Two weeks ago, I posted my top five horror movies of 2016. You can read that article HERE. Today, I figured I’d take a brief look back at some cool horror happenings I was fortunate enough to attend in 2016. Hopefully, we can shed some light and make you aware of an event you’d like to attend in 2017 since most of these are yearly events. Also, this is by no means a comprehensive list of any sort. I may be based out in Chicago, but several of these events happened elsewhere.
HORROR SOCIETY PRESENTS TRASH MOVIE NITE + RISING TALENT, Chicago, IL, May-Current (Monthly)
The best place to start is with Horror Society itself. 2016 saw the resurrection of Trash Movie Nite and the creation of the Rising Talent screening series. Now, I’m not including this because I’m the coordinator and host of these events. I’m including it because of the fans. Sure, I enjoy picking the movies we watch (everything from Serial Mom to Maximum Overdrive), but I love watching these movies with an audience. Let me tell you firsthand, there’s no audience like a Trash Movie Nite audience. Every screening feels like we’re on 42nd Street. Beer might have something to do with it, but I think it’s because Horror Society has the best fans. It has been an honor and a privilege to be able to bring this movie night back and to be able to start a new one. Trash Movie Nite happens on the third Wednesday of every month at Fat Cat Chicago in the Uptown neighborhood. Rising Talent, in which we spotlight up and coming filmmakers working in the genre, happens one Friday a month at Bucket O Blood Books and Records in the Avondale neighborhood in Chicago. Next up for us is a “Love Hurts” Trash Movie Nite on February 15th in which we are screening Bride of Chucky and Valentine. Details on that event can be found here. For Rising Talent, we have The Barn screening with Night of the Demons on February 24th. Currently, Ari Lehman (Jason from the original Friday the 13th!!!) and The Barn director Justin Seaman are scheduled to attend. Details on that event can be found here.
CHICAGO FRIGHTS, Orland Park, IL, July
Over the weekend of July 29th-31st, I was able to get into the Halloween spirit a little early. I had the opportunity to check out Chicago Frights, a celebration of all things haunted and Halloween. It’s a convention that’s open to the public that features Haunt tours, a dealer room featuring everything you’d ever want in your front yard come fall time, and even makeup fx seminars. The event also featured a screening of the locally made film The Adventures of Kitty Zombie. I got attend some cool panels like, “Creating a Horror Blog”, “Entry Level Haunt Acting”, and “Developing an Effective Marketing Plan”. Of course, as you would hope an expect, there was a costume party as well. I’m not really a part of the Haunted House world, but this was a really cool and eye opening experience for me.
FLASHBACK WEEKEND, Rosemont, IL, August
Now I might be a little biased since Flashback was the first convention I ever attended way back in 2002, but I have a real special place in my heart for this convention. I make sure to do it all every year at Flashback, the panels, meet as many guests as possible, and even watch a bunch of horror films. This year was the big SCREAM reunion so I got see Neve Campbell, Matthew Lillard and Skeet Ulrich introduce and do an extended Q&A with a 20th anniversary outdoor drive-in style screening of the classic original film. Talk about a once in a lifetime experience. Standout guests I met were Kathleen Kinmont from HALLOWEEN 4, Rachel True from THE CRAFT, and the immortal Julian Sands from WARLOCK. In addition to Scream, we were treated to a screening of PHANTASM REMASTERED which was like seeing Phantasm for the first time all over again. What an amazing restoration they did on that film. Finally, I got to see a live Svengoolie episode as he hosted ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. I totally got to play the drawing game on stage with Sven, too. I lost hard, but it was still an awesome experience.
BRUCE CAMPBELL HORROR FILM FESTIVAL, Rosemont, IL, August (as part of Wizard World Chicago)
I spent a lot of time in Rosemont this August. My second trip there was to experience this badass horror film festival as part of the Wizard World Comic Convention that swings through once a year. Some highlights I watched this year were DON’T BREATH with director Fede Alvarez and star Stephen Land in the house, ABATTOIR with director Darren Lynn Bousman, and a repertory screening of one of my favorite films of all time, BILL AND TEDS BOGUS JOURNEY with Death himself William Sadler in attendance for a Q&A. Now in its third year, the BCHFF keeps getting better every year with its great film choices and fun celebrity guests. This is one event no Chicago horror fan should miss.
