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Cinepocalypse is coming to Chicago, bringing with it an explosive line up of the most powerful, compelling, thrilling and terrifying genre programming.

Since 2014, Bruce Campbell’s Horror Film Festival, the mid-west’s largest cinematic horror gathering, has terrorized audiences with an annual slate of premiere films, guests, and bloodcurdling entertainment. This year, one of the best horror film fests has teamed up with one of the most prestigious art house theaters to launch a new genre film festival that promises to be bigger and better than ever.

Taking place November 2-9, the newly christened CINEPOCALYPSE will make Chicago’s Music Box Theatre its new home. The festival promises a full week of ass-kicking genre movies, special guests and events.

This year’s Cinepocalypse, November 2-9, will features scary-good world & regional premieres, repertory screenings, special guests, parties, and much more. Of the over 60 films selected, highlights include the World Premiere of PRIMAL RAGE; North American Premieres of RENDEL, SNOWFLAKE, and THE TERROR OF HALLOW’S EVE; and U.S. Premieres of BEYOND SKYLINE, LOWLIFE, DOWNRANGE, and MOTORRAD!

As I prepare my list of films I hope to screen at this year’s event, I have the daunting task of trying to narrow my selections from the extensive list of festival films, representing the best the genre has to offer. After reviewing the impressive lineup of buzzworthy, groundbreaking horror from around the world, here are the top ten films I consider essential viewing.


TOP TEN MOST ANTICIPATED CINEPOCALYPSE FILMS (DESCRIPTIONS FROM FESTIVAL WEBSITE)

1. THE TERROR OF HALLOW’S EVE (A FILM BY TODD TUCKER) 

 Timmy Stevens is a socially awkward 15-year-old, obsessed with horror movies and frequently beaten up by high school bullies. Timmy’s wish for vicious revenge unwittingly unleashes a particularly nasty creature known as The Trickster on Halloween Night. Genre veteran Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) provides an amazingly evil creature performance, but the real stars here are the array of surprisingly effective creature FX and affection for old-school ’80s mayhem.

2. HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE (A FILM BY LUKAS FEIGELFELD) 

Set in the Austrian Alps during the middle ages, this morbid and visually stunning tale deals with the fine line between ancient beliefs in magic and delusional psychosis. An impressive, haunting, and almost entirely silent first feature.

3. CHARISMATA (A FILM BY ANDY COLLIER, TOOR MIAN) 

A rookie female detective, struggling to find acceptance in a police department defined by a culture of bullying and intolerance, watches as things go from bad to worse as her chief suspect in a series of brutal ritualistic murders takes a personal interest in her. A game of cat and mouse degrades the detective’s grasp on reality and, as she spirals out of control, this young woman must suddenly fight for her sanity, life… and maybe even her soul.

4. ANIMALS (TIERE) (A FILM BY GREG ZGLINSKI) 

A vehicle collision with a sheep on a country road initiates a whole series of weird and unsettling experiences for a couple in this darkly comical, Lynchian nightmare. Are they in the real world, their own imaginations—or are they trapped in someone else’s imagination?

5. GET MY GUN (A FILM BY BRIAN DARWAS)

This wonderfully executed homage to beloved and controversial exploitation classics of the past (namely Abel Ferrera’s Ms. 45 and Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave) proves itself not just as an imitator, but in a self-styled league of its own. After a horrible attack leaves Amanda pregnant and out of a job, she finds herself on the verge of motherhood and the target of a psychotic stalker who will stop at nothing to get her hands on the unborn child.

6. DOWNRANGE (A FILM BY RYÛHEI KITAMURA)

A merciless, enigmatic sniper takes aim at a car filled with college kids, disabling their vehicle on a desolate country road and methodically picking them off, one by one. A perfect exercise in minimalist simplicity and slow-burn hysterical panic, this latest, nail-biting offering from genre veteran Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train, Versus) contains the filmmaker’s trademark creeping tension, sudden violence, and extreme nihilism. In other words, things get pretty dark, especially when a second car shows up to provide relief, but only results in upping the body count.

7. SNOWFLAKE (A FILM BY ADOLFO KOLMERER, WILLIAM JAMES)

Take a dash of Tarantino, a splash of Coen brothers, a metric ton of pretzel-logic self-awareness, and a fast-paced series of humorously violent misadventures, and you’re halfway to grasping the magnificent German madness of this bizarre import. Hunting down the murderer of their families in a near-future Berlin, a gang of lowlife characters all want revenge on each other, but along the way they must contend with a myriad of wicked fairytale types—assassins, madmen, a blood-covered angel, and an electric-powered superhero—all apparently come to life through a screenplay written by a demented but clueless dentist. Must be experienced to be believed, and guaranteed to twist your mind.

8. MOTORRAD (A FILM BY VICENTE AMORIM)

A slasher film by way of George Miller’s Mad Max meets Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, this violence-fueled adrenaline ride will leave you absolutely breathless. In this visually stunning Brazilian import, a gang of dirt-bikers on a ride across an isolated region, find themselves being hunted by a machete-wielding band of motorcyclists intent on killing them all. Based on characters created by Marvel comic book author Danilo Beyruth, this atmospheric and suspenseful genre film also functions as an allegory to our battles within. It’s as smart as it is downright frightening, and we’re damn excited to unleash this beast on U.S. audiences for the very first time!

9. SEQUENCE BREAK (A FILM BY GRAHAM SKIPPER)

To call this freaky dark romance a love letter to David Cronenberg’s classic Videodrome would be an understatement, but at least writer/director Graham Skipper has awfully good taste in influences. Sequence Break is a story of a lonely guy, a sweet girl, a deserted arcade, and a video game with insidiously biomechanical tendencies…and innards—all of which become intertwined in a perverse, melancholic string of events that will leave all of them forever changed.

10. POOR AGNES (A FILM BY NAVIN RAMASWARAN)

Genre audiences are so conditioned to seeing onscreen, male serial killers commit all manner of terrible acts on mostly female victims that we’ve grown numb to it. So what happens when the exact same acts of torture, degradation and murder are committed by a female killer upon a male victim? Does it make you feel ill at ease, and if so, why? These are among the many daring ideas that Poor Agnes asks viewers to contemplate while watching a powerhouse performance by lead actress Lora Bruke (as Agnes) as she puts a male captive through torment after torment. This one is destined to become a much-talked-about work of aggressively disturbing filmmaking.

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