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Bruce Campbell Horror Fest Has A Monstrous Helping Of Indie Fright Flicks

By Joel Wicklund in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 18, 2016 7:03PM

Natasha Lyonne in "Antibirth." (Photo: IFC Films.)

The Rosemont-O'Hare area will be overrun with pop culture fanatics of all stripes this weekend as Wizard World comes to town. Along with countless cosplay characters, rabid comic book collectors and obsessive autograph hounds, the horror community will make its presence known, and Bruce Campbell's Horror Film Festival will be its "Scare Central."

Though a sidebar of sorts to the massive convention, this showcase for independent horror cinema has become a highly anticipated event in its own right in just two short years. This year's third edition features 16 feature films (most Chicago premieres), a shorts program, and special guest appearances and events over four days. Movies will be shown starting tonight at the Carmike Muvico Rosemont 18, just a short walk from Wizard World's digs at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.

Of the new films, Antibirth seems to be getting the most buzz, both good and bad. Early reviews seem split between praising the movie as an outrageous, witty take on body horror staples and dismissing it as flashy gross-out fare. Stars Natasha Lyonne, Chloƫ Sevigny and Meg Tilly should bring some attention to this tale of a hard-partying girl (Lyonne) whose accidental pregnancy proves to be a bit unusual. It's Tilly's first movie to play in theaters in over 20 years.

Fans of the Saw franchise may want to check out Abattoir from director Darren Lynn Bousman, who helmed the first three sequels in that series, as well as the horror musicals Repo! The Genetic Opera and Alleluia! The Devil's Carnival. His latest is about a haunted house constructed from separate rooms where horrible deaths occurred.

For fright film fans looking for something a little more subtle, Here Alone might fit the bill. Though the plot involving the spread of an apocalyptic virus that turns victims into zombies seems like old hat, the movie's trailer suggests an evocative, intimate approach to the formula. Here Alone won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Of the revivals showing, the best bet is clearly Stuart Gordon's From Beyond (1986). Though not as revered as his Re-Animator (1985), Gordon's second H.P. Lovecraft adaptation is almost as twisted, and boasts some jaw-dropping old school makeup effects. The festival will honor the movie's 30th anniversary with a midnight screening Friday night with star Barbara Crampton attending.

Other revivals include '80s faves The Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps (also celebrating its 30th anniversary), with director Fred Dekker in person and a 25th anniversary showing of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, which presumably is part of a horror festival because of William Sadler's amusing performance as Death.

As for the festival's namesake, Campbell (star of the original, iconic Evil Dead trilogy and Starz' spinoff series, Ash vs. Evil Dead) is only officially scheduled to appear for two events and one is a presentation we'd suggest you skip if it wasn't already sold out. Army of Darkness (1992), the third Evil Dead film, is showing, but it will be presented as a "Movie Interruption," with comedian Doug Benson, Campbell and other guests cracking wise during the film. Though it pales next to Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, the Three Stooges-inspired lunacy of Army has enough laughs to stand on its own, without added commentary.

The live game show, "Last Fan Standing," with Campbell quizzing audience members' pop culture knowledge, sounds like more fun. The competition will be held Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. and Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. at the convention center. As he is a guest at Wizard World throughout the weekend, it's also very possible the host may stop in unannounced before some screenings.

The Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival opens tonight with the local premiere of the thriller, Don't Breathe. Admission for the festival is