The Brooklyn Horror Film Festival has quickly become a genre festival powerhouse, and this year it returns to bring the best and most provocative of horror cinema along with it. Kicking off on October 11th – 18th in venues across Brooklyn (grab tickets here), BHFF will screen films from around the globe, along with its brand new Head Trip block spotlighting films that push the boundaries and expectations of the horror genre as part of our most expansive and diverse curation yet.
“It’s an amazing time to love horror, with the genre being as diverse and challenging as it’s ever been, and our programming this year exemplifies the best of where the genre is currently at as well as the daring new directions in which it’s heading,” says Matt Barone, BHFF’s senior programmer. “Our mission remains to buck the genre’s conventions with forward-thinking films. Ranging from KNIFE + HEART’s modernization of classic slasher vibes to LUZ’s reinvention of exorcism tropes, not to mention TOWER. A BRIGHT DAY’s singular approach to the occult and THE CANNIBAL CLUB’s melding of gore and social commentary, our biggest lineup yet represents horror at its boldest.”
Below is a look at what you can expect from the festival—pure, bloody insanity—which includes some of the genre’s most talked about films. That being said, there’s even more than what you see here as the film festival also includes shorts, events, classic genre films that you’ll get a chance to see on the big screen, and so much more. For all the goods, hit up their website here! Now, have your mind blown:
Knife + Heart (NY Premiere)
France, Mexico, Switzerland | 2018 | 100 Min | Dir. Yann Gonzalez
Known for productions like ANAL FURY and HOMOCIDAL, successful gay porn producer Anne (Renowned French actress and model Vanessa Paradis) takes her skin flicks as seriously as the most greatness-minded auteur would his or her own prestige dramas. But Anne isn’t the only one who’s infatuated with her company’s films—one by one, and in an exceedingly brutal fashion, someone is butchering Anne’s actors. As she tracks down the killer, Anne begins recreating the murders as part of an elaborate new project, all while losing track of what’s real, who’s dead, and who’s next on the chopping block.
Shot on 35mm and featuring a killer retro score from M83, Yann Gonzalez’s KNIFE + HEART is an ultra-stylish and blood-soaked ode to ’70s-era De Palma, Argento, and Friedkin. The kills are impeccably staged and gruesome, the performances are campy and spot-on, and the whodunit twists are relentless. Take note, slasher and giallo fans: This will be your new obsession.
The Rusalka (North American Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 80 Min | Dir. Perry Blackshear
Looking for some peace and quiet, Tom rents out a small and isolated lakehouse, one marked by a local legend of a woman who, after drowning, haunts the surrounding woods and drowns anyone she encounters. That myth particularly intrigues Tom’s new neighbor, Al, who’s mourning the recent death of his boyfriend. Starting off rather friendly, Tom and Al’s rapport slowly changes as the former befriends a mysterious woman named Nina, for whom Al can’t shake his negative suspicions.
Back in 2015, Perry Blackshear turned heads with his creepy lo-fi breakout THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE; for his follow-up, the NY-based filmmaker reunites the same cast and tells a story that’s different in scope and tone yet just as subtly powerful. Equal parts supernatural romance and intimate tragedy, THE RUSALKA flips the conventions of star-crossed soul-mates fiction into a lyrical and genre-infused look at the darker side of love.
ANTRUM: The Deadliest Film Ever Made (World Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 95 Min | Dir. Michael Laicini & David Amito
There’s a reason why you haven’t seen ANTRUM: because you’d be dead. This occult-heavy horror film shot back in the ’70s focuses on a pair of young siblings who head into the woods to grieve over a dead pet and unwittingly discover a literal Hell on Earth. The film has achieved notoriety due to it’s troubled lifespan: A theater in Budapest screened it in 1988 and burned to the ground; several film festival programmers attempted to play it before mysteriously dying; and a violent and blood-drenched San Francisco riot followed a mid-’90s revival effort. Believed to be cursed, ANTRUM has since been untouched—until now.
