in, there. Yet still, there's a whole lot more up at the BHFF website. Check it out, and see you there!