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Nightmares at Sustefest X!

November 7th, 2019

The southern portion of Guanajuato, Mexico, is a magical place – lush, mountainous, and dotted with volcanic craters arranged like the stars in the Big Dipper. It’s also home to the Sustefest Film Festival, which this year hosted the release of Nightmares, the new Spanish-language anthology featuring stories by members of the Nightmare Cinema writing team.

The festival’s opening ceremonies began the night of October 25 at Cinema Valle, a former movie palace in the heart of Valle de Santiago. With its marquee proclaiming SUSTEFEST and its façade fitted with an eight-foot poster of Nightmares, the theatre was our introduction to the festival that is now in its tenth year of bringing fantastic films to the Mexican heartland. Following a Q&A session with the press, the Nightmares authors moved inside for a screening of two classic segments of Showtime’s Masters of Horror, featuring Richard Christian Matheson’s “Dance of the Dead” and Mick Garris’s “Chocolate.”

The next day took us across town to Valle de Santiago’s Municipal Auditorium and a Nightmares release event hosted by festival organizer Carlos López Cardona.

Edited and translated by Mexican best-selling author Sandra Becerril, Nightmares features four stories — three of which are appearing for the first time in Spanish.

“Transfiguration” by Richard Christian Matheson first appeared in Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels & Heavenly Hosts (Ulysses Press 2010) and has since gone on to be featured in The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Three (Night Shade 2011) and Shivers VIII (Cemetary Dance 2019). It is a haunting tale about a long-haul truck driver on a hallucinatory drive through the Alaskan wilderness.

Mick Garris’s “Chocolate,” the previously unpublished story that serves as the basis for the Masters of Horror film of the same name, centers on a man whose dreams are linked to another person’s reality. The story is a fine example of emo-horror (a genre that also describes Garris’s Nightmare Cinema segment “Dead”).

Sandra Becerril’s story “Meintras Duermes” (“While You Sleep”) is a frightening tale that supports one reviewer’s assessment that “Sandra Becerril is one of Mexico’s most important horror writers.”

My story “Ajuste de Cuentas,” originally published as “Reckoning” (This Way to Egress 2010), takes place in a cloistered church hidden in the Pennsylvania woods. It involves kidnapping, murder, and a ritual that is at once terrible and redemptive.

Nightmares can be ordered in print (limited and trade editions) from Sustefest Ediciones and as an audiobook from Beek — the Spanish-language equivalent of Audable.com. Though currently available only in Spanish, English-language editions may be in the works, details TBA.

Other Sustefest highlights included director Emilio Portes presenting a screening of his film Belzebuth in a sprawling cemetery on the eastern edge of Valle de Santiago. Hailed by critics for breathing new life into the demonic-child genre, the film is currently available in the US on AMC’s Shudder.

The festival closed with Hugo Félix Mercado‘s Cygnus, a horror/sf hybrid that Anton Bitel of Sight and Sound describes as “a paranoid tale of a man looking back at cosmic data from many aeons ago and […] finding reflected in it a dark mirror of himself and his own crumbling psyche.” Sounds like my cup of meat, and I had hoped to catch it while at Sustefest. Unfortunately, I was across town attending an author’s dinner during the screening. Rest assured, I’ll be looking out for a US release of Cygnus in the months ahead.

Sustefest X concluded October 27, and the tireless Carlos López Cardona tells me he already looking ahead to next year’s installment. Given the success of this year’s festival, it’s sure to be a winner.

Next up, a report from World Fantasy in LA. Until then, you can click the player below to check out some video highlights of Sustefest X. If it looks like it fun, that’s because it was.

 

 

Nightmare Cinema: U.S. Premiere, NYC

November 24th, 2018

Taking a final lap in its tour of the world’s top genre film festivals, Nightmare Cinema is now racing toward its long-awaited US Premiere.

Earlier this month, the film finished its circuit of the UK with a screening at The Leeds International Film Festival, the film went on to play at El Festival de Cine Fantástico on the Canary Islands, where Producer-Director Mick Garris received the Festival’s del Premio Isla Calavera de Honor Award, a skull designed by special effects master Colin Arthur (The NeverEnding Story). From there, our film headed to the Land Down Under for its Australian Premiere at Monster Fest VII, where it received an enthusiastic reception at Cinema Nova.

Next up: New York City and a US Premiere at The New York City Horror Film Festival, where I’ll be joining Mick Garris at a Thursday night screening at Cinepolis Chelsea.

