Nightstream 2021

Nightstream returned for another online union of the Boston Underground Film Festival, Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, North Bend Film Festival and The Overlook Film Festival.

With so many films watched recently due to online festival coverage, Nightstream represented a chance, like its 2020 event, to indulge in some horror events that move beyond the films itself and engage more creatives in discussion about their careers and processes. Some films I had managed to see before the event itself so I have outlined those reviews below, followed by a write-up of a few events I managed to see this year:

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched
Alien On Stage
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
The Greenhouse

A Celebration of Chucky with Don Mancini and Peaches Christ

The Child’s Play franchise has gone from strength to strength, most recently making the move to television with a new SyFy series. Creator Don Mancini joined Peaches Christ for a discussion of the series and the way it has evolved. Kicking off with a performance from Peaches, it is clear from the outset what the Chucky films mean to audiences, particularly queer audiences. From Bride of Chucky (which Mancini relates as a deliberate choice to add glamour) and definitely Seed of Chucky, that queer sensibility has brought itself front and centre. Throughout the talk, the importance of the new Chucky television show featuring a 14-year-old boy who knows he is gay was repeated – an open representation that could strike a chord with many young viewers questioning their sexuality. Don Mancini also called attention to how the franchise is able to continually reinvent itself, with Curse a skew back towards outright horror to prove Chucky still has the ability to scare. Coupled with some fun anecdotes about Chucky’s popularity across the world, some clips from the new series to whet the appetite and some stories from the Hannibal writers room, this made for an excellent, uplifting chat between two people with a huge amount of affection for horror.

A Conversation With CREEPSHOW Showrunner Greg Nicotero and Writer Mattie Do

Confession time: I’ve yet to see any of the Shudder Creepshow episodes – not through any kind of avoidance, just an abundance of other content I keep getting to first. However, if you have Mattie Do on a panel, I’ll watch – you can still check out an excellent Q+A following a screening of The Long Walk here. Do is truly one of the most exciting voices working in horror today and her panel appearances are always lively and engaging. Greg Nicotero brings a wealth of experience in horror effects, props and of course, as a producer on both Creepshow and The Walking Dead. The main topic of discussion was around Do’s final episode segment Drug Traffic, which tackles themes of authority, borders and anti-Asian sentiment. The conversation also turned to the supernatural being at the heart of Lao culture, with festivals dedicated to honouring the dead and bringing the fantastic into everyday life. Finishing up on some discussions of her next projects and the future for Creepshow this was a thoroughly engaging chat, curated well by Clark Collis.

The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies Presents The Back Rooms: An Exploration Of The Creepypastas Phenomenon

Creepypastas have long been part of internet lore, becoming collaborative works of storytelling and art making that take on a life way beyond their first appearance. Introduced by genre favourite Graham Skipper, Simon Laperrière led a tour into the phenomenon, using The Backrooms as a gateway. Offering liminal spaces in which it is said to be possible to ‘unclip from reality’ The Backrooms works well as an example of the expansive nature of the creepypasta form. Complete with intricate, textured guides to different rooms, they function as vivid online participatory culture, moving from urban legends into something more creative. Laperrière also gave an interesting overview of how the Slenderman movie failed to capture the spirit and intrigue of creepypasta (no argument here).

The Future of Film Is Female Presented by Daily Dead

Returning for 2021, The Future of Film is Female brought together a great panel of female filmmakers, academics and film festival programmers, moderated by Caryn Coleman to discuss the future of horror as it relates to female and non-binary work. Featuring A.K. Espada, Samantha Aldana, Kate Robertson, Ashlee Blackwell and Lisa Dreyer, this was a lively conversation that managed to focus not only on women behind the camera, but also those writing about the subject and those putting films in front of audiences or teaching film students. There was lots of insight into what ‘radical empathy’ meant to the panel in their work and consumption of horror films. Perhaps most interesting was a discussion of curating horror for University students where a tolerance for horror was an unknown and appreciation of the genre could not be assumed. All the projects mentioned all suggest great things to come, supporting the idea that the future of horror is female.

You can read more about Nightstream at the webpage, including a rundown of the Audience Awards.

Synonymous With

An achingly beautiful love letter to the ‘other’.

Synopsis: A student’s increasingly intimate line of questioning causes his interview with a local horror host to take a vulnerable turn.

Told through a mixture of photo collage, archive clips and interview segments, Synonymous With is built on the conversations between largely unseen interviewer Jackson Weil (Thom Hilton) and former public access television host Syn (Remy Germinario). As the first Halloween without Syn’s TVKTV13 show Synister Synema with Myster Synonymous looms, a local film student looks to uncover more about the man behind the persona.

At only 12 minutes long, Synonymous With contains a wealth of emotive material, wearing its fondness for horror on its sleeve as well as delving into why those in the LGBTQ+ community and others who find themselves outside of the ‘norm’ discover solace in horror. Early in the film, Syn draws attention to the idea that popular people didn’t ‘need’ his public access channel, but those who found it were able to be ‘unknown, together’ in one of the film’s most touching sentiments. That sense of being an outsider, especially in a queer context and finding some kind of communal experience is one the film handles with particular skill and empathy.

Collaged photos deliver a definite sense of space, drawing on that wonderful small town Halloween feel of crunchy leaves, chilly weather and quirky decorations. The camera initially feels static, situating Syn as small, dwarfed by his persona, the world and the horror posters surrounding him. The increasing fluidity of the camera starts to allow him more space in which he is the central figure and focus of the attention. This stylistic shift assists in the building of their rapport but with a largely unspoken tension bubbling. Germinario makes for a charming screen presence, wearing vulnerability, quiet anger and a range of other emotions as the interviews progress. As the pair continue to converse, that uncomfortable early, almost parasocial intimacy begins to unwind. Their relationship is delicately built, readdressing boundaries and reframing roles in a way that is difficult not to be swept along with.

The crafting of the Synister Synema segments is excellent, with a playful camp at its centre in both the props, staging and Syn’s commentary. There is an authenticity in that low budget presentation of people being left to create for themselves and others like them, rather than trying to approach the mainstream. As much as this functions as an ode to the horror genre and its hosts, there is also a deeply held affection for the spaces that allow them to be unpolished and ungoverned, even if it is that very quality that means they may disappear without trace. That liminality of not knowing who (if anyone) is watching and if it is important to them is a deeply affecting idea.

I don’t mind saying that I have cried every single time I have watched this quiet, delicate film. The disarming vulnerability and striking beauty of finding light in darkness is a truly romantic one: a meditation on the power of being seen.

You can now watch Synonymous With on Vimeo.