On the weekend of October 18-21, 2018, independent filmmakers from around the world gathered at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus, Ohio for the third annual Nightmares Film Festival, and it was a weekend few will ever forget.

Just before the lights went down for the festival’s first showing, Bill Lustig (Maniac Cop) gleefully set the mood for the rest of the weekend as he related how his production team had inadvertently misplaced the original negative for their 1980 classic slasher Maniac. They had labeled all of the storage boxes with their working title which they had used on permits, call sheets, etc. so that people would be less likely to balk at their filming a horror film in certain locations…and then forgot about their own hilariously devious plotting.

It was a move that many in the audience seemed to relate to, and as the lights came up after the 4K restoration of Maniac screened, Lustig happily answered questions and spoke to fans.

As the festival got into its groove, these Q&As hosted by festival directors Jason Tostevin and Chris Hamel along with Bridget Oliver and a host of other staff and volunteers coordinating the efforts, became one of the places to be after screenings.

Filmmakers eagerly answered questions about their craft and as they came to an end one could inevitably pick out several other filmmakers who had been making their own mental notes and were making plans to apply them to future endeavors.

This environment of sharing and learning from each other is carefully cultivated at Nightmares Film Festival. They even went so far as to set aside an hour with zero programming this year so that directors, writers, actors, etc. could gather and network.

It was moments like these that set the tone and prove their dedication to their Better Horror hashtag.

In fact, the weekend could just as easily be defined in introductions and connections made as it could be by the films that were screened.

And speaking of those films! I could write 200 hundred articles and never cover the breadth of programming this festival had to offer.

I do want to call out a few highlights, however.

This year’s Horror Comedy Shorts block on opening night was a special treat for fans with dark humor to spare especially with Randy Gonzalez’s Amigos.

The writer/director took a look into a dark possible future of the U.S. in which people of color are rounded up and sold for cash. He unflinchingly looked at those who would join such movements and turned a mirror on their actions with razor-sharp wit. He also wins my personal prize for best closing line of a film from the entire weekend which I won’t share to avoid spoilers.

Friday started the day with a bang with director Rob Grant‘s Alive, written by Chuck McCue and Jules Vincent which told the harrowing story of a seriously injured man and woman who awaken in a dirty, abandoned hospital with only a seriously disturbed doctor (Angus Mcfadyen) to care for them.

It was a twisted film with a surprise ending that no one in the audience saw coming.

Nightmares Film Festival co-directors Chris Hamel and Jason Tostevin were in the thick of things throughout the weekend.

Friday also saw the premiere of this year’s NFF Esprit de Gore winner Chris Ethridge’s new sci-fi/horror film Haven’s End. Ethridge was in attendance with a large portion of his cast and crew including Catherine Taber, Anthony Nguyen, and genre favorite Hannah Fierman (V/H/S) along with producer and VFX artist Stacey Palmer–who also spoke on the festival’s Social Progress Through Horror panel later in the weekend.

Everyone was talking about Michelle Iannantuono’s Livescream on Saturday. The feature, which was paired with Torin Langen’s exquisitely strange extended media short film Offerings, was something completely different for the audience as the director took us inside a Twitch channel where a sinister new game began killing off viewers as it tormented the man playing the game.

Iannantuono not only directed the film, but also created the game using Unreal Engine earning her ALL of the available cool points to be spared.

Fans also filled the theater to watch Vincente DiSanti’s epic Friday the 13th fan film, Never Hike Alone, and were struck not only by its intensity but also by the fact that, though it might not be an official sequel, it might be one of the best produced sequels we’ve seen in decades.

Through it all, the creatives and fans gathered around the Gateway Film Center’s bars to discuss the magical process that is filmmaking. It was not out of place to overhear deals being made and new partnerships forged over drinks and dinner in the Torpedo Room or upstairs in the VIP lounge.

And all the while, the NFF staff made the rounds, introducing filmmakers, chatting about projects, and underlining by practice and not just words that they’re dedicated to being the best independent horror film festival they can be.

If you missed this year’s Nightmares Film Festival, never fear. Plans are already under way to make 2019 even better, and iHorror will keep you informed as details emerge in the new year!