This past Thursday marked the end of the 2016 Popcorn Frights Film Festival. This year’s incarnation of the festival expanded from four films over four nights to a full week long slate of 17 films plus a short prior to each screening. It was a big undertaking but Popcorn Frights Co-Founders Marc and Igor were up to the task.
Horror lovers came from all over to the O Cinema in Wynwood, Miami, to celebrate their love of the genre with other like minded fans. All hoping that the South Florida horror community would have something special to call their own. As the crowd began to arrive for the opening night events, you could feel the energy and excitement about what was to come. Popcorn Frights is the brainchild of Marc Ferman and Igor Shteyrenberg, who we first met at last year’s opening night showing of Tales of Halloween, have been building a steady following and buzz since. Hosting screenings of classic films such as Friday the 13th: Jason Lives among others, as well as preview screenings for upcoming horror film’s that have included big names like The Conjuring 2 and Don’t Breathe. The duo have given horror fan’s something to look forward to each month, and more importantly, somewhere they can feel as if they are among friends.
This year TrueHorror.net was honored to be involved in the festivities as not only a sponsor, but also a friend. Seeing how much effort goes into setting up such a stacked festival truly makes you appreciate all the love these guys put into everything. Horror fans are a finicky bunch and Igor and Marc are no different, They carefully cultivated a plethora of exciting titles which surely included something for everyone. While these two may not always see eye to eye, they do always have the best intentions for their audiences when choosing a film. Let’s get down to business and go through the offerings on display this year and our short thoughts on each.
PORTAL TO HELL (short film)
directed by Vivieno Caldinelli
Kicking things off this year was one of our more anticipated shorts, Portal To Hell, starring none other than Roddy Piper, in his last film role before his unfortunate passing. A fun little film, it details a day in the life of a simple Superintendent played by Piper that is going about his business till he goes down to the basement and discovers…you guessed it, a portal to hell. A horror comedy through and through, Portal delivers some surprisingly gory moments, and it is great to see Roddy one last time on the big screen. The crowd enjoyed it and so did we.
directed by Vincent Masciale, written by Luke Barnett
(Full Review Coming Soon) FEAR INC. is a truly enjoyable horror comedy, that nails the balance between the two rather perfectly. A likable cast anchor the film about a thrill seeking horror fan, looking for the ultimate scare, and finds it in the form of a company FEAR INC. Of course he gets way more than he bargained for. This was definitely a pleasant surprise and the crowd seemed to embrace it and enjoy the mix of humor and horror. I can see this one being VERY popular when it hit’s sometime in October and fully expect to see everyone posting about it on social media, as word of mouth should be strong. We will have a full, more detailed review up this week and hopefully an interview with the filmmakers to follow.
THE POND (short film)
THE BLACK COAT’S DAUGHTER
directed by Osgood Perkins
(Full Review Coming Soon) I will say three quick things about The Blackcoat’s Daughter, 1. It was my favorite film of the festival. 2. Do not watch or read anything regarding this film unless it is marked spoiler free. This is a film that you will absolutely benefit from not watching the trailer or knowing anything about going in. 3. It is a superb horror film with phenomenal performances and direction, and should end up as our horror film of the year. We will get much more into it in our full review.
directed by Oliver Irving
Ghost Team really seemed like it could be a good time, the ghost hunting comedy (I wouldn’t classify it as a horror comedy as there is not much horror to be found) had a solid cast lined up with Jon Heder, Justin Long, David Krumholtz, and Melonie Diaz. However Jon Heder is miscast here as the lead and straight man, and is overshadowed by Long and Krumholtz who steal the show and deliver all of the films funny moments, while Diaz is just along for the ride. The story follows an amateur ghost hunting team (emphasis on amateur) who head out to an old creepy farm to find proof of paranormal activity. All for the purpose of the opportunity to join a popular ghost hunting tv show. The film starts off well enough, with some decent laughs, but about 1/12 way through it sputters out and you know it will never really deliver any sort of memorable experience, which is a shame, because that cast is certainly capable of doing so.
Unfortunately we had to miss Saturday’s showings due to a prior engagement but heard it was a packed house with three straight sold out showings!
