Film & TV

Horror Film Fest Popcorn Frights Returns With Another Gruesome Lineup

Still from Do Not Disturb
Still from Do Not Disturb Photo courtesy of Popcorn Frights
For its eighth edition, Popcorn Frights Film Festival is bringing all kinds of scary and spooky movie madness. This year's fest, which bills itself as the largest genre film event in the Southeast, is screening 37 feature films from filmmakers across 20 nations. It's a sprawling and diverse list of what constitutes a horror movie. Most screenings will occur at Fort Lauderdale's Savor Cinema and O Cinema South Beach, with special screenings at various locations sprinkled throughout the program.

There will be a free 25th-anniversary outdoor showing of The Fifth Element on Thursday, August 18, at Miami Beach's Lummus Park. There will also be a 100th-anniversary showing of the silent film classic Nosferatu on Friday, August 12, at Savor Cinema, featuring live scoring by local musician Richard Vergez.

Organizers of the festival are incredibly proud of shining a spotlight on local horror filmmakers. The festival's "Homegrown: 100% Pure Fresh Squeezed Florida Horror" program on Saturday, August 20, will showcase ten short films by local filmmakers, including Rostislav Vaynshtok and Michael Macias.

There's also a handful of feature films made by Florida filmmakers.

For writer, director, and actor Shane Brady, it was only natural to film Breathing Happy in his hometown of Tampa. The city, he believes, is a natural setting for building anxiety.

"I've been lucky enough to travel the world, and anytime you tell people you're from Florida, their eyes light up," Brady tells New Times. "Florida is the land of gators, sting rays, venom, poison, snakes, beaches, tropical climate. There's something eerie about when it's peaceful in Florida. A hurricane or tornado could be around the corner, or something in the night might bite or sting you. It also allowed us to present a Christmas movie without snow and embrace the weirdness and awesomeness of our state."

Breathing Happy is more about metaphorical demons than literal ones, showing its protagonist trying to overcome addiction. Brady believes it can inspire as many nightmares as any Texas Chainsaw Massacre flick.

"Expect to be immersed in the world of addiction from every angle and to hear perspectives on that struggle from all viewpoints," he adds. "You'll laugh, cry, and hopefully feel something cathartic as you leave the theatre."

A film shot even closer to home is Do Not Disturb. Filmed on location in Miami Beach, the movie portrays a couple on a honeymoon who have taken the wrong strain of peyote — this strain causes those who consume it to crave human flesh.

"I feel like Florida is an amazing setting for a horror film," says John Ainslie, Do Not Disturb's director. "I chose to use Miami Beach and the contrast between the bright sunshiny tourist-filled beaches and the privacy of what goes on behind closed doors in a sort of traditional light-verses-dark theme, but it has so much more to offer."

Rechna Varma, the film's producer and a Miami resident, adds, "Since John and I had gotten to Miami, we've been dying to capture its beauty on film. Then we thought a great way to juxtapose its gorgeous shorelines and architecture would be to splash some blood around. You can't help but wonder what happens in all these hotel rooms. The world sees Miami as a holiday or honeymoon destination, and our imaginations just went to the worst type of emancipation the Magic City could offer."

Popcorn Frights Film Festival. Thursday, August 11, through Sunday, August 21, at various locations; popcornfrights.com. Ticket prices vary.
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novels, The End of the Century and Yo-Yo, are available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland