Panic Fest: Every single feature playing this weekend’s event in Kansas City

Starting out as a small, weekend event, 2018’s Panic Fest is kicking off January 25, at the Screenland Armour in Kansas City, with screenings running all the way until the first of next month. Seven days of genre fare; encompassing horror, animation, shorts, and live podcasts from the likes of Adam Green and Joe Lynch’s The Movie Crypt, Generation Why?, and Nightmare Junkhead (the show from our pals Greg D and Jenius McGee — we hear tell there will be a gameshow). We took the liberty of compiling every feature playing the fest and – where possible – running our reviews of what we’ve seen. It’s a multimedia extravaganza, sure to tempt anyone in the area to check it out.

Tickets and more details are available at the Panic Fest website.

An American Werewolf in London

Wednesday 1/31 at 7:00pm

Two American tourists in England are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children

Sunday 1/28 at 12:30pm

Wednesday 1/30 at 5:00pm and 7:00pm

Stranded on an island in a post-apocalyptic world, teenager Dinky and her friends hatch a dangerous plan to escape in the hope of finding a better life. Meanwhile, her old friend Birdboy has shut himself off from the world, pursued by the police and haunted by demon tormentors. But unbeknownst to anyone, he contains a secret inside him that could change the world forever.

Based on a graphic novel and short film by co-director Alberto Vázquez and winner of the Goya Award for Best Animated Feature (where Vázquez won Best Animated Short Film in the same year), Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is a darkly comic, beautiful and haunting tale of coming of age in a world gone to ruin.

Charismata

Sunday 1/28 at 5:15pm

As a rookie detective struggling to find acceptance in a police department defined by a culture of bullying and intolerance, things go from bad to worse when the chief suspect in a series of brutal ritualistic murders takes a personal interest in her. A game of cat and mouse ensues which sees Rebecca’s grasp on reality beginning to spiral out of control, leading to a terrifying climax where she needs to fight for her sanity, her life and maybe even her soul.

A genuinely disconcerting and disturbing thriller, which sadly goes askew in its final moments. It’s remarkably well-constructed for such a small budget. The limitations show through at times, but the performances by the leads do quite well at making this Satanic-inspired film more uncomfortable than it might be otherwise.

That’s actually the real charm of the film – it’s unsettling for the vast majority of its runtime, and the use of real and/or imagines threats to Rebecca keep the viewer on tenterhooks until the very end. You’re never quite certain as to whether she’s losing her grip on reality due to her life being loaded with stressors or if there’s actually some sort of curse upon her.

The Cured

Friday 1/26 at 9:45pm

Saturday 1/27 at 1:45pm

A disease that turned people into zombies has been cured. The once-infected zombies are discriminated against by society and their own families, which causes social issues to arise. This leads to militant government interference.

Dead Shack

Sunday 1/28 at 4:30pm

Tuesday 1/30 at 9:00pm

On a weekend getaway at a rundown cabin in the woods, Jason, a cautious teen, his crude best friend Colin and his fearless older sister Summer are forced to work together, grow up and save their hard-partying parents from their predatory neighbor intent on feeding them all to her undead family.

This Canadian zombie flick might not breaking any new ground, but the performances are solid, the humor silly, and the situations creepy. Maybe not on the level of Evil Dead II, Shaun of the Dead, or Tucker & Dale as far as comedic horror goes – nor as actually spooky as Housebound – but I was entertained watching it. While it’s not likely to merit a repeat viewing or later purchase on video, it’s a perfectly serviceable zombie horror comedy. Like Dead Snow, but tighter.

While it’s unfortunately best described in reference to other movies, it really does come to life, visually. There are a lot of shots from above of the woods wherein the vastness of where the group is comes into strong view, and I’ve started to really appreciate horror which uses wilderness as production value. Woodland vistas can be astonishingly creepy.

Get Out

Thursday 1/25 at 7:00pm

Chris and his girlfriend Rose go upstate to visit her parents for the weekend. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.

Uncomfortable and tense the whole way through in a sense few films are able pull off, much less ones from a first-time director. Peele knows how to pull tension from everyday interactions, as well as creating scenes which go further afield.

The lockstep tightness of Peele’s script is something which hasn’t gotten the acclaim it should. Every scene has something of significance that pays off later, and the amount of “Oooooh!” going on after the film allows for a satisfying revisit of the film in conversation for hours after.

Plus, it’s scary. It’s uncomfortable. You’ll leave the theater sweaty and kind of wrung out, but in a mindset to see it again – or, failing that, to tell all your friends that they need to see it.

Hostile

Saturday 1/27 at 7:45pm

Monday 1/29 at 9:15pm

Juliette, a lone survivor of an apocalyptic era, fights to survive against hunger, thirst, a broken leg and strange disturbing creatures that only comes out at nighttime.

Imitation Girl

Tuesday 1/30 at 7:15pm

Thursday 2/1 at 8:30pm

A mysterious young woman materializes in the middle of the southwestern desert, where each step teaches her about her new world and her new body. As she assumes her new life, she discovers she has a twin with whom she shares more than just an outward appearance.

Lowlife

Saturday 1/27 at 10:00pm

Sunday 1/28 at 7:15pm

The sordid lives of an addict, an ex-con, and a luchador collide when an organ harvesting caper goes very, very wrong.

Mayhem

Friday 1/26 at 9:45pm

A dangerous virus is discovered in a corporate law building, the very same firm that recently cleared an infected man on murder charges. When a quarantine is issued and the building goes on lock-down, all hell breaks loose inside. A disgruntled employee and an irate client must fight and even kill their way to the top to “have a word” with the corrupt executives who wronged them before time runs out.

