The Brooklyn Horror Film Festival has a special place in my heart because it was the first festival I did coverage for when I first started writing for Nightmare On Film Street in the Fall of 2017. Over the years, I’ve watched it expand into the beast it is now. The fourth edition continues to push the envelope of horror, embracing the bizarre and thought-provoking.
The festival will open with the North American premiere of disaster movie The Beach House, with director Jeffrey A. Brown in attendance. The centerpiece film will be Daniel Isn’t Real, Adam Egypt Mortimer’s hallucinatory nightmare that has traveled the continent from festival to festival, finally landing in New York. Closing the festival is the New York premiere of splatterpunk flick VFW, director Joe Begos’ follow-up to his 2018 vampiric drug trip Bliss. There are so many movies to highlight, but two that stand out deal with the horrors of colonialism in a bloody fashion; the US premiere of revenge film Mystery of the Night, set in the Philippines in the 1900s, and fresh from its TIFF premiere, Blood Quantum, set in a small indigenous community in Canada amid a zombie outbreak.
In previous years, BHFF had short film blocks with a common theme. This year, those blocks have been reworked to encapsulate feature films along with the shorts. Head Trip, the block dedicated to pushing horror in strange new directions, will include IFC’s body horror Swallow, Argentinian black comedy Rock, Paper, and Scissors, Uruguayan friendship killer In the Quarry, Laotian ghost story the Long Walk, as well as two Brazilian teen terrors, party-gone-bad The Yellow Night and Pet Sematary-homage Sick, Sick, Sick. Home Invasion, the block devoted to Brooklyn filmmakers, will be showing the making-of documentary of modern Frankenstein Depraved, with director Larry Fessenden in attendance for further explanation. The block will also feature psychological breakdown The Swerve, murderous monster movie The Shed, and 12 homemade shorts. BHFF’s queer horror program Slayed will be adding two features along with its seven shorts, the North American premiere of Canadian provocative thriller Spiral and Carmilla, an adaptation of the 19th century lesbian vampire novella.
The festival has also booked special guests to discuss the long legacy of horror with its Stage Frights program. Celebrating its 100th anniversary, there will be a screening of the German expressionist classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, accompanied with a live score by the Flushing Remonstrance. The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies will be holding a conversation with filmmaker Karen Arthur, particularly about her 1970s features Legacy and The Mafu Cage, and her battles against the male-dominated entertainment industry. Finally, there will be a live comedy show by Gas Station Horror hosted by J.W. Crump, where comedians will poke fun at horror movie clips, performing better endings using improv.
The fourth edition of the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival will run from October 17 to October 24, and will be held in various Brooklyn cinemas. For info and tickets, visit their website. For the list of second-wave films and shorts, look below.
New York Premiere
USA | 2019 | 92 Min | Dir. Joe Begos
A tight-knit group of grizzled military veterans (played by a formidable cast of genre fan favorites, including Stephen Lang, William Sadler and Fred Williamson) just want to have a laidback night of hard boozing inside their VFW digs. Too bad for them, though, that a gang of punk drug dealers and supercharged addicts have other plans for their unsuspecting elders. Coming off of his excellent descent-into-hell eye-opener BLISS, horror grime master Joe Begos puts his bold stamp on the good old-fashioned “siege movie” with this gore-drenched and delightfully sleazy adrenaline rush.
Canada | 2019 | 96 Min | Dir. Jeff Barnaby
In the midst of a zombie outbreak, all hope seems lost, but there’s one glimmer of salvation: A small Indigenous community populated by folks who are somehow immune to whatever is turning people into undead flesh-eaters. Having been marginalized and persecuted for their entire lives, though, the lucky, and still healthy, residents see an opportunity to both keep themselves alive and pay back those who’ve wronged them by keeping their community’s entry ways closed. And with that, Canadian filmmaker Jeff Barnaby has conceived one of the cleverest uses of the socially potent zombie template, carrying the torch for the late George A. Romero in the process—not to mention Tom Savini, thanks to an excess of viscera.
Mystery Of The Night
Philippines | 2019 | 105 Min | Dir. Adolfo Alix, Jr.
