Tag Archives: Gateway Film Center

Fright Club: Best Contagion Horror Movies

The Seventh Seal, Blindness, Carriers, Rabid, Mayhem, Masque of the Red Death, Infection, Flesh + Blood, The Crazies – all amazing movies exploring our communal fear of contagion. They pick that scab, so to speak, but are there others that do it better?

Our two rules: no zombies, no living beasties (The Thing, Shivers, etc.) Just some kind of virus. Here goes!

5. Pontypool (2008)

Canadian director Bruce McDonald’s shock jock horror film is best appreciated as a metaphor on journalistic responsibility and the damage that words can do. Radio air personality and general pot-stirrer Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) finds himself kicked out of yet another large market and licking his wounds in the small time – Pontypool, Ontario, to be exact. But he’s about to find himself at the epicenter of a national emergency.

McDonald uses sound design and the cramped, claustrophobic space of the radio studio to wondrous effect as Mazzy and his producers broadcast through some kind of mad epidemic, with Mazzy goosing on the mayhem in the name of good radio. As he listens to callers describe the action, and then be eaten up within it, the veteran McHattie compels attention while McDonald tweaks tensions.

Shut up or die is the tagline for the film. Fitting, as it turns out that what’s poisoning the throng, turning them into a mindless, violent mob, are the very words spewing at them. It’s a clever premise effectively executed, and while McDonald owes debts all around to previous efforts, his vision is unique enough to stand out and relevant enough to leave an impression.

4. Antiviral (2012)

If you could catch Kim Kardashian’s cold, would you?

This is the intriguing concept behind writer/director Brandon Cronenberg’s seething commentary on celebrity obsession, Antiviral. 

Young Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works for a clinic dealing in a very specific kind of treatment. They harvest viruses from willing celebrities, encrypt them (so they can’t spread – no money if you can’t control the spread), and sell the illnesses to obsessed fans who derive some kind of bodily communion with their adored by way of a shared herpes virus. Gross.

But the ambitious Syd pirates these viruses by injecting himself first, before the encryption. Eventually, his own nastiness-riddled blood is more valuable than he is, and he has to find a way out of quite a pickle. Maybe vitamin C?

3. It Comes at Night (2017)

Deep in the woods, Paul (Joel Edgerton, solid as always), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) have established a cautious existence in the face of a worldwide plague. They have boarded their windows, secured their doors, and enacted a very strict set of rules for survival.

At the top of that list: do not go out at night.

Writer/director Trey Edward Shults explores the confines of the house with a fluid camera and lush cinematography, slyly creating an effective sense of separation between the occupants and the dangers outside. But what are those dangers, and how much of the soul might one offer up to placate fear itself? In asking those unsettling questions, It Comes at Night becomes a truly chilling exploration of human frailty.

2. It Follows (2014)

It Follows is another coming-of-age tale, one that mines a primal terror. Moments after a sexual encounter with a new boyfriend, Jay (Maika Monroe) discovers that she is cursed. He has passed on some kind of entity – a demonic menace that will follow her until it either kills her or she passes it on to someone else the same way she got it.

Yes, it’s the STD or horror movies, but don’t let that dissuade you. Mitchell understands the anxiety of adolescence and he has not simply crafted yet another cautionary tale about premarital sex.

Mitchell has captured that fleeting yet dragging moment between childhood and adulthood and given the lurking dread of that time of life a powerful image. There is something that lies just beyond the innocence of youth. You feel it in every frame and begin to look out for it, walking toward you at a consistent pace, long before the characters have begun to check the periphery themselves.

Mitchell’s provocatively murky subtext is rich with symbolism but never overwhelmed by it. His capacity to draw an audience into this environment, this horror, is impeccable, and the result is a lingering sense of unease that will have you checking the perimeter for a while to come.

1. 28 Days Later (2002)

Activists break into a research lab and free the wrong effing monkeys.

28 days later, bike messenger Jim wakes up naked on an operating table.

What follows is the eerie image of an abandoned, desolate London as Jim wanders hither and yon hollering for anybody. In the church, we get our first glimpse of what Jim is now up against, and dude, run!

Prior to 28 Days Later, the zombie genre seemed finally dead and gone. But director Danny Boyle single-handedly resurrected the genre with two new(ish) ideas: 1) they aren’t dead, 2) therefore, they can move really quickly.

Both Brendan Gleeson and Cillian Murphy are impeccable actors, and Naomie Harris is a truly convincing badass. Their performances, and the cinematic moments of real joy, make their ordeal that much more powerful. But you know you’re in trouble from the genius opening sequence: vulnerability, tension, bewilderment, rage, and blood – it launches a frantic and terrifying not-zombie film.

Skinamarink Screening with Director Kyle Edward Ball at Gateway

In partnership with the Greater Columbus Film Commission, Gateway FIlm Center has announced that acclaimed new filmmaker, Kyle Edward Ball, will visit the Center on Saturday, March 18, to premiere a 35mm version of his film, Skinamarink (2023).

“We are excited to welcome Kyle to Columbus, to the Film Center, and to share the 35mm print of his incredible independent film, Skinamarink” said Gateway Film Foundation CEO, Christopher Hamel.

