The annual Brooklyn Horror fest 2021 ended it’s 6th run last week. The film festival showcases indie horror in the heart of Williamsburg. And after a long year away, it was back, full force. Bringing together film makers, writers, and movie buffs over a pure love of cinema and horror.
The seven day event (October 14th -21st), ranged in content. From varied shorts programs, to features that will debut in the upcoming year. All together, 14 feature length films and six short blocks. Including Edoardo Vitaletti’s debut horror, The Last Thing Mary Saw, and Night Teeth. The Netflix original, hot girl vampire movie. Acclaimed directors Lucile Hadžihalilović and Gaspar Noé also debuted features.
After each movie, audience goers voted for their favorites. An esteemed jury also voted and the winners were announced this morning. See the bottom for a full list of winning films.
My Brooklyn Horror Fest 2021 rundown:
Saturday, October 17th 11 am – The last thing Mary saw.
I hopped on the L to Williamsburg on a beautiful morning, and found a town already bustling. Passing by all the coffee cups and combat boots, I made my way to Nitehawk Cinema. I exited clear skies to surround myself in darkness and dread for two hours. But for a good reason; to screen The last thing Mary saw. A new gothic horror making its US premiere.
I crammed myself into the packed theater for just under two hours of a simmering, slow burn. Followed by a Q & A with the director and co-star Rory Culkin, who both explained some of the inspiration behind the horror.
2 pm, Shorts program # 1 – Home Invasion.
Nine short films with their own interpretation of home invasion. Whether it’s a haunted ear piece that allows its wearer to hear ghosts, or an invasive and dangerous phone app. The block included:
Atrophy, directors Nick Hartanto, Sam Roden. A wife’s debilitating illness takes a toll on an older Asian couple. Atrophy is more of a psychological horror. Showing us the raw, and brutal ways that we might have to care for each other, and the effects that can have.
Polybius, director Alex Rouleau. Before Polybius starts, a disclaimer warns of bright lights and potentially seizure inducing images. It’s the shortest film in the program, but some would say the best. I know this because I overheard three people say it.
A boy opens a present for Christmas early. A hot new video game. But when he plays it, it suddenly takes him (and us) on a trippy, crazy ride that ultimately ends badly.
There’s Something in the Silence, director Mike Castro. A woman is learning how to deal with a new hearing aid. She thinks she can hear strange voices coming from it. But her therapist convinces her the sound is just that. And can’t hurt her. We spend the next few minutes watching her fight those demons, and then seeming to conquer them. Until the rug is swept out from both her and the audience.
Still Together, director Christopher Piazza. One of my favorites in this category. An homage to the 80’s, from font, to fashion and music.
Still together is a horror comedy, inspired by 80’s rom-com Mannequin. Except way more bizarre. In this case, the mannequin is a hunky, shirtless dude. Who also has a strange accent. Of course, he can only be seen by his quirky window dresser.
Still Together is pure camp from start to finish. Not meant to be taken seriously in any frame. But in its short run time, it induced smiles, and laughter. That, to me, is the mark of a successful story.
Lucky Feet 2000, director Mary Dauterman. A woman wanders into a nail salon, after tripping and ruining her pedicure. But the strange salon has ominous undertones.
#NOFILTER, director Nathan Crooker. My favorite short in the the Home Invasion program. Because #NOFILTER feels like a Black Mirror, or Tales from the Crypt episode.
Beth is an insecure young woman desperate to look sexier. So when her BFF (Misha Osherovich, from Freaky) tells her to download an app that gives you perfect selfies, she’s reluctant but intrigued. Once she does, she’s obsessed with her new mirror image. But she quickly learns the true price of online images. #NOFILTER is a cautionary tale about the underbelly of fake social media perfection and what it does it us.
Scavenger, director Ben Sottak. The last person on earth is a young girl with exceptional survival skills. It shows us a chunk of time in this young woman’s bleak life, which feels like a satisfactory window. Yet, leaves us wondering what happens next.
Penumbra, director Daniel Byers. A tale of two sisters, Dori and Fae. Fae has been growing increasingly erratic so Dori takes her to a secluded cabin. But Fae is being pulled away by an unknown force. One that has her drawing troubling images and words in her journal. Eventually, the unknown, supernatural forces come for the girls. Dori must then risk everything to try and save her sister. With many of the shorts, there’s an underlying theme of love trying to conquer darkness.
The Lovers, director Avra Fox-Lerner. Brooklynite writer/director Avra Fox-Lerner has a passion for horror and women centric stories. With the Lovers she combines both.
Hazel, and Andy are female roommates in a co-dependent relationship. When Hazel goes to to pick up food for Andy, she runs into an ex, or soon to be ex-boyfriend. Cautious at first, they talk a walk appearing to reconnect. Eventually Hazel invites Sam back to her home. Sam thinks they’ll be rekindling their romance. But he couldn’t be more wrong.
The Lovers is a story of twisted love, dependency, and what we’re willing to sacrifice in the name of it.
Sunday, October 18th 5:45 pm – Slayed program.
It was a packed theater on the edge of Williamsburg last Sunday night. Everyone gathered from different walks of life for Slayed. The popular Brooklyn Horror tradition highlighting LGBTQ horror. The lineup featured seven slasher shorts.
