AFM 2017: Day 1 Recap and Introduction - Dread Central
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AFM 2017: Day 1 Recap and Introduction



Setting: Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
Time: 8:15am
Mood: High energy and frantic
Smell: Cash, lots and lots of it

Truth be told, I first came to the Loews Hotel yesterday to pick up my press badge and help the Epic Pictures Group (Booth #747) people help set up stuff in their rooms. Turns out I’m really good at hanging up curtain rods, y’all! However, since everyone was in “setup” mode, there wasn’t much of a reason to go meandering around to meet up with anyone. After all, why would they want to chat when they don’t feel like they’re putting on their A game? That’d piss them off and leave them feeling flustered and we can’t have that, now can we? So let’s consider Halloween as American Film Market Day -1 and today, November 1st, AFM Day 1, alright?

After coming into the hotel and setting up shop at Epic’s booth (this is my home base and will be for the rest of the fest), it’s time to make my way around the hotel, where it feels like literally every single room has been converted for AFM purposes. That means that all beds have been taken out (the headboards are still up against the wall) and each room has been converted to allow for standing displays, easels, tables for meetings, additional chairs, and so on and so forth. I can’t imagine what kind of logistical nightmare the staff had to go through to make this happen, but bless ’em for all their hard work.

Now, some of you might be wondering what the purpose of AFM is, and that’s a totally legitimate question. Simply put, it’s a place where ungodly amounts of deals are made in the entertainment industry. In fact, the average amount of money spent on deals at this Market is around $1 billion dollars. Yes, that’s a “b” and not an “m.” People bring films from around the world, and as a result, buyers come from the far reaches of the globe to get their hands on titles that they think are good for their markets.

So who comes to AFM? The answer to that question can be broken down into three specific groups (with a great amount of generalization, admittedly):

Buyers: These are the people who are looking for films to add to their library. They buy films for specific markets, which are regions across the globe. If you want to know how specific this gets, it can be as focused as free TV rights in Germany or subscription VOD rights in Bulgaria. They’re here to spend money.

Sellers: These are the people who have films and want to sell them to buyers in regions and markets across the globe. They’re here to make money.

Creators: These are the directors, producers, etc. They’re in a rather interesting place because they are looking for both buyers AND sellers. They are often seeking sales agents who will take care of the negotiating and selling of their property to buyers, who want the films for certain markets.

There’s a fourth group of people, and that’s press, who are people like me. Ergo, no one important.

What happens throughout the day is buyers go to the rooms of sellers during predetermined meetings to do some research, check out trailers/promos/sizzle reels/behind-the-scenes videos of available titles, do some negotiating, and see if a deal can be made. If yes, great! If not, on to the next room. As for the creators, they’re around… somewhere.

As for myself, I’m out making the rounds going to various rooms to chat with the distributors to establish relationships and do some networking so that I can get information about films that I think will interest you, the readers. I also get to watch the same trailers/promos/sizzle reels/behind-the-scenes videos that I previously mentioned so that I can keep certain films in mind for when the press circus begins and we get to publicly talk about movies that I think deserve serious recognition.

One example is when I stopped by Bank Side Films’ display and watched their trailers for Possum and The Hole in the Ground. The former is an arthouse film that stars Sean Harris (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) and is about a man who returns home and stays with his cruel stepfather, all while dealing with a bothersome (and frankly terrifying looking) puppet. The latter is best described as an Irish The Babadook. That alone should be enough to get some of your ears twitching, so I’ll simply leave it at that.

Other rooms that I stopped by include Full Moon Empire (seeing all those Puppet Master 1:1 scale figures is just awesome, I assure you), Raven Banner, High Octane Pictures, Octane Entertainment, The Asylum, and a lot more. I hit my FitBit step goal by midday, so I’m not terribly concerned about those In-N-Out burgers that I had for lunch.

Each room that has relevant titles is quite fascinating as you can see the range of genre fare being offered. From B-horror schlock to serious, intense scares, the Market offers options for every kind of moviegoer imaginable.

Since AFM goes through November 8th, you’ll definitely be seeing additional information come out, including photos, exclusives, and more. For now, it’s past midnight LA time (which is past 3am ET in my home state of Michigan), so I’m going to leave you with these photos from the hallways and the official poster.

If there is anything you want me to check out or grab photos of, hit me up on Twitter and let me know!

More to come soon, I promise!

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Thelma Is Fantastic and Now You Can Watch the Opening Scene



One of this year’s most beautiful and subdued horror films is Joachim Trier’s Thelma (review), which opens in Los Angeles tonight. To give you a bit of what the film is like, The Orchard have released the opening scene, which shows a man and his daughter hunting in the bleak Norwegian winter. When they come across a young deer, the true intentions of this trip become apparent…

Having seen Thelma, I can tell you that it’s truly something special. It’s a slow burn, to be certain, but it plays out gorgeously, resulting in a film that has yet to leave my mind.

