Nightmares Film Festival 2020 Transitions to Digital Event “NFF: Masquerade”

The highly regarded Nightmares Film Festival will host a digital version this year because of COVID-19. “Nightmares Film Festival: Masquerade” will offer feature and short films along with live events such as filmmaker question-and-answer sessions, all on a digital platform. Following is the festival’s official announcement.

Nightmares Film Festival, FilmFreeway’s top-ranked genre fest, will host a five-day online event (Oct. 21 to 25) called “Nightmares Film Festival: Masquerade” instead of its 2020 in-person fest, organizers announced today. 

“We’re excited and proud to announce NFF: Masquerade, a digital experience we’re launching to bring together the worldwide horror community during what are challenging, isolating times for everyone,” said co-founder and programmer Jason Tostevin. “We could all use some time with people who love what we love, connecting and getting inspired, and though we can’t hold our in-person event, we were determined not to let the year go by without creating that opportunity.”

The decision to call off the 2020 in-person edition of the festival was difficult, but was the right thing to do, organizers said.

“We’ve been tracking every change in COVID-19 rates and safety protocols for months in hopes we’d find a way to gather in person and still protect people’s health,” said NFF co-founder and Gateway Film Center President Chris Hamel. “It’s clear now there’s no safe or ethical way to bring people from around the world into one space for several days, and there was just no way we were going to risk harm to people.”

NFF: Masquerade will make the festival’s 2020 short and feature film selections available to event pass holders through a secure online streaming platform for the five-day duration of the fest. The platform includes apps for AppleTV, Roku and Android TV, which will allow viewers to watch on their home theater setups. While Nightmares will publish a recommended schedule, including shorts blocks and feature/short pairings, pass holders and those who purchase individual film streams will be able to watch the festival’s “better horror” program in their own order, on their own time. 

In addition to the industry-leading film program Nightmares is known for, Masquerade will present several live components each day, like real-time Q&As with filmmakers. These include hosted screenings and question sessions with the festival’s “Shut-In Shorts” selections, a category Nightmares created this year exclusively for films made under quarantine constraints.

In a first for Nightmares, Masquerade will include live table readings of selections from finalist screenwriters, performed by award-nominated actors from 2020 films. 

The experience will also include learning labs and development workshops with leading genre creators. Confirmed presenters include Natalie Erika James (2020’s Relic), Jason Trost (The FP), Brandon Christensen (Z, Still/Born), Aaron B. Koontz (Scare Package, The Pale Door), Lukas Hassel (The Black List) and Depaul University’s Professor Shayna Connelly.

NFF’s closely-watched annual panels on distribution and diversity will be held as part of Masquerade, too.

Security is a concern for many when films are presented digitally. 

“We know how important protecting creators’s projects is,” said Hamel. “We are holding Masquerade on a platform that’s been tried and proven by top film organizations this year, including AFI.” 

The platform used for Masquerade was chosen because it allows both geoblocking and limiting total views of a film, Hamel said. Nightmares staff will allow individual filmmakers to set both the territories that may access their film and limit the number of streams if desired. 

The festival’s schedule for selecting films will not be affected by the transition. “We will still announce the final program September 20,” Tostevin said.

Submissions are still being accepted for consideration at For updates, follow Nightmares Film Festival on social media @NightmaresFilmFest.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.