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Eight Mustn’t-Miss Films from Cinepocalypse Film Festival’s Chicago Debut

Now that Chicago’s Music Box Theatre has announced its full wave of programming and guests for the debut year of Cinepocalypse – an evolution to the program design of Bruce Campbell’s Horror Film Festival – Gruesome Magazine would like to suggest eight must-see movies screening there. Cinepocalypse will take place November 2—9 at the Music Box, and promises to be the Midwest’s largest gathering of genre films and fans this year, loaded with new features, shorts, and premieres, alongside the fest’s juries, repertory, and secret screenings. Gruesome Magazine looks forward to bringing our readers reviews of some of the stellar selections Cinepocalypse has scheduled, so watch for those once the festival gets underway.

Let’s start off with three films that I have been fortunate enough to already see this year, and can personally recommend as required Cinepocalypse viewing. All cast and crew information and film synopses below are from the festival’s website, https://www.musicboxtheatre.com/events/cinepocalypse, with comments in italics from myself.

Animals (Tiere)

A FILM BY: GREG ZGLINSKI

WRITTEN BY: JÖRG KALT, GREG ZGLINSKI (CO-WRITER)

STARRING: BIRGIT MINICHMAYR, PHILIPP HOCHMAIR, MONA PETRI

A vehicle collision with a sheep on a country road initiates a whole series of weird and unsettling experiences for a couple in this darkly comical, Lynchian nightmare. Are they in the real world, their own imaginations–or are they trapped in someone else’s imagination?

This surreal German will twist your mind with time loops, differing routes of possible realities, and unreliable points of view. If   works such as  The Twilight Zone, Roman Polanski’s apartment house trilogy, and the films of David Lynch and Lars von Trier appeal to you, you will enjoy this enigmatic offering.  

The Crescent

A FILM BY: SETH A. SMITH

WRITTEN BY: DARCY SPIDLE (SCREENWRITER)

STARRING: BRITT LODER, DANIKA VANDERSTEEN, ANDREW GILLIS

A young widow and her two-year-old son take shelter in a massive, creepy seaside house after the sudden death of her husband. But rather than follow the tropes of standard jump-scare storytelling, The Crescent places a unique focus its child star, some truly impressive visual touches, and a consistently ominous sound design. This creepy Canadian import, which premiered in TIFF’s Midnight Madness program and was called a ghost story about loss, is guaranteed to get under your skin.

A riveting meditation on grief that first builds a ubiquitous sense of dread and foreboding, and then explodes into a third act that bombards the senses, this Canadian supernatural film is one of my favorites of 2017.

Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse

A FILM BY: LUKAS FEIGELFELD

WRITTEN BY: LUKAS FEIGELFELD

STARRING: HAYMON MARIA BUTTINGER, ALEKSANDRA CWEN, CLAUDIA MARTINI

Set in the Austrian Alps during the middle ages, this morbid and visually stunning tale deals with the fine line between ancient beliefs in magic and delusional psychosis. An impressive, haunting, and almost entirely silent first feature.

This German/Austrian folk horror offering combines gorgeous cinematography with harrowing, disturbing content to create a hypnotic, dread-filled journey – whether it is a supernatural or psychological one, or perhaps both, is for you to discover.

Now, here are five more Cinepocalypse films that I absolutely cannot wait to check out:

Dead Shack

A FILM BY: PETER RICQ

WRITTEN BY: PHIL IVANUSIC, DAVILA LEBLANC

STARRING: CAMERON ANDRES, LIZZIE BOYS, HANNAH ROCHELLE BURR

While staying at a run down cabin in the woods, three children must save their parents from the neighbor who intends to feed them to her undead family. Fully loaded with an axe-wielding drunk dada, homemade weapons, buckets of blood, and genuinely funny one-liners for days, this Canadian zombie fare keeps things moving, with plenty of jokes and scares that play off the dysfunctional family dynamic.

Although I have been burned out on zombie fare recently, my soft spot for horror comedies, along with the good word-of-mouth that I have heard about this Canadian feature, have me fired up for this one.