In Skinamarink (2023), two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing, and all the windows and doors in their home have vanished. To cope with the strange situation, the two bring pillows and blankets to the living room and settle into a quiet slumber party situation. They play well worn videotapes of cartoons to fill the silence of the house and distract from the frightening and inexplicable situation. All the while in the hopes that eventually some grown-ups will come to rescue them. However, after a while it becomes clear that something is watching over them.

The film stars Lucas Paul, Dali Rose Tetreault, Ross Paul and Jaime Hill and is executive produced by Edmon Rotea, Ava Karvonen, Bonnie Lewis, Alan Lewis, Josh Doke, and Jonathan Barkan.

Ball, a first-time filmmaker, made Skinamarink (2023), which premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, for about $15,000. Since the film’s debut, it has become an instant cult classic, often compared to micro-budget horror hits such as The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007). However, Skinamarink is not found-footage or improvised, but is fully scripted and features images, sounds, and camera angles which were created to add depth and discomfort.

Shudder and IFC FIlms released Skinamarink (2023) in the United States on Friday, January 13, 2023. Gateway Film Center was selected as one of the first venues to feature the film and the Center has continuously screened Skinamarink (2023) since the release in January. To date, Skinamarink (2023) has grossed over two million dollars in the United States, making it one of the most successful and profitable independent films of all-time.

“Members of our community continue to hear about this film and want to experience it the way it was intended, with an audience and on a big screen. The Film Center is proud that we continue to present the film and I know Kyle’s visit, and this 35mm screening, will be a great event for Columbus”, said Hamel.

Tickets for these screenings are on sale now at gatewayfilmcenter.org. The 35mm presentation of Skinamarink (2023) on Saturday, March 18 will screen at 7:00pm exclusively for myGFC Members alongside a workshop co-presented with Film Columbus. The 9:30pm screening will be introduced by the filmmaker and is now on sale. Normal ticket prices apply. MaddWolf’s Hope Madden and George Wolf will moderate the q&a session following the 7:00pm performance.

Gateway Film Center is wholly owned by the Gateway Film Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, Campus Partners, The Columbus Foundation, and thousands of individual donors. To learn more, visit the website at gatewayfilmcenter.org.

Fright Club: Frightful Felines

Generally speaking, when a horror filmmaker inserts a dog into their film, it’s because they know you don’t want anything bad to happen to that sweet pooch. They raise the stakes.

That or they expect the dog to tear a throat out and terrify an audience.

But that’s not really why they put cats into their films. Cats plot and menace. You can’t figure them out. They seem innocent, but then they dart between your feet just as you reach the top of the stairs. Plus you know they’ll eat your carcass, and they probably won’t even wait that long.

Here is our salute to cats in horror movies.

5. Be My Cat: A Film for Anne (2015)

Adrian is a Romanian filmmaker who likes girls and cats. He does not like dogs or boys. His favorite thing? Anne Hathaway as Cat Woman.

He was so inspired by her performance that he knew he had to make a film with her. To convince her, he’s lured three actresses to shoot a film with him. That film is really just to convince Anne, his beloved, that she should star in the real movie.

She’s not going to want to.

This movie works on the sheer, weird charisma of writer/director/star Adrian Tofei. He is pathetic and charming and terrifying as he documents his direction as a kind of “behind the scenes” for Anne, so she can understand how truly perfect she is for his film and he is for her artistic future. The result is unsettling, unique and wildly entertaining.

4. Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985)

Stephen King wrote the screenplay for this anthology. Two of the shorts come from King’s published work, the third he scripted directly for the screen. A cat named General travels among the three tales.

General gets the most screentime in an episode with Drew Barrymore, who wants the cat to protect her from a little troll living in her bedroom walls. But the best of the tales follows Dick Morrison (James Woods) follows a 100% effective way to quit smoking.

It’s an effective set of tales and one of the better screen adaptations of King’s work.

3. The Black Cat (1934)

Rocky Horror owes a tremendous debt to Edgar G. Ulmer’s bizarre horror show. The film – clearly precode – boasts torture, tales of cannibalism, and more than the hint of necromancy.

Plus Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff?! What is not to love? It looks great, as does Karloff, whose lisp is put to the most glorious use.

Loosely based on Poe’s The Black Cat – so loose in fact that it bears not a single moment’s resemblance to the short – the film introduces Lugosi’s Dr. Vitus Werdegast. He’s come to seek vengeance on Karloff’s mysterious Hjalmar Poelzig, if only Werdegast can overcome his all-consuming terror of cats!

The cat thing has almost nothing whatever to do with the actual plot of this movie, but who cares? What a weird, weird movie. So good!

2. Cat People (1942)

Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 original explores that oh-so-common horror trope: women’s sexual hysteria. Beautiful Irena is afraid that if she has sex she will become a monster. And we know she’s evil because the tiny kitten her new beau brings her hisses at her.

It’s an often silly film and very dated, but there’s something unnerving in the shifts of power, the perversion the film finds in power. You see it in the way big cats are menaced by small cats.

1. The Voices (2014)

Director Marjane Satrapi’s follow-up to her brilliant animated Persepolis is a sweet, moving, very black comedy about why medicine is not always the best medicine.