In the colonial Philippines of the 1900s, a young woman who’s been raised by creatures in the woods meets, and falls in love with, a man from town. Soon enough, though, her new romance goes sour, prompting her to make him pay in ways you’ll need to see to believe. Cloaked in a hypnotic ambiance from its opening frame, Adolfo Alix Jr.’s MYSTERY OF THE NIGHT takes its time building up character and conflict before erupting with a dynamite supernatural payoff that’s shockingly primal. Behold one of 2019’s most unique horror gems.
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In The Quarry
East Coast Premiere
Uruguay | 2018 | 82 Min | Dir. Bernardo and Rafael Antonaccio
Excited to introduce her new boyfriend to her longtime friends, Alicia sets up a hangout session at an abandoned quarry near her hometown. At first, it’s all good times, with food and drinks abound, but as the day progresses, secrets are revealed and bonds are broken. And before the day is over, lives will be lost. Uruguayan filmmakers Bernardo and Rafael Antonaccio mine pure darkness and unpredictable brutality from their characters’ frayed dynamics in this tense and excellently acted riff on naturalistic heart-of-darkness genre fare the likes of Polanski’s KNIFE IN THE WATER.
East Coast Premiere
Poland | 2019 | 108 Min | Dir. Jagoda Szelc
Waking up to discover their bus driver gone, a group of hospitality majors arrive at a hotel in the middle of nowhere. The take-no-shit hotel manager greets them with the first lesson of their internship—no one cares what your name is. This loss of identity is followed by menial cleaning tasks and as one night bleeds into the next, the students begin to explore the dark recesses of the hotel. Mythic and tantalizing, Director Jagoda Szelc’s sophomore feature channels the waywardness and palpable rage of youth.
USA | 2019 | 94 Min | Dir. Carlo Mirabella-Davis
Pregnant housewife Hunter (Haley Bennett) suddenly develops a case of pica—a psychological disorder involving the desire to consume inedible objects. The more her husband and his family try to stop her compulsions, the gruesomely deeper she falls into this harmful obsession until her perfect home becomes a patriarchal prison. Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ metaphorically rich feature debut is a body horror film that feels utterly essential from its timely commentary down to Bennett’s jaw-dropping lead performance.
This Is Our Home
USA | 2019 | 73 Min | Dir. Omri Dorani
Shaking off a tense roadside encounter with some strangers, Reina and her boyfriend, Cory, arrive at her childhood home. The quarreling couple are attempting to overcome a difficult decision that has put a deep strain on their relationship: the abortion of their first child. Late that night, there’s a knock at the door. It’s a young boy claiming to be their son. Disturbingly batshit in its exploration of unresolved grief and regret, THIS IS OUR HOME begs to be discussed and deciphered.
North American Premiere
Canada | 2019 | 87 Min | Dir. Kurtis David Harder
To get away from the city life, same-sex couple Malik and Aaron and their teen daughter, Kayla, move to a small suburban town in the mid-’90s. Unfortunately, they’re greeted right away with homophobic threats. When Malik witnesses a strange gathering in the neighbor’s house, he starts to fear for their lives. A queer horror game-changer, SPIRAL uses the genre to call out the deep-rooted fear of the other in America and expose the cycle of hate as the most corruptible, ancient evil of all.
United Kingdom | 2019 | 95 Min | Dir. Emily Harris
Fifteen-year-old Lara has no freedom in her overbearing family’s stately manor, which makes her budding sexual curiosities all the tougher to navigate. One day, a carriage accident near their property leads to enigmatic teenager Carmilla taking up residence inside her home to recover, sparking a friendship that grows into something more passionate. Lara’s family, meanwhile, suspects there’s something inhuman about Carmilla. Adapting Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic vampire novella, which predates Bram Stoker’s DRACULA by nearly three decades, British filmmaker Emily Harris delivers an elegant and moody Gothic romance that isn’t afraid to let the blood flow.
Fessenden’s Depraved: Making Frankenstein in a Brooklyn Loft
USA | 2019 | 75 Min | Dir. Larry Fessenden
With the release of Larry Fessenden’s DEPRAVED, horror fans have finally seen a new film from one of New York City’s, let alone that of the horror genre as a whole, most influential indie filmmaking legends, his first since 2013’s BENEATH. But for Fessenden himself, the journey to get his audacious and Brooklyn-set modernization of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN made has taken much longer and proven the values of both dedication and determination. In this feature-length documentary, Fessenden offers an intimate look at bringing his most ambitious passion project yet to life. It’s an all-access dive into one of 2019’s best horror films, and BHFF will have Fessenden himself on hand to break DEPRAVED’s production story down even further. Frankly, it doesn’t get more authentically “Brooklyn Horror” than this.
