The third edition of the Popcorn Frights Film Festival is less than two weeks away, and it seems to get bigger and better as the days pass on. On Monday the crew announced a major new addition to their lineup, the U.S. Premiere of Jungle, which stars Daniel Radcliffe and is directed by Greg McLean, the director of the Wolf Creek series of films and TV show. The festival, which will feature over 40 film premieres from eight countries, has grown so much, organizers decide to make Opening Night a triple-bill of premieres, featuring Tragedy Girls, which stars Craig Robinson, Damien Leone’s Terrifier, a spinoff from All Hallow’s Eve, and the North American Premiere of the ‘80s set psychological thriller Jackals starring Stephen Dorff.
Already, Jackals has sold out. But there are plenty of other movies to choose from during the week long horror film fest, which starts Friday, Aug. 11. We asked the festival’s Co-Founders/Co-Directors Igor Shteyrenberg and Marc Ferman to tell us about some of their favorite movies this year.
“Game of Death will go down as one of the most outlandishly jaw-dropping discoveries at this year’s Popcorn Frights,” says Shteyrenberg. “It bursts with creative daring and boldness and may have the highest ratio of moment-to-moment ingenuity since Holy Motors (Film Review: ‘Holy Motors’ pays tribute to cinema while exploring its edges).”
“Another off-the-grid discovery is the unnerving, genre-defying tale Super Dark Times,” he continues. “It elucidates the universal traumas of growing up — teen love, friendship and betrayal — but does so with a startling aesthetic uncommonness and dark charm.”
He also adds no one should miss The Endless, by the directors of Spring, whose body horror/romance movie made a splash with genre fans at the Miami Film Festival in 2015. “Thought-provoking, imaginative, and thematically ambitious, it gives ample proof that Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are serious talents,” says Shteyrenberg, “pushing their concepts into intellectually and spiritually challenging territory. The Endless is a film that won’t fail to move or excite anyone who’s ever cast their eye skywards and let themselves wonder.”
Ferman picked three films he wanted to emphasize, as well. “Tragedy Girls is not only a great deal of fun but is also hands down one of my favorite genre films of 2017 thus far,” he states. “This social media serial killer satire borrows elements from cult classics such as Scream, Clueless and Heathers and serves up a comedic-horror cocktail that will leave you with gleeful spins.”
Ferman brings up films as diverse as Home Alone and Funny Games as comparisons to Better Watch Out, a film he describes as “a new twist on the home invasion sub-genre with a dark comedy twist. Zach Kahn’s screenplay takes a simple plot and flips it to great delight.”
Ferman also speaks to the primal fear and joy of the horror movie when describing 68 Kill. “This is 93 minutes of blood-soaked mayhem that just never slows down. It’s one of those films that offers a little bit of everything for hardcore genre fans,” he says.
The festival directors are also proud about a new aspect to this year’s programming, a compilation of local productions called Homegrown: 100% Pure Fresh Squeezed Florida Horror. It kicks off with “Buzzcut,” which was directed by Jon Rhoads and Mike Marrero. The short recently played at Montreal’s famed Fantasia International Film Festival, and it won the “Golden Conch for Best Key West Film” during the Key West Film Festival in 2016. The directors and actress Kelly Jane will be at the film’s presentation.
“It’s exciting to be programmed in such a solid block of shorts at a bad ass festival,” says Rhoads. “I can’t wait to see the other shorts we are screening with.”
Shteyrenberg promises the program will run the spectrum of what makes a horror film work. “From the macabre to the downright eerie,” he says, “this year’s inaugural Homegrown slate is not only strong and diverse but fully represents what a film festival truly is: the gathering of a community of film lovers experiencing exciting, challenging, innovative and thought-provoking films with many of the artists behind them in attendance.”
Probably the most “thought-provoking” of these films will be the Florida Premiere of Rodney Ascher’s latest, a 30-minute hybrid documentary called “Primal Scream.” Ascher is the director who gave us Room 237 and The Nightmare. According to the short’s synopsis, it “explores the pop-culture artifacts that traumatized individuals in their youth and the effects it has had on their lives.”
Shteyrenberg says this Florida focused program highlights local talent for various reasons. He says, “Our Homegrown: 100% Pure Fresh Squeezed Florida Horror sidebar is designed to renew and reinvigorate the audience’s engagement with Florida’s local filmmakers and encourage them to come to the Festival, meet each other, and have a chance to learn from some of the masters of horror. We hope Popcorn Frights can be a springboard for new filmmakers from Florida and a space where we can collectively help forge a new direction for Miami’s genre scene.
Finally, an inside tip to buy your tickets in advance, as the sold out screening to Jackals has proven. Shteyrenberg expects more sold out movies in the immediate future, particularly for the films Mayhem, Terrifier, The Hatred and Dave Made A Maze.