Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent’ is a family-friend monster mash.

NELLY RAPP- MONSTER AGENT

Director Amanda Adolfsson takes on the feature film adaptation of the Swedish children’s book series Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent. Nelly is a middle school outcast due to her love of monsters and mayhem. She spends her autumn break with her eccentric uncle Hannibal only to discover a family history filled with spooky surprises. Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences were treated to this sweet horror- comedy’s North American Premiere. 

This cast is a delight. Matilda Gross plays Nelly with joyful innocence. Her curiosity and enthusiasm leap off the screen. She’s a wonderfully unique heroine joining the likes of Pippi Longstocking and Coraline. I could easily see Nelly Rapp costumes popping up for Halloween. 

The cinematography is gorgeous. The setting, the costumes, everything pops. The main set is magical. The walls adorned with landscape paintings, the massive rooms filled with antique furnishings, and the ceilings boast curious murals. The score is perfectly whimsical. The stunning fx makeup is never too terrifying for its intended audience. 

Nelly Rapp is a family-friendly monster mash. The script is bursting with charm and genuine giggles. A kid-friendly homage to the classic movie monsters Nelly Rapp introduces youngsters to the horror genre in a thoughtful and adventurous way. 

I wish I had this movie when I was younger. I was always fascinated by all things spooky, sometimes that made me feel like an outcast. Nelly Rapp addresses bullying, family tradition, and prejudice in a way that is digestible for children. It teaches them they don’t need to change themselves to fit it. It is their quirkiness that makes them special. Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent is now available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video. It’s the perfect combination of trick and treat. 


Nelly Rapp: Monster Agent (Official English Trailer) from Janson Media on Vimeo.


Stream on Amazon: amazon.com/Nelly-Rapp-Monster-Matilda-Gross/dp/B09HPM87N6/


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘What Josiah Saw’ is a familial collision course.

 

WHAT JOSIAH SAW


What Josiah Saw the new indie feature from Vincent Grashaw, is one twisted picture. In some ways, I wish the feature had been split up into a 3 episode limited series to slowly spoon-feed the viewer its multiple moments of trauma and dread. Instead, it hits you in a 1 hour 56-minute wallop –  I left the film feeling dispirited and numb, my emotions frayed. This reaction is also a testament to many of the film’s characters, and my desire to spend more time learning about them before they are plunged into terrifying and tragic circumstances.

The film is roughly divided into 3 parts, each following one of the Graham children. The troubled youngest child, Thomas (Scott Haze) still lives on the family farm with his father, Josiah (a sickly-looking but still magnificently creepy Robert Patrick). Part 2 follows older brother Eli (Nick Stahl) is an addict who has been forced into a criminal style. In the final chapter, we meet sister Mary (Kelli Garner), who has married and moved away but still bears obvious trauma and scars from her childhood. When a group of developers tries to buy the farm, the film inevitably sets these 3 siblings and their father on a dramatic collision course.

Each segment of the film has a very different tone. The early scenes on the farm (where, years earlier, Josiah’s wife mysteriously committed suicide) are filled with eerie unease. Josiah and Thomas’ relationship is tense and cold. It feels very much like a haunted house film. I feel like Robert Patrick has been playing supremely creepy characters for my whole lifetime – he slips into these roles without even trying. There’s a scene where Josiah gives Thomas some fatherly advice that is some of Patrick’s most squirm-inducing work to date.

This tone drastically shifts in the second segment, which focuses on Eli trying to steal a trunk of gold from a traveling group of Romani. You read that right. This section works even though it represents a drastic tonal departure from the early plot. It’s the lightest section of the narrative and the only part of the film where the audience gets to have a little fun. Stahl gives an incredibly versatile performance in this film, imbuing Eli with equal parts charisma and self-doubt. They could have made a whole movie focusing on this segment alone.

Mary’s introduction is rushed, and the film’s final chapter is mostly concerned with reuniting the siblings on the family farm. And that’s when things really get weird. The film’s finale is powerful and brutal. It left my head spinning. I can’t say I want to watch this film again, but I know I’ll be thinking about its implications for a long time.


You can read Liz’s #BHFF2021 review of What Josiah Saw here


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘What Josiah Saw’ reigns holy terror on your nerves.

WHAT JOSIAH SAW

After two decades, a damaged family reunite at their remote farmhouse, where they confront long-buried secrets and sins of the past.


