BHFF 2019 review: ‘The Swerve’ is striking and complex.

The Swerve

East Coast Premiere
USA | 2019 | 95 Min | Dir. Dean Kapsalis

High school English teacher Holly (Azura Skye) has always taken the stress and thanklessness of motherhood in stride, but a dark secret weighs heavily on her. The sudden appearance of a mouse and a betrayal by her self-absorbed husband send her spiraling down into catastrophe as she wreaks total havoc on her life. THE SWERVE is an epic, tenacious showcase for Skye, who shreds through the screen flailing for a lifeline in director Dean Kapsalis emotionally crushing feature debut. —Joseph Hernandez

This was the film that punched me in the gut at this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. The Swerve is a build-up of agony. Long-suffering in silence. Pasted on smiles. This film is essentially how it often feels to be a mother. Dean Kapsalis has given us a truly gutwrenching character in Holly. Azura Skye is simply devastating in this role. The quiet anguish is palpable. As a mother of two toddlers, I can attest to the isolation and loneliness of living for other people. The despair that can come with a mother’s inherent guilt. This story goes beyond the normal realm. Betrayed by a selfish family, Holly just wants to be acknowledged. As her behavior escalates we wonder where the lines actually blur. Therein lies the genius of this script. The ending is so powerful is was physically painful to watch. The Swerve is an eye-opening and unique film. It will stick with me longer than it should.

BHFF 2019 review: ‘This Is Our Home’ proves grief is a ghost that haunts eternal.

THIS IS OUR HOME

USA | 2019 | 73 Min | Dir. Omri Dorani

A struggling couple’s weekend getaway goes awry when a child arrives in the middle of the night claiming to be their son.

Grief carries a power that is beyond our understanding. It can be all-consuming or a numbness. Each person deals with it in a very personal way. When couples lose a child, the statical chances of them remaining in that relationship drop dramatically. Grief changes who you are. This Is Our Home plays upon the fragility of this concept. Grief never leaves you.

The uneasy dread comes into the script immediately. An old colonial home in the middle of nowhere is a great place for fear to live. Add a locked door? Yup. I wanna open it knowing full well that’s a terrible idea because obviously bad things hide behind it. But don’t we always want what we can’t have?

Performances are incredibly natural. The chemistry between Simone Policano and Jeff Ayars is magic. The sound editing brings This Is Our Home into another terrifying realm. Brooklyn Horror Film Festival goers must have had an extra visceral experience in a theater. I will fully admit that I covered my eyes and got chills more than once. I had no idea what would be coming next and it scared the shit out of me. There are some truly startling scenarios that will keep you hanging on, every single second with your heart pounding. Beautifully framed and stunningly scored, This Is Our Home proves that if we’re not very careful, grief can consume us permanently.

BHFF 2019 review: ‘Sator’

SATOREast Coast Premiere
USA | 2019 | 85 Min | Dir. Jordan Graham

Deep in the woods, it’s hard to really say what’s whispering in the night. Ask grandma, though, and she’ll tell you it’s Sator—a protective dark force among the trees, a satanic presence, a ritualistic killer who’s haunted their family for generations. A young man ventures back to the forest in an attempt to rebuild a relationship with his brother who’s been hibernating in seclusion after traumatic events led to the disappearance of their mother years past. A disturbing mediation on family bonds and mental illness, SATOR is an impressive cinematic feat by first-time filmmaker Jordan Graham. —Vanessa Meyer

This enigmatic script is partially based on true events. 5 years in the making, writer, director, producer, editor Jordan Graham has brought a slow burn indie horror to BHFF that is worth the wait. Something is stalking Adam. Living in the woods in what amounts to a hunting cabin, isolation and family trauma haunt the shit out of him. With concerned siblings and a grandmother who is plagued by automatic writing to an entity she calls Sator, this family feels doomed from the get-go. The build-up has moments reminiscent of the original Blair Witch. The woods are a scary place at night, period. Add a little Hereditary for good measure. Even with those similarities, Sator is incredibly original and undeniably eerie. Besides the insane climax, that is straight-up bonkers, scary AF, it’s the sound editing and score that makes Sator as disturbing as it is. Graham wears all the hats so it makes sense that it took 5 years to complete. My own grandmother experienced automatical writing all throughout my childhood and adolescence. This was not a foreign concept to me. Sometimes I wonder if all of us on the outside might regret thinking it was crazy, one day. It’s easier to push that sentiment aside and coalesce to an old woman’s ramblings. Brooklyn Horror Film Fest is lucky to have Sator in its program this year.