Other highlights of the NYC festival will include the Screenplay Competition. Among the finalists is The Blood Grinder – an over-the-top horror comedy that has already won Best Comedy Feature at the Austin Revolution Film Festival. One of the writers is Nick Schwartz, with whom I have been collaborating on an adaptation of my story “Prime Time!”

I’ll be posting reports from the scene next week. Until then, I’ll leave you with links to some more Nightmare Cinema’s reviews.

The first is one that I missed when it came out at the end of summer. The others are from the Leeds and Melbourne screenings. As in my previous posts, the quotes are followed by links to the entire review.

Here they are:

Alejandro Brugués’s segment is up first, and is easily the most entertaining of the bunch. It’s a send-up of classic teens-in-the-woods slashers, and it’s hilarious […]. From there, we’re taken to a debatably gifted plastic surgeon (from Joe Dante), then a giallo-inspired Catholic school gone horribly wrong (from Ryûhei Kitamura), an atmospheric black-and-white child’s horror (from David Slade), and finally a haunting hospital rumination on death and loss (from Mick Garris, who also directed the wraparound). All of the pieces are quite different, but they somehow fit together nicely. The flow, from funny to ultimately quite heartbreaking, shows the range of these directors as well as the scope that horror can span within a single genre. — High-Def Digest

“This Way to Egress”[is] a gorgeous monochrome descent into madness starring the ever-brilliant Elizabeth Reaser. — Flickering Myth

Hollywood’s most under-valued horror director, David Slade (Hard Candy, 2005; 30 Days of Night, 2007) provides the psychologically troubling vision, ‘This Way to Egress’. Shot in richly textured black-&-white, it stars Elizabeth Reaser (pictured, above; currently seen in the hit Netflix show, The Haunting of Hill House) as a mother of two brattish boys slowly losing her mind in the waiting room of her ‘specialist’, Dr Salvador (Adam Goodley). As time passes, the pristine office surrounds become overwhelmed by a dark filth; the faces of those that she passes in the halls grow increasingly deformed. Slades’ film is a masterful take on mental health, depression, social disconnection; while it foregoes the visceral horror of the film to this point, it is a warped walk in a convincingly disturbing, Cronenberg-esque realm. — Screen Space

There have been a lot of fantastic anthology horror films over the last decade with notable favourites of mine being The Theatre Bizarre, Trick R Treat and Tales Of Halloween. Other noteworthy titles include Holidays, XX and the ever popular VHS and ABCs of Death franchises. NIGHTMARE CINEMA is a worthy addition to this list and makes a point of difference by having a consistent quality of stories throughout. — FakeShemp.Net

Images:

  • New Your City Horror Film Festival logo.
  • Mick Garris receives del Premio Isla Calavera de Honor at El Festival de Cine Fantástico‘s official opening gala, Multicines Tenerife, Canary Islands.
  • Cover page of The Blood Grinder by Dave Conte, Nick Schwartz, & Matt Braunsdorf.
  • Sarah Withers in “The Thing in the Woods.” 
  • Nightmare Cinema poster from Monster Fest VII.
  • Elizabeth Reaser in “This Way to Egress.” 

 

UK Premiere:
Nightmare Cinema & “This Way to Egress”

October 7th, 2018

I first read Traumatic Descent – Larry Connolly’s short story that would be adapted into “This Way to Egress” 17 or 18 years ago.

Soon after I worked with my dear friend Charly Cantor on ideas to adapt the story into a feature-length film which Charly would write. I loved Charly like a brother and he passed away in 2002 leaving a gaping hole in me.

I would describe the story as a dark but benign fog that infiltrated my subconscious. It resonated for me in ways that took all of this time to become clear.

I’m grateful to Mick Garris and most of all to Larry for allowing me to complete part of this project. It does not fill any part of the hole but it helps.

David Slade, director of “This Way to Egress”

Saturday was the day it all came full circle, some 18-years after two young filmmakers from Sheffield reached out to this American writer to begin work on a project that became “This Way to Egress.”

In the Q&A session that followed our UK premiere, I got the chance to unpack the journey in more detail – first in responding to questions from festival director Simeon Halligan and then in conversations with the audience.

Along the way, I was able to able to acknowledge the debt that both David and I owe to Charly Cantor, so much so that I felt his presence. It was – as I predicted it would be in an earlier post – like coming home.

The day of our premiere also provided the opportunity to discuss Nightmare Cinema and “Egress” at length in a couple of recorded interviews – one with the website FilmDaddy.com and the other with Simeon Halligan (above left) for the festival’s video feed. Both should be available soon.

