For Friday, October 25, day two of Nightmares Film Festival was off to an early start with the first slot programmed at 9am. On little sleep our crew from Chicago made it in time for Daniel Isn’t Real (2019, dir. Adam Egypt Mortimer, USA), the first feature of the day. Already riding the wave of positive reviews and WOM from other festivals, most recently Telluride Horror Fest, I had reasonably high expectations going in. Turns out this movie is a real banger and a great way to begin the first full day of programming. This is a helluva story directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer (Some Kind of Hate) elevated by terrific performances by Miles Robbins, as the troubled college student Luke dealing with his mom’s downward spiral and perhaps his own, and Sasha Lane as the cool girl artist who wants no part of Luke’s bullshit. Patrick Schwarzenegger is a standout as Daniel, Luke’s mysterious friend. Not only is he a scene-stealer, he nails that “I’ve got evil in my eye” look.
Daniel Isn’t Real is my favorite movie of NFF2019 and one I hope people will seek out when it is done on the festival circuit. Worth noting that it was preceded by one of my favorite short films of the Nightmares Film Festival: CHECK. directed Justin Nelson. CHECK. is a beautifully crafted romantic yarn wherein our devoted boyfriend has only one task to fulfill: to check under the bed. Perfect cautionary tale for the short film format. Definitely one to look up.
Next up on Day 2 was Girl on the Third Floor (2019, dir. Travis Stevens, USA) starring CM Punk. This suburban set horror film has been making all the rounds on the festival circuit, most recent Brooklyn Horror Fest and Chicago International Film Festival. Understandably because Travis Stevens has crafted a modern haunted house story that slams on the gas and doesn’t let up. It’s a gooey gory ghost story that finds CM Punk’s Don Koch dealing with more than he bargained for in renovating an old house that has a few of its own secrets. For Stevens’ feature directorial debut, Girl on the Third Floor shows he has the chops to tell a tale that keeps the viewer engaged. Excited to see what he does next.
In the third slot was the South American Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary (2018, dir. Fabrício Bittar, Brazil), a humorous take on con-artist ghost hunters that find themselves in a real pickle when they investigate an elementary school inhabited by some very vengeful spirits. I originally caught this at Cinepocalypse earlier this year and it certainly won over fans of this kind of slapstick horror humor.
The late afternoon feature film was 1BR (2019, dir. David Marmor, USA), which plays like a modern Invasion of the Body Snatchers but also an extreme cult indoctrination. There’s something not quite right with these tenants and their creepy apartment complex. Nicole Brydon Bloom stars as Sarah and we follow her journey as she becomes a new resident. She’s tasked with carrying the film as most of it is through her eyes; if we don’t believe in her then we won’t buy into the premise. She dials it up and deservedly won the NFF2019 award for Best Actress in a Feature. 1BR is another festival favorite and one I’m looking forward to revisiting.
Reckoning (2019, dir. Lane Skye, Ruckus Skye, USA) was next on the agenda. Not a traditional horror film but certainly adjacent as a captivating rural backcountry thriller. Riveting performance by Danielle Deadwyler as the mother stuck in the middle of a feud between two families yet burdened with resolving it. Very much a neo-noir in the vein of Winter’s Bone and one to put on your radar. Always cool to see films like this that push the boundaries of what horror can be. Reckoning won the NFF2019 award for Best Thriller Feature.
The 8pm slot saw the arrival of VFW (2019, dir. Joe Begos, USA) on unsuspecting NFF2019 attendees who subsequently had their minds blown again by Begos (Bliss, Almost Human) with his ferocious take on Assault on Precinct 13. Another one I initially saw at Fantastic Fest and absolutely a movie to watch with a captive audience.
The supernatural thriller A Nun’s Curse (2019, dir. Tommy Faircloth, USA) finds four individuals stuck in an abandoned prison once run by nuns. One nun, Sister Monday (Felissa Rose), was particularly murderous and now haunts the prison. The movie bends the past and present for scares and some comedy beats that had the audience laughing. A Nun’s Curse won for Best writing in a Feature.
In the midnight position to close the day was Jörg Buttgereit’s mind-melter Nekromantik (1987), a repertory screening so sick and twisted but the perfect cherry on top of a solid day of films to lead into the NFF2019 weekend. This film was chosen in part due to the Beyond Horror: The History of Red Films documentary that screened the following day with two other red films in the “Late Night Mind Fuck” slot.
If this first day of programming proved anything it’s that Nightmares Film Festival isn’t playing around and that the line-up of films is rock solid. In addition to the eight (!!) feature films, there were five (!!) short film blocks offering alternate viewing choices with many of the filmmakers in attendance. Sadly wasn’t able to make those because they are scheduled against the feature films. Hopefully I will catch up with them at some point because the reactions from those blocks were positive; there are certainly several gems worth discovering.
Look for both Saturday and Sunday recaps soon and the film treasures they will reveal. Plenty more to share! Be sure to follow @NightmaresFest on Twitter and Facebook for more updates. Also follow Screamcast and me for more updates!
Read: [Nightmares Film Festival 2019] Opening Night Recap for more NFF2019 coverage.
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On the side: attending film festivals and premieres and watching a shit-ton of movies. Former contributor to Bloody Disgusting; now contributing to ScreamCast.