Mohawk

A FILM BY: TED GEOGHEGAN

WRITTEN BY: TED GEOGHEGAN, GRADY HENDRIX (CO-WRITER)

STARRING: KANIEHTIIO HORN, EZRA BUZZINGTON, EAMON FARREN

Late in the War of 1812, violent hostilities have arisen between the British and their erstwhile American colonial subjects. While the powerful Mohawk nation of the New York region maintain a position of neutrality, wanting no part in the killing – but the killing is coming to them. An impulsive attack on an American encampment has drawn the vengeful attentions of a ragged band of American military renegades, led by the vicious, racist Hezekiah Holt. Oak, Calvin, and their British lover Joshua flee into the woods so familiar to them, but the murderous musketeers are on their trail, hungry for blood.

Director Ted Geoghegan made a huge splash in the horror community with his outstanding debut feature We Are Still Here, and I’m excited to see what he has in store with this historically themed shocker.

Primal Rage

A FILM BY: PATRICK MAGEE

WRITTEN BY: JAY LEE, PATRICK MAGEE

STARRING: CASEY GAGLIARDI, ANDREW JOSEPH MONTGOMERY, ELOY CASADOS

You may have seen a few Bigfoot-related horror films over the years, but it’s safe to say you’ve never seen a Sasquatch rampage like this. Primal Rage is a tale of a young couple, a group of hunters, a witch, and some Native American cops who butt heads with a wildly violent forest monster, causing all Hell to break loose. Helmed by practical special effects guru Patrick Magee (Spider-Man, Jurassic Park III), this may be the goriest, most aggressively angry film you’ll see all year, and it’s certainly one that has earned its hostile title. Not for the weak of heart or stomach!

I’m a huge creature-feature fan who also loves a good Bigfoot flick, and from Cinepocalypse’s description, this sounds like a great monster movie!

Snowflake

A FILM BY: ADOLFO KOLMERER, WILLIAM JAMES

WRITTEN BY: AREND REMMERS

STARRING: REZA BROJERDI, ERKAN ACAR, XENIA ASSENZA

Take a dash of Tarantino, a splash of Coen brothers, a metric ton of pretzel-logic self-awareness, and a fast-paced series of humorously violent misadventures, and you’re halfway to grasping the magnificent German madness of this bizarre import. Hunting down the murderer of their families in a near-future Berlin, a gang of lowlife characters all want revenge on each other, but along the way they must contend with a myriad of wicked fairytale types – assassins, madmen, a blood-covered angel, and an electric-powered superhero – all apparently come to life through a screenplay written by a demented but clueless dentist. Must be experienced to be believed, and guaranteed to twist your mind.

This one sounds all kinds of outré, and I’m all for having my mind twisted by cinema whenever possible.

Trench 11

A FILM BY: LEO SCHERMAN

WRITTEN BY: MATT BOOI

STARRING: ROSSIF SUTHERLAND, KARINE VANASSE, ADAM HURTIG

In the final days of World War I, a shell-shocked soldier must lead a mission deep beneath the trenches to stop a German plot that could turn the tide of the war. But what lies beneath is more dark and sinister than they ever could have imagined.

Early buzz is that this Canadian effort is rich with tense, psychological horror, and that it boasts fantastic practical effects. Count me in!

Among the guests at this year’s Cinepocalypse festival are writer/director Larry Cohen, screenwriter/guest curator Joe Carnahan, actor Antonio Fargas, actor Eric Roberts, screenwriter/guest host Simon Barrett, actress Barbara Crampton, and Suspiria star Jessica Harper, with many more to be announced. For more information, including schedule, ticket purchasing, and film descriptions, visit https://www.musicboxtheatre.com/events/cinepocalypse.

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 "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" print magazine and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, Ghastly Grinning, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Decades of Horror: The Classic Era" and "Uphill Both Ways" podcasts. Joseph has also written for “Scream” magazine, "Filmfax" magazine, “SQ Horror” magazine, and the websites That's Not Current an HorrorNews.net. He 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.
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 "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" print magazine and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, Ghastly Grinning, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Decades of Horror: The Classic Era" and "Uphill Both Ways" podcasts. Joseph has also written for “Scream” magazine, "Filmfax" magazine, “SQ Horror” magazine, and the websites That's Not Current an HorrorNews.net. He 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.