Horror fans from across the globe descended on Columbus, Ohio last weekend to attend the second annual Nightmares Film Festival, and I think I can speak for most of them when I say it’s a weekend we won’t soon forget.
Nightmares Film Festival was brought to life by Jason Tostevin and Chris Hamel who, along with a dedicated team of horror fans, curated a program to shine a spotlight on some of the best independent horror short and feature films available on the circuit today. They didn’t just give the fans a place to see the films, however. No, instead, they created an environment where filmmakers and fans could come together to see, discuss, and appreciate the work that had been put into those films.
I cannot imagine the hundreds of hours of work that went into making a weekend like this look effortless, but Tostevin, Hamel, and their team did exactly that covering every detail and staffing every post so that no matter where you stepped inside the beautiful Gateway Film Center someone was ready to talk about movies.
The event began Thursday evening with a special screening of Adam Green’s brand new Victor Crowley. Green was in attendance, introducing the film, a blood splattered love letter to his fans. It was a fantastic experience watching Green beam at his fans when he received his second standing ovation of the night as the credits ran. He took a few audience questions and then stepped into an adjoining room to sign autographs as we settled in for the next big screening of the evening: Leatherface, the origin story of everyone’s favorite chainsaw wielding maniac from Texas.
Written by Seth M. Sherwood and starring Lili Taylor and Stephen Dorff, Leatherface centers on the titular character as a teenager confined to a mental asylum who escapes with three other inmates with a nurse as hostage. Pursued by a vengeful sheriff (Dorff), the teenagers follow a twisting path back to Verna (Taylor), the single-minded criminal matriarch of the Sawyer clan. The movie was beautifully filmed with a ratcheting tension that propelled the audience all the way to the final scene.
Thursday closed out with a selection of horror comedy shorts to end an already entertaining evening.
As Friday dawned, clear and cool, fans were treated early with Romeo’s Distress, an exciting Gothic Horror thriller from writer/director Jeff Frumess followed up by suspense thriller Midnighters that was as entertaining as it was suspenseful, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats until the final moments of the film.
Other highlights from Friday included Bong of the Living Dead, the highly anticipated She Was So Pretty 2, the found footage thriller Capture, Kill, Release, and a host of shorts like the hilariously dark The Naughty List and the disturbing Justice Served which imagines a world in which having morals and doing the right thing is punishable by death. The crew from a brand new film called Gags asked festival goers to be their test audience and leave responses for what did and did not work in their film as they strive for a quality finished movie based on the rash of creepy clown sightings that took place all over the U.S. last year with no rhyme or reason.
I was especially taken by Torin Langen’s beautiful, dialogue-free horror film 3 Dead Trick or Treaters. This film did more with music, atmosphere, and stunning visuals than many large studio franchises we see on big screens across the country, and Langen is to be applauded for his courageous choices.
Crowds swelled on Saturday, and it was exciting to see the host of fans who showed up to support their favorite filmmakers, actors, and writers. Throughout the influx of people, the Nightmares crew proved once again just how prepared they were. Everything was handled smoothly from the lines for concessions to the smooth transitions from one film to the next.
The festival added a couple of panels this year focusing on the boon and boom of social media and online horror film coverage by major websites like iHorror, Morbidly Beautiful, HororHound, and Bloody Disgusting as well as a panel focused on the very real ways that horror can and does contribute to social progress through its many varied themes.
The day was filled with exciting world premieres and the presentation of the coveted Nightmare awards. Watching these filmmakers and actors and actresses receive their awards was certainly a highlight of the day, but it also proved something else about the men and women running the festival. They genuinely care about the filmmakers they bring together. This is a labor of love and devotion, not only to the genre, but also to those who spend their days and nights in the trenches to bring their films to life.
The iHorror team was also excited to present Preston DeFrancis with the iHorror Excellence in Horror award for his direction and writing of the fantastic Ruin Me, one of the finest films of its kind that I’ve seen in a long time. It brought new life to the slasher in the woods genre and gave the classic April Fool’s Day a run for is money in the “Is any of this really happening?” category.
There were more frights to come for festival attendees, however. As darkness fell over the theater, scare actors began to creep about, terrifying ticketholders as they waiting in line to enter theaters and more than one filled the lobby with screams as they came face to face with evil voodoo carrying witches and other dark characters.
The evening’s entertainment consisted of a plethora of short films including the mind bending Vexed from Marc Cartwright and the darkly comic Your Date is Here which turns the old Mystery Date board game on its head and would certainly make me nervous about answering a toy phone ever again.
Fans were then treated to Luke Macfarlane’s stellar performance in Rock, Paper, Dead from horror legends Tom Holland and Victor Fleming as well as the highly entertaining and innovative Found Footage 3D!
By Sunday, it was clear to everyone in attendance that we’d all been a part of something truly special. No detail was missed in making the Nightmares Film Festival a huge success. In fact, it was hard for me to believe that this was only their second year! One thing is certain, however, this festival should already be on every horror fan’s calendar for next year. You can keep up with all the latest Nightmares Film Festival news on their website and by following them on Facebook!
To Jason Tostevin, Chris Hamel, Bridget Oliver, Grace Cole, Rachael Barbash, and the entire crew of Nightmares Film Festival, we here at iHorror salute you!