Ryan Reynolds is Jerry. As Jerry sees it, his house is a cool pad above a nifty bowling alley, his job is the best, his co-workers really like him, and his positive disposition makes it easy for him to get along. Jerry’s kindly dog Bosco (also Ryan Reynolds) agrees.

But Mr. Whiskers (evil cat, also Reynolds) thinks Jerry is a cold-blooded killer. And though Mr. Whiskers is OK with that, Jerry doesn’t want to believe it. So he should definitely not take his pills.

Horror 101 Full Lineup Is Here!


National panel of experts selects titles for the new program

In 2017, Gateway Film Center launched its most ambitious program ever, Cult 101, which was a celebration of the best cult films of all-time. Selected by a national panel of experts, all 101 films were screened at the center in 2017, and presentations were often paired with conversations, expert analysis, and always with a healthy dose of audience affection. Many of the films were presented as restorations, sometimes in 4K, or on 70mm or 35mm film.

Now, one year later, the center will launch a companion program, Horror 101, paying tribute to the best of those films that scare, unsettle or disturb.

“As soon as Cult 101 ended, I started getting requests for more programs that were similar to it in scale and scope,” said Gateway Film Center President, Chris Hamel. “With the amazing impact these films have had on our culture, and the spirited debates horror films seem to create, Horror 101 was the obvious choice for a new program.”

National and local news outlets, filmmakers, studios, distributors, critics and programmers were selected to help the film center with its final picks. Contributors include representatives from Warner Brothers, Lionsgate, IFC Films, Paramount, MPI Media and Dark Sky Films, Magnolia Pictures, Nightmares Film Festival, Days of the Dead, Fangoria, Maddwolf, and more.

The program begins Valentine’s Day with Candyman (1992) at 7:30 p.m. The complete list of films is below, and their screening times will be revealed each quarter, treating Horror 101 as four seasons of top horror film.

The first screening schedule will be announced on January 15.

Normal Gateway Film Center ticket pricing will apply to all screenings. Most screenings are free to myGFC members. Visit www.gatewayfilmcenter.org for more information.

Here is the list of Horror 101 titles, listed alphabetically:

28 Days Later (2002)
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Alien (1979)
Altered States (1980)
The Amityville Horror (1979)
An American Werewolf In London (1981)
Antichrist (2009)
Audition (1999)
The Babadook (2016)
Battle Royale (2000)
Beetlejuice (1988)
The Birds (1963)
Black Christmas (1974)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The Cabin In The Woods (2012)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Candyman (1992)
Carnival of Souls (1962)
Carrie (1976)
Cat People (1942)
The Changeling (1980)
Child’s Play (1988)
The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)
Creepshow (1982)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Dead Alive (1992)
The Descent (2005)
Don’t Look Now (1973)
Donnie Darko (2001)
Dracula (1931)
Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Eraserhead (1977)
Evil Dead II (1987)
The Evil Dead (1981)
The Exorcist (1971)
The Fly (1986)
Frankenstein (1931)
Friday the 13th (1980)
Fright Night (1985)
Get Out (2017)
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1954)
Halloween (1978)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Hellraiser (1987)
Hereditary (2018)
High Tension (2003)
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Horror of Dracula (1958)
The House of the Devil (2009)
House On Haunted Hill (1959)
I Saw The Devil (2010)
Inside (2007)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Jaws (1975)
King Kong (1933)
The Last House On The Left (1972)
Let The Right One In (2008)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Martin (1977)
Martyrs (2008)
Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Misery (1990)
The Mummy (1932)
Near Dark (1987)
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Night of the Hunter (1955)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Nosferatu (1922)
The Omen (1976)
The Orphanage (2007)
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Paranormal Activity (2007)
The People Under The Stairs (1991)
Pet Semetary (1989)
Phantasm (1979)
Poltergeist (1982)
Psycho (1960)
Re-Animator (1985)
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
The Ring (2002)
Ringu (1998)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Saw (2004)
Scanners (1981)
Scream (1995)
Se7en (1995)
The Shining (1980)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Suspiria (1977)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Thing (1982)
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Videodrome (1983)
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Witch (2015)
The Wolf Man (1941)
Zombie (1979)

Nightmares Film Festival: 2018 Lineup Announced



For horror fans, Christmas has come three months early — in the form of the Nightmares Film Festival 2018 program, presenting 24 features and 164 shorts over the four-day event running Oct. 18-21 at Gateway Film Center in Columbus.

True to its “#BetterHorror” motto, the program is jammed top to bottom with a mix of premier genre films from around the globe. Across the 188 films, there are dozens of world and North American premieres, a short accompanied by live in-theater music, projects from genre favorites, a Stephen King block and even a new documentary section.

“We’re on a never-ending, worldwide quest to discover the films that are reshaping the boundaries of horror — bold voices, new visions of terror, films that haunt you,” said co-founder and programmer Jason Tostevin. “That’s how we build every Nightmares, and this may be our best lineup yet.”

