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Gateway Film Center Hosts Nightmares Film Festival 2021

Hope Madden Hope Madden Gateway Film Center Hosts Nightmares Film Festival 2021The Howling - Photo via IMDb
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We have to make the most of spooky season while we have it, and there may be no better way than to take advantage of our hometown horror gem, the Nightmares Film Festival.

The four-day genre fest returns to Gateway Film Center Thursday, October 21, screening more than 150 features and shorts, programming panels and a podcast, and creating a home for new cinematic voices. And after last year’s strictly virtual program “Masquerade,” NFF co-founder and programmer Jason Tostevin is eager to get back to the theater. 

“Thinking about Nightmares returning to in-person feels like the best parts of a favorite summer camp and a class reunion,” says Tostevin. “I know the team of all-volunteer organizers can’t wait to be back. And for the writers and filmmakers, there’s so much reward and value in spending four days with other creators, forming a bond and joining a community. And the fans are champing at the bit to marathon the program and meet the people behind the films.”

Those films include world premieres of the Canadian thriller Peppergrass, the latest installment of the cult favorite, F3: Escape from Bako, the all-women made horror anthology FUKT, as well as a 4k restoration of Joe Dante’s classic, The Howling.

“I can’t wait for fans attending the fest to experience this top-notch, diverse Nightmares Film Festival program, every corner of which reflects our signature better horror perspective,” says Tostevin.

Returning filmmaker Lisa Ovies aggrees.

“They really do curate the best screenwriters and filmmakers,” she says. “They’re an elite tier.”

That may be the reason Ovies, whose feature Puppet Killer took home the fest’s Best Overall Feature award in 2019, is so proud her short film Witches Midnight made the 2021 program, although she had intended to fly out to the fest even if her film wasn’t chosen.

“Even before I knew we got into Nightmares, I was still going to book a trip,” she says. “And I’m from Canada! I was going to pay the money to go because they’re such a beautiful community. The people I met there are still some of my best friends.”

Writer/director Matt Servitto echoes those sentiments. Better recognized from his many acting credits—including his role as Agent Dwight Harris during the six-season run of The Sopranos — Servitto comes to the fest as a filmmaker as well as an actor. Servitto’s short Good Head is slated to play Thursday, and he’s impressed by what he’s already seen of the festival.

“Of all the festivals, they’re the first one that really made me feel like I belong to this group of cool people,” he says. “That’s what I love about Nightmares. Their outreach is exceptional. It’s one thing to be communicative, it’s another to be inclusive. I love these guys. I will always bring my stuff here.”

Both Servitto and Ovies contribute to the fest’s celebrated program of short films.

“We’ve assembled another set of short films from around the world that I would put up against any genre fest anywhere,” says Tostevin.

Naturally, there’s more to the 2021 program than simply its shorts.

“We have tons of premieres, with feature films from beloved horror icons like Joe Dante and others from brand new voices in genre,” Tostevin says. “Our Midnight Mind Fuck is back in its legendary Saturday night slot to put people’s brains in a blender. We have live experiences like a recording of the award-winning Fright Club podcast and a 35mm screening of a short with live musical accompaniment. It’s a four-day celebration of genre unlike anything else, and I hope people will join us at Gateway Film Center to cheer on the best new work from around the globe.”

Panels on Social Progress through Horror and The New Distribution offer thought-provoking discussion and sales opportunities for filmmakers.

We’ve always had it in our minds that a natural outcome of a strong program would be a film market-style environment around the festival,” Tostevin explains. “We’ve invested heavily in creating distribution and first-look opportunities for all our selected projects, especially for short films, which traditionally have almost no path to be seen beyond their fest screenings.”

Is that why filmmakers like Ovies and Servitto speak so highly of the festival?

I do think there is a strong Nightmares community,” Tostevin says. “That’s central to our purpose, and a big part of the reason so many return each year. The engine that drives it all is the group of creators we’ve assembled. They’re talented, which matters, but they’re also good people who want to support one another and get better than they were last year, to make their next film or screenplay better than the last one. They see themselves as part of something bigger, with a responsibility to give back, and they approach things with love for one another. That’s the secret to a community that lasts and grows.”

Nightmares Film Festival 2021 runs from Thursday, October 21 through Sunday, October 24 at Gateway Film Center. For tickets and showtimes, visit gatewayfilmcenter.org.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her horror movie podcast, FRIGHT CLUB.

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