Our big city has come a long way and done a lot of cleaning up over the years. The days of seedy downtown bars, sketchy hole-in-the-wall hangouts, and no-good trouble-seekers roaming the streets are turning into distant memories.
Gory horror flicks are largely just memorabilia now, as they’ve made way for docu-dramas about teen pop idols and unfortunate remakes of past successes. Luckily for you seedy, sketchy, no-good trouble-seekers, though, there’s still a time and place for everything.
The New York City Horror Film Festival, running ten years strong, brings together the enthusiastic gore-seekers of New York City and beyond for five days each October to pay homage to the best in the business; new and established, young and old, big-budget and broke. Festival director Michael Hein started the event in 2001 with the goal of creating a serious genre-based film festival that would attract serious industry attendance and provide exposure and recognition for filmmakers, directors, producers, and actors.
Hein, a seasoned producer, director, special effects makeup artist and horror/sci-fi enthusiast, hoped to create an atmosphere not only for film screenings and judging, but also for networking opportunities.
“I wanted filmmakers to be seen, not just by the horror fans, but also by people who actually buy movies for distribution.”
With loads of work and dedication (“a labor of love,” as he puts it) on the parts of Hein, his friends and family, and sponsors and staff, his brainchild was born and met with eager excitement from horror-fanatics even outside of its home of New York City. Now approaching its ten-year anniversary, the NYCHFF has become exactly what its creators hoped for: a creative outlet for a vast array of filmmakers, a place for industry members to meet and make connections, and a great gathering for horror lovers from around the world to enjoy some brilliant, gory fun. Hein adds, “Having a full bar and lounge right inside the venue doesn’t hurt the constant party atmosphere either.”
Were the enthusiastic crowd and staff not enough, the NYCHFF also features an impressive judge panel line up. While the judges change each year, the panel always consists of film industry workers or genre-based journalists.
The 2010 festival panel featured well-known figures in the horror film scene such as Robert Englund aka Freddy Krueger of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Tony Todd, better known as the Candyman, and the managing editor of Fangoria Magazine Michael Gingold.
Each of the approximately 500 short and feature films and 100+ screenplays submitted to the festival each year are judged on a ten-point system in nine categories: Best Feature Film, Best Short Film, Best Cinematography, Best Special Effects, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Submitted Screenplay, Best Screened Screenplay, and Audience Choice. The screening of the films is essentially a party, a gathering of friends and an awesome place to make new ones, and the films, while not all award-worthy, deliver just what the audience is looking for: fresh blood, quite literally.
Each year brings a greater number of submissions and new names and faces from all over the world. For any eager amateur filmmakers, no matter the budget or level of experience, this festival is a great place to put work out for some of the best eyes in the industry to see and to network with others. As Hein assures, “It’s not about your budget, it’s what you did with what you had!”
One horror buff and festival fan, Steve Kelly, speaks about the upcoming festival with the excitement of a kid anxiously awaiting Santa’s yearly visit. “There’s just no words for the mix of people, the atmosphere, the music, the movies, it’s just a crazy ride. You can walk up to your horror idol from the ‘80s and give him a hug, and he’ll talk to you like you’re old friends. It’s nuts.”
If you’re a fellow horror-freak thirsty for some fresh ideas and faces, or just a curious newcomer looking for a good time with an eclectic group of people, keep up to date on “gory details” of the NYCHFF on their website and Facebook page, and come through in October for the tenth annual festival.