The Things We Do When We’re Alone, director Matthew Lynn. Slayed kicked off with a gruesome little tale. In the spirit of Mr. Brooks with serious Creep vibes too. In summary, a perfectionist husband spends his brief alone time as a cheating serial killer.
New Flesh for the Old Ceremony, director Elizabeth Rakhilkina. Rakhilkina works with themes of extreme love. And it’s metaphorical ability to devour, and take over. But as someone obsessed with their dog, I couldn’t enjoy this film. I’ll just leave it at that.
Forgive Us, director D.W. Hodges. Forgive Us is a short that feels like it could be a feature length film.
A gay couple, Paul and David return to David’s family home after a long estrangement. There, they’re confronted with severe discrimination from his mother and sister. A dinner with the local deacon turns nasty, and the reserved David finally begins to confront the hate. However, the weekend will lead to more horrifying events that force David to face his demons and defend himself.
The Cruise, director Richard Louprasong.
On their way to a Halloween party, a couple stops their car in the woods. At a place infamous for the “Cruisin’ Killer”. A madman known to kill gay men hooking up in the area. They try to leave, but of course the car won’t start. Soon, fantasy turns to reality and the couple realizes the story is much more than just urban legend.
The Cruise is a fun slice of horror comedy. The only film that elicited long laughter from the audience.
The Cost of Living, director Alice Trueman. My favorite short from the Slayed series.
Lily is an perfectionist with OCD. Living in a world of muted palettes and perfectly placed items. Her life is clocked (literally, via her smart watch), and comfortable. But also lacking any joy, or passion.
That is, until she meets the Grim Reaper, who is a beautiful seductress. The run in captivates Lily. Later, she’s summoned to a club where the sexy angel of death shows her that life is for living. Director and writer Alice Trueman liked toying with the idea of illustrating death as a femme fatale. And the theme of living life on auto-pilot is the essence of the short. Though satisfying, when the credits rolled, I wasn’t done with Lily’s story and I wanted more.
Family, director Mark Pariselli. A gay, interracial couple takes a fall getaway. But talks of starting a family show cracks in the relationship. Soon, an accident on the road leads to unexpectedly dark consequences.
Director Mark Pariselli packs a lot into a ten minute feature, without much dialogue. This sets the stage for a creepy, unsettling atmosphere that goes from blissful to bad quickly.
Itsy Bitsy Spider, director Brodi-jo Scalise. An insecure guy is left alone in his boyfriend’s apartment. He’s soon tormented by a spider on the loose.
A big, creepy tarantula is running around. But it symbolizes more than just arachnophobia. It’s a a metaphor for Chris and Jacob’s decaying relationship. One threatened by jealously, dependence and obsession. Toxic love and unhealthy attachment are reoccurring themes. Not just in Itsy Bitsy Spider, but also throughout the entire festival.
Tuesday, October 20th 9:30 pm – Session 9 anniversary screening.
It’s been 20 years since the eerie Session 9 came out. Though it still flies under the radar, it’s also considered a cult classic to many. The Brooklyn horror Fest screened the film with 35mm projection for it’s 20th anniversary. Not just to celebrate its greatness, but in the hopes of exposing it to a whole new audience. I’ve seen it a few times through the years but couldn’t miss an opportunity to see it on a big screen.
A taped Q & A following the film featured director Brad Anderson and actor Stephen Gevedon (also in attendance). They discussed the movie’s lasting impact 20 years later.
Brooklyn Horror Fest 2021 winners:
Best Feature — EGO, dir. Alfonso Cortés-Cavanillas
Best Director – Rob Jabbaz, THE SADNESS
Screenplay – Jorge Navarro de Lemus, EGO
Actor — Nick Stahl, WHAT JOSIAH SAW
Actress — María Pedraza, EGO
Cinematography — Jenna Cato Bass, MLUNGU WAM (GOOD MADAM)
Special Jury Mention — THE SADNESS, dir. Rob Jabbaz
BHFF shorts programs:
Best Short — LA OSCURIDAD, dir. Jorge Sistos Moreno
Director — Jon Bell, THE MOOGAI
Best Performance — Irene Tsu and Bert Matias, ATROPHY
Cinematography — Nick Morris, SUDDEN LIGHT
Sound Design — John Moros, WEEE WOOO
Most Bonkers Short — SUSHI NOH, dir. Jayden Rathsam Hua
Special Jury Award — OTHER BODIES, dir. Alyssa Loh
The audience awards:
Best Feature: THE SADNESS, dir. Rob Jabbaz
AUDIENCE AWARDS – SHORTS:
Nightmare Fuel — THIS IS OUR HOME, dir. A.K. Espada
Head Trip – THE FARAWAY MAN, dir. Megan Gilbert, Jill Hogan
Slayed – THE COST OF LIVING, dir. Alice Trueman
Home Invasion #1 – STILL TOGETHER, dir. Christopher Piazza
Home Invasion #2 – HAZEL, dir. Jordan Doig
Fear in Focus: Australia — SUSHI NOH, dir. Jayden Rathsam Hua
And find the full lineup from Brooklyn horror fest 2021 here.Views – 608