The features lineup is stacked with the world premieres of some of horror’s most anticipated new movies, including white-knuckle thriller The Final Interview from Fred Vogel (Toetag Pictures, August Underground); twisted kidnap nightmare The Bad Man from Scott Schirmer (Found, Harvest Lake); ‘80s-style horror anthology Skeletons in the Closet from Tony Wash (The Rake); and paranoia-fueled apocalypse tale Haven’s End from Chris Etheridge (Attack of the Morningside Monster).

North American feature debuts include The Head from the director of ThanksKilling, about a medieval monster hunter; Christmas horror-comedy The Night Sitter; action-horror creature feature Book of Monsters; and mistaken-identity comedy-thriller Kill Ben Lyk.

Horror legend Bill Lustig will open the festival with a brand new 4K restoration of his classic, Maniac. New cult director Jason Trost (The FP) will attend with The FP 2: Beats of Rage.

Nightmares also continues its tradition of presenting one of the top genre shorts programs in the world. This year’s short films include horror, thriller, midnight and horror-comedy blocks playing throughout the festival.

The festival also introduces its Recurring Nightmares section this year, a category that showcases the newest shorts by festival alums.

The fest’s legendary Midnight Mindfuck block also returns. The section, called “one of the most dangerous and challenging programs at any festival” (The Film Coterie), will present Trauma, a harrowing tale grounded in the darkest parts of Chilean history, and La Puta es Ciega (The Whore is Blind), a surreal and violent exploration of the streets of Mexico.

“Every aspect of Nightmares is filtered through the question, what would excite us as fans?,” said co-founder Chris Hamel. “We don’t think there’s a better experience for makers and lovers of horror than the four days of Nightmares Film Festival.”

The 13 finalists in both the Nightmares short and feature screenplay competitions were also announced. The ultimate winner in each competition will be announced at the awards ceremony on Oct. 20.

Nightmares begins Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. and runs until Sunday night, Oct. 21. Fans who are ready to make the pilgrimage to Columbus, Ohio will find a limited number of passes still available for the festival at gatewayfilmcenter.org/NFF.

Hope Madden and George Wolf are proud to be among the jury panel for Nightmares Film Festival, one  of the top horror film celebrations in the world. It has been the number-one rated genre film festival on submission platform FilmFreeway for 30 consecutive months.




Boo – Rakefet Abergel

Mourning Meal – Jamal Hodge

Hiking Buddies – Megan Morrison

Living Memory – Stephen Graves

#dead – Derek Stewart

The Burning Dress – Sam Kolesnik

For Good Behavior – Ron Riekki

Air – Dalya Guerin

Invidia – Vanessa Wright

Minotaur – Michael Escobedo

Pancake Skank –  Savannah Rodgers

The Callback – Sophie Hood

The Farm – Cate McLennan


Patience of Vultures – Greg Sisco

People of Merrit – Adam Pottle

The Shame Game – Greg Sisco

Rise of the Gulon – Matt Wildash

Left Of The Devil – Stephen Anderson

Bartleby Grimm’s Paranormal Elimination Service – Dan Kiely

Kelipot – Seth Nesenholtz

The Coldest Horizon – Jeffrey Howe

Throwback – Rachel Woolley

Resurrection Girl and the Curse of the Wendigo – Nathan Ludwig

The Caul – Sophia Cacciola & Michael J. Epstein

The Devil’s Gun – James Christopher

Residual – Tyler Christensen


The Bad Man

Skeletons in the Closet


The Night Sitter

Book of Monsters

Maniac 4k

Confessions of a Serial Killer

The Head

Never Hike Alone

The Field Guide to Evil


The Final Interview

Kill Ben Lyk


Be My Cat: A Film For Anne

The LaPlace’s Demon



Haven’s End

Dark Iris


Beats of Rage

Camp Death III in 2D!


La Puta es Ciega

More Blood!


Killing Giggles

The Unbearing

Let’s Play

Amy’s in the Freezer

One Hundred Thousand


Apartment 402



Vampiras Satanicas II: The Death Bunny

42 Counts



Syphvania Grove

Rites of Vengeance

The Scarlet Vultures

Music Lesson

Thousand-Legged Terror

BFF Girls

Gut Punched




Bathroom Troll

Don’t Drink the Water

The After Party


Here There Be Monsters

Don’t Look Into Their Eyes


El Cuco is Hungry






All You Can Carry

Made You Look

The Desolation Prize

Doggy See Evil


Goodbye Old Friend

There’s a Monster Behind You



Ding Dong

Oscar’s Bell

Red Mosquito

Goodnight Gracie




House Guests

The Last Seance



The Bloody Ballad of Squirt

The Chains

One Dark Night


Midnight Delivery

I Beat It

Mama’s Boy

Alien Death Fuck

Hell of a Day


The Dark Ward

Mystery Box




The Noise of the Light

Short Leash


Where’s Violet

Tutu Grande


Lady Hunters


Headless Swans

A Death Story Called Girl

Dead Cool

You’ll Only Have Each Other


The Box


Witch’s Milk

Post Mortem Mary



They Eat Your Teeth

They Wait for Us




The Hex Dungeon

I Am Not a Monster

Gentlewoman’s Guide to Dom.