As a child forced to attend Catholic school for eight years, I know a little something about the trauma religion imprints on a young mind. Irrational guilt dwells in my brain to this day. Director Vincent Grashaw’s staggering third feature, What Josiah Saw, delves into how zealous behavior and extreme dysfunction go hand in hand. A portrait of a family’s unspeakable darkness and how it haunts them forever. It is a film that will consume your soul.

Kelli Garner‘s vulnerability as Mary is a stunning turn. With a palpable fear, Garner leaves it all on-screen in an unapologetic performance. Her arc is astonishing. Nick Stahl scared the Jesus out of me most recently in Hunter Hunter. As Eli, Stahl maneuvers past sins with an anxious undercurrent. Like Garner, the emotional journey of Eli will leave you blindsided.

Robert Patrick plays Graham family patriarch, Josiah. His monstrous behavior appears superficially enabled by newfound holy retribution that looks a whole hell of a lot like dogmatic abuse. Patrick’s innate ability to intimidate with as little as a whisper is terrifying. This performance drips with brutal vitriol.

Scott Haze hit the ground running in James Franco‘s Child of God. That part was a brilliant warm-up to playing the role of a traumatized, devoted son. Haze’s character is the final human whipping post on that farm. He breathes life into the part of Thomas, as every beat is a complete journey. The chemistry between Patrick and Haze is electric. 

Carlos Ritter‘s cinematography reflects an ominous mood. He takes advantage of shadows and natural light to create a visual eerieness. Robert Pycior‘s score makes your skin crawl. Writer Robert Alan Dilts‘ screenplay unfolds in chapters. What Josiah Saw could have been developed into a series. Dilts created fully fleshed-out characters. There is that much life in this story. The script’s structure also allows the audience to focus on each Graham family member and their demons. Everyone teetering on the edge of a potential psychotic break. The repeated visual of each character gazing out the farmhouse window is striking. Its cyclical pattern is sheer brilliance.

Each of these elements creates a visceral disquiet that is unshakable for the nearly two-hour run. What Josiah Saw was relentlessly unnerving. The stakes get higher and higher. I had to remind myself to breathe. It is impossible to think Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences saw this story coming. The final act is so twisted it will blow your mind, again and again. What Josiah Saw is an unexpected, complex, and shocking watch. It is hands down, the best horror film of the year.


Director:
Vincent Grashaw
Screenwriter:
Robert Alan Dilts
Producer:
Ran Namerode, Vincent Grashaw, Bernie Stern, Angelia Adzic
Cast:
Robert Patrick, Nick Stahl, Scott Haze, Kelli Garner, Tony Hale, Jake Weber


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘AFTER BLUE (Dirty Paradise)’ is intoxicating genre weirdness .

AFTER BLUE

A chimeric future on After Blue, a planet from another galaxy, a virgin planet where only women can survive in the midst of harmless flora and fauna. The story is of a punitive expedition.


On a planet filled exclusively with women, a mother and daughter are charged with catching the killer daughter Roxy inadvertently set free. What occurs over the next two-plus hours is a retelling of events, unlike anything we ever experienced before on film.

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences certainly got more than they bargained for with After Blue. The cast gives it their all from start to finish. This speaks volumes about the trust between writer-director Bertrand Mandico and these actors. An ambitious work, Mandico’s most rewarding aspect is the creation of an entirely new world. Every inch of the set is adorned with eye candy, glitter, and sci-fi western weirdness. It’s a visual feast. The costumes drip with a mix of 70s witch, barbarian, mermaid aesthetics. It’s like watching a really expensive, new wave music video at times. The entire film feels like softcore porn for hardcore genre nerds. In all seriousness, sexual urges motivate each character’s every moment. While the plot is flimsy, the psychosexual energy and gender dismantling make After Blue an intriguing watch. The commentary on class, consumerism, and privilege is, quite literally, written on objects. There’s an Android named Louis Vuitton, guns named Gucci and Chanel. You have to let go of any preconceived notions about After Blue and ride the hypersexual, demented wave of the bizarre.



Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) capsule review: ‘The Feast’ is deliciously gory folklore.

SYNOPSIS

IFC Midnight’s THE FEAST follows a young woman serving privileged guests at a dinner party in a remote house in rural Wales. The assembled guests do not realize they are about to eat their last supper.