BHFF 2019 review: ‘Girl On The Third Floor’ is a gag-worthy trip to hell.

GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR

New York Premiere
USA | 2019 | 93 Min | Dir. Travis Stevens

Don Koch tries to renovate a rundown mansion with a sordid history for his growing family, only to learn that the house has other plans.

Travis Stevens’ feature debut is dripping with gore… And bodily fluids. It is a truly demented film. A man’s future is haunted by his own past and that of the house he’s attempting to renovate for his newly growing family. Someone’s not thrilled with the changes.

The use of mirrors in his film is classic. There are some super pissed off spirits in this house. You always hear about the horrors of renovation but this is some next-level shit. Philip “CM Punk” Brooks as Don is epically awesome. There is humor behind the horror and damnit, that’s what makes this film so damn rad. Brooks fully immerses himself in the grotesque bits of this film. And I do mean fully. Stevens has an IDGAF attitude in story and style and I am here for it. If this is what I can expect from him, give the man a giant bank account, a swimming pool of blood, and take my money already. Brooklyn Horror Film Festival audiences lapped this film up and were grossed out in the process. Girl On The Third Floor is like nothing else you’ll see right now.

BHFF 2019 review: ‘Spiral’ is socially relevant horror at its best.

SPIRAL

North American Premiere
Canada | 2019 | 87 Min | Dir. Kurtis David Harder

To get away from the city life, same-sex couple Malik and Aaron and their teen daughter, Kayla, move to a small suburban town in the mid-’90s. Unfortunately, they’re greeted right away with homophobic threats. When Malik witnesses a strange gathering in the neighbor’s house, he starts to fear for their lives. A queer horror game-changer, SPIRAL uses the genre to call out the deep-rooted fear of the other in America and expose the cycle of hate as the most corruptible, ancient evil of all. —Joseph Hernandez

Bigotry and cults? PTSD and ghostly warnings? Lost time and murder mysteries? Making its North American premiere at Brooklyn Horror Film Fest this year, Spiral has all these things at once. This mind-bending script will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. As a viewer, you will live in the shoes of our leading man, Malik. Played by Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman his performance is so incredibly nuanced, it is simply captivating. The terror is visceral. The confusion is exhilarating. The reveal is gasp-inducing. I literally exclaimed, “Dear God!” It will be socially relevant for far longer than we’d like it to be. With beautiful pacing, intriguing storyline, and a genuinely gag-worthy practical effect, Spiral is pretty much perfection.

BHFF 2019 review: ‘A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio’ makes short films its frightening focus.

A NIGHT OF HORROR: NIGHTMARE RADIO

North American Premiere
Argentina, New Zealand | 2019 | 100 Min | Dir. Luciano and Nicolás Onetti, Sergio Morcillo, Joshua Long, Jason Bognacki, Adam O´Brien, Matt Richards, A.J. Briones, Pablo S. Pastor and Oliver Park.

As the host of a popular horror-themed radio show, disc jockey Rod shares tales of terror with his eager listeners, and although this particular night is no different, there’s also the unexpected wrinkles of alarming calls from a scared-to-death child. How that all ties together is part of the magic behind A NIGHT OF HORROR: NIGHTMARE RADIO, an anthology constructed by Argentinian duo Nicolas and Luciano Onetti, who’ve assembled an impressive lineup of recent festival-touring horror shorts to deliver a refreshingly unique new kind of omnibus. —Matt Barone

 

Visually delicious from every angle. It’s like a beautiful love letter to horror fans. Directors Nicolas and Luciano Onetti have gathered some of the buzziest horror shorts from the festival circuit to create a brilliant feature film. Each short is magnificent in story and genuinely bone-chilling. Our radio host Rod, played cooly and nonchalantly by James Wright, is essentially a more attractive Crypt Keeper. Telling stories and taking calls all while checking the time religiously. He’s a bit of an enigma but we can tell he is on edge during this particular broadcast. Rod’s tales deal with something for everyone; body horror, lore, possession, demons, trauma, monsters, urban legends and everything else terrifying in-between. While we enjoy his stories, our man Rod is wrestling with his own nightmare. The practical effects make-up and the scores are all top-notch. This is a special film. Highlighting great horror shorts in such a genuinely unique, scary way is brilliant.  A Night Of Horror: Nightmare Radio is a hell of a crowd-pleasing film for Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

BHFF 2019 review: ‘The Shed’ wows at first sold out screening.