Blood Highway

Sock Monster

The Monster Within

Viral Blood

No Monkey




The Jerry Show

Proceeds of Crime


Mother Fucker


Night Terrors

The Thang




Tears of Apollo


The Mare

Mother Rabbit


Human Resources

Blood and Moonlight

Suicide Note

Enjoy the View



The Things We Left Behind

I Am the Doorway


The Borrower

Below the Trees

The Sewing Circle

The Choice

What Comes Out

Beyond Repair


Hell to Pay

Who’s There


Down the Hatchet

The Green Lady

Not From Around Here


The Cat

House of Hell


Cry Baby Bridge



The Party’s Over

A Thing of Dreams

Mother of a Sacred Lamb


What Metal Girls are Into

My First Time




Jingle Hell

Arret Pipi



Cabin Killer

American Undead

The Thing about Beecher’s Gate


Best of Me



Netflix and Chill

Attack of Potato Clock




Heavy Flow

Sell Your Body

The Infection

Blood Sisters

Shit … They’re All Vampires


There’s One Inside the House

Fright Club: Fractured Fairy Tales

Nothing scared me as a child the way the story of Hansel and Gretel did. Do you know why? Because it’s fucking scary. But that’s the thing about fairy tales, isn’t it? There was always something—a big, bad wolf or a witch or a wicked stepmother—intended to frighten children. No wonder fairy tales make such rich fodder for horror movies.

Here are our picks for the best fractured fairy tale horror—either those films that reimagine an old fairy tale or those that are clearly inspired by them—recorded live at the Gateway Film Center.

5. Hansel & Gretel (2007)

This is a straightforward reimagining of a classic fairy tale. We’d compare it to Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997), Deadtime Stories (1986), The Red Shoes (2005) and Tale of Tales (2015).

Director Pil-sung Yim’s reimagining of Grimm’s classic “into the woods” horror upends expectations by putting adults in the vulnerable position and giving children the power.

A young man facing impending fatherhood gets into a car accident next to a deep, dark and mysterious woods. He loses himself and is rescued by a lone little girl with a lantern.

From here, Yim’s sumptuous visuals and eerily joyful tone create the unshakable sensation of a dream—one that looks good but feels awful.

As our protagonist unravels the surreal mystery that’s swallowed him, Yim offers a parable—as fairy tales often do—about the value of children. But don’t let that dissuade you from this seriously weird, visually indulgent gem.

4. Black Swan (2010)

Based on the ballet Swan Lake, which itself is inspired by German folktales The White Duck and The Stolen Veil, Black Swan takes a dark turn.

The potent female counterpoint to Darren Aronofsky’s 2008 gem The Wrestler, Black Swan dances on masochism and self-destruction in pursuit of a masculine ideal.

Natalie Portman won the Oscar for a haunting performance—haunting as much for the physical toll the film appeared to take on the sinewy, hallowed out body as for the mind-bending horror.

Every performance shrieks with the nagging echo of the damage done by this quest to fulfill the unreasonable demands of the male gaze: Barbara Hershey’s plastic and needy mother; Winona Ryder’s picture of self-destruction; Mila Kunis’s dangerous manipulator; Vincent Cassel’s other dangerous manipulator.

The mind-bending descent into madness and death may be the most honest look at ballet we’ve ever seen at the movies.

3. The Lure (2015)

Here’s a great Eastern European take on reimagined Eastern European fairy tales, like Norway’s Thale (2012) and Czech Republic’s Little Otik (2000).

Gold (Michalina Olszanska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek) are not your typical movie mermaids, and director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s feature debut The Lure is not your typical – well, anything.

The musical fable offers a vivid mix of fairy tale, socio-political commentary, whimsy and throat tearing. But it’s not as ill-fitting a combination as you might think.

The Little Mermaid is actually a heartbreaking story. Not Disney’s crustacean song-stravaganza, but Hans Christian Andersen’s bleak meditation on the catastrophic consequences of sacrificing who you are for someone undeserving. It’s a cautionary tale for young girls, really, and Lure writer Robert Bolesto remains true to that theme.

The biggest differences between Bolesto’s story and Andersen’s: 80s synth pop, striptease and teeth. At its heart, The Lure is a story about Poland – its self-determination and identity in the Eighties. That’s where Andersen’s work is so poignantly fitting.

2. Der Samurai (2014)

This film is influenced heavily by fairy tales, especially the concept of the big, bad wolf, as are The Company of Wolves (1984), Big Bad Wolves (2013), and Freeway (1996).

Writer/director Till Kleinert’s atmospheric Der Samurai blends Grimm Brother ideas with Samurai legend to tell a story that borders on the familiar but manages always to surprise.

Jakob, a meek police officer in a remote German berg, has been charged with eliminating the wolf that’s frightening villagers. Moved by compassion or longing, Jakob can’t quite make himself accomplish his. But a chance encounter with a wild-eyed stranger wearing a dress and carrying a samurai sword clarifies that the wolf is probably not the villagers’ – or Jakob’s – biggest problem.

Pit Bukowski cuts a peculiar but creepy figure as the Samurai – kind of a cross between Iggy Pop and Ted Levine. As the cat and mouse game gains momentum, it appears the Samurai is here to upend all of Jakob’s inhibitions by eliminating anyone keeping him from embracing to his primal urges.

