Back in November 2012, I attended the New York City Horror Film Festival for the first time. Why was it only my first time? Honestly, I can’t answer that question, because I was living right outside the Big Apple all my life, and horror became my favorite genre sometime in my college years. No excuse, but since I was lucky enough to attend as a press member, being my first actual festival experience for We Got This Covered, I’d say it was worth the wait.
Before I launch into my few days of watching movies, listening to horror icons, and slugging back a few brewskis, you’re probably also wondering why I’m choosing to write this article now, so many months later. Well, since I covered almost every film (damn weather) and every short with a proper review, I figured I’d save my experience piece until close enough to this year’s festival, hoping to convince a few similar lost souls like myself to make sure they don’t miss this year’s festival, which is scheduled for November 14th – 17th at Tribeca Cinemas. It’s less than two and a half months away and you can already book your tickets!
The thing about the New York City Horror Film Festival is that it’s run by a family who loves horror, they hired equally enthusiastic workers who have now become showrunners, and they cater to the true roots of independent horror, offering a wide variety of films instead of just the biggest and best production values. While Festival Director and Founder Michael J. Hein sadly passed away in 2011, the entire Hein family continues to keep this prestigious and widely recognized genre festival alive in his memory, oozing passion and remembrance in every essence. I never got the chance to meet Michael, but when you hear the numerous stories and fond memories being shared, you immediately understand what a presence he was – and still is.
It’s not easy keeping a festival like this running either, as event ringleaders Sean Marks and Chris Rowan helped me understand. While sitting around all day and deciding which horror movies get to be shown sounds like a dream job, try doing it with the hundred or so feature films and hundreds, maybe thousands, of featured shorts submitted to the NYHFF committee. Not only that, but the team keeps their ears to the floor for any chatter amongst the underground zombies talking about their latest festival favorites, so the NYHFF team can bring their viewers the newest and greatest in independent horror. Last year showcased nine feature films in total, which I’ll link later with my reviews, and a bevy of short films, and while not every film struck my fancy, I also found one of my favorite horror films of 2012, and even got quoted on the DVD artwork of another in the process!
The New York Horror Film Festival isn’t only about the movies though (or the fun-filled kick off party!). It’s about the experience of bringing horror fans together with aspiring filmmakers and iconic genre staples, as you can hang out in the connected lounge before, in between, and after the screening blocks. It’s so much fun getting to sit down with the writers, directors, and actors of a piece of art you’ve just thoroughly enjoyed – and it’s even more fun when alcohol is involved. Hanging out and talking horror with like-minded fans and creators made me wish the doors never closed each night.
Even though this is an indie festival, there is a Lifetime Achievement Award given out every year, bringing fans up-close and personal with genre favorites like Robert Englund, Tobe Hooper, Roger Corman, and last year’s winner, Wes Craven. Yes, I totally got to nerd out and take a picture with Wes Craven, which has been my Facebook profile picture until literally a week ago. I know, horror nerd, whatever, but that wasn’t even all the NYHFF had in store, as they also gave out a new award titled the Michael J. Hein Award For Personal Achievement In Direction to musician/filmmaker Rob Zombie, who stayed for a short Q&A session. You should have seen the awards the festival gives out now, being these big, undead Statue Of Liberty heads that look righteously badass – something any horror filmmaker would proudly display on their mantle. Man, what I would have done to just get a five minute interview with both legends, I’m not sure I’m even comfortable with admitting, but unfortunately my press pass didn’t grant me that kind of access. Sure, I was a little disappointed, but maybe this year that can change?
Continue reading for my recap of the content…