There was even some time for ice-breaking, where  I got the chance to throw axes at targets courtesy of an establishment called Whistled Punks. My friendly competitors in the event included Witch in the Window director Andy Mitton and festival director Rachel Richardson-Jones (right). That’s us, posing like ax-wielding superheroes even though it was Horror Channel director Stewart Bridle and Grimmfest photographer Kenneth James who proved to be the true ax-tossing masters.

Grimmfest continues apace, wrapping up tonight with an awards reception and the much-anticipated Christmas-themed-zombie-fest Anna and the Apocalypse. I’ve heard good things about that one.

Nightmare Cinema’s next festival appearances will include screenings in Stiges, Toronto, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Dublin,  Vienna, and beyond. It’s all part of what we might call the Nightmare Cinema World Tour … so there’s sure to be much more news in the days ahead. Be sure to check back soon. And don’t sleep. Nightmares are coming.

Images:

  • The projected backdrop for the Nightmare Cinema Q&A session at Grimmfest. The photograph is from the “Mashit” episode, directed by Ryuhei Kitamura and written by Sandra Becerril.
  • The 21st-Century Scop in a video interview with festival director Simeon Halligan.
  • Standing tall with fellow ax throwers Andy Mitton and Rachel Richardson-Jones at Whistle Punks.
  • Witch in the Window director Andy Mitton wields an ax.

 

This Way to Egress:
The Manchester-Sheffield Connection

September 24th, 2018

Eighteen years ago. It’s spring. Filmmaker Charly Cantor and I are driving around Pittsburgh. It’s his first time in the States, having arrived the day before from London. He’s come to collaborate on a new film adaptation of my story “Traumatic Descent,” and today we’re out looking at locations, places that might provide backdrops for a tale about a slow-burn descent into madness.

We drive down Ohio River Boulevard, past the chemical plants and coke ovens of Neville Island and into the brick-and-brownstone environs of Pittsburgh’s North Side. Charly says it all looks familiar, like the area around Sheffield and Manchester, UK,  where he grew up with his friend David Slade. He tells me to slow down. Then he turns in his seat, looks back the way we’ve come. “That sign. Did it say Manchester?”

“Yeah. That’s where we are. Manchester. Pittsburgh’s North Side.”

“Can you stop?” He sees something else. “Stop here.”

I pull to the curb. He gets out and snaps a picture. That’s when I see where we are, on the corner of Fontella and Sheffield. He’s 4,000 miles from home, and he’s just arrived at Sheffield in Manchester. He can’t get over it. It’s not just the names of the places. It’s the look, the working-class feel of it. “When you come to England, I’m taking you to Manchester and Sheffield. You’ll see.”

Fast forward four months. Charly finishes the script (now titled This Way to Egress), and I’m in London to meet David Slade and talk revisions. We’re sitting in the Riba Cafe. Charly has his laptop on the table and we’re working through the script. It’s going well.

Perhaps too well.

Charly has arranged for a car to take us north to Manchester and Sheffield, but the work expands. In the days that follow, we get so caught up in it that we never get around to making the trip north.

Charly passed away in 2002. A tragic loss. He left behind two finished films: Appetite (1998), co-written with George Milton; and Blood (2000), which he wrote and directed.  He also left nearly a half-dozen finished scripts. All of them, including the feature-length adaptation of Egress, have yet to be filmed.

Fast forward again. Back to the present. Eighteen year’s after Charly snapped that picture on Pittsburgh’s North Side. Egress has been filmed, not as the feature that Charly and I worked on, but as a shorter version co-written with David Slade for the anthology film Nightmare Cinema. And next month that film has its UK premiere in … (wait for it) … Manchester, England.

You best believe I’ll be there.

The UK premiere of Nightmare Cinema is part of the 10th edition of Grimmfest, an international film festival held each year in Manchester. And so … at last … I’m going to get a look at the place that Charly described so vividly as we stood on that Pittsburgh corner in 2000.

The premiere will be held at the Odeon Theatre on Deansgate. October 6, 4:00 PM. Afterward, I’ll take part in a brief Q&A session. It’ll be like coming home.

Images:

  • The corner of Sheffield and Fontella in Manchester, Pennsylvania.
  • Charly Cantor working on our adaptation of This Way to Egress at Riba’s Cafe, London, July 2001.
  • Poster for Grimmfest 2018. More at Grimmfest.com.