Bookending the original 35mm ANTRUM print with an all-new documentary about the film’s legend, filmmakers Michael Laicini and David Amito have packaged a truly singular viewing experience, one part catnip for film historians and a much bigger part experientially demonic cinema.
BOO! (World Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 91 Min | Dir. Luke Jaden
Married with two kids, James and Elyse are struggling to keep it together. Along with the couple’s own rifts, their daughter, Morgan, is hiding her own suicidal thoughts, while younger son Caleb channels his suppressed emotions through troublingly macabre artwork. One night, their true test arrives: a strange Halloween game left on their doorstep that, legend has it, leaves a curse on those who choose not to play. Unfortunately, that’s the choice this family makes—and evil spirits of all kinds are ready to make them pay.
Back in 2015, Detroit-raised teenage filmmaker Luke Jaden made waves with the proficiently made and brutal short KING RIPPLE, starring a then-unknown Lakeith Stanfield. Three years later, with BOO!, the now-22-year-old filmmaker has delivered on that potential, crafting a supernatural chiller that’s big in scope yet intimate in character. Leading up to a whopper of a spook-show climax, Jaden’s debut feature is the real deal.
THE CANNIBAL CLUB (North American Premiere)
Brazil | 2018 | 81 Minutes | Dir. Guto Parente
Life is a dream for Octavio and Gilda. Residing on Brazil scenic waterfront coast, the rich-as-all-hell couple spends their non-work hours sipping fancy drinks, basking in the sun, and eating the finest of meats. The only problem? That’s human meat, pulled from the bodies of young, financially strapped victims that Gilda lures into their home. They’re part of a secret society of wealthy flesh-eaters, all of whom answer to a charismatic yet dangerous leader. And when Gilda starts getting cold feet about eating, well, cooked limbs, she and Octavio’s marriage, as well as their lives, are put in jeopardy.
The goriest satire of 2018 so far, Brazilian up-and-comer Guto Parente’s THE CANNIBAL CLUB is the best kind of, pun intended, food for thought, a razor-sharp indictment of classism that’s also raucous and viscera-laden. Politically charged and gruesomely shocking, it’s proof that horror remains the best channel through which to bomb the hierarchical system.
Field Guide To Evil (NY Premiere)
Various Countries | 2018 | 117 Min | Dir. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Peter Strickland, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Katrin Gebbe, Can Evrenol, Calvin Reeder, Ashim Ahluwalia, Yannis Veslemes
No matter where you’re from, two things are universal: fear and death. To exemplify that in the most horror-minded way possible, the minds behind the ABCS OF DEATH films have assembled THE FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL, an anthology of eight shorts that explore nightmare-geared legends specific to the filmmaker’s own native country. The sights include an Austrian ghoul known as the Trud (via GOODNIGHT MOMMY directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala), a Polish heart-eating ritual (THE LURE’s Agnieszka Smoczynska), a Turkish djinn (BASKIN helmer Can Evrenol), and backwoods American mongoloids (THE RAMBLER’s Calvin Reeder).
Keeping its culture-fueled mission at the forefront, THE FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL separates itself from the recent wave of horror omnibuses through its uniquely measured vibe. There are scares, for sure, but its segments thrive more on Gothic unease and patient folk-tale creepiness than any supercharged shocks. The result is one of the most ambitious, diverse, and altogether fascinating horror anthologies you’ll ever see.
House of Sweat and Tears (East Coast Premiere)
Spain | 2018 | 104 Min. | Dir. Sonia Escolano
An older woman known only as “She” leads a religious cult using violent methods of control and forcing painful punishments unto her followers in order to prove their devotion. When a mysterious man arrives claiming to be the messiah, the followers are offered another way of life beyond the path of pain. A deadly struggle for power ensues as all hell breaks loose.
Claustrophobic dread drips through the narrow halls and dim candlelit rooms of the HOUSE OF SWEAT AND TEARS while moments of brutal intensity are captured by cinematographer Pepe de la Rosa’s unforgiving close up frames. Director Sonia Escolano’s atmospheric horror show sneaks up on you and leaves you gripping your chest by its shocking conclusion.