Fun times. Brutal, stupid fun times. Hell of a viewing experience. Coming on the heels of The Belko Experiment – with which it shares its office building setting and excessive violence – one is likely to compare the two, but Mayhem is more akin to Romero’s The Crazies than anything else. The film involves some really creative uses of various pieces of office equipment and power tools, to say nothng of another rather energetic performance from Samara Weaving on the heels of The Babysitter. Steven Yeun’s the real stand-out, here, though. His character has an actual arc, and is called upon to show more than just nutso violence, which makes his realness stand out in the midst of a cartoon come to life.

Midnighters

Sunday 1/28 at 2:30pm

Wednesday 1/30 at 5:00pm

Midnight, New Year’s Eve: when all the hopes of new beginnings come to life – except for Lindsey and Jeff Pittman, whose strained marriage faces the ultimate test after they cover up a terrible crime and find themselves entangled in a Hitchcockian web of deceit and madness.

Mohawk

Saturday 1/27 at 3:50pm (with director Ted Geoghegan Q&A)

Thursday 2/1 at 6:30pm

 

Check out our interview with director Ted Geoghegan on Mohawk.

Late in The War of 1812, a Mohawk woman (Hemlock Grove‘s Kaniehtiio Horn) finds herself pursued by a bloodthirsty American colonel (The Hills Have Eyes‘ Ezra Buzzington) and a ragtag group of soldiers after one of her tribe sets their camp on fire. An angry, political powerhouse of storytelling, Mohawk is the dramatic, intense follow-up to director Ted Geoghegan’s 2015’s haunted house hit We Are Still Here.

Mom & Dad

Saturday 1/27 at 3:50pm

Tuesday 1/30 at 9:00pm

A teenage girl and her little brother must survive a wild 24 hours during which a mass hysteria of unknown origin causes parents to turn violently on their own kids.

More batshit insane than Mayhem or The Belko Experiment, Mom & Dad goes for broke very quickly. After a brief setup of mom, dad, kids, housekeeper, job, friends – boom. Shit goes DOWN. You don’t know hardcore until you’ve seen a parent shank their kid with a fistful of house keys.

The film goes pretty far, and while it almost goes further than I ever expected (but not quite), it gets near enough to the precipice of full-on crazypants murder that I respect the hell out of the film for leading me to believe it might actually cross a pretty big line.

Standard viral outbreak equals killing plot, but the fact that there’s not one, but TWO Reagan Youth songs – coupled with Nicolas Cage’s absolute glee – had me in love with this picture right from the start, all the way to the end.

Pumpkinhead

Sunday 1/28 at 2:45pm

After a tragic accident, a man conjures up a towering, vengeful demon called Pumpkinhead to destroy a group of unsuspecting teenagers. You’ll get to see Pumpkinhead on the big screen and participate in a Q&A with illustrator Kyle Strahm who is bringing Pumpkinhead to live in a new comic series!

Replace

Friday 1/26 at 5:00pm

Tuesday 1/30 at 5:00pm

Kira’s skin starts to age rapidly, dry out and crumble away. But then she discovers that she can replace her own skin with somebody else’s.

Ruin Me

Friday 1/26 at 5:30pm

Monday 1/29 at 9:15pm

Alexandra reluctantly tags along for Slasher Sleepout, an extreme event that is part camping trip, part haunted house, and part escape room. But when the fun turns deadly, Alex has to play the game if she wants to make it out alive.

Scary Stories

Saturday 1/27 at 11:15am

Monday 1/29 at 5:15pm

Thursday 2/1 at 6:30pm

A documentary about children’s horror classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. It includes the author’s family, scholars, folklorists, artists, and children’s book authors such as R.L. Stine, Q.L. Pearce, and more.

Terrifier

Monday 1/29 at 7:20pm

Thursday 2/1 at 8:30pm

A maniacal clown named Art, terrorizes three young women on Halloween night and everyone else who stands in his way.

They Remain

Sunday 1/28 at 5:00pm

Wednesday 1/30 at 5:00pm

Two scientists investigate the root of environmental changes and strange animal behavior at a remote site where a cult committed atrocities. The isolated location, the unraveling of their relationship, and the biome itself begin to lead them down a path of doom where primeval forces threaten to consume them. An adaptation of Laird Barron’s short story “–30–”.

There’s almost no way to talk about this specifically without spoilers, so we’ll keep it vague: They Remain is creeeeeeeeeeeeeepy.

The film is a gorgeously-shot, minimalist film with good performances. The acting from William Jackson Harper and Rebecca Henderson may not be stellar, but it’s definitely above and beyond a low-budget thriller. Their work is especially good in light of the fact that 95% of They Remain consists of solo performances, or just the two of them.

Everything regarding the crazy, Manson-esque cult is parsed out in such a way that there’s just enough information to keep the movie creepy, but not enough that you wish that the information itself had been the movie. It comes close to that at times, but never goes over the line.

Tigers Are Not Afraid

Saturday 1/27 at 5:45pm

Monday 1/29 at 5:15pm

Tuesday 1/30 at 7:10pm

A dark fairy tale about a gang of five children trying to survive the horrific violence of the cartels and the ghosts created every day by the drug war.

Victor Crowley

Saturday 1/27 at 1:30pm

Ten years after the events of the original movie, Victor Crowley is mistakenly resurrected and proceeds to kill once more.

Vidar the Vampire

Friday 1/26 at 7:30pm

Monday 1/29 at 7:20pm

A Christian farmer searching for a higher purpose to life, falls into sin and wakes up as the Prince of Darkness in the city of Stavanger, Norway.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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