Kleinert’s sneaky camera builds tension in every scene, and the film’s magnificent sound design echoes with Jakob’s isolation as well as that of the village itself. And though much of the imagery is connected in a way to familiar fairy tales or horror movies, the understated approach gives it all a naturalism that is unsettling.

1. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece is Influenced visually and logically by fairy tales. It takes us to a fairy tale land but is not set on any existing fairy tale, not unlike Argento’s greatest work, Suspiria (1977), and Jee-woon Kim’s brilliant Tale of Two Sisters (2003).

But honestly, there is nothing on earth quite like Pan’s Labyrinth. A mythical cousin to del Toro’s beautiful 2002 ghost story The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth follows a terrified, displaced little girl who may be the reincarnation of Princess Moanna, daughter of the King of the Underworld. She must complete three tasks to rejoin her father in her magical realm.

A heartbreaking fantasy about the costs of war, the film boasts amazing performances. Few people play villains—in any language—as well as Sergi Lopez, and Doug Jones inspires terror and wonder in two different roles. But the real star here is del Toro’s imagination, which has never had such a beautiful outlet.

Fright Club: Realism in Horror

Part of the fun of horror is to be able to separate yourself from the images onscreen. The old “this could never really happen” thing helps us sleep at night. But there are some films that rob you of that safety net, burrowing under your skin and into your subconscious specifically because you are convinced that it could definitely happen—maybe it already has.

Today we salute realism in horror with five films to give you nightmares.

5. Nothing Bad Can Happen (2001)

This film is tough to watch, and the fact that it is based on a true story only makes the feat of endurance that much harder. But writer-director Katrin Gebbe mines this horrific tale for a peculiar point of view that suits it brilliantly and ensures that it is never simply a gratuitous wallowing in someone else’s suffering.

Tore (Julius Feldmeier) is an awkward teen in Germany. His best friend is Jesus. He means it. In fact, he’s so genuine and pure that when he lays his hands on stranded motorist Benno’s (Sascha Alexander Gersak) car, the engine starts.

Thus begins a relationship that devolves into a sociological exploration of button-pushing evil and submission to your own beliefs. Feldmeier is wondrous—so tender and vulnerable you will ache for him. Gersak is his equal in a role of burgeoning cruelty. The whole film has a, “you’re making me do this,” mentality that is hard to shake. It examines one peculiar nature of evil and does it so authentically as to leave you truly shaken.

4. Open Water (2003)

Jaws wasn’t cinema’s only powerful shark horror. In 2003, young filmmaker Chris Kentis’s first foray into terror is unerringly realistic and, therefore, deeply disturbing.

From the true events that inspired it to one unreasonably recognizable married couple, from superbly accurate dialog to actual sharks, Open Water’s greatest strength is its unsettling authenticity. Every element benefits from Chris Kentis’s control of the project. Writer, director, cinematographer and editor, Kentis clarifies his conception for this relentless film, and it is devastating.

A couple on vacation (Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis) books a trip on a crowded, touristy scuba boat. Once in the water, they swim off on their own – they’re really a little too accomplished to hang with the tourists. And then, when they emerge from the depths, they realize the boat is gone. It’s just empty water in every direction.

Now, sharks aren’t an immediate threat, right? I mean, tourist scuba boats don’t just drop you off in shark-infested waters. But the longer you drift, the later it gets, who knows what will happen?

3. The Snowtown Murders (2011)

John Bunting tortured and killed eleven people during his spree in South Australia in the Nineties. We only watch it happen once on film, but that’s more than enough.

Director Justin Kurzel seems less interested in the lurid details of Bunting’s brutal violence than he is in the complicated and alarming nature of complicity. Ironically, this less-is-more approach may be why the movie leaves you so shaken.

An unflinching examination of a predator swimming among prey, Snowtown succeeds where many true crime films fail because of its understatement, its casual observational style, and its unsettling authenticity. More than anything, though, the film excels due to one astounding performance.

Daniel Henshall (also in Babadook) cuts an unimpressive figure on screen – a round faced, smiling schlub. But he brings Bunting an amiability and confrontational fearlessness that provides insight into what draws people to a sadistic madman.


2. Hounds of Love (2016)

Driven by a fiercely invested and touchingly deranged performance from Emma Booth, Hounds of Love makes a subtle shift from horrific torture tale to psychological character study. In 108 grueling minutes, writer/director Ben Young’s feature debut marks him as a filmmaker with confident vision and exciting potential.

It is the late 1980s in Perth, Australia, and at least one young girl has already gone missing when the grounded Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) sneaks out her bedroom window to attend a party. This isn’t nearly as dumb a move as is accepting a ride from Evie White (Booth) and her husband John (Stephen Curry).

As the couple dance seductively and drink to celebrate, Young disturbingly conveys the weight of Vicki’s panicked realization that she is now their captive. It is just one in a series of moments where Young flexes impressive chops for visual storytelling, utilizing slo-motion, freeze frame, patient panning shots and carefully chosen soundtrack music to set the mood and advance the dreadful narrative without a spoken word.