Luz (NY Premiere)
Germany | 2018 | 70 Min. | Dir. Tilman Singer
On an otherwise nondescript night, taxi driver Luz walks into a police station, claiming that she’s been assaulted. Nearby in a bar, a mysterious woman named Nora is working her magic on Dr. Rossini, recounting how her lover recently jumped out of a taxi. As both situations transpire, the connections between Luz and Nora set the stage for a demonic night from hell for those unfortunate souls who’ve encountered the two women on this particular evening.
Mind-blowingly enough, Tilman Singer’s LUZ was made as a student thesis film and is the most audacious and flat-out impressive horror debut in years, a disorienting descent into madness that’s shot on 16mm and genuinely feels like an unearthed ‘70s movie somehow rediscovered and unleashed onto the genre scene. Think Lucio Fulci if he’d moved to Germany and totally lost his already deranged mind and you’ll just be scratching the surface of Singer’s incredibly assured breakthrough gem.
Piercing (NY Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 80 Min | Dir. Nicolas Pesce
The stress of parenthood is seemingly too much for Reed (Christopher Abbott), who, as a soul-cleansing ritual, meticulously plans the perfect murder. But as his plan unfolds, he realizes that meticulous planning has nothing to do with execution as Reed’s cat-and-mouse game quickly becomes a visually arresting, strange, S&M-infused battle between he and a mysterious call girl named Jackie (Mia Wasikowska).
Based on Ryū Murakami’s novel, Nicolas Pesce’s sophomore film (the follow-up to his 2016 black-and-white shocker THE EYES OF MY MOTHER) is a remarkably unusual experience, infused with colorful visuals and an intoxicating score. An Argento/De Palma homage hidden behind the facade of a dark comedy about stabbing, PIERCING cements Pesce as one of the boldest and brightest new directors in the genre.
Tower. A Bright Day. (East Coast Premiere)
Poland | 2018 | 106 Min. | Dir. Jagoda Szelc
To celebrate her daughter’s Holy Communion, Mula invites her estranged and mentally unstable pagan sister Kaja to stay with her family. She condemns Kaja from being alone with the child and insists she must never find out the truth that Kaja is her actual birth mother. Tensions instantly flare among the family while an ominous sense of danger surrounds the home leaving Mula to wonder if her paranoia is unfounded or has she invited a terrible evil into her home.
In her feature debut, Polish writer-director Jagoda Szelc crafts a spell-binding mystery with two commanding central performances by Anna Krotosca and Malgorzata Szczerbowska (Mula and Kaja, respectively). Their back and forth battle over the daughter crackles with urgency and dire desperation. Completely unpredictable and powerfully transfixing, TOWER. A BRIGHT DAY. is one of the more exciting genre discoveries in recent memory.
WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS (NY Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 91 Min | Dir. Andre Gower
For a whole generation of genre fans, Fred Dekker’s 1987 horror-comedy THE MONSTER SQUAD is their very own THE GOONIES, a formative and beloved masterpiece of adolescence and Universal-Monster-inspired mayhem. THE MONSTER SQUAD’s 30-plus-year relevance isn’t just the benefactor of tireless nostalgia—it’s a genuinely great movie, treating its scares with an effective seriousness and treating its pre-teen hero characters without figurative kid gloves. Because of that, Dekker’s classic remains a fixture at repertory theaters and continues to both influence today’s filmmakers and be discovered by modern-day youngsters.
Directed by MONSTER SQUAD star Andre Gower, WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS is the ultimate love letter to that late-’80s horror staple, collecting testimonials from lovers both famous and not and Gower’s old SQUAD collaborators. But it’s more than just fan service. As the best documentaries always do, WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS peels beneath its subject’s top layers and mines profound insights into something deeper: why horror is such a universal passion, especially for those who are young at heart.
