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Gruesome Magazine’s Top 10 Terrors from the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival

The Brooklyn Horror Film Festival’s third edition, which runs October 11th–18th with screenings and events across Brooklyn, New York, will be its largest ever, with loads of amazing world, North American, U.S., and East Coast premieres of both feature-length and short films. Gruesome Magazine’s Grue-Crew members have many of these offerings on their must-see lists. Though it is almost impossible to narrow the goodness down to such a list, here are 10 of Gruesome’s most anticipated movies from this year’s BHFF, with descriptions from the festival’s official press announcements.

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.

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.

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.

Director A.T. White in attendance

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.

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.

Directors Michael Laicini & David Amito in attendance.

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.

Cam

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.

Other BHFF highlights include Home Invasion 2018, the fest’s annual showcase of local New York City films featuring a popular shorts block and a spotlight screening of Yedidya Gorsetman’s dark indie sci-fi Empathy, Inc., and shorts blocks that offer up such tantalizing block titles as Nightmare Fuel, Head Trip, Creeping Terror, Slayed LGBT Horror Shorts, and Laugh Now, Die Later.

For more information, visit Brooklynhorrorfest.com; Facebook: facebook.com/brooklynhorror/; Twitter: http://twitter.com/brooklynhorror; Instagram: http://instagram.com/brooklynhorrorfest.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry’s formative years were spent watching classic monster movies (starting with "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" and "Godzilla Vs. the Thing") and TV series (starting with "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits"), Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features" and Roy Shires’ Big Time Wrestling (two northern California legends); reading Silver Age and Bronze Age Gold Key, Dell, Charlton, Marvel, and DC comics; and writing mimeographed newsletters about the original "Planet of the Apes" film and TV series. More recently, he has written for "Filmfax" magazine, is the foreign correspondent reporter for the "Horror News Radio" podcast, and is a regular contributing writer to "Phantom of the Movies’s VideoScope" magazine, occasionally proudly co-writing 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’s formative years were spent watching classic monster movies (starting with "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" and "Godzilla Vs. the Thing") and TV series (starting with "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits"), Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features" and Roy Shires’ Big Time Wrestling (two northern California legends); reading Silver Age and Bronze Age Gold Key, Dell, Charlton, Marvel, and DC comics; and writing mimeographed newsletters about the original "Planet of the Apes" film and TV series. More recently, he has written for "Filmfax" magazine, is the foreign correspondent reporter for the "Horror News Radio" podcast, and is a regular contributing writer to "Phantom of the Movies’s VideoScope" magazine, occasionally proudly co-writing 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.
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