I was extremely excited for this past weekend’s first ever Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, and seven screenings later, I’m happy to report that it lived up to my expectations. Whether by necessity or design, the festival focused on independent and foreign fare rather than studio movies and took place in a variety of small and alternative venues throughout the borough. These elements payed off with a slate that showcased offbeat and compelling work in hip, cozy spaces like Williamsburg’s Videology and Bushwick’s Syndicated Bar.
Here, some of the highlights:
Shortcuts: BHFF had some fantastic short films on display, including but not limited to: the deliciously creepy familial nightmare Tilly; the dystopian scifi opus Eveless; the teenage body image horror Pigskin; the monster-filled period piece The Home; and the glossy John Carpenter homage The Puppet Man, scored by—and with a cameo of!—the master himself. I wound up sitting next to the mom of one short filmmaker, Maria Wilson, an African American actress/director who plays a witch carrying out a mysterious ritual in Venefica. At the post-screening Q&A she expressed the desire to break out of the boxes black actresses are too often shoved into; she also mentioned she’s developing a TV version of her short. Let me be the first to say I’d definitely watch that show!
Trash Fire: The latest from the queer-friendly creator of Excision plays like a John Waters Southern Gothic, with Adrian Grenier as the first class heel who reluctantly reunites with his Bible thumping grandma (a superb Fionnula Flanagan) and deformed sister (Anna Lynne McCord) at the urging of his pregnant girlfriend (Angela Trimbur). It’s a movie as defiantly weird as director Richard Bates, Jr.’s first, only much more polished and satisfying. Trash Fire revels in the crushingly uncomfortable, with a whip smart script and terrific acting from everyone in the cast—including a redemptive performance by Grenier, who I frankly had written off as “that douche from Entourage” before seeing his impressively funny and multilayered turn in this film.
The Master Cleanse: Johnny Galecki is outstanding as a painfully lonely guy hoping to make a fresh start at a mysterious retreat in this curious blend of character study, relationship metaphor, and creature feature (?!). The cast is uniformly excellent, including supporting work from Anjelica Huston and Oliver Platt, but the movie really belongs to Galecki. In a just world where horror and fantasy aren’t looked down on by the Academy, this would be the actor’s shot at an Oscar.
Child Eater: What I love about this movie is that it deliberately works to create a memorable new screen bogeyman—a nasty old man who eats children’s eyeballs to cure his own blindness—and for the most part if succeeds. It also integrates numerous fairy tale tropes to great effect—I was reminded of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and its riff on Hansel and Gretel—and it features a black gay cop. Let me repeat that: it features a black gay cop. Whose sexuality is incidental to the plot. At the post screening Q&A, I literally thanked the director for that, because it’s awesome.
Honorable Mentions: Beyond the Gates is an extremely fun, gory ode to the VHS era with a surprisingly deep emphasis on character and acting. We Are the Flesh is a polarizing arthouse saga from a first-time Mexican director that deals with often vile subject matter. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, and I didn’t love it, but I’m also really glad I saw it.
Monster Nation covers the world of horror in its various forms-- from film to TV to haunted houses and more-- with a fun, irreverent spin. Follow us on YouTube: youtube.com/monsternation, on Tumblr: monsternationusa.tumblr.com and through regular posts here on Geeks Out. Stay spooky!