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences were in for some magic with The Feast. Meticulous sound editing and sharp cinematography create a tense and frightening environment right off the bat. Strikingly framed shots envelop the audience as this house filled with extremely flawed residents prepares for an important dinner. Cadi’s assistance is requested. Her awe and anxiety resonate immediately. But as the day progresses, Cadi has a mysterious connection to the land this family is mining. Superstition, tradition, greed, and revenge clash in The Feast, making for a jarring watch. Performances across the board are outstanding from overtly creepy, pathetic, nouveau riche, prideful, eccentric, gluttonous, and entitled. The Feast is a delicious mix of excellent storytelling and sharp visual composition. It should not be missed.


Nationwide audiences can experience the film when IFCMidnight brings it to theaters on November 19th


DIRECTED BY
Lee Haven Jones
WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY
Roger Williams

CAST Annes Elwy, Lisa Palfrey, and Caroline Berry


#thefeast #ifcmidnight

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) shorts program review: ‘HEAD TRIP’- 9 drastically different shorts #BHFF21

HEAD TRIP shorts program

Head Trip” is a series of 9 ingenious shorts featured at this week’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. They range from deeply dark to laugh-out-loud funny.


Lips, dir. Nicole Tegelaar (Netherlands, Belgium)

Talk about body horror. This short is laser-focused on a particular body part. A young woman awakens in a mysterious clinic. She’s been injured and requires surgery. This one kept me guessing as to who was the bigger danger: the staff or the other patients.


The Departure, dir. Nico van den Brink (Netherlands)

A melancholy, beautiful piece from the Netherlands. The principal characters create immediate rapport despite the short run time, and the cinematography was top-notch. A tragic and thoughtful journey into loss and longing that had me wishing for more.


A Tale Best Forgotten, dir. Tomas Stark (Sweden)

Adapted from a Helen Adam ballade, this is one killer tune.


Sudden Light, dir. Sophie Littman (UK)

My favorite short of the group is a dreamlike countryside odyssey into doubt and fear. Mia (Esme Creed-Miles) and Squeeze (Millie) are walking their dog home, and take a fateful shortcut through a field. I loved the way this short fully harnesses its countryside setting – mud, branches, and smoke all combine into an overwhelming rush. The caliber of talent involved makes you wish for a feature-length narrative.


Tropaion, dir. Kjersti Helen Rasmussen (Norway)

A testament to the power of the wilderness, this short contains barely any dialogue. Stark images are the sole driver of the narrative. The child performers, in particular, are excellent.


The Faraway Man, dir. Megan Gilbert, Jill Hogan (USA)

A powerful narrative on the way evil can manifest itself. A young woman is haunted by the figure of a man, dressed in black, watching from distance. A great example of how blurred the line can be between horror and tragedy. Another short that could easily be stretched to a feature.


Man or Tree, dir. Varun Raman, Tom Hancock (UK)

A breath of fresh air. Imagine you partied too hard and woke up transformed into a tree. I guess you could say this is the rare short that focuses on the trees instead of the whole forest.


Playing With Spiders, dir. Rylan Rafferty (USA)

A disturbing glance behind the curtain of a small cult that worships, you guessed it, spiders. The night before a fateful ritual, Lydia (Kelly Curran) begins to ask some big questions of her peers and leaders. Is she a skeptic, or the only true believer? Even though this had a comedic tone at times, it got the biggest jump scare of the night.


A Puff Before Dying, dir. Mike Pinkney, Michael Reich (USA)

An absolute gut-buster of a short. Like “Team America: World Police” on acid. When 3 teen girls (who are also marionettes) hit the road for a night out, the devil’s lettuce quickly rears its tempestuous head. Will they have the willpower to resist, or will the night end in tragedy?


Today is the final day of BHFF 2021. You can still get tickets to the CLOSING NIGHT film

THE SADNESS

by clicking this LINK.

Fair warning, it is not for the faint of heart.


Interview: Writer/director Dean Kapsalis and star Azura Skye for ‘THE SWERVE’ – now available on Digital and VOD!

Holly seems to have it all: two kids, a nice house, a good job as a teacher, and a husband with his career on the way up. But there are troubling signs that all is not right in her world. The insomnia. The medication for the insomnia. The dreams from the medication for the insomnia. The arrival of her estranged sister and a mouse invading her home doesn’t help either. Add the weight of a dark secret, and her already delicate balance collapses, sending her spiraling out of control.

