MidWest WeirdFest— a cinematic celebration of all things fantastic, frightening, paranormal, and just plain weird — has announced its first programming wave for 2020. The fourth annual installment of the festival takes place March 6–8, 2020 at the Micon Downtown Cinema in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
“MidWest WeirdFest is back with the type of cutting edge genre, paranormal, and underground cinema that our regular attendees have come to expect, and that first-time fest-goers are going to adore,” said festival founder and programming director Dean Bertram. “We are delighted to announce this year’s first wave of feature programming. From murderous puppets and ghostly encounters, through legendary beasties and UFOs, to Lovecraftian nightmares and serial killers, the festival’s 2020 program is loaded with weirdness — some of it real, some of it imagined, and much of it from that mysterious twilight territory that lays in between.”
The first seven feature films announced follow, with my personal thoughts in italics.
Directors: Joshua Land and Victor Fink
Xander is a witch whose abuse of black magic has led him to disaster after disaster. After trying to go clean of witchcraft, Xander befriends Roland, a young loner. But he can’t seem to resist sliding back into his old witchy ways, as he begins to help Roland with bullies, girlfriends, and other teenage atrocities. A bloody fun horror flick that’s sure to bewitch genre cinephiles.
Bad Witch sounds like a horror comedy with a ton of potential. I can say from past personal experience that MidWest WeirdFest founder Dean Bertram knows how to pick ‘em, so I’m looking forward to this one!
The Fear of Looking Up
Director: Konstantinos Koutsoliotas
While chasing a serial killer inspired by the god of sleep, a cop’s life is overturned by the death of her lover. Looming monsters and the need for revenge cloud the border between her nightmares and reality, in this atmospheric and hypnotizing descent into Lovecraftian madness and terror.
Koutsoliotas is a highly experienced visual effects artist, including working on such films as Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), The Book of Birdie (2017), and X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019). I’m eager to see what cosmic horror insanity he has in store with his sophomore feature as a director.
On the Trail of UFOs
Director: Seth Breedlove
From MidWest WeirdFest alumni filmmaker Seth Breedlove (Momo: The Missouri Monster and On the Trail of Bigfoot) comes the latest Small Town Monsters documentary. With host Shannon LeGro, On the Trail of UFOs takes viewers from the gates of Area 51 itself, to the snow-capped White Mountains of New Hampshire. Filmed in several states across the country, no stone was left unturned in putting together the most comprehensive look at the subject ever produced.
Seth Breedlove and his Small Town Monsters crew have made my favorite cryptozoology and high weirdness documentaries of the last few years. Each of the previous Small Town Monsters releases have been pure gold, and I expect nothing less from Breedlove’s latest venture.
Director: Lisa Ovies
While celebrating Christmas at a cabin in the woods, a group of high school students are stalked by a psychotic killer obsessed with horror movie icons. This laugh-out-loud horror comedy is overflowing with clever homages to the genre, and serves up a perfect mix of gore and gags.
I caught Puppet Killer as part of Canada’s Blood in the Snow fest this past November. Screenwriter Kevin Mosley is an obvious slasher film fan (he also penned Dead of Night AKA Suspension ), and he and Ovies include plenty of send-ups of the genre, as well as several nods to it. The cast is game, and slasher film fans should have a great time with this one.
Return to Wildcat Mountain: Wisconsin’s Black Panther Nexus
Directors: Linda Godfrey and Nathan Godfrey
Strangely, in some parts of North America, black-furred big cats make up over half the eyewitness reports of mountain lions, but zoologists say black pumas don’t exist. If that’s true, then exactly what are these ebony felines? Might one small central Wisconsin town hold a clue to this growing mystery? This is the directorial debut of one of the world’s leading writers and investigators of the weird, Linda Godfrey (Weird Wisconsin, Monsters Among Us, and I Know What I Saw).
I first discovered Linda Godfrey through her appearances on the Coast to Coast AM radio show, which led me to her incredible books. Her research into cryptids and monster sightings is among the best in the world, so I am thrilled to see her make the transition to the big screen.
The Soul Conductor
Director: Ilya Maksimov
Katya is a disaffected and gloomy young woman. But she is endowed with a mystical gift: she is a conduit between the world of the dead and the world of the quick, and helps earthbound souls to regain peace. But her already weird world spirals even further out of control when a demonic serial killer targets both her and her twin sister. A beautiful and creepy supernatural thriller, loaded with twists and frights that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end credits roll.
I saw The Soul Conductor at the 2019 edition of South Korea’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, but alas, without English subtitles. I was intrigued by the strong visuals and what I could make out of the story. Judging from that, this seems like another fine selection for MidWest WeirdFest.
Directors: Dane Mainella, Jay Jadick, and Benjamin R Davis
Two men from rural Western Pennsylvania embark on a quest to track down the legendary monster Bigfoot. They will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of the great American myth, even as their journey leads them ever deeper into the mind of the beast itself. Part mumblecore, part early Wes Anderson, part psychedelic trip down the rabbit-hole of Sasquatch belief, Squatchmore delivers the weird like few others.
As a fan of fictional Bigfoot movies, no matter how much or how little the legendary creature actually appears in them, Squatchmore has my attention.
Discounted festival passes are now on sale here. Individual tickets to each film will go on sale closer to the festival; both on the fest’s website and directly from the Micon Downtown Cinema in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Full program details and filmmaker guests will be revealed in the coming weeks.