Related Story: Exclusive Interview with Thelma’s Joachim Trier

Locations and tickets for Thelma can be found here.

Thelma, a shy young student, has just left her religious family in a small town on the west coast of Norway to study at a university in Oslo. While at the library one day, she experiences a violent, unexpected seizure. Soon after, she finds herself intensely drawn toward Anja, a beautiful young student who reciprocates Thelma’s powerful attraction. As the semester continues, Thelma becomes increasingly overwhelmed by her intense feelings for Anja – feelings she doesn’t dare acknowledge, even to herself – while at the same time experiencing even more extreme seizures. As it becomes clearer that the seizures are a symptom of inexplicable, often dangerous, supernatural abilities, Thelma is confronted with tragic secrets of her past, and the terrifying implications of her powers.

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Award-Winning The Child Remains Playing Tomorrow at the Blood in the Snow Festival



The award-winning supernatural thriller The Child Remains, which has been on the festival circuit, is returning to Canada to play tomorrow night at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival in Toronto. Tickets for the screening, which is at 9:30pm, can be found at the festival’s website.

The film has won awards in festivals across Canada as well as Best Foreign Feature at the Unrestricted View Horror Film Festival in London, UK.

Described as The Shining meets Rosemary’s Baby meets The Orphanage, the film stars Suzanne Clément, Allan Hawco, Shelley Thompson, and Geza Kovacs. Directed and written by Michael Melski, who co-produced the film alongside Craig Cameron and David Miller, The Child Remains is aiming for a Canadian theatrical release in Spring 2018 and a US theatrical release in October 2018.

An expectant couple’s intimate weekend turns to terror when they discover their secluded country inn is a haunted maternity home where unwanted infants and young mothers were murdered. Inspired by the true story of the infamous ‘Butterbox Babies’ and their macabre chapter in Canadian history, The Child Remains is a twisting supernatural thriller that emphasizes story and suspense over shock and gore.

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Tony Timpone’s Elegy – AFM: A November to Dismember



It used to be that the toughest thing about visiting the global cinematic bazaar known as the American Film Market was squeezing in as many movies as humanly possible before your eyes exploded like Cameron Vale’s in Scanners. At this year’s 38th annual AFM, held November 1-8 in Santa Monica, CA, I watched 17 movies in five days. Don’t be too impressed. That’s a big drop from past years, where I’d see as many as two dozen films during that span.

This year marked my 21st AFM jaunt, and change has been in the air for some time at this industry confab. Two screening days have been shaved off the program, and theater screenings have lost the 5pm and 7pm slots. Much of the Z-grade schlock has been whittled away and there does seem to be a higher level of product on display. No longer does every other movie star Joe Estevez. Now it’s Nicolas Cage! Sales companies feverishly hawked Cage’s VOD-bound Primal, The Humanity Bureau and Looking Glass, in addition to a plethora of cute puppy and sappy Christmas cable-ready movies.

So where’s the horror, you ask? You can still discover it at AFM, but 2017 offered a disappointing allowance for the most part. To put it into perspective, the opening day of my first AFM in 1998 yielded John Carpenter’s Vampires and Spain’s Abre Los Ojos (remade as the mediocre Vanilla Sky in the US) back-to-back (not to mention The Big Lebowski from the Coen brothers). For 2017, I did not see one film as good as those (well, maybe one…). Not a total washout, mind you, as I’m sure you will add a few titles to your watch list after perusing my AFM 2017 screening report.

I Kill Giants:
A lonely teenage girl (Madison Wolfe) defends her coastal town from invading goliaths in this somber tale directed by Denmark’s Anders Walter and written by Joe Kelly from his graphic novel. Not exactly a feel-good movie, I Kill Giants deals with bullying, depression, isolation and terminal illness. It intersperses the somberness with some excellent FX scenes involving the giants, who emerge from the surf and dark woods to taunt our young heroine. Not only is I Kill Giants too downbeat for my tastes, last year’s underrated and underseen A Monster Calls covered many of the same emotional beats much more eloquently and movingly than here.

** 1/2

Spanish helmer Alex del la Iglesia (Day of the Beast, Witching & Bitching) produced this Terry Gilliam-esque dark fantasy, about a cursed medieval-age blacksmith and his battle of wills with a demon out to claim his soul.

Directed by Paul Urkijo Alijo, the movie is like a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life. Its climactic trip to Hell stands out as a highlight, pitchforks and all, as do the superb practical makeup FX.