HADA (short film)
UNDER THE SHADOW
THE BIRCH (short film)
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
PIGSKIN (short film)
FUCKKKYOUUU (short film)
directed by Eddie Alcazar
Some interesting black and white visuals following a deformed figure as it makes it’s way through the woods, was nice to look at and listen to (a score by Flying Lotus) but it as many short films can be, was just too abstract for me to really make an impact on me. I went back and read it’s description and was just left puzzled. “With the ability to travel in time, a lonely girl finds love and comfort by connecting with her past self. Eventually faced with rejection she struggles with her identity and gender, and as time folds onto itself only one of them can remain. ” Okay, if they say so.
directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Sometimes a film requires patience so that it may build to where it ultimately wants to take you. Many times in my life I have given films the time required and been nicely rewarded for it. However sometimes that patience is tested when a film decides to meander on instead of getting to where it’s supposed to be going. Such is the case with Evolution. Of all the film’s in the festival, Evolution was the one I didn’t really get into. I was intrigued by the initial set up, along with it’s beautiful cinematography, however, after the promising setup the movie dissolved for me, Is Evolution disturbing? certainly. A film about a strange island in the middle of nowhere, populated by only women and boys, where the women admit the boys into a strange dark and damp hospital for mystery treatments, is a solid set up, however, the film lost me when it began to repeat it’s beats and it all felt more like padding rather than imperative storytelling. By the time it descended into an uncomfortable relationship between one of the creepy nurses and the young boy, I had already checked out. In the film’s defense, some of the audience seemed to love it, but for the life of me I haven’t been able to latch onto the same sentiment. The director did in fact say the film is more about emotions than storytelling, and I can see that but I just could not get into it.
THE PUPPET MAN ( short film)
directed by Jacqueline Castel
This was all style over substance, but the style presented here was one I enjoyed greatly, accompanied by music from John Carpenter’s Lost Themes album. The Puppet Man tell’s the story of a group of people who end up in the wrong bar, populated by a strange murderous entity known as the Puppet Man. While for me the look of the Puppet Man was not really what I would have hoped for and that took away a bit from my enjoyment, the stylish and colorful world they present here was cool enough to look at while listening to the Carpenter tunes, the master himself even has a small cameo.
THE MIND’S EYE
directed by Joe Begos
(Full Review Coming Soon)
Coming into the film I knew nothing about it other than it had been called “The Sequel to Scanners that we never got” and that turned out to be a pretty apt description. The short version of this review is, if you want to see dueling psycho-kinetics, this is the movie for you. It played out like a film you would have rented from a Blockbuster against your better judgement but ended up absolutely loving. I mean that in the best way possible. The Mind’s Eye is just a blast of a film, full of insanity, gore and a pulsating synth score by Steve Moore (The Guest) it is definitely worth your time, but you have to approach it from the correct point of view to truly enjoy it for what it is and what it is trying to be.
THE DEVIL’S DOLL
Unfortunately we had to miss this film as well due to scheduling.
DISCO INFERNO (short film)
directed by Alice Waddington
Great visuals deliver an interesting experience. A cat burglar of sorts enters a mansion populated by women in white gowns and goat head masks, in an effort to defeat their leader. Disco Inferno is very surreal, expertly crafted and has a good creepiness to it that I enjoyed. It is worth watching but story wise I honestly could not tell you what I watched, but it was still a visual treat made by talented people.
Directed by Luciano Onetti
One movie I was not anticipating much was Francesca. Mostly due to my love it or hate it relationship with old Italian horror. I really enjoy some and am not a big fan of others. Francesca however ended up being one of my favorites of the festival. I had no clue it would recreate a 70’s Giallo film so perfectly, where if you didn’t know any better, you could totally be fooled into thinking this was actually from that era. Everything was pitch perfect, the music, acting, production design, even the look of the film was perfect. If you are a fan of 70’s Italian horror than Francesca is without a doubt the film for you. If you are a fan of horror films in general and have the patience to watch an old foreign film, then Francesca is also the film for you. Highly recommended!
THE MAIDEN (short film)
The Maiden was a very nice little short, that certainly felt as if it owed something to James Wan, when it came to the look of it’s titular star. However that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a very cool and creepy thing of it’s own. The story of a real estate agent doing whatever it takes to sell a haunted property is indeed spooky, but also humorous and will make great viewing for anyone come October. Not sure if it would be enough to stretch into a full feature, but it’s level of polish certainly made it feel that way. If you don’t want to wait till October you can also see it right here now!
directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
The latest from Saw franchise regular Bousman is a frustrating film. Based on his own comic book series, Bousman delivers a professional looking film, that ends up with a truly cool final act, however the journey to get there is so dull and uneven that by the time you finally see where all this is leading, it is too late to care about anything. It is one of your typical mystery-connect the dots horror films, where the pretty girl is exceptionally good at being a detective and is the only person who could possibly put the pieces of the mystery together. It’s not a terrible film, and as stated before the last act is really one of the coolest things I have seen in a long while in a horror film, but it didn’t make sitting through the previous two acts worth it, and that is a shame. Some of the crowd did seem to like it and I feel like the film would actually do okay in theaters simply because there always seems to be a film like this every year that does better than it probably should. I also think this film may play a bit better at home, rather than in a theater, so perhaps you guys might enjoy it more than I did.