Last year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival brought a movie into my world that still haunts me. The Swerve is a film that, in many ways, made me feel seen. You can read my review here. This week, The Swerve finally comes to audiences nationwide. I was lucky enough to chat with writer/director Dean Kapsalis and star Azura Skye this week. When I say this film will stick with you longer than it should, I am not exaggerating one bit. It is unpredictable, it gets under your skin, and Skye is remarkable. Pay attention to this carefully crafted script. There is foreshadowing everywhere, the classroom especially. These are deliberate choices made by Kapsalis. They are genius.

Here is my interview with Dean and Azura…

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Firstly, congratulations to you both on an extraordinary film. There is so much amazing material to talk about in The Swerve, so let’s dive right in!

Dean, what or who inspired this script?

 

Dean – I was raised by and around strong women.  Over time, I witnessed the weight of living manifest in them as mental illnesses.  My experiences and observations became lodged somewhere deep in my psyche and coincided with (or perhaps fueled?) my appreciation for Gothic literature, Greek tragedies, Shakespeare, etc.  

 

Azura, what was the first thing in this script that made you think, “I have to tell this woman’s story.”

 

Azura – When I first read the script, I immediately recognized Holly as the role of a lifetime.  As an actor, you can only hope that you’re given something this juicy, and layered, to work with — but it’s rare. This is without a doubt the most challenging role I’ve ever tackled, but given the opportunity, how could I say no? I knew it was something I had to do, as daunting, and intimidating as it was.

 

Dean and Azura, Moms are so often pushed aside in narratives. This script highlights the weight of motherhood in such a real way. The isolation, the stress, the pressure to be everyone’s caretaker. What were you hoping the take away would be for an audience? I imagine it might be different, perhaps based on gender? 

 

Dean – My hope is that audiences feel something from it.  The reign of patriarchy over women is as powerful and relevant now as it was during the era of Shakespeare.  Different, modern pressures, surely, but it hasn’t changed much on an emotional level.  I think that’s why the characters and themes in Shakespeare are still so identifiable.

 

Azura – A big part of Holly is her silent suffering. She puts on a smile, and a brave face as she seems to adeptly juggle the various roles of wife, mother, sister, daughter, teacher — but inside she’s nearing a breaking point, as she struggles to keep it together. She’s right at that tenuous edge, where something as small as a mouse can be the tipping point that sends her spiraling downward. The straw that breaks the camel’s back, if you will.

One thing I hope audiences of all genders take from this movie is a reminder that you never know what’s going on with the person next to you at the grocery store. You have no idea what kind of day they’ve had. Maybe they’ve just lost a loved one, or are dealing with any number of possible traumas or tragedies.  Everyone’s having to cope with a lot, some more than others — especially now. I hope this film is a reminder not to assume that you know what’s going on in someone else’s life, or in someone else’s head. Often times, we don’t even know what’s really going on with our closest friends and family. Or even our partners, for that matter. Everyone suffers, in ways we often never know, so let’s try to be kind and careful with one another.

 

As a 40-year-old mom of two toddlers who used to teach high school, this obviously hit me in a personal way. The character of Paul is so impactful. Even with the inappropriate power dynamic, you understand why his presence is so consequential to Holly’s entire journey. Dean, can you talk about the decision to use him as a catalyst? And for Azura, what was your reaction to Holly’s choice to go along with such an affair? 

 

Dean – I never thought of it as an affair, but as a need for Holly to express and connect.  But there is no joy in it.  Paul has a kindness to him.  He sees Holly in a different way than the other male characters in the film, but it is absolutely an adolescent’s fantasy and is no less dangerous.  

 

Azura – Holly feels invisible most of the time. Especially at home, where she feels taken for granted, unappreciated; unseen. Paul is so pivotal because here’s someone who really sees her — and thinks she’s amazing. Thinks she’s beautiful. With Paul, Holly feels recognized, and appreciated, for the first time in far too long.

When I first read the script, this particular storyline was so interesting to me, because it was written in such a way that even though this woman is clearly behaving in an abhorrent, and inexcusably inappropriate way, I did not see her as a monster. It just made me really sad. This thread of the story is also one of my favorite parts of the film. Zack Rand, who plays Paul, was so brilliantly cast, and he gives a phenomenal performance.

 

Let’s talk about the score. It really makes the mundane feel important. The grocery shopping in the beginning, for example. It’s a melancholy that puts you into Holly’s state of mind. 