East Coast Premiere
USA | 2019 | 99 Min | Dir. Frank Sabatella
Stan, Roxy and Dommer are lifelong friends whose bond is being tested by the ever-taxing rigors of high school. For Stan and Dommer, in particular, the daily bullying they encounter comes in second only to watching Roxy’s popularity grow, and, in turn, her closeness to them dissipate. But there’s an unexpected possible solution to their problems in Stan’s backyard: a nondescript-looking toolshed, which houses something inhuman. Centered around the unlikeliest of villains, Frank Sabatella’s THE SHED takes what could have been a gore-drenched monster movie romp and layers it with potent coming-of-age anxiety and youth-in-crisis urgency. Don’t worry, though: There’s still carnage aplenty.
East Coast Premiere
USA | 2019 | 95 Min | Dir. Dean Kapsalis
High school English teacher Holly (Azura Skye) has always taken the stress and thanklessness of motherhood in stride, but a dark secret weighs heavily on her. The sudden appearance of a mouse and a betrayal by her self-absorbed husband send her spiraling down into catastrophe as she wreaks total havoc on her life. THE SWERVE is an epic, tenacious showcase for Skye, who shreds through the screen flailing for a lifeline in director Dean Kapsalis emotionally crushing feature debut.
Home Invasion: Shorts
Deja Vu, dir. Cameron Strittmatter
LVRS, dir. Emily Bennett
Laundry Night, dir. A.K. Espada
Bakemono, dir. Sumire Takamatsu and Jorge Lucas
Brain Jail, dir. Carleton Ranney
The Muffin Man, dir. Ethan Blum
Let Me Play, dir. Andrew Bell
The Taxidermist, dir. Natalie Johnson
Ed, dir. Robbie Lemieux
Horizontal Fall, dir. Tin Lee
Deep Tissue, dir. Meredith Alloway
The Rat, dir. Carlen May-Mann
Skin of Man, dir. Jimmy Joe Roche (USA)
In Sound, We Live Forever, dir. Joshua Guiliano (USA)
Inferno, dir. Bishal Dutta (USA)
The Vicious, dir. Trevor Dillon, Ian Hock (USA)
Megan, 26, dir. Brea Grant (USA)
Midnight Talk, dir. Raffael Oliveri (Australia)
Fatale Collective: Bleed, dir. Lola Blanc, Linda Chen, Natasha Halevi, Danin Jacquay, Francesca Maldonado, Megan Rosati (USA)
Caw, dir. Laura Sanchez Acosta (Argentina)
Slayed!: LGBTQ Horror Shorts (co-presented by NewFest)
Jeremiah, dir. Kenya Gillespie (USA)
Stigma, dir. David Velduque (Spain)
The Original, dir. Michelle Garza Cervera (United Kingdom)
Penance, dir. Kayden Phoenix (USA)
Bathroom Troll, dir. Aaron Immediato (USA)
Docking, dir. Trevor Anderson (Canada)
Switch, dir. Marion Renard (Belgium)
Please Speak Continuously and Describe Your Experiences as They Come to You, dir. Brandon Cronenberg (Canada)
Bad Seed, dir. Guilherme Daniel (Portugal)
MJ, dir. Jamie Delaney (United Kingdom)
Lili, dir. Yfke Van Berckalaer (Netherlands)
The Video Store Commercial, dir. Cody Kennedy, Tim Rutherford (Canada)
Valerio’s Day Out, dir. Michael Arcos (USA)
The Obliteration of Chickens, dir. Izzy Lee (USA)
The Haunted Swordsman, dir. Kevin McTurk (USA)
Girl in the Hallway, dir. Valerie Barnhart (Canada)
Other Side of the Box, dir. Caleb J. Phillips (USA)
Grief, dir. Brock Bodell, Daniel R. Perry (USA)
The Burden, dir. Nico Van den Brink (Netherlands)
Suicide by Sunlight, dir. Nikyata Jusu (USA)
The Boogeywoman, dir. Erica Scoggins (USA)
Will you be attending the 2019 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival? Which movies are you most excited to see? Let us know on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!