And then, just when you might suspect his film to wallow in the grisly nature of the Whites’ plan for Vicki, Young turns to dialog sharp enough to upend your expectations, and three vivid characters are crafted in the suffocating dread of the White’s neighborhood home.

No doubt, events get brutal, but never without reminders that Young is a craftsman. Subtle additions, such as airplanes flying freely overhead to contrast with Vicki’s captivity, give Hounds of Love a steady dose of smarts, even as it’s shaking your core.


1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Not everyone considers The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a classic. Those people are wrong. Perhaps even stupid.

Tobe Hooper’s camera work, so home-movie like, worked with the “based on a true story” tag line like nothing before it, and the result seriously disturbed the folks of 1974. It has been ripped off and copied dozens of times since its release, but in the context of its time, it was so absolutely original it was terrifying.

Hooper sidestepped all the horror gimmicks audiences had grown accustomed to – a spooky score that let you know when to grow tense, shadowy interiors that predicted oncoming scares – and instead shot guerilla-style in broad daylight, outdoors, with no score at all. You just couldn’t predict what was coming.

He dashes your expectations, making you uncomfortable, as if you have no idea what you could be in for. As if, in watching this film, you yourself are in more danger than you’d predicted.

But not more danger than Franklin is in, because Franklin is not in for a good time.

So, poor, unlikeable Franklin Hardesty, his pretty sister Sally, and a few other friends head out to Grampa Hardesty’s final resting place after hearing the news of some Texas cemeteries being grave-robbed. They just want to make sure Grampy’s still resting in peace – an adventure which eventually leads to most of them making a second trip to a cemetery. Well, what’s left of them.


Fright Club: Sex + Death

I know what you’re thinking. Sex and death—that could be literally any film in the genre. Aaah, yes, but we’re not talking metaphorically or even loosely connected. Sure, the quickest way onto Michael Meyers’s or Jason Voorhees’s kill list is by having sex, but that’s not immediate enough. Let’s disregard the middle man, lose the pause, and go right to the horror films where sex and death are immediately, gorily and irreversibly linked.

Happy Valentine’s Day, by the way!

5. Killer Condom (1996)

A Troma-distributed splatter/horror/comedy, Killer Condom is an enormous amount of fun. This is a German film—German actors delivering lines in German—but it’s set in NYC. You can tell because of the frequent shots of someone opening a New York Times newspaper machine.

Luigi Mackeroni (Udo Samel) is the grizzled NYC detective who longs for the good old days in Sicily. In German. He’s assigned to a crime scene in a seedy Time Square motel he knows too well, where it appears that women just keep biting off men’s penises.

Or do they?

This film is refreshingly gay, to start with, as nearly every major character in the film is a homosexual. The run-of-the-mill way this is handled is admirable, even when it is used for cheap laughs. (Babette, I’m looking at you).

It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s gory and wrong-headed and entertaining from start to finish. Who’d have guessed?

4. Teeth (2007)

Of all the films built on the hysteria of impending womanhood, few are as specific as Teeth, a film in which a pubescent discovers a sharp set where teeth ought not be. This is a dark comedy and social satire that is uncomfortable to watch no matter your gender, although I imagine it may be a bit rougher on men.

Treading on the dread of coming-of-age and turning male-oriented horror clichés on ear, Teeth uses the metaphor implicit in vagina dentata—a myth originated to bespeak the fear of castration—to craft a parable about the dangers as well as the power of sexual awakening.

Written and directed by artist (and Ohioan!) Roy Lichtenstein’s son Mitchell, Teeth boasts an irreverent if symbol-heavy script with a strong and believable lead performance (Jess Weixler).

Weixler’s evolution from naïveté to shock to guilt to empowerment never ceases to captivate, but the story itself settles for something more conventional and predictable than what the shockingly original first two acts suggest.

3. Trouble Every Day (2001)

Backed by a plaintive, spooky soundtrack by Tindersticks, Clair Denis’s metaphorical erotic horror examines gender roles, sex and hunger. Denis is one of France’s more awarded and appreciated auteurs, so a one-time voyage into horror should not be dismissed.

A newlywed American couple head to Paris, ostensibly to honeymoon, but Shane (Vincent Gallo) is really there to re-establish connection with old colleagues Coré (Béatrice Dalle) and her husband, Léo (Alex Descas). The three scientists once participated in an experiment, and Shane needs to find them.

The film is a startling work of biologic-horror, but its existential riffs on intimacy, dominance and violence—common fare in the genre—are clearer-headed and more disturbing here than in anything else that swims the same murky waters.


2. Raw (2016)

What you’ll find in first-time filmmaker Julia Ducournau’s Raw is a thoughtful coming-of-age tale. And meat.

A college freshman and vegetarian from a meat-free family, Justine (Garance Marillier) objects to the hazing ritual of eating a piece of raw meat. But once she submits to peer pressure and tastes that taboo, her appetite is awakened and it will take more and more dangerous, self-destructive acts to indulge her blood lust.

The film often feels like a cross between Trouble Every Day and Anatomy. The latter, a German film from 2000, follows a prudish med student dealing with carnage and peer pressure. In the former, France’s Claire Denis directs a troubling parable combining sexual desire and cannibalism.