GWILLIAM (short film)
directed by Brian Lonano
Gwilliam without spoiling anything is a monster story that will either be the grossest or funniest short film you see this year (and probably the grossest one you will see in your lifetime) At only 6 minutes long, Gwilliam left an impact on everyone in the crowd, plenty of laughs and screams of dismay were heard throughout and when it was finished, everyone surely questioned what they just saw. Gwilliam quite possibly left the biggest impact on the audience of any film in the festival. Talk about looking for love in all the wrong places…
Directed by Justin Seaman
(Full Review Coming Soon)
Prior to it’s screening the Barn was absolutely the film I was most excited for. I love Halloween. I love the 80’s. I love 80’s Horror. So right there you have a formula for success in my eyes. Did The Barn live up to the hype? Not entirely, however I did find it to be a genuine effort with a lot of heart put into it, the love for Halloween and the 80’s was evident from frame one and throughout. The backstory of where the script eventually came from is just such a great story in itself, that it deserves to be fleshed out in a full review. That story helps put the film in perspective and makes you see it in a different light, that you might not get otherwise. That POV elevated the Barn for me and I look forward to explaining that in our full review coming soon. Till then, I can say that The Barn is a film that needs to be thrown on during your October marathons.
DEATH METAL (short film)
directed by Chris Mcinroy
I unfortunately had to step out of Death Metal for the majority of it’s run time, but my friends in attendance said they really enjoyed it, as it was a hilarious and gory short about a Heavy Metal guitarist with grand aspirations. Wish I could say more, but that is all I got, but the crowd did react positively to it for sure.
Directed by Mickey Keating
Carnage Park is the newest film from director Mickey Keating. I enjoyed his film POD and appreciated the aesthetic of his prior film Darling. I was not sure what to expect, but Carnage Park truly was an intense experience. Carnage Park follows Vivian, a young woman who finds herself lost in a giant plot of land “guarded” by an ex soldier who definitely has more than a few screws loose, as he takes to defending his property with a sniper rifle and other various methods. It’s two main players Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism) and Pat Healy (The Innkeepers) both deliver stellar performances and Keating’s direction has never been better. It has a bit of a Tarantino vibe for sure but also does it’s own thing. Carnage Park is a worthy watch, and has me looking forward to Keating’s next film.
We unfortunately had to miss the next two features as well so we could not review them.
MAYDAY (short film)
MANOMAN (short film)
directed by Simon Cartwright
Manoman was a really cool and unique rod-puppet film. It illustrates what happens when someone loses their self control and gives in to their dark side.It is an inventive, humorous and poignant look at the struggles someone can go through trying to find themselves. A very good short indeed.
directed by Carles Torrens
Pet was a film that judging by the promotional stills seemed like it could be just another girl in a cage movie. But knowing Igor and Marc, I knew they would have a real reason to select this film, and they didn’t disappoint. Pet stars Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings, Lost) and Ksenia Solo (whom I had not heard of prior to this film) and starts out as just another stalker/stalkee film, but soon evolves into something much more twisted and interesting. I was taken by surprise by where the film went, and I really think the film will find an audience as mostly everyone I spoke to afterwards was into it. I only really took issue with the very ending as I felt it could have been handled differently for maximum effect. Pet was one of the most pleasant surprises of the entire festival.
IRIS (short film)
directed by Richard Karpala
This amusing short plays on the fact that our smart phones are taking over our lives and we are letting them. When a new operating system known as IRIS becomes the new craze, one man neglects to think about how much info his phone is privy to right after committing murder and it comes back to bite him in the ass. It’s a fun short that honestly carries a strong message as well. Check it out if you can find it for sure.