USA | 2018 | 94 Min | Dir. Daniel Goldhaber
After introducing shocking acts of self-mutilation to her performances, webcam girl Alice flies up the charts of FreeGirlsLive.com just like she’s always wanted. Before she can enjoy her newfound success, her account is stolen by someone who looks exactly like her and performs in an identical room yet is nowhere to be found.
Inspired by writer Isa Mazzei’s experiences as a cam girl, CAM pulls back the veil on an industry that’s mystery is predicated on the separation between fantasy and reality, proving ripe cinematic ground for exploring obsession and paranoia. A modern erotic thriller with a fire lead performance from Madeline Brewer, Daniel Goldhaber’s feature debut details in disturbing fashion just how obsessed we may be with our online lives.
Family (North American Premiere)
Israel | 2017 | 100 Min | Dir. Veronica Kedar
In their dilapidated living room, Lily positions herself between her motionless family members on the sofa as her camera snaps a picture. Arriving at her therapist’s home at night, she is disappointed to find that the only person home is her cold and insensitive daughter yet has no choice but to confide in her, instead. Lily is desperate to explain why she killed her family.
Israeli triple threat talent Veronica Kedar writes, directs and stars in this intimate look into a scarily dysfunctional family. Using non-linear structure and even some musical genre elements, Lily’s traumatic past is parsed through creating a framework mimicking that of a truly screwed up therapy session, adding layer upon layer to an intricate and tragic character study of a murderess.
Holiday (NY Premiere)
Denmark | 2018 | 93 Min | Dir. Isabella Eklöf
HOLIDAY explores the relationship between Sascha, a beautiful young woman and Michael, a successful drug lord as they’re on holiday with their friends in Turkey’s gorgeous Turquoise Coast. Upon first glance, the group appears to be having a fun and glamorous time in an idyllic seaside setting, until the true horrific nature of Michael is revealed.
Swedish writer-director Isabella Eklöf’s unnerving debut was considered one of the darkest films at Sundance, as it examines the difficult topic of how some women stay with and protect their abusers.
STARFISH (East Coast Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 101 Min | Dir. A.T. White
Presented by Brooklyn Fireproof Stages
Stricken with grief, Aubrey is having a difficult time coping with the death of her best friend, Grace. To combat the overwhelming sadness, she breaks into Grace’s apartment and quietly picks up where her late friend left off, caring for her pets and using her possessions, not to mention sleeping in her bed. The next morning, though, everything’s changed. The streets outside are desolate, fires engulf the city, and people are being attacked by something inhuman. There’s only one person who can potentially save the world: Aubrey, thanks to clues found on mixtapes left by Grace.
An endlessly creative gambit that fuses multiple genres, including cosmic horror, director A.T. White’s STARFISH is one of the most ambitious feature debuts in years. It’s also one of the year’s best films, an emotionally potent, frequently terrifying, and wholly disorienting mash-up of a film that plays like ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND as remixed by H.P. Lovecraft.
WELCOME TO MERCY (World Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 104 Min | Dir. Tommy Bertelsen
After returning to her family’s native Latvia to mourn her father’s death, American single mother Madaline begins suffering from inexplicable visions and physical scars, all of which point to the gift—or curse, rather—the Holy Stigmata. To seek help, Madaline travels to an island convent and ingratiates herself within the sisterhood of nuns. But much to her detriment, Madaline’s new acquaintances pray to something far more sinister than the Holy Spirit, leading her to realize that those newfound afflictions come from anywhere but Heaven.
Providing an effectively retro spin on modern religious horror, WELCOME TO MERCY utilizes the best sacrilegious genre tropes, everything from evil nuns to weaponized crosses, to weave a powerful story of tested faith and hard-earned redemption. Anchored by a fierce performance from lead actress Kristen Ruhlin, who also wrote the screenplay, WELCOME TO MERCY packs a serious punch.