HOT SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL HORROR FILM FESTIVAL, Hot Springs, AR, September
Words do not exist for how much I love this film festival. 2015 was my first trip down to Hot Springs to attend this fest. I loved it so much I had to make a second trip down there in 2016 to check it out again. The festival is run by HALLOWEEN 5 star Tamara Glynn and longtime Hollywood production designer Bill Volland. From the moment you step into the startlingly gorgeous Central Theater where the fest is hosted, Bill and Tamara make you feel right at home. You’ll want to curl up in your seat with your popcorn and not get up all day with all the wall to wall quality HSIHFF has to offer. I highly recommend the films NOCTURNE, PITCHFORK, and ALL THE WRONG FRIENDS that screened at the fest. For more detailed coverage, check out my full write-up here. I would make it a point to check out this festival sometime if you’re able. You won’t regret it, and you’ll definitely come back year after year once you’re part of the family.
TELLURIDE HORROR SHOW, Telluride, CO, October
Here’s another film festival I have to recommend you visit no matter where you’re from at least once in your life. One of the fastest growing film festivals in the country is the Telluride Horror Show. For good reason, too, as the fest presents the highest quality independent cinema for three days straight in the picturesque town of Telluride. After spending three days in mostly theaters, I was still ready to pack up and move to Telluride. The films themselves were some of the most talked about movies of the year such as RAW, SADAKO VS KAYAKO, and THE WINDMILL. I did extensive write-ups on the entire fest that you should check out here, here and here.
LATE NIGHTS AT THE LOGAN: HORROR MOVIE MADNESS, Chicago, IL, October
Bar none the best repertory horror screenings Chicago had in October were at The Logan Theater. Every night, there was quality of the likes of BEETLEJUICE all the way to THE EXORCIST. There’s nothing like seeing the classics in a crowded theater around Halloween time. I even got to see THE BAD SEED and REPULSION for the first time during this month-long screening series. Each screening took place late nights either at 10:30pm or 11pm. What I loved was that there was a film screening, not just on Friday and Saturday nights, but every single night of the week. They continue to screen Late Night movies year round, but I of course have a special place in my heart for the horror movies. The theater itself is also one of the most beautiful places to see a movie that Chicago has to offer. If you’re in town, I recommend you see a movie there immediately. Then stick around to have a beer or two in their swanky and extremely comfortable lounge area. I can’t wait for October 2017 to watch more horror movies in the theater all month long.
CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: AFTER DARK PROGRAM, Chicago, IL, October
Each year, the Chicago International Film Festival carves out a section of it’s massive schedule for fans of all things dark and spooky. This year’s programming for the After Dark’s knocked it out of the park. 2016 saw screenings of festival darling RAW, the controversial WE ARE THE FLESH, and the eerie EYES OF MY MOTHER just to name a few. They event brought in director John McNaughton and star Micheal Rooker to screen HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and talk about it afterwards. The film standout for me was AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE. This movie was a blast. Plus, it was fun to see on a giant screen in a crowd full of fans just before Halloween. Can’t wait to see what they’ve got cooking for next year.
DAYS OF THE DEAD CHICAGO, Schaumburg, IL, November
The year concluded with one of the craziest parties of the year at Days of the Dead Chicago. With its star studded lineup to its late night karaoke sessions, Days always delivers on the promise of being one of the most fun horror events in town. I saw some great panels with my favorite being one with Ray Park, some great movies like DIARY OF A DEADBEAT at the JAAB Film Festival that’s part of the con, and meet some cool celebs like the eternally beautiful Shannon Elizabeth and Kristy Swanson. I bounced around so much from the dealer room to the panels to the screening room, it made my head spin. There’s always so much to see and do at Days of the Dead every year and they just keep getting crazier with each passing year. These guys rock.
That concludes my 2016 roundup. It was a fun and intense journey. Can’t wait to see what exciting events 2017 holds. Be sure to check out our screenings at Fat Cat and Bucket o Blood this February and every month after that. We are so proud to be a part of such a loving and giving community. Horror fans are the best fans, and you’re all the friends I want to go on this 2017 adventure with.