directed by Adam Massey
One of the biggest surprises is how much I was enjoying Man Vs. I didn’t watch any trailers for it, but my interest was piqued when I realized the lead was none other than Chris Diamantopoulos who is best known (by me anyway) as the most obnoxious (and hilarious) billionaire ever Russ Hanneman on HBO’s Silicon Valley. Chris stole every scene he was in on a show full of scene stealers, and he carries Man VS on his shoulders through it’s entire running time. He is just a likable and more importantly believable actor. For a film that essentially is a play on the Man vs Nature concept, where he is alone for 90 percent of the film, it works unbelievably well at getting you invested. However, sadly the film is betrayed by one of the biggest missteps in recent memory, namely an embarrassing cgi creature that belongs on sci fi network and not a feature film. Especially a feature film that felt so grounded and had the audience buying into the performance of it’s lead. Why the filmmakers opted to go this route instead of practically ANYTHING else, is beyond me. A guy in prosthetic makeup would have been such a big difference, especially since the creature is only seen on screen sparingly in the third act. It weakens the whole film and wastes a great lead performance, but I still would say to give Man Vs a shot. It deserved better than that creature.
NIGHT STALKER (short film)
BEYOND THE GATES
directed by Jackson Stewart
The final film (technically) of the festival was the much anticipated Beyond The Gates. The story of two estranged brothers (Graham Skipper and Chase Williamson) who come together when their father disappears. They are charged with cleaning out his old video store and discover an old VHS board game entitled Beyond The Gates. This being a horror film, they decide to play the game and things go bad from there. While Beyond the Gates ended up being a bit different than what I had hoped for or expected, I found a way to look at it that really endeared it to me. Without spoiling too much, the best praise and description I can give this film, is that it felt like an extended episode of Tales From The Darkside. Once I began watching it as such, it felt “right” for lack of a better term. I only wish the films finale would have been a bit more extraordinary as it felt like it rushed through it and didn’t deliver enough in terms of creativity once we finally get Beyond The Gates. That is not to say Beyond the Gates is a bad film, on the contrary, I really did enjoy it, and think it will find an audience out there who appreciate it’s brand of heart,humor and horror. It also doesn’t hurt to have scream queen Barbara Crampton in the film as the board games mysterious on screen hostess/guide, along with the always welcome Brea Grant as one of the brother’s supportive girlfriend. Cap things off with some effective gore and you have a film that will surely be on everyone’s to watch list come this October.
THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (encore)
On the final evening of this year’s festival, there was an encore screening of The Blackcoat’s Daughter. I made sure to stick around to watch it again as it is not being released till 2017 and I must say, it was just as good the second time around. I picked up so many things I didn’t catch the first time, and plenty of the film was still just as chilling as it was the first time around. I really hope the release is early in the year so that audiences get to see it soon.
So there you have it, Popcorn Frights 2016 was a huge blessing for local horror fans who have been craving something of this magnitude. The Film slate certainly delivered some top notch films, and for the most part every film seemed to be entertaining on different levels with the exception of a couple. Horror fans from all over the country and world surely took notice of the good times that were being had. This was in fact a full fledged festival to be respected and admired. Everyone involved should be extremely proud.
Beyond the films though, you have what really made the festival special, the people. Every single day horror lovers showed up in droves all experiencing films together, all getting to know each other before and after. Learning that they are not alone and that there is a real community who loves the same things. It was truly a beautiful thing. Many friendships were forged over those 7 nights and many people found a new home where they can be themselves and geek out together. All ages, all backgrounds, all together for the love of horror.
We want to thank Festival Co-Founders Marc and Igor for putting together such an incredible week, you guys succeeded not only in cultivating a wonderful film selection, but also in showing everyone how passionate horror fans in South Florida can be. I also can’t thank you enough for making all of my friends and guests who attended feel right at home and like part of the family. It means a great deal to me and them. Anything you guys ever need from us, just ask!
We also want to thank the wonderful Popcorn Frights staff who were on hand to make sure everything went smoothly. Part of the fun of the fest was just talking to you guys about the films or anything in general. So I would like to shout out and thank Sam, Amber, Mercy, Nick, Holly, Caroline, Judith, Sam and of course the one other cool guy whose name escapes me at the moment. All of you are just the best people and you made this fest even more fun than it already was. Also have to send major thanks to Melissa and her staff at O Cinema for just being great hosts and making everyone feel welcome. To Omar from PromoteHorror.com, it was always good to trade thoughts after each film ended, and just talking before and after the screenings. To Andreina and your cousin whose name I seem to suck at remembering, it became routine fun catching up with you two each evening before the films would start and I am sure by the end of the week you two felt like you owned those seats in that 5th row same way we felt about our 3rd row ones. Thank you for your enthusiasm for the fest and also for your interest in TrueHorror.net, it means so much and we appreciate that! To everyone else we met, talked to, and interacted with, we look forward to seeing you at the next one.