 

Dean – I noticed mothers, my own included, that seemed to take grocery shopping not as a chore, but as a respite from other activities.  However, the aura of the past and the outside world is inescapable.  It was important that the score reflect that.

 

Dean, Paul’s sketchbook is stunning. Who did the illustrations? 

 

Dean – The artist is Jocelyn Henry.  She was a recent fine arts graduate and I took a shine to her work.  Her initial sketches were a little too polished and I had her scale them back so that they were more reflective of the hand of a developing high school student.

 

Azura, had you seen the drawings prior to filming?

 

Dean – I showed them to Azura, but explained little or nothing.  I guided her to the reactions needed for the scene.

 

Azura – I don’t think I saw the illustrations until the day of filming. I definitely had a visceral reaction to the ones of myself. There’s something quite intimate and slightly jarring about it. There were a couple that I actually wanted to keep, but sadly I was denied. I was told they were done by an artist in New York, but I’ve always secretly suspected that perhaps Dean himself is the artist. I’m curious to see how he answers this question.

 

Holly’s very buttoned-up, very conservatively presented. Can you tell me how her wardrobe affected your physicality?


Azura – It affected me very much. As wardrobe always does. In some ways, I don’t really know who a character is until I put on their clothes, and it was no different with Holly. I didn’t meet the costume designer (Eric Hall) until a few days before we started filming, and as soon as I started putting on the wardrobe I started to get a really strong sense of who Holly was. She really started to make sense, and take shape, quite literally. I thought her clothes were a little sad, sometimes even a little silly. Someone who’s really making an effort, but doesn’t always get it quite right. There was a vulnerability and a self-conscious quality to the way she put herself together. I found the buttoned-up rigidity to be very informative, and it was helpful in that it was a constant reminder as to the way Holly held herself. It very much affected the way I moved. In her restrained, buttoned-up attire, she herself is contained, and restrained; even slightly holding her breath.

 

You’re really rooting for Holly when she stands up for herself but the emotional abuse from her family is endless. They are incredibly manipulative. But Dean’s script and your performance are so strong that I began to wonder if I was seeing things along with her. Azura, did you ever think that what Holly was seeing and experiencing wasn’t real? 

 

Azura – Of course I thought about it, and that was something I discussed with Dean. I like that certain parts of Holly’s experience are open to interpretation, but for me the actor, I had to play it as if it were all 100% real, because for the character it is.

 

Let’s talk about the mouse. Is the mouse Holly? 

 

Dean – It could be.  Or was it a warning?  A guardian?  Was it ever even there?  It’s more important how the viewer feels about it.  And I never discussed meaning with the cast or crew.

 

The final chapter of this film is nothing short of devastating. As a mother, as a human, it has stayed with me since I saw the film last year. It’s truly haunting. It’s a bold choice that is not only a beautiful recall to the story in the beginning but one hell of a gut-punch to the viewer. Did you both hope the audience would sympathize with Holly as the credits rolled? 

 

Dean – Yes.  Prior to the pandemic, abuse, mental illness, and suicide were on the rise across genders, and since it’s only increased.  My hope is that audiences feel something and can relate in some way to her plight.  We’re all human.  We’re all in this together.

 

Azura – It is a harrowing and haunting final act. One that in large part made me want to do the film. I think I was probably far too consumed with the task at hand to really think about how an audience might interpret it.

 

Mental illness is a hot button issue. Do you think people are now more comfortable talking about it openly? 

 

Dean – Social media is a two-edged sword, but people seem to be more open about sharing their experiences.  The world can be so overwhelming.  They want to connect.  They want to heal.  

Azura – It does seem like we’ve started to talk about it a lot more in recent years, which is so great. You have people like Michael Phelps doing commercials encouraging people to seek help, and so many other public figures speaking candidly about their struggles, which makes it so much more accessible, and perhaps even acceptable. It definitely seems like something we’re discussing more and discussing more openly.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Massive thanks to Dean and Azura for their very generous time with this interview. THE SWERVE is now available on Digital and VOD

 

THE SWERVE celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Cinepocalypse Film Festival, and screened at the 2019 Panic Film Festival; winning both awards for Best Actress for Azura Skye. The film will be releasing on major VOD/Digital platforms beginning Tuesday, September 22, 2020.

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 for which he will need to hire experts like this flood damage restoration experts. 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