IN FABRIC (East Coast Premiere)
UK | 2018 | 118 Min | Dir. Peter Strickland
There’s something off about the vintage department store in which single mother Sheila finds herself looking for a fancy new dress. The store’s employees are nearly robotic in their stone-faced dedication to sales, the mannequins seem to be whispering to one another, women nearly trample each other to enter as its doors, and its television commercials are hypnotically sinister. Nevertheless, Sheila buys a lavish red dress. Little does she know, her life will soon be overcome by a series of random misfortunes, supernatural phenomena, and living nightmares. And, it seems, the dress is to blame.
Having already proven his singular merits with the giallo-minded brain-scrambler BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO and the gorgeously erotic DUKE OF BURGUNDY, British filmmaker Peter Strickland ups the ante with IN FABRIC, his most awe-inspiring film to date. Combining the aesthetics and influences of his two previous films into a barrage of visually dazzling surrealism, IN FABRIC is an inventive, unsettling and mesmerizing ghost story about the doomed pursuit of happiness. Cynicism has rarely been this stunning.
THE WIND (East Coast Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 87 Min | Dir. Emma Tammi
A devastating scene sets the stage for a haunting account of demonic terror on the American frontier in the 1800’s. Lizzy and Isaac welcome a couple, Emma and Gideon from Illinois, who take up residence in a nearby abandoned cabin. Not long after, Emma fears she is being hunted down by an evil spirit who wants her unborn baby and violently succumbs to her mania. This event reawakens Lizzy’s buried memories of her encounters with the demons on the land and when Isaac leaves to accompany Gideon back to Illinois, Lizzy is left alone to wage battle against the evil on the land.
Emma Tammi’s narrative feature debut makes astoundingly affective use of the American Western frontier. The wide open, barren and desolate wastelands combined with the atmospheric sounds of the elements and unrelenting gusts of wind (or are they whispers from the dead?) create a sense of helplessness unmatched by the claustrophobia of a haunted house and makes a strong case that we need more western horror films in our lives.
POSSUM (US Premiere)
UK | 2018 | 85 Min | Dir. Matthew Holness
Following an undisclosed shame, former puppeteer Philip returns to his shabby Norfolk childhood home and only surviving family member, gratingly unpleasant stepfather Maurice. Hanging off the edge of his own sanity, Philip tries to destroy his horrid memories which are encapsulated in the form of Possum, a large and hideous spider puppet. But Possum only pretends to be dead.
Under-appreciated character actor Sean Harris (recently recognizable as MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE antagonist Solomon Lane) stars with an insanely nuanced and chilling portrayal of isolation and trauma. Shot on 35mm with a fittingly yellow-and-brown-rotted palette and a puppet that delivers some seriously disturbing imagery, writer-director Matthew Holness’ first feature is a twisted psychological thriller that deep-dives into a bleak surrealist nightmare.
PARTY HARD, DIE YOUNG (North American Premiere)
Austria | 2018 | 93 Min | Dir. Dominik Hartl
To celebrate graduating from high school, Julia and her classmates take off for a party-resort in Croatia to experience the banger to end all bangers. As the epic party rages on, Julia’s best friend Jessica mysteriously disappears leaving nothing but a suspicious text and a Snapchat photo with her face scratched out. Then another friend slips off a roof to her death—and Julia receives another Snapchat photo. Uh oh.
Energetic and aesthetically gorgeous (mostly shot at the actual X-Jam Festival), Austrian director Dominic Hartl’s glossy homage to ‘90s teen slasher films is high on style while choosing to embrace new age connectivity when so many recent genre films would rather run from it, updating the slasher for the iPhone and EDM generation.
THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER (East Coast Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 109 Min | Dir. Duncan Skiles
Young churchgoing boy scout Tyler’s reputation takes a hit when his crush finds a pornographic bondage picture in his dad’s truck, believing it to be his. Ostracized from his group of friends, he falls in with Kassi, a teenage orphan obsessed with the Clovehitch Killer, a serial killer with a penchant for the clove hitch knot who once terrorized their town and was never found. After discovering more photos hidden in his dad’s work shed he’s left to fear the worst.
