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That’s one more Panic Fest in the rear view. A few days ago I wrote about what Panic Fest means to me, but at the time I was only about a day in, so I hadn’t seen very many movies. I’ve since rectified that situation.

This year, I saw thirteen films at Panic Fest, which, if I’m counting correctly, marks the most films I’ve ever watched at one of these in the five or so years that I’ve been going. Of those, I liked all but a couple.

Measuring purely in terms of cinematic quality, this year may have been the best year I’ve ever attended. There weren’t any “killer apps” this year; obvious standouts that left their competition in the dust. Things like One Cut of the DeadTigers Are Not AfraidLowlife, and so on from previous Fests. But there were lots of films that I really liked, and hardly any duds.

Of the thirteen films that I saw, my favorites were Richard Stanley’s Color Out of SpaceExtra OrdinaryVHYesSea Fever, and Disappearance at Clifton Hill. That’s a … very broad cross-section of different kinds of movies.

Clifton Hill is a deliciously low-fi Niagara Falls noir with an unreliable protagonist and David Cronenberg as a retired rescue diver who hosts a podcast from the basement of a UFO-shaped diner. Purely naturalistic and perhaps frustratingly ambiguous at times, but possessed of a real ambiance and genius deployment of its compulsive liar of a main character.

Sea Fever is a straight-faced “The Thing on a boat” movie, only not really and also done remarkably well. The underwater photography is so breathtaking that I might not have minded if there hadn’t been a creature. But fortunately there is, and a big, weird, bio luminescent one at that. Plus, a not-so-subtle message about climate change, before all is said and done.

Extra Ordinary is the British What We Do in the Shadows, if you need me to boil it down to an elevator pitch. Part of what makes it so delightful, though, is how genuine the British ghost story elements it draws from feel.

VHYes, well, I wrote that up for Signal Horizon.

And Color Out of Space, as you’ve probably already heard from people who aren’t me, is one of the best “straight” Lovecraft adaptations we’ve ever gotten, even if it would have been better if someone had put their hand on Nic Cage’s shoulder a few times.

As for the rest, ArtikPornoThe Cleansing Hour, and Synchronic all fared well enough. Really, the only one I’m kicking myself for having seen was The Lodge, which it’s tempting to say got saved for the last night of the Fest so that word of mouth couldn’t poison it, but other people in the theater got more out of it than I did. Anyway, I wrote more about it for Signal Horizon, too, and it should go live on Monday.

I also saw Nightmare Radio, which was a mixed bag with a few really good segments, and The Perished, which tried to tackle a tough subject with seriousness and some strong performances and creature work, but ultimately … I’m not sure what the takeaway was supposed to be.

Now that the Fest is over for another year, it’s time to recover and play catch-up for a few days. I’ll see you all on the other side.

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eye_homepageIt’s that very special time of year again – Panic Fest time! Thursday night was opening festivities featuring Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space, while yesterday (Friday) was the first full day of the Fest. Sadly, I’m out of commission today (Saturday), but I’ll be back at it Sunday and into next week.

I’ll be updating social media with one-sentence or so reviews of everything that I see, so if you want up-to-the-minute updates, keep an eye out there or follow along on my Letterboxd. So far, my favorites of the Fest are Extra OrdinaryVHYes, and the aforementioned Color Out of Space, but I’ve got a lot more movies to go.

I had hoped to be over this cough before Panic Fest rolled around, but it seems that isn’t in the cards. In spite of what several people have now tried to assert, this is not my new identity, and I am not going to become a consumptive Victorian dandy with decoratively bloodstained handkerchief. I will shake this cough eventually, but when is anybody’s guess.

I saw the doctor again on Thursday, and the prognosis continues to be that it’s nothing more serious than post-viral bronchitis – essentially minor nerve damage caused by coughing that is, in its turn, causing me to continue to cough.

Those who have been following along for a while now know that Panic Fest is an emotional time for me. It was years ago, at Panic Fest, that I got the call that began a series of tumbling dominoes that ended with my dad’s death – although, of course, that wasn’t the ending, just the beginning of a lot of work and therapy on my part over the intervening years.

But, thanks to that association, Panic Fest became the last weekend for a very long time that I got to feel “normal” for a couple of days. That isn’t the only reason it’s emotional, though. Not anymore, anyway.

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a new family here in the KC area. They’re scattered and scattershot and they aren’t often in the same place at the same time, but if this new family has a living room, it’s the Screenland Armour. And the one holiday that they all gather for is Panic Fest.

Folks like Adam and Tim and Eli and Andrew and Steph and Bryce and Amy and Liz and Blair and Kaleigh and Adrian and Brock and Viv and Tyler and Greg and Jenius and many, many others. These folks have become my Screenland family, and they mean a lot to me, even if I don’t see them as often as I would like, or always know how to say it.

For a long time, Panic Fest represented the last time I was really happy. The last time I didn’t feel like my skin was just draped haphazardly over a jagged jumble of uncomfortable emotions. Now, though, things are better, cough notwithstanding, and I feel more comfortable with myself than I ever did before. And Panic Fest has come to represent something else, too. A new family, and a new place where I feel at home.

home_eyes_2019Once again, Panic Fest has come and gone. Well, not actually. As I write this, it’s still going on for two more nights of extended programming, but I’ve made it out for the last time, and not just because temperatures are supposed to get to literally below zero over the next couple of days, with windchills that can purportedly cause frostbite in minutes.

Panic Fest is a special time for me. Sure, it’s awesome to have a local horror film festival right here in my own town, let alone one that’s been named one of the best in the country. But that’s not the only reason. It’s not even just because all my awesome local film friends are in one place at the same time, even if we probably actually see each other less than we would the rest of the time, because we’re running around trying to catch as many movies as we can. It’s a special time for me because it marks an anniversary.

I’ve talked at some greater length about it in the past, but it was as I was leaving the house to go to Panic Fest 2015 that I got the phone call that set into motion the series of events which culminated in my dad’s death and several years worth of intervening therapy and… y’know, heavy stuff. Panic Fest felt like the last weekend for a long time where I got to just go be happy, and so every year it stirs up a lot of sometimes conflicting emotions, but I always love it, and I loved it this year, too.

Thanks in part to extended programming, not to mention the Screenland’s two fancy new screens, I got to see more movies this year than ever before. Total for the entire Fest was 11 films if you count Satan Place, which I watched at the kickoff event thanks to the folks at Magnetic Magic, plus one shorts block and about half of a live-reading of an adapted (we’ll say) version of the screenplay for Jason Takes Manhattan, which was a hoot.

Besides that I saw St. AgathaBook of MonstersGagsLuzThe LuringThe WindOne Cut of the DeadLords of ChaosThe Golem, and Starfish. Highlights of the Fest were definitely One Cut (which must be seen to be believed; go into it as cold as possible), Gags, and Starfish, but most of what I saw was good. The highs may not have been quite as high as last year, but the lows were also not as low, and overall it was a good crop. You may see me write more about Gags down the road, too. We’ll see.

Phil Gelatt convinced me to give Letterboxd a spin shortly before the Fest, so I’m on there. I haven’t reviewed the Panic Fest movies yet, and I may not, but if you want specific thoughts about any of them, feel free to DM me or email me or whatever.

One specific highlight of this year’s Fest was getting to meet Charles Pieper in person. He and I had been in contact via Twitter, and he invited me to take a look at his short film “Malacostraca” because we were both fellow monster aficionados.  I checked it out, dug it, and recommended that he sub it to Panic Fest, which he did, and it got in, and I got the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen and hearing a guy in the front row loudly exclaim “Jesus!” as the credits rolled. So that was fun.