Ducournau has her cagey way with the same themes that populate any coming-of-age story – pressure to conform, peer pressure generally, societal order and sexual hysteria. Here all take on a sly, macabre humor that’s both refreshing and unsettling.

1. It Follows (2014)

It Follows is yet another coming-of-age tale, one that mines a primal terror. Moments after a sexual encounter with a new boyfriend, Jay (Maika Monroe) discovers that she is cursed. He has passed on some kind of entity – a demonic menace that will follow her until it either kills her or she passes it on to someone else the same way she got it.

Yes, it’s the STD or horror movies, but don’t let that dissuade you. Mitchell understands the anxiety of adolescence and he has not simply crafted yet another cautionary tale about premarital sex.

Mitchell has captured that fleeting yet dragging moment between childhood and adulthood and given the lurking dread of that time of life a powerful image. There is something that lies just beyond the innocence of youth. You feel it in every frame and begin to look out for it, walking toward you at a consistent pace, long before the characters have begun to check the periphery themselves.

Mitchell’s provocatively murky subtext is rich with symbolism but never overwhelmed by it. His capacity to draw an audience into this environment, this horror, is impeccable, and the result is a lingering sense of unease that will have you checking the perimeter for a while to come.

Nightmares Film Fest Unveils “Early 13”

For filmmakers and fans alike, Nightmares Film Festival (Oct. 19 to 22) is making the number 13 lucky again.

The renowned genre and horror festival, watched by critics and ranked first on FilmFreeway by filmmakers, today revealed the first thirteen films and screenplays to be included in its 2017 worldwide program of “#BetterHorror.”

The dazzling list includes feature-film world premieres, a 3D feature, shorts from the director of Turkish horror feature Baskin and a Dr. Who writer, and a horror screenplay by a poet laureate finalist from Michigan.

“We are tradition-rich at Nightmares, and this is one we’re always excited about,” said NFF Co-founder and Programmer Jason Tostevin. “Each year we unveil thirteen early selections as a way to give Nightmares attendees a taste of the program we’re building to present in October.”

The 2017 Early 13 is composed of three features, eight shorts and two screenplays. Highlights include:

  • NFF’s first-ever 3D feature presentation, Found Footage 3D, produced by Texas Chainsaw Massacre co-creator Kim Henkel.
  • The world premiere of controversial feature Flesh of the Void,The Ring video, if it were released on the Deep Web.”
  • One of the first-ever screenings of horror comedy short Blood Shed, from director James Moran (Cockneys Vs. Zombies, Dr. Who).
  • A rare screening of Can Evrenol’s (Baskin) early short, To My Mother and Father.

“We’re particularly proud of the diversity represented by the selections,” which include women, people of color, international and homegrown filmmakers, said co-founder Chris Hamel. “The horror community is about inclusion, and for us, that means making sure we include all kinds of voices.”

Nightmares Film Festival is held every October in Columbus, Ohio at the world-renowned Gateway Film Center, named a top 20 North American art house by Sundance. There, one of the last dedicated movie projectionist teams ensures every Nightmares film looks and sounds its best as exuberant fans – affectionately called “The Sleepless” for marathoning the program – mingle with filmmakers from around the world.

Both VIP and festival passes for Nightmares will become available on August 13 on the Gateway Film Center website, www.GatewayFilmCenter.org.



  • WORLD PREMIERE: Flesh of the Void, midnight feature, directed by James Quinn, NFF Best Midnight Short winner in 2016.
  • Found Footage 3D, horror feature, directed by Steven DeGennaro and produced by Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Kim Henkel – will be presented in 3D at NFF 17.
  • WORLD PREMIERE Bong of the Living Dead, horror feature, directed by Columbus-based Max Groah and four years in the making.


  • To My Mother and Father, horror short; an early, rarely-screened short by Baskin director Can Evrenol.
  • Dickeaters, midnight short, directed by Aaron Immediato.
  • The Cure, midnight short, directed by Slamdance winner and Columbus-based filmmaker Mike Olenick.
  • Blood Shed, horror comedy short, directed by James Moran (Cockneys vs. Zombies, Dr. Who) and co-written by Cat Davies (Connie).
  • La Sirena, thriller short, directed by Columbian filmmaker Rosita Lama Muvdi.
  • Creswick, thriller short, directed by Australian-Japanese filmmaker Natalie Erika James.
  • Your Date Is Here, horror short, directed by Todd Spence and Zak White.
  • The Naughty List, horror comedy short, directed by Paul Campion (The Devil’s Rock) and adapted from the story by best-selling horror novelist Brian Keene (The Rising).


  • The Knife Association, feature screenplay by Ron Riekki, finalist for Poet Laureate of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
  • The Wood, short screenplay, written by B. Maddox.

Hope Madden and George Wolf are thrilled to be part of the judging panel for Nightmares Film Festival, a nationally-renowned horror and genre film festival dedicated to inspiring horror filmmakers and promoting #BetterHorror. Its 2017 edition will be held Oct. 19 to 22 in Columbus, Ohio at the celebrated Gateway Film Center.