Nightmares Film Festival 2023: Days 1 & 2
It’s that time again! Now in its eighth year, Nightmares Film Festival has returned once more to Columbus, Ohio at their highly-acclaimed Gateway Film Center. The opening night festivities kicked off with Clare Cooney’s Departing Seniors, a fun throwback to the high school slashers of the ‘80s and ‘90s, but with a more modern bent. The hook is pretty killer (pun intended) and the cast is chock full o’ charisma, making it one to look out for going forward.
Nightmares Film Festival Day 1
Next up was Stewart Sparke’s How to Kill Monsters. Sparke’s previous film, Book of Monsters, played at Nightmares Film Festival a few years ago and was a big hit. His return to the festival is no different. Functioning as a companion film to Book—a From Beyond to its Re-Animator, if you will—How to Kill is a raucous good time of a monster movie. Our own David Gelmini called it “an instant cult classic” and I agree wholeheartedly. If you’re a fan of late ‘80s Empire Pictures-esque horror, this movie is going to feel like a warm blanket.
Lastly on the feature film front came Mike Cheslik’s Hundreds of Beavers. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you locked someone in a room, made them watch loads of silent films and Chuck Jones & Tex Avery cartoons, and then tasked them with reimaging Sydney Pollack’s 1972 classic Jeremiah Johnson? If that bizarro query ever crossed your mind, this movie is the answer to it. Hailing from the same folks behind Lake Michigan Monster, this is a bonkers slice of outsider art that won’t be for everyone but is destined to become a favorite of those who reside on its wavelength.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Nightmares Film Festival if you didn’t have a hard choice to make during each programming block. The festival always runs across two screens each day, with one room showcasing features and the other showcasing shorts. The first opening night short block was a curated collection of horror comedies, followed by a block of midnight movie madness, and closing out with an assortment of more traditional (but no less charged) horror. Overall, a whopping 29 shorts were dished out across 6 hours of programming.
Nightmares Film Festival Day 2
Day Two started off with a bang with a “Recurring Nightmares” block of shorts composed entirely of work from filmmakers who were returning to the fest with new films. Three additional superb selections of shorts followed, with the second day’s tally offering up an even more impressive haul of 36 short-form horrors and thrillers.
On the feature front, the selection was no less impressive. From the foreign thrills of Love Will Tear Us Apart and The Choice to the chilling holiday horrors of Santa Isn’t Real and the midnight dino-fueled insanity of The Wheel of Heaven, the day delivered a quartet of home runs that left festival-goers buzzing after each screening.
Movies weren’t the only thing on deck, of course. We were also treated to an insanely fun round of good-natured competition in the form of a trivia contest that pitted teams against one another as we all attempted to decipher audio and music clips from our beloved genre. My team ended up being tied for third place, which is a personal bummer, but mere fuel for the fire to come out on top in next year’s trivia competition.
Bottom line? As it gets closer and closer to the ten-year marker, Nightmares Film Festival remains an embarrassment of riches. From the stellar programming to the even more amazing community behind the films themselves, there’s no place I’d rather be every October.