Like a Halloween moon that glistens deviously once a year, the first-ever Brooklyn Horror Film Festival came, saw and conquered New York City this past weekend. It was a heartwarming start for a little festival that blew up bigger than founder Justin Timms could have ever imagined, after a whopping 18 out of 22 screenings/events played to sold-out crowds. Not only did Erlingur Thoroddsen’s closing-night World Premiere of Child Eater sell out its first screening at Bushwick’s Syndicated Bar + Theater + Kitchen, but a late-night screening had to be scheduled based solely on demand (that too sold out). Not a bad start for some horror lovers who had nothing but a dream and the determination to succeed.
Trends in horror have recently embraced more arthouse, indie genre films, and this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival was a perfect example of current standards. Timms’ opening night film, Mattie Do’s Dearest Sister (a searing gut-punch of foreign spookiness), set the tone for what his programming team (featuring local horror aficionado Matt Barone, Jess Byers and Joseph Hernandez) cued up for excited badge holders. Most of the films playing throughout Brooklyn featured investment further than gore and kills, opting for weightier tales of moral corruption, psychological beatdowns and destructive character development. The Laotian-based Dearest Sister proved to a full crowd at the Wythe Hotel that fans would be getting quality that most first-time festivals could only dream about. For the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, it became their reality – or nightmare, more appropriately.
After a much longer opening night than expected thanks to party antics fuelled by sponsors Coney Island Beer and El Bujo Mezcal,two days packed full of genre-related content submerged locations like Williamsburg hotspot Videology and the Spectacle theater into pure cinematic mayhem.
Movies like Let Her Out played fiendishly with body-horror conventions, Ireland’s Lorcan Finnegan made a stunning cinematic splash with Without Name and Richard Bates Jr. once again proved himself one of the most interesting genre filmmakers working today thanks to Trash Fire.
As expected, centerpiece shocker We Are The Flesh pushed a few audience members far past their limitations (can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen), because a good film festival brings audience members face-to-face with films one might never find otherwise. We Are The Flesh is that exact jaw-dropping, cringe-inducing experience in the best way, and makes quite a statement for the places Brooklyn Horror Film Festival is willing to go. You will be tested, tortured and terrified, because that’s what a good horror festival does.
In addition to screening twelve finely-curated horror titles for NYC audiences, the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival also brought a few unique experiences focused on off-screen amusement. Catland Books sat storytellers around a roaring fire for their chilling scary story competition, Grady Hendrix did a special presentation of his Summerland Lost live show, and yours truly hosted Critical Drinking – a Medieval Times drinking game for horror fans (best short-form explanation we’ve got).
I’d like to personally thank Rue Morgue’s Michal Gingold, Shock Till You Drop’s Max Every, Collider’s Perri Nemiroff and JoBlo’s Eric Walkuski for getting in front of a crowd to test their trivia mettle, drink El Bujo, do charades and argue with one another in the name of entertainment. Ms. Nemiroff did walk away with the big “W,” but MVP shout-out goes to Mr. Walkuski for absolutely SLAYING the charades round and making his competition’s contingency drink at an alarming rate for 90 seconds. If you ever run into Eric, please ask him to do his Leprechaun impersonation. You won’t be disappointed.