Bad Samaritan:
A parking valet (Robert Sheehan) at a ritzy restaurant borrows the patrons’ cars to rob their homes while they’re eating in this thriller directed by Dean (Godzilla) Devlin and written by Brandon (Apt Pupil) Boyce. As he rummages through the house of the arrogant Cale (former “Doctor Who” David Tennant, cast against type and looking like a less seedy Charlie Sheen), valet Sean discovers an imprisoned woman, the waiting victim of the rich serial killer. The cops don’t believe the robber, but the bad guy catches onto him and soon begins destroying Sean’s life and those around him. Though Bad Samaritan builds some good suspense and remains moderately gripping, Devlin (late of the embarrassing Geostorm, which Irishman Sheehan also appeared in) is no Hitchcock. And at 107 minutes, the movie overstays its welcome.

** 1/2

Anna and the Apocalypse:
Christmas, teenagers, music and zombies… Anna and the Apocalypse has it all. As the snow falls and Yuletide cheer builds, a living dead outbreak hits the quaint British town of Little Haven. Can teen Anna (Intruders’ Ella Hunt) and her friends make it to their high school auditorium for presumed safety? Well, they’ll try, singing and dancing (and bashing in undead heads) along the way. OK, so the movie’s cute and a raucous scene of zombie mayhem in a bowling alley scores a strike, but the problem with Anna is the songs just aren’t that memorable. Where’s Richard O’Brien when you need him?

** 1/2

Incident in a Ghost Land:
Writer/director Pascal Laugier took our breath away with his vicious Martyrs in 2008, but 2012’s underrated The Tall Man garnered little notice. Packing a ’70s horror vibe, his latest recaptures some of Martyrs’ uncomfortable female-inflicted brutality. Two young sisters and their mom head to a remote family house, which is soon invaded by two ruthless psychos. Though the story echoes Tourist Trap and High Tension, Laugier pulls the rug out from us at a key point and takes us down an even darker path. I wish the villains had a little more depth here, but In a Ghost Land has enough shock and thrills to satisfy fright fans.


Cold Skin

Cold Skin:
Laugier’s fellow extreme Frenchmen, Xavier Gens, terrorized us with his Texas Chainsaw Massacre pastiche Frontier(s) in 2007 and explored postapocalyptic horror in The Divide (2011). Now he tries his hand at a Jules Verne-style creature feature. In the early 20th century, a weather observer (David Oakes) arrives for a year-long assignment at an isolated island near the Antarctic Circle where he meets the misanthropic lighthouse keeper (Ray Stevenson). A race of pale-skinned fish people dwells in the seas and raids the island at night in several bravura action set pieces, their motive unknown. The real threat here may be Stevenson, who keeps one of the creatures as a pet/sex slave. Gens plays the story like a fable, but ultimately I had a hard time warming up to Cold Skin. Where the movie succeeds is in the creature FX and photography departments.


Let the Corpses Tan:
French directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani won over the horror arthouse crowd with their giallo tributes Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears. Their latest flashy exercise tackles the much-loved Italian Spaghetti Western genre, but relocates the story to modern day and a Mediterranean hilltop villa. A gold-robbing gang holes up in the scenic, sun-drenched location, with a woman artist and her friends get caught in the crossfire when two cops arrive. The filmmakers do a fine job of paying homage to Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone here, but we’re talking style over substance. None of the characters really pops, and the whole thing grows a little tiresome. Fans of Cattet and Forzani and arty shootouts will still dig it.

** 1/2

After the weekly US shooting sprees of Vegas and Texas, this was the last movie I wanted to embrace. A group of friends find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere after a sniper cripples their car. Said sniper then begins blasting away at the college kids in graphic fashion, brains splattering the asphalt in gruesome close-up. Director Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train, Versus) does some flashy camera things, but the movie is so damn mean-spirited that it just left a bad taste in my mouth. The lowdown on Downrange: the story’s not very plausible nor the characters very likable.

* 1/2

Ghost Stories:
Just when I gave up on AFM 2017, the last movie screening I attended turned out to be not only the best genre film of the market but one of the best of the year period (IFC releases Ghost Stories next April). Supernatural debunker Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman, who co-wrote and co-directed with Jeremy Dyson) examines three extreme hauntings which just might make a believer out of him. Adapting their successful London play, Nyman and Dyson riff on past British horror anthologies Dead of Night and the ’70s Amicus flicks, but with a modern sensibility. Ghost Stories achieves its scares with class and distinction, as well as terrific makeup FX and a memorable supporting turn by The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman.

This one will send you out singing too; the “Monster Mash” plays over the end credits!

*** 1/2

So even though this year’s AFM was a bust, you will likely spot me canvassing those comfy Santa Monica theaters (kudos for solid projection, luxurious seating and friendly staff at the Arclight, AMC, Broadway and Laemmle) again next fall. On the market and festival beat, hope springs eternal!

For more information on the AFM, go to

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