Rising talent Charlie Plummer is excellent as the innocent Tyler, but it’s Dylan McDermott playing his father, Don, who really owns the film with his paternal suburban transformation that’s every bit as campy and creepy as you would hope it to be. Directed by newcomer Duncan Skiles and written by Christopher Ford, frequent collaborator of Jon Watts on films such as CLOWN and COP CAR, this small town thriller has a sinister edge and sports an exciting narrative device that flips the story on its head.
GHOST MASK: SCAR (US Premiere)
South Korea | 2018 | 81 Min | Dir. Takeshi Sone
Miyu travels from Japan to Seoul, Korea trying to track down her older sister who has been missing for two years. Shortly after she arrives she meets plastic surgeon Hana, who invites her home to meet her lover Hyoshin. The three women cohabitate as Miyu’s search for her sister intensifies meanwhile Hyoshin, haunted by disturbing nightmares, becomes suspicious of Hana and Miyu’s relationship.
A tragic story of two Japanese sisters separated at childhood and plagued by jealousy, negligence and abandonment, GHOST MASK: SCAR is directed and shot by prolific cinematographer Takeshi Sone (he also shot recent festival hit ONE CUT OF THE DEAD) and features a ricocheting narrative that comes together beautifully in a bloody, gonzo final act.
BLOOD HARVEST (World Premiere of New Restoration)
USA | 2018 | 88 Min | Dir. Bill Rebane
Within the slasher movie canon, there are the indisputable giants: Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers. But what about Marvelous Mervo? Sure, he’s not the omnipresent icon that those other homicidal maniacs are, but there’s something to be said about a madman who’s played by eccentric ’80s music star Tiny Tim dressed like a clown and who leaves victims’ bodies hanging upside down in a barn like cattle.
If that sounds weird enough on its own, just wait until you experience the entirety of BLOOD HARVEST, one of the strangest ’80s slasher movies you’ll ever see. BHFF is thrilled to host the world premiere of a newly restored print of director Bill Rebane’s unnerving and often uncomfortably hilarious oddity, courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome. Full of gnarly kills, Tiny Tim’s signature brand of weirdness, and relentless unpredictability, BLOOD HARVEST is ripe for watch-it-with-a-rowdy-crowd rediscovery.
??? | ??? | ?? Min | Dir. ???
For the first time ever, the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival is excited to present a mystery film, and, sorry, we won’t give any easy-to-solve hints for all of you proud cinema sleuths out there! Okay, fine, we’ll give you a little something: Our inaugural “Secret Screening” film will either be a can’t-miss new horror gem that everyone, both genre folks and general film lovers alike, will be talking about for years to come or an unexpected yet prescient genre classic from deep in the vaults. Sorry, that’s all you’re going to get. Now let the speculation begin!
EMPATHY, INC. (East Coast Premiere)
USA | 2018 | 96 Min | Dir. Yedidya Gorsetman
In the “high risk, high reward” world of venture capitalists, rising star Joel lets it all ride on a deal that, sadly for he and his actress wife, painfully falls apart, leaving him with no other choice than to move in with his wife’s parents for financial reasons. Feeling like a huge failure, Joel unexpectedly finds some hope via a run-in with an old friend, whose business partner asks Joel to invest in a new experiential technology called XVR, or Xtreme Virtual Reality, the latest product of which allows wealthy folks to see life through the eyes of the less fortunate. Unfortunately for Joel, XVR’s makers’ intentions aren’t what they seem.
Shot in stark black-and-white and going into exceedingly dark narrative places, NYC-bred director Yedidya Gorsetman’s EMPATHY, INC. is the best kind of lo-fi sci-fi, an intimate character piece rooted in big ideas and blending doses of brutal horror into its cerebral tapestry. Comparable to an extended and decidedly bleak BLACK MIRROR episode, EMPATHY, INC. is a homegrown slice of pure genre-mashing ambition.