THE SHED

North American Premiere
USA | 2019 | 99 Min | Dir. Frank Sabatella

Stan, Roxy and Dommer are lifelong friends whose bond is being tested by the ever-taxing rigors of high school. For Stan and Dommer, in particular, the daily bullying they encounter comes in second only to watching Roxy’s popularity grow, and, in turn, her closeness to them dissipate. But there’s an unexpected possible solution to their problems in Stan’s backyard: a nondescript-looking toolshed, which houses something inhuman. Centered around the unlikeliest of villains, Frank Sabatella’s THE SHED takes what could have been a gore-drenched monster movie romp and layers it with potent coming-of-age anxiety and youth-in-crisis urgency. Don’t worry, though: There’s still carnage aplenty. —Matt Barone

Awesomely jarring nightmares, a killer soundtrack, combined with insanely good performances by the entire cast makes for a fantastic indie horror. There is more than face value to The Shed. Yes, there is a sick monster and buckets of blood, but all that aside the film speaks to much bigger issues. Our lead Stan has all the makings of a kid that’s about to lose it on society. He lost his parents, he’s in the custody of an abusive grandfather, he gets bullied at school. Stan and best friend Dommer are just trying to survive high school.

The cyclical nature of abuse and bullying is statistically proven. The Shed utilizes classic movie monster canon as a metaphorical weapon rather than making Stan another school shooter cliche. It’s a unique commentary on the kids that are far too often ignored. What happens when these kids taste power? The lines are quickly and easily blurred when revenge seems like the sweetest option. The Shed is a surprising and one of a kind film. It’s a hell of a sophomore venture from Frank Sabatella. Even though the two screenings at Brooklyn Horror Film Festival already sold out, RLJE will be releasing it soon. Do not miss this when it comes to theaters in November.

The film will open in cinemas and on VOD nationwide from RLJE on November 15th.

 THE SHED is written and directed by Frank Sabatella, and stars Jay Jay Warren, Cody Kostro, Sofia Happonen, Frank Whaley, Timothy Bottoms, and Siobhan Fallon Hogan. It is produced by Peter Block and Cory Neal.

Color

English Language

98 Minutes

Not Rated

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2019 is upon us!

The 4th edition of Brooklyn Horror Film Festival officially opened last night. Clearly, I want to tell you to go see all the films but as it is highly unlikely you are a Timelord I’ve made some suggestions. Narrowing down 5 films to see at this festival is insanely difficult. BHFF is a unique fest that brings genre filmmaking from around the world to fans who love horror and have an appreciation for the art and passion that goes into getting indie films made and seen! Without further ado, here are a handful of treats you can catch this starting tomorrow!


FESSENDEN’S DEPRAVED: MAKING FRANKENSTEIN IN A BROOKLYN LOFT

World Premiere
USA | 2019 | 75 Min | Dir. Larry Fessenden

With the release of Larry Fessenden’s DEPRAVED, horror fans have finally seen a new film from one of New York City’s, let alone that of the horror genre as a whole, most influential indie filmmaking legends, his first since 2013’s BENEATH. But for Fessenden himself, the journey to get his audacious and Brooklyn-set modernization of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN made has taken much longer and proven the values of both dedication and determination. In this feature-length documentary, Fessenden offers an intimate look at bringing his most ambitious passion project yet to life. It’s an all-access dive into one of 2019’s best horror films, and BHFF will have Fessenden himself on hand to break DEPRAVED’s production story down even further. Frankly, it doesn’t get more authentically “Brooklyn Horror” than this. —Matt Barone

Director Larry Fessenden in attendance.

