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Also announcing the 2nd annual Apocalypse Later International Fantastic Film Festival!
Filmmakers, submissions for horror and sci-fi shorts are open through Film Freeway.

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Sunday, 20 March 2016

International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival 2016



It's almost time for the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival again. Nowadays this is the genre track of the Phoenix Film Festival and it will run from 7th to 14th April at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 at the very top right corner of Phoenix.

This was my first film festival and it's still my favourite, excluding my own, the Apocalypse Later International Fantastic Film Festival, which I'm kicking off this October. More on that soon! I love this festival so much I wrote a book about it, The International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival: The Transition Years, in which I review every feature and every short that played this festival in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The schedules are now up, so check out the Phoenix Film Festival schedule grid. If you just want to see what's playing, you can leap stright to the succinct 2016 IHSFFF index that I've built at Apocalypse Later. I maintain indexes for every year that the festival has run (and this is the twelfth) with titles, years, directors and IMDb links. As I watch films, I add ratings. As I review them, I turn the film titles into links to my reviews.

This is a particularly interesting year for me and I'm eager to see how it turns out. This is for a couple of reasons.

One is that, for the first time in many years, there's been a change to the crew who mount the festival each year. Andrea Canales, the Midnite Movie Mamacita, who we first met at this event in 2007 and who has served as Festival Director for many years, has stepped down and Monte Yazzie, formerly the festival manager, has stepped into her shoes. I'm fascinated to see what vision he'll bring to the event.

Another is that 2016 marks the last in a new set of three years, the time period by which this festival has identified itself thus far:
  • The 'Early Years' from 2005 to 2007 were wildly inconsistent but very eager, with the festival full of life and happy to try anything new. It didn't really know what it wanted to do at this point but it was having a blast finding out.
  • The 'Indie Years' from 2008 to 2010 took the show on the road, playing indie theatres with a very consistent model. It knew what it was at this point and was happy with its vision.
  • The 'Transition Years' from 2011 to 2013 saw the festival eaten by its bigger sister, the Phoenix Film Festival, shrinking down to a shadow of its former self but then steadily building back up again.
You can see many differences in this table, which counts the number of features and sets of shorts, how many were in competition and the number of total slots.

Features Shorts Slots
Era Year Horror Sci-Fi Showcase Horror Sci-Fi Other Comp Total
Early 2005
2006
2007
4
4
3
3
3
3
8
6
14
3
3
3
2
3
2
0
0
1
12
13
11
20
19
26
Indie 2008
2009
2010
3
3
3
2
2
2
13
12
12
2
2
2
1
2
2
1
1
0
8
9
9
22
22
21
Transition 2011
2012
2013
3
2
3
1
2
3
5
8
8
1
1
1
2
2
2
0
0
0
7
7
8
12
15
17
? 2014
2015
2016
3
3
4
3
4
3
11
9
9
2
2
2
2
2
2
0
0
0
10
11
11
21
20
20

It's reasonably easy to see the patterns:
  • The Early Years show inconsistent numbers, especially with showcase features and the total number of slots for material. They were the strongest era for competition films, both for features and shorts, especially on the horror side.
  • The Indie Years ran very consistently, with no numbers different by more than one throughout that era. They were the strongest era for showcase films, with competition film slots moving over to showcase.
  • The Transition Years dropped most numbers greatly, though horror features and sci-fi stable but horror shorts down and sci-fi features having to build back up. They were the weakest era for number of slots available, whether in competition or not, but numbers grew year on year.
  • The new, as yet unnamed era, saw the stop to that regrowth, stabilising it and keeping each set of numbers relatively consistent. They weren't the strongest or the weakest era for anything except the number of sci-fi features in competition, which reached a new peak.
Incidentally, the 'Other' category that you may be wondering about were sets of local horror short films called Seven Deadly Films (2007) or Deadly Event (2008 and 2009). They're the biggest anomaly to the concept of trilogy years, as they start and a year off.

Another table highlighting the venues is even more obvious:

Era Year Location
Early 2005
2006
2007
Harkins Centerpoint and Valley Art
Harkins Centerpoint
Harkins Centerpoint
Indie 2008
2009
2010
Chandler Cinemas
MADCAP Theatres
MADCAP Theatres
Transition 2011
2012
2013
Harkins Scottsdale 101
Harkins Scottsdale 101
Harkins Scottsdale 101
? 2014
2015
2016
Harkins Scottsdale 101
Harkins Scottsdale 101
Harkins Scottsdale 101

It's easy to see threes here. Pretty obviously, the first three years were on Mill Ave in Tempe at Harkins venues, the second went on the road to indepedent venues and the third and fourth have been back within Harkins at a consistent location.

Another way to look at the festival is by its count of older films on the schedule and the number of guests who were often there to introduce them.

Era Year Older Films Guests
Early 2005
2006
2007
2
1
5
3
4
4
Indie 2008
2009
2010
6
5
3
2
3
2
Transition 2011
2012
2013
0
1
1
1
1
1
? 2014
2015
2016
1
0
0
1
0
0

Again, it's pretty easy to delineate here but there's some background to note too:

  • The Early Years saw the most guests but the number of older films varied. Some presented other material, others simply came to be inducted in the IHSFFF Hall of Fame.
  • The Indie Years saw the number of guests drop but still remain high, while the older films thrived. This was in part due to tie-ins to local repertory cinema efforts.
  • The Transition Years dropped all these numbers to token values. Both Heather Langenkamp and Michael Biehn presented new material.
  • The new, as yet unnamed era, dropped both ideas entirely, with Dee Wallace-Stone's presentation of Cujo the only number for either.

So what will the years of 2014 to 2016 be remembered as? Well, that's still up in the air but I'm eager to find out.

I think they may be the Reevaluation Years, in which the festival did well and justified its bulking back up from the low year of 2011, but struggled to really affirm itself as its own entity, partly for inherent reasons due to its being rolled into the Phoenix Film Festival but also partly from the standpoint of vision.

Losing its status as a separate event meant that patrons couldn't buy an IHSFFF ticket any more, just a Phoenix Film Festival one, and dedicated VIP passes vanished too (a VIP pass to IHSFFF used to cost $100, while the equivalent PFF pass, which admittedly covers a longer period of time, costs two to three times that). Dedicated program books stopped and the only merchandise that remained available year on year are T-shirts.

But while I can easily see the vision for the Early, Indie and Transition years, I can't for the new era yet, beyond a shift in policy from having a guest to draw customers and introduce a classic film to entirely focusing on new material.

Perhaps after watching everything screening this year, something will come to mind to replace the Reevaluation Years. Perhaps, only after the fifth set of three years will the differences really become obvious.

See you there!

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