Fear and drinking at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival: Special report
All the madness from this year's terror tale-oriented event
“How many video games have you had sex with?” is not a question directors tend to get asked at film festivals. But it was an appropriate — if joking — query for Samuel Zimmerman of horror streaming service Shudder to ask actor-turned filmmaker Graham Skipper, after the New York premiere of the latter’s new film Sequence Break at the second annual Brooklyn Horror Film Festival on Sunday.
Over drinks the night before, Skipper had promised EW that your writer could expect “Lots of slime, lots of goop, lots of really weird sex.” That promise was more than fulfilled. Sequence Break stars the always watchable Chase Williamson — with whom Skipper appeared in last year’s BHFF Audience Award-winner Beyond the Gates — as an arcade game repairman named Oz whose relationship with his new girlfriend Tess (Fabianne Therese) is endangered by his indeed “goopy” trysting with a mysterious game.
While the David Cronenberg-esque result is firmly in the horror arena, it reflected the adventurous nature of this year’s BHFF lineup, which also included the Portuguese-language The Forest of Souls — an initially meditative tale about two strangers who are contemplating taking their own lives, which takes a savage turn — and opening night movie Housewife. The latter turned out to be a knowing, and even gently mocking, slice of Giallo mayhem from Turkish director Can Evrenol, who previously set the genre festival circuit alight with his hell-ish 2015 debut, Baskin.
“Last year’s program was informed by this idea of pushing the genre, stretching the definition of what we call it — I just loved how that played,” BHFF senior programmer Matt Barone told EW. “This year we went in with that in mind. If something seemed a little bit generic or traditional, we immediately pushed it aside. So, there’s films like Forest of Lost Souls, and Clementina, and Book of Birdie — there are horror elements, but they’re not overt. So that’s our identity, trying to figure out ways to challenge what people call horror, especially in this age of people saying that It isn’t a horror movie or The Witch isn’t horror. It’s all nonsense.”
The program did feature some old-school slasher action. Friday night, a quartet of horror-loving female journalists, including Aja Romano and Kristen Yoonsoo Kim, debated who is the best ‘Final Girl’ at the latest event hosted by Drunk Education. Given the subject, and the week’s revelations about Harvey Weinstein, and the free beer, the event inevitably and rather wondrously turned into big middle finger to harassers-of-women everywhere, whether masked psychopaths or movie producers. On Sunday, meanwhile, the festival screened director Adam Green’s made-in-secret Victor Crowley, the fourth movie in the Hatchet slasher series, which should delight fans of the franchise with its many in-jokes and cameos from the likes of Tony Todd and Green himself, as well as the filmmaker’s Yorkie, Arwen.
Green couldn’t attend the screening as he was performing with his band Haddonfield at the Rock and Shock Festival in Worcester, Mass. But his Movie Crypt podcast partner Joe Lynch was on hand to be quizzed by film journalist Michael Gingold after an evening screening of Lynch’s new movie Mayhem, which stars Steven Yeun as a rage virus-infected lawyer who decides to dispute his recent firing with maximum amounts of, well, mayhem. The film was the second half of a double bill which began with Cold Hell, a terrific, Vienna-set serial killer film with a surely star-making performance from Violetta Schurawlow as a taxi driver and Thai boxing enthusiast. By the time Gingold and Lynch hit the stage the director admitted to being a little in the bag (“Goddamn you, Coney Island Beers!”) and wowed the capacity crowd with hilarious tales of the Serbian shoot and the assertion that, while the script is credited to Matias Caruso, Lynch “definitely came up with the line, ‘You open doors like my grandmother f—s.'”
The impressive list of filmmakers attending the event — which also included Housewife director Evrenol and another Beyond the Gates actor, Matt Mercer, who was screening his short, Feeding Time — acted as proof that BHFF has established itself as a worthy addition to the horror festival circuit. “I had heard from several people who came here last year how much fun it was,” said Skipper, an ex-New Yorker who now lives in L.A. and, like Lynch and Mercer, had traveled from the West Coast to attend. “When they wanted Sequence Break to play here, I said ‘F—, yes! Of course!”
So, what of the festival’s future?
“We’re going to have a postmortem this week and figure out what worked and what didn’t,” said senior programmer Barone. “But, yeah, the plan is to keep growing it. Last year was three days, this year was four days. Hopefully, next year, we can do Wednesday to Sunday — maybe, down the line, a week. Thinking about that is making our head explode.”
Hmm, sounds like he should chill out with a screening of Scanners.
“Yeah, or Game of Death,” laughed Barone, referencing yet another of the films being screened at this year’s BHFF. “I don’t know if you’ve seen that here yet, but that’s all about heads exploding.”