Miami Attractions: Popcorn Frights Film Festival December 12-19 August 2021

The Popcorn Frights Film Festival returns for another scare with a week of handpicked horror films. Last year the festival found a feeling of homeland and merged with other regional horror festivals to create a mega-national virtual festival.

For 2021, Popcorn Frights goes solo, like “the last girl” in a slasher film, with a hybrid offering of virtual screenings and personal events in the Silverspot Cinema Coconut Creek. On its own, the festival has the opportunity to assert itself once again as what MovieMaker calls one of the “50 best genre festivals in the world”.

The 2021 edition kicks off with a highly anticipated Florida premiere of The Night House, a supernatural thriller from director David Bruckner starring Rebecca Hall. Bruckner terrified audiences with his final film, The Ritual, in which he explored rituals of male attachment, and returned with a female-focused film with Hall that best suited audiences out of blockbuster kitchens like Godzilla vs. Kong and arthouse endeavors as Christine is known.

The Night House is a high-concept horror film that takes the classic trope des doubles to extremes. Exploring the uncanny and rooted in trauma and loss, the film is both a ghost story and a haunted house film. Hall’s nuanced performance drives the film, bringing authenticity and emotional realism, reflecting epic horror performances like Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist, Toni Collette in Hereditary and Lupita Nyong’o in Us. Full of collective leaps, horrors, and screams, it’s the perfect film to kickstart Popcorn Fright’s return to personal screenings.

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Don’t worry – the festival keeps the momentum going with a series of world premieres throughout the weekend. Pretty Boy is a new slasher film reminiscent of the Wait Until Dark premise starring Audrey Hepburn, when a masked killer wielding chopping knives chases a blind woman in the Hollywood Hills on Valentine’s Day. Then there is Ditched, who turns the movie about survival when a young Inuit medic is stranded in a dark forest after an accident, surrounded by a pack of convicted murderers. And tuned to the cultural zeitgeist and the horrors of a vacation gone wrong, Superhost follows two travel vloggers who encounter a host looking for more than a five-star rating.

click to enlarge The Night House is a supernatural thriller from director David Bruckner. - PHOTO courtesy of POPCORN FRIGHTS

The Night House is a supernatural thriller from director David Bruckner.

Photo courtesy Popcorn Frights

Perhaps the weekend’s potential highlight is Take Back the Night, which combines horror with social criticism. After Jane is attacked by a monster and starts a vigilante mission, her previous problems with drugs and mental illness re-emerge, leading people to question the veracity of her story. The provocative film offers a fascinating analysis of our current rape culture with an important social message. Director Gia Elliot, star and co-writer Emma Fitzpatrick, and actresses Angela Gulner and Corina Kinnear will attend the screening for an exciting post-film discussion.

After the more national focus last year, Popcorn Frights has cleverly put local films in the spotlight this time around. The first offering is Offseason, set in a deserted island town in Florida that gives American Gothic a Florida twist. With grandiose performances by Joceline Donahue (The House of the Devil) and Joe Swanberg (You’re Next), the atmospheric film captures the strangeness of the Sunshine State, and director Mikey Keating will be present at the screening for a discussion.

In addition to feature films, the festival offers a collection of short films called “Homegrown: 100% Pure Fresh Squeezed Florida Horror” that showcase the work of local filmmakers and offer them a platform to share their work with a wider audience. In The Welder, which was filmed in the Everglades, horror hits very close again. The film follows a young couple who seek reconnection in a pastoral paradise, only to find a hellish landscape when they are terrorized by a madman who conducts crazy experiments.

Taking advantage of the fact that this year’s festival falls on Friday 13th, Popcorn Frights is showing Friday 13th Part VI: Jason Lives to celebrate the film’s 35th anniversary. It’s a quirky entry in the franchise that manages to fuse the spirit of Gothic horror with the aesthetics of 1980s action cinema. In a wonderful juxtaposition, Part VI draws inspiration from universal monster films of the 1930s and anticipates the meta-humor of the Scream series and other contemporary horror-comedy hybrids.

The horror genre is a visceral and experiential form of cinema that benefits from a theatrical and collaborative experience. There is something electrifying and special about sitting in the dark with friends and strangers and sharing the thrill, the shudders and the horrors. That said, if you’re concerned about personal enjoyment, Popcorn Frights offers plenty of practically accessible gore.

Popcorn Scare Film Festival. Thursday, August 12th through Thursday, August 19th; Tickets are $ 13 for in-person events and $ 10 for virtual demonstrations.

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