While it's still clearly the red-headed stepchild of the larger festival, it thankfully grew in most respects this year. While I understand that it became prohibitive for one local film foundation to run two separate festivals at this scale per year, I'm not aware of a reason why they can't be treated with a little more parity when run together.
Scheduling has been one of the major issues over the last couple of years. Most films screened either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, with huge gaps in the middle and many clashes. It was simply impossible to see most of the films shown, which competed with each other for an audience. This year's festival solved that problem by mostly dedicating a theatre to horror sci/fi programming. The fact that many of the screenings sold out throughout the day, from the earliest showings onwards, highlights how important a decision that was.
More slots were made available too. Last year's festival had four features in competition, two horror and two sci-fi. This year there were three of each, on top of the eight showcase features programmed.
There were also two sets of sci-fi shorts and one of horror shorts, as with last year. Unfortunately the second set of horror shorts programmed wasn't shown, though the reason given that a sci-fi bias in the shorts balanced out the horror bias in the showcase features doesn't stand up to analysis. Short films are the lifeblood of genre festivals and I believe that there was enough quality in the submissions this year to allow for three sets of shorts for each genre.
Quality was notably up, especially on the sci-fi side. Anyone who screens submissions to genre festivals knows that they're dominated by horror. Programming the sci-fi side can be a thankless task, but both the volume and the quality of submissions this year was astounding.
There were more special guests too, though they weren't highlighted particularly well on the Phoenix Film Festival side, which leapt at the presence of Teller, accompanying Play Dead, but almost completely ignored the glorious Meg Foster, here to present They Live. The third special guest was Peter Block, here both as executive producer of Saw and as CEO of FearNet, a key festival sponsor. As always, many other filmmakers were present to speak to their films. The Ghastly Love of Johnny X had different guests at each screening and they had plenty of posters to sign too.
The people behind the festival remained consistent again. Check them all out if you're into film in Arizona, beginning with Jason Carney and the folk at the Phoenix Film Foundation. Andrea Beesley, the Midnite Movie Mamacita, is the festival director who also programs the showcase features. Danny Marianino and Brandon Kinchen from I Can Smell Your Brains program the horror side and science fiction writer Mike Stackpole handles the sci-fi side.
Here are all the films that screened this year, with titles linking to my reviews and the IMDb pages added for reference. Here are my reviews for the 2013 festival.
1 - Abysmal | 2 - Bad | 3 - Poor | 4 - OK | 5 - Good | 6 - Excellent | 7 - Classic
|Sader Ridge||2013||4||4||Jeremy Berg||IMDb|
|Found in Time||2012||4||4||Arthur Vincie||IMDb|
|Space Milkshake||2012||5||6||Armen Evrensel||IMDb|
|Errors of the Human Body||2012||5||5||Eron Sheean||IMDb|
|The Four||2012||5||5||Gordon Chan & Janet Chun||IMDb|
|Gamera vs Guiron||1969||3||4||Noriaki Yuasa||IMDb|
|The Ghastly Love of Johnny X||2012||4||5||Paul Bunnell||IMDb|
|Kiss of the Damned||2012||3||3||Xan Cassavetes||IMDb|
|Play Dead||2012||4||5||Shade Rupe & Teller||IMDb|
|They Live||1988||7||7||John Carpenter||IMDb|
|The Root of the Problem||2012||6||6||Ryan Spindell||IMDb|
|Steve from Accounting vs The Shadow Dwellers||2012||5||4||Patrick & Paul Gibbs||IMDb|
|Sybling Rivalry||2011||4||4||Tara Nicole Azarian||IMDb|
|Midnight Daisy||2012||6||6||Asa Shumskas-Tait||IMDb|
|Welcome Wagon||2012||4||4||Jessica Lee Wright||IMDb|
|Killer Kart||2012||6||6||James Feeney||IMDb|
|Sci-Fi Shorts A|
|Dry Gulch||2012||5||5||Alejandro Alberola||IMDb|
|Ellie||2012||6||5||Ricky Lloyd George||IMDb|
|A Conversation About Cheating with My Time Traveling Future Self||2012||5||5||Pornsak Pichetshote||IMDb|
|The Secret Keeper||2011||6||6||Bears Fonté||IMDb|
|Low Tide in the High Desert||2011||5||5||Stanley Ray||IMDb|
|Restitution||2011||6||5||Justin O'Neal Miller||IMDb|
|Iris||2012||5||5||Justin S Lee||IMDb|
|Sci-Fi Shorts B|
|All I Think of is You||2012||5||5||Shad Clark||IMDb|
|Golem||2013||4||4||Patrick McCue & Tobias Wiesner||IMDb|
|Sunset Day||2012||4||4||J A Duran||IMDb|
|White Room: 02B3||2012||5||5||Greg Aronowitz||IMDb|
|The Phoenix||2012||5||6||Carmelo Zucco||IMDb|