Horrible Imaginings

Santa Ana, California / 2021

This fest really embraced the horrible times this year, announcing on its website that it was “made virtual by the plague.” It gets especially high marks for atmosphere and overall diversity, and attendees singled out programmer Miguel Rodriguez. “He is the warmest host and the most knowledgeable programmer,” one moviemaker said. His passion for film is contagious. I don’t think the guy slept the entire festival but he was always the most excited person in the room.” More than one moviemaker was delighted to see films they hadn’t seen anywhere else. Said another: “Horrible Imaginings for 2020 had the most diverse lineup, especially when it came to content creatives being BIPOC (Black Indigenous People Of Color) that I have seen so far.”

Imagine Film Fest

Amsterdam / April 2021

This festival gets its highest marks for the quality of the presentation, and that begins with its website, which offers scintillating and disturbing images from selected films right on the homepage. The EYE Filmmuseum, home of the festival, received high praise as a beautiful venue for screenings. Amsterdam is filled with gorgeous, immersive museums, as well as bikes and fun. One filmmaker’s fondest memory? “Being offered a bike to ride after winning the audience award and given a 12-year-old bottle of rum, and then crashing the bike, breaking the bottle and the award and still feeling on top of the world.”


Paris / September 2021

“What amazing meals, wine, and films! So well curated!” said one attendee of this festival, which declared itself a “cinematographic oasis” when it started three decades ago and has never backed down. Neither do the enthusiastic, exacting audiences. One moviemaker remembers “a French audience member telling me my film was ‘trash. But good trash.’” The festival team, meanwhile, earned praise for being “so hospitable and very sweet.”


Mexico City / August 2021

Our panel found that the festival team, atmosphere and audience diversity were all simply perfect. The word “magic” also came up repeatedly from moviemakers, and Mexico City itself earned special praise. One moviemaker embraced “Mexican witchcraft, black magic fairs, cigars,” though your experience may be different. Another panel- ist raved about the enthusiastic, deeply informed audiences. “It basically helped kick off my career as a short filmmaker at a national level,” another attendee said. “They are always supporting and promoting the filmmakers they believe in.”

Melbourne Monster Fest

Melbourne, Australia / Oct. 29-Nov. 1

The quality of curation and presentation, and Melbourne itself, got very high marks. “They threw some fun parties including a very challenging quiz night!” said one attendee. But the thrills don’t end in Melbourne. In 2019, the festival established Monster Fest Australia, an event held over four days in multiple cities simultaneously. “It’s a full cross-continental theatrical tour,” one attendee said. “As such they pay better than almost any other film festival and guarantee that a film is exposed across Australia. It frequently results in sales deals.”


Mexico City / Oct. 31-Nov. 6

Not just a film festival, Morbido also focuses on celebrating film through academia, radio, TV, books, magazines, production and more. It’s also known for unforgettable memories: “I have a great time at each festival,” one attendee said, citing, for example, a 50-person troupe performing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in full zombie mode. Said another moviemaker: “They bring us on amazing adventures — trips to the pyramids and a massive Mexican lunch in an underground restaurant, boat rides — and put on incredible theatrical performances and concerts by people like legendary genre composer Simon Boswell, with clips from films he’s scored playing in the background.”

New York City Horror Film Festival

New York City / Dec. 3-6

No surprise here: The host city, atmosphere and the audiences all received perfect scores from our panelists. “The questions from the festival programmers show great detail and are not just the same old usual questions that get asked everywhere. They show they really know the project and the filmmaker,” said one attendee. Moviemakers also praised the sense of family, which is so strong that one attendee reported getting a ride to the airport from a programmer. The festival is also known for star-studded Lifetime Achievement Awards. Recent winners included The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero and the Candyman himself, Tony Todd.

Continue for more of the World’s 50 Best Genre Festivals, 2021

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