Between August 30th and September 2, 2018, the international independent genre film festival, GenreBlast, landed at the Alamo Drafthouse in Winchester, Virginia. Filmmakers from around the globe were in attendance. Teams from Psyborgs (dir. David Hiatt, 2016), Canada’s comically absurd riff on children’s adventure shows, and Australia’s hilariously crass Lieutenant Jangles (dir. Nic Champeaux, 2018) were in Winchester to enjoy world premieres of their work.
“They do an amazing job at GenreBlast,” said Tim Troemner, director of the horror comedy short, Shit, They’re All Vampires (2018). “There’s such an amazing selection of films, and I’ve never been to another fest that’s so welcoming and fun for attendees and filmmakers alike. My favorite festival, hands down.”
Let’s begin with a rundown of the feature films, shall we? Butterfly Kisses (dir. Erik Kristopher Myers, 2017) and The Nothing (dir. Clayton Thompson, 2018) proved that there’s still life in found footage horror, while Livescream (dir. Michelle Iannantuono, 2018) leveled up the genre through a gripping script and an intense, heartfelt performance from Gunner Willis, who deservingly took home the festival’s top acting award for his work. Butterfly Kisses, which won the award for Best Local Film, delivered an additional layer of intrigue to the standard trope of found footage, with the premise of a failed filmmaker who finds tapes about a local legend that appear to belong to a student film. In The Nothing, a man muses about loneliness and the meaning of his life deep in the woods and finds more than he expected. Livescream, very much a film of the contemporary moment, is shot as a livestream of a horror game whose consequences become all too real.
Meanwhile, in more conventional dramatic presentations of horror, we had She Was So Pretty: Be Good For Goodness’ Sake (2017), Mike Lombardo’s heartbreaking post-apocalyptic holiday drama I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday (2017), and Loon (dir. Lillian Langston, Andrew Bassett, 2017). She Was So Pretty, which netted Best Director of a Feature for Brooklyn Ewing, is a beautifully shot character study of a disturbed mind contending with someone even worse–and it’s a love story. The Best Feature Film award went to I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday (2017). Centering on an intense performance by Hope Bikle as a mother trying to shield her son from the realities of a world reminiscent of The Road as Christmas approaches their bunker, this film leaves one impressed but depressed. Andrew Bassett won Best Cinematography for a Feature Film, for Loon, a film about a young couple that has a terrifying encounter with a neighbor at their isolated Montana cabin.
But GenreBlast brought more than just horror and tears. The varied programming offered something for all (and often weird) tastes. Boyne Falls (dir. Steve Kopera, 2018) opened the festival on a strong note of serious survival action, which also earned Jeneta St. Clair an award for Best Villain. Action fans were covered with the comedic insanity of the abovementioned Lieutenant Jangles, which won Best Score for a Feature Film, the Genre Blast Forever Award and the Audience Choice Award.
For laughs, there were films aplenty: there was the horror comedy Stuck (dir. Jillian Armenante, 2017), the low-budget House Shark (dir. Ron Bonk, 2017), winner of Best Screenplay for a Feature, which asks, “What would happen if Jaws took place in a house?” and the stoner horror comedy Bong of the Living Dead (dir. Max Groah, 2017), which brought absurd amounts of levity. There was a sense of the ridiculous in the unique abduction mystery of Clickbait (dir. Sophia Cacciola, Michael J. Epstein, 2019) as well, whose Amanda Colby Stewart and Brandi Aguilar won Best On-Screen Duo. This film, which enjoyed its world premiere at the fest, explored themes of online celebrity culture amid a backdrop of weirdos and toaster pastries.
The Velocipastor (dir. Brendan Steere, 2018), meanwhile, made good on its title’s promise by giving you everything you would want out of the comedic tale of a pastor who turns into a dinosaur to fight crime. The amazing mockumentary Top Knot Detective (Dir. Aaron McCann, Dominic Pearce, 2017) won Best FX for a Feature Film, while the previously mentioned Psyborgs, won Best Ensemble and Best Hero (Patrick J. MacEachern), drawing on nostalgia for shows like Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and Big Bad Beetleborgs. Amazon Hot Box (dir. James Bickert, 2018) was a woman in prison movie that played like a “best of” the ideas in that genre, but unfortunately, without bringing anything new to the table. And, finally, if a more traditional mystery was your taste, Murder Made Easy (dir. Dave Palamaro, 2017) provided the traditional twists and turns of some of Agatha Christie’s single location bests.
On top of that great selection of features, GenreBlast had scores of amazing short films. There were too many to list them all in this article, but I can briefly mention the award winners. Best Short Film went to We Summoned A Demon (dir. Chris McInroy, 2017), a fun little horror film that leans on comedy and gore effects. Best Screenplay for a Short went to Killing Giggles, (dir. Jaysen Buterin, 2017) about a serial killer who only kills clowns. What Metal Girls Are Into (2017) brought a well-earned Best Director award to the talented Laurel Vail for her tale of the worst possible AirBnB experience. The eerie The Daughters of Virtue (dir. Michael Escobedo, 2017) had echoes of Rosemary’s Baby and won for Best Score for a Short Film and the Genre Blast Jury Award. Sasha Practor won Best Cinematography for a Short Film for Compulsion (dir. Brian Shepanzyk, 2017), a stylish short that follows around a serial killer as he abducts a woman. Kiss the Devil in the Dark (Dir. Jonathan Thomas Martin, Rebecca Martin, 2016), which had a sorcerer betraying his friends to resurrect his dead love, won for Best FX for a Short Film. Jason Cavalier won Best Actor for a Short Film for Past and Future Kings (Dir. Raphael Hebert, 2017), which time-hops, following the narrative of the potential future of a king who gains immortality. Last but not least, Rakefet Abergel won Best Actress for a Short Film for Jax in Love (Dir. Colin Campbell, 2017), a horror film about a woman with some very serious attachment issues.
Congratulations to all the films that played at GenreBlast this year! I can’t wait to go back next year!