The language of fear, like that of music, is universal.
Put all the people who’ve weathered hurricanes’ swift destruction of communities, withstood the wrath of earthquakes, lived in the shadow of nuclear threats, and endured the horror of random gun violence in a room together, and they’ll agree on one thing: We are scared.
From Mexico to South Korea to the U.S., a myriad of locations comprise the constellation of film festival home bases represented in this list—MovieMaker’s first-ever rundown of the World’s 15 Bloody Best Genre Fests. Of course, our criteria for selecting these top hubs—which harbor the sicker, stranger side of cinema—measure their art and business-centric strengths over all else. But it’s worth noting that in genre moviemaking, fear is business, and business is good. A great genre film festival, at its core, is a celebration of that fact.
No one-size-fits-all answer can determine which of these fests are beasts among mortals, so to sink our fangs into the most eclectic roundup possible, we summoned the insights of expert panelists—six trusted allies of both mainstream and underground genre film culture whose industry roles include writer-director, producer, festival director, festival coordinator, investor, genre journalist, and podcast host. (Some hold several of these titles simultaneously.)
Genre freaks are known for their passion and devotion, and usually (sorry, elitists) for their acceptance of those newly initiated into their legion of doom—which means that the festivals they run, in addition to their surgically precise curation, have something for everyone. Low-budget moviemaker itching to slash your way through a competition? Dying to eat the brains and gain the knowledge of indie auteurs in a master class? Seeking thrills not just inside the theater but also in a live interactive horror event? If you check any of these boxes, there’s a haunted home that awaits you.
We hope that this list will be your flashlight in the dark abyss of your genre festival hunt, and that it’ll possess you to submit to them yourself… if you dare. — Max Weinstein
Children of the Night: Our 2018 Panelists
Roxanne Benjamin is an L.A.-based moviemaker and producer, known for horror film anthologies V/H/S, Southbound, and XX.
Mitch Davis is the co-director of the Fantasia International Film Festival*, as well as co-director of its international programming. He directed the shorts “Divided Into Zero” (1999) and “God’s Little Girl” (2007), produced Karim Hussain’s Subconscious Cruelty (2000), and is associate producer of ABCs of Death 2 (2014).
Mike Flanagan wrote, directed, and edited acclaimed horror features Absentia (2011), Oculus (2013), Hush, Before I Wake, and Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016). His feature adaptation of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game was released on Netflix September 29, 2017.
Mick Garris has directed multiple Stephen King adaptations, including Sleepwalkers (1992), The Stand (1994), and the miniseries version of The Shining (1997). He is the creator of the Showtime anthology series Masters of Horror and host of the podcast Post Mortem With Mick Garris.
Horror Equity Fund, Inc. (HEF) is a company that discovers, develops, assists in the funding of, and accelerates to market horror-centric projects across all media. For more info, visit HorrorEquityFund.com.
Joe Yanick is the festival and non-theatrical manager of Visit Films and the co-director of the Miskatonic Institute for Horror Studies N.Y.C.
* To avoid biased participation, Mitch Davis refrained from voting for his own festival.