The Growth of Nightmares Gives Me Joy

This October marks both the fourth year of Nightmares Film Festival and my fourth year attending it. At this point, I cannot ever picture myself not being there for every single year that it exists. While the actual curation of it is wild and entertaining, as are the films themselves, it is less the programming that keeps me coming back and more the atmosphere that the festival provides.

I am a horror fanatic. I have been a horror fanatic for as long as I can possibly remember and I will remain one until the day I die. The genre is a lifelong obsession and one that I love to share with others. We all know that the internet has been both a blessing and a curse when it comes to the word fandom. It takes only a single glance at the comments section under any big piece of horror news to figure that out.

What is it that Nightmares Film Festival provides that sets it above just simply hanging out at home and chatting online? Aside from a strong sense of community, the words that most come to mind are positivity and love. Thus far I have spent a combined 11 days at the festival and I can’t think of a single negative encounter that I have either been party to or witnessed. Not only do the filmmakers and attendees treat each other with kindness and respect in regards to their opinions on the films at hand, but they do so about one another’s opinions and viewpoints in general.

No one is chided for liking or disliking something. No one is shamed for having not seen or read something. It’s weird to sit here and paint a picture of interactions at a horror film festival that involves nothing but rainbows and sunshine, but I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Everyone is happy to be there and happy to be interacting with one another.

Despite the fact that the festival has grown up a bit each year, this has never changed. Because of this, I have little fear of it ever losing its heart and am delighted to see it continue to grow. The bigger a festival gets, the more eyes it has on it and the 2019 iteration of NFF is no different. This year will see the participation of not only Gunpowder & Sky (via their horror offshoot, ALTER), but also IFC. Both companies will have people on site to view the films, as well as to participate in a panel on film distribution.

Having both IFC and Gunpowder & Sky interested enough in NFF to actually attend (and hunt for potential acquisitions in person) is great for many reasons. First, it shows that those behind NFF are doing something right. I already knew that, but it shows that word about what has been built by the NFF staff and community continues to spread. There’s a reason its one of the highest-rated festivals out there and people are catching on to the fact that they too should get involved.

Second, it raises the awareness level for it even higher. Companies like these to pay attention to films running in and out of a lot of fests all over the country (and world), but generally at a distance. They might ask for screener access on occasion, but they generally just pay attention to what wins awards and the rest sadly sometimes fall through the cracks. Catching their eye hard enough to get them to actually show up in person is harder to achieve, so kudos to Chris Hamel, Jason Tostevin, and all the rest for managing to do just that.

Lastly and most importantly, it means the films themselves will have a greater chance of securing distribution. Mind you, many of those screened at the previous three have already achieved that. Past NFF selections have already seen distribution from the likes of Lionsgate, Shudder, Dark Sky Films, Artsploitation, Dread, and even IFC Midnight. Of course, those are just the “big guns” that have stepped in to date. Smaller, but no less dedicated outfits like Scream Team Releasing, Vertical Entertainment, World of Death, and Horror Pack have also leaped at past selections. Still, nothing is worse than sitting in a theater watching fun, weird, disturbing, and fascinating pieces of cinema that many of there would instantly cherish, only to see them struggle to find distribution. Or, worse yet, find it but get lost in the streaming and video-on-demand glut of today’s industry.

Most of these filmmakers have poured years of blood, sweat, and tears into their works. As a result, getting seen by more and bigger eyes with each passing year at the festival is nothing but a positive. It is great for them, it is great for the festival, and it is ultimately great for indie horror itself. It’s win-win-win. Plus one more additional win for those out there at home who love seeing films like The Head Hunter, Book of Monsters, The Barn, Night of Something Strange, I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday, Midnighters, Plank Face, Romeo’s Distress, The Night of the Virgin, and Ruin Me continue to find distribution.

Will I walk out of NFF 2019 on closing night this year having had my mind absolutely blown by one or more features or shorts? I don’t know! I hope so, but honestly, I know I’ll have a great time regardless because of the people working at and attending it. That alone is mind-blowing enough for me and it’s what will always keep me coming back to this ever-growing horror mecca.

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