Popcorn Frights, the Southeast United States’ largest gathering of genre films and fans, continues its tradition of showcasing outstanding cinema from around the world. The festival has proudly announced the first wave of programming for its fifth annual celebration of the latest and greatest in fright fare, thrillers and chillers, and other genre movies. The fest takes place over 9 nights, from August 8–16, at the historic Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale.
Fans of the remarkable creature feature A Quiet Place will be thrilled to hear that Popcorn Frights’ opening night attraction is the world premiere of the follow-up from that film’s writers, Scott Beck & Bryan Woods, Haunt. The duo’s latest horror thriller takes place on Halloween and follows a group of friends as they encounter an extreme haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. Beck and Woods, who will be attending the festival, said, “We’re thrilled to premiere our new film Haunt at Popcorn Frights Fest. Their incredible team has cultivated a passionate following by throwing one of the best film festivals around, and we can’t wait for the opportunity to scare their audience of hardcore horror fans out of their seats.”
Closing the festival is Brad Michael Elmore’s Bit, a fresh take on bloodthirsty ladies of the night. The film stars Nicole Maines (Supergirl) as a transgender teen who becomes entrenched with a mysterious group of punk feminist vampires hellbent on ridding the streets of predatory men.
Popcorn Frights is also set to host the world premiere of The Dare, a gruesome nail-biter that cuts to the bone, and the North American premiere of The Sonata, a fantastically feverish supernatural chamber piece starring Rutger Hauer.
A trio of new female-directed genre films are on tap as well, including two that I have seen on their festival rounds and recommend. Jennifer Reeder’s gothic teen noir Knives and Skin looks, with a Lynchian vibe, at how the disappearance of a high school band member affects the girl’s small community. Chelsea Stardust’s hotly anticipated dark comedy Satanic Panic is chock full of well-earned laughs and gore galore, and features a winning performance from Hayley Griffith as a pizza delivery girl who finds that insisting on a tip at the wrong house could lead to diabolical trouble. Alice Waddington rounds things out with her dazzling dystopic tale Paradise Hills, which stars Emma Roberts, Awkwafina, Milla Jovovich, Eiza González, and Danielle Macdonald.
Heralded genre-bender Larry Fessenden’s reimagining of the Frankenstein myth Depraved — which I called in my Gruesome Magazine review “a thinking person’s horror film . . . that pulls no punches in the visceral shocks department,” pointing out that the director “nails modern troubles with equal attention to horror, and indeed, addresses modern terrors, from the paranoia of not being able to walk safely on the street to letting down one’s guard to allow strangers into one’s life, both psychologically and with visceral special effects” — is yet another can’t-miss Popcorn Frights offering. The cast alone should draw viewers’ attention toward the fun black comedy thriller Villains, as Bill Skarsgård, Maika Monroe, Jeffrey Donovan, and Kyra Sedgwick star as two lawbreaking couples squaring off in a house that includes a little girl chained up in the basement. Having recently seen this film, I can assure you that the laughs are plenty and that the protagonists go through some nasty, nailbiting moments. Other festival highlights include Joe Begos’ daring psychedelic thriller Bliss; Adam Egypt Mortimer’s stylish psycho-horror Daniel Isn’t Real; and the haunting phantasmagoria of Peter Strickland’s beguiling ghost story In Fabric.
The second wave of Popcorn Frights 2019 programming will be announced in the coming weeks, and if it is anything like the first wave, genre film fans will find plenty over which to drool.
Following is the full first wave of announcements from the official Popcorn Frights press release.
FESTIVAL LINEUP (FIRST WAVE)
Director: Brad Michael Elmore
A transgender teenage girl on summer vacation in Los Angeles fights to survive after she falls in with four queer feminist vampires, who try to rid the city’s streets of predatory men. Cast: Nicole Maines, M.C. Gainey, Diana Hopper, James Paxton (East Coast premiere)
Director: Joe Begos
A brilliant painter facing the worst creative block of her life turns to anything she can to complete her masterpiece, spiraling into a hallucinatory hellscape of drugs, sex, and murder in the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles. Cast: Dora Madison, Tru Collins, Rhys Wakefield, Graham Skipper (Southeast U.S. premiere)
DANIEL ISN’T REAL (U.S.)
Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer
When a distraught college freshman faces an unimaginable family trauma, he turns to his sadistic imaginary friend from childhood for help, hoping to unleash some long-forgotten strength. What he finds instead will change his life forever. Cast: Patrick Schwarzenegger, Miles Robbins, Sasha Lane, Mary Stuart Masterson (East Coast premiere)
THE DARE (U.K., U.S., Bulgaria)
Director: Giles Alderson
Four abducted strangers are forced to piece together clues created by their deranged captor who has brought them together to engage in a twisted battle to solve a puzzle to their past . . . or die a gruesome death. Cast: Richard Brake, Joivan Wade, Richard Short (World premiere)
Director: Larry Fessenden
Larry Fessenden’s reimagining of the Frankenstein myth (shot on the 200th anniversary of the novel’s publication) centers on a PTSD-riddled field surgeon deep in the heart of Brooklyn who decides to reconstruct an unsuspecting man out of spare body parts. Cast: David Call, Joshua Leonard, Alex Breaux (Southeast U.S. premiere)
Directors: Scott Beck & Bryan Woods
On Halloween, a group of friends encounter an “extreme” haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. But the night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some nightmares are real. Cast: Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, Lauryn Alisa McClain (World premiere)
IN FABRIC (U.K.)
Director: Peter Strickland
Obliquely split between two distinct stories, this exquisitely warped tale follows the life of a cursed scarlet dress as it passes from person to person, fatally afflicting anyone who comes into contact with it at an eerie department store. Cast: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Gwendoline Christie, Julian Barratt, Sidse Babett Knudsen (South Florida premiere)
KNIVES AND SKIN (U.S.)
Director: Jennifer Reeder
A mystical teen noir that follows a young girl’s disappearance in the rural Midwest and its effect on teens and parents. Cast: Kate Arrington, Marika Engelhardt, Tim Hopper (Southeast U.S. premiere)
PARADISE HILLS (Spain)
Director: Alice Waddington
A mysterious boarding school perfectly reforms wayward girls to fit their surroundings’ exact desires. Cast: Emma Roberts, Awkwafina, Milla Jovovich, Eiza González, Danielle Macdonald (East Coast premiere)
SATANIC PANIC (U.S.)
Director: Chelsea Stardust
A pizza delivery girl at the end of her financial rope has to fight for her life – and her tips – when her last order of the night turns out to be high society Satanists in need of a virgin sacrifice. Cast: Rebecca Romijn, Jerry O’Connell, Ruby Modine (Southeast US Premiere)
THE SONATA (France, U.K., Latvia)
Director: Andrew Desmond
A young violinist unravels her long-lost father’s past, triggering dark forces that reach beyond her imagination. Cast: Rutger Hauer, Freya Tingley, James Faulkner, James Kermack (North American Premiere)
Directors: Dan Berk & Robert Olsen
After a pair of amateur criminals break into a suburban home, they stumble upon a dark secret that two sadistic homeowners will do anything to keep from getting out. Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Maika Monroe, Jeffrey Donovan, Kyra Sedgwick (Florida premiere)
Festival All-Access Badges are on sale for a limited time for $99 per person and $169 for couples, and single screening tickets are available for $12. To purchase badges or tickets and view the festival schedule, visit www.popcornfrights.com All films will screen at Savor Cinema, 503 SE 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale.
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