DEPRAVED was nuts awesome and you can read my full review here! To hear straight from our local hero’s mouth about making this will be some true epicness.


THE SHED

North American Premiere
USA | 2019 | 99 Min | Dir. Frank Sabatella

Stan, Roxy and Dommer are lifelong friends whose bond is being tested by the ever-taxing rigors of high school. For Stan and Dommer, in particular, the daily bullying they encounter comes in second only to watching Roxy’s popularity grow, and, in turn, her closeness to them dissipate. But there’s an unexpected possible solution to their problems in Stan’s backyard: a nondescript-looking toolshed, which houses something inhuman. Centered around the unlikeliest of villains, Frank Sabatella’s THE SHED takes what could have been a gore-drenched monster movie romp and layers it with potent coming-of-age anxiety and youth-in-crisis urgency. Don’t worry, though: There’s still carnage aplenty. —Matt Barone

Director Frank Sabatella in attendance.

The buzz surrounding this film is legit. BHFF added a second screening because the first SOLD OUT in minutes. Then that one sold out, too! If you’re lucky enough to get a seat this weekend, virtual high five. If you didn’t score big, fear not, the film is coming to theaters in November!


GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR

New York Premiere
USA | 2019 | 93 Min | Dir. Travis Stevens

For married man Don Koch (Philip “CM Punk” Brooks), remodeling his new home gives him the chance to start anew while trying to overcome legal troubles and fidelity struggles. Once inside the fixer-upper, Don is helpless against the house’s goo-dripping walls, sordid history and inner demons, the latter hideously exposing those of its new owner. Utilizing the expertise acquired from producing several critically acclaimed indie horror films, including STARRY EYES and WE ARE STILL HERE, Travis Stevens makes his directorial debut with a slick and wildly entertaining haunted house movie that’s truly like no other. —Matt Barone

Director Travis Stevens and lead actor Phil “CM Punk” Brooks in attendance.

I cannot have a discussion about horror lately without hearing about this film. People are dying to see this. If Travis Stevens picked up an ounce of energy from Ted Geoghegan producing WE ARE STILL HERE, then run to the theater. Do yourself a solid and grab tickets before they sell out!


A NIGHT OF HORROR: NIGHTMARE RADIO

North American Premiere
Argentina, New Zealand | 2019 | 100 Min | Dir. Luciano and Nicolás Onetti, Sergio Morcillo, Joshua Long, Jason Bognacki, Adam O´Brien, Matt Richards, A.J. Briones, Pablo S. Pastor and Oliver Park.

As the host of a popular horror-themed radio show, disc jockey Rod shares tales of terror with his eager listeners, and although this particular night is no different, there’s also the unexpected wrinkles of alarming calls from a scared-to-death child. How that all ties together is part of the magic behind A NIGHT OF HORROR: NIGHTMARE RADIO, an anthology constructed by Argentinian duo Nicolas and Luciano Onetti, who’ve assembled an impressive lineup of recent festival-touring horror shorts to deliver a refreshingly unique new kind of omnibus. —Matt Barone

Something about an anthology gets me. It forces you to be alert because the narrative is constantly challenging you. Having been exposed to a solid array of shorts this season, I’m incredibly eager to see what Nicolas and Luciano Onetti have curated.


SWALLOW

USA | 2019 | 94 Min | Dir. Carlo Mirabella-Davis

Pregnant housewife Hunter (Haley Bennett) suddenly develops a case of pica—a psychological disorder involving the desire to consume inedible objects. The more her husband and his family try to stop her compulsions, the gruesomely deeper she falls into this harmful obsession until her perfect home becomes a patriarchal prison. Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ metaphorically rich feature debut is a body horror film that feels utterly essential from its timely commentary down to Bennett’s jaw-dropping lead performance. —Joseph Hernandez

Director Carlo Mirabella-Davis in attendance

After winning Best Actress award at Tribeca this year, Haley Bennett has been a name on everyone’s lips. As a mother, pica is something you hear about and think, “What in the actual f*ck?” You have enough going on literally making a human being but add this horror and you’ve got one hell of a script.


You can find out more about Brooklyn Horror Film Festival here. 

A badass genre film festival taking place in Brooklyn, NY October 17-24, 2019