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Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival

In its three years, the Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival succeeded in establishing itself as a respected event for filmmakers both local and international. This year it has grown into the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival, offering a broader selection of films in a larger venue, the Dipson Amherst Theater.

Because the term “horror” is self-limiting, programming for Buffalo Dreams has been expanded to include science fiction, fantasy, thriller, action, animation, cult and fan films. There’s even a musical, albeit one you could hardly imagine Fred and Ginger dancing their way through.

The week-long festival, which opens this Friday, will offer 26 features and 59 shorts, including 13 entries from Western New York.

My Fair Zombie
Motivational Growth
Judas Ghost
Wrath of the Crows

The festival’s most high profile event will be Saturday night’s premiere of Return to Nuke ’Em High Vol. 1, the Troma movie that was filmed in Western New York last year. Set in Tromaville (home of The Toxic Avenger), the sci-fi comedy will update the 1986 cult classic Class of Nuke ’Em High with a story involving “the contamination and degradation of the world’s food supply, rampant bullying, LGBT love triumphing over prejudice and violence.” Director and Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman (who also filmed Poultrygeist here) will be present for a post-screening Q&A. At Kaufman’s request, all proceeds from this preview will be donated to the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center.

The week’s films will be presented in 29 “blocks,” generally including a feature and a short film or two. Many of the blocks will also offer Q&As with the filmmakers, some of whom have come from as far as Europe to present their work.

Some highlights from among the films that were previewed:


A young couple moves into a house in a secluded rural section of Pennsylvania, and the wife becomes disturbed by strange happenings. For the first 20 minutes or so it all seems like familiar haunted house stuff, but once it gets going this is that rarity, a thriller where at least I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next. A genuinely original script, well acted and smartly filmed. Saturday 3:30pm.

My Fair Zombie

Just what it sounds like: My Fair Lady with zombies. Surprisingly, it’s more of an homage to the former than you might be expecting, to the point where you wonder if Lerner and Lowe are likely to sue. (If George Bernard Shaw was alive today I’ll bet he’d be writing zombie stories with a socialist bent.) The gore isn’t too hardcore, so it’s probably the one film in the festival you can take your mom too. Saturday 6:30pm.

Motivational Growth

Imagine Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage by way of Bocat Goldthwait’s Shakes the Clown and the musical version of Little Shop of Horrors you’ve got this extremely odd black comedy about a suicidal agorophobe whose life is saved—or at least taken over—by a large patch of mold in his bathroom. Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs provides the voice of the mold, which refers to itself in the third person and has dialogue so ornate you’ll want a printed copy of the script so you can steal his lines. Saturday 1pm.

Judas Ghost

From England, an adaptation of one of Simon R. Green’s Ghost Finders books, though the film stands on its own. A team of professional spook busters tackles an infestation in an old school building, their cockiness giving way to terror as they realize how far in over their heads they are. Director Simon Pearce offers a textbook example of taking a seeming limitation (all the action is confined to a single large room) and turning it to his advantage with imaginative camerawork and lighting. Sunday 7:25pm.

The Last Days of Kaptara and Dust of War

Two flawed by likeable attempts at capturing the Saturday matinee ambiance that first sparks most genre fans. Kaptara uses motion capture effects, previously a big-budget toy, for a fantasy story set in ancient Greece that pits a captured prince and his crew against the Minotaur, the half-human half-bull monster. Dust is a post-apocalyptic story in the Mad Max/Terminator mold set on the American prairies. It’s chief appeal is in its characters, especially Gary Graham (looking like a ringer for Billy Bob Thornton) as the hero’s sidekick. Sunday 1pm; Tuesday 2pm.

On Air

From Germany, a brutal variation on the Saw theme with a serial killer forcing a pirate radio host to try to stop his next killings without going off the air. Yes it has subtitles, but if you let that keep you away you’ll be missing one of the strongest entries of the festival. Wednesday 7pm.

Wrath of the Crows

Fans of Italian horror will want to check this out, even if all the dialogue is in English. Cells in a decrepit prison building hold people whose crimes fell outside the range of the justice system. Whether they will live and how they will die are questions that torment them as we revisit their crimes. Starring Tiffany Shepis and Debbie Rochon. Friday 2:45pm.

Two movies that I can’t actually recommend but are worth mentioning: ROAD TO HELL is sort of an unauthorized sequel to Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire, with Michael Pare reprising his role as bounty hunter Cody, facing the serial killer daughter of his old nemesis in the Arizona desert. It’s fascinatingly bad, at least if you remember the details of its predecessor, padded out with recreations of the Jim Steinman songs used in Streets. PINUP DOLLS ON ICE is a slasher movie in the Halloween/Friday the 13th mode that reaches new depths of brutal violence against women. If this is your idea of a good time please don’t move into my neighborhood.

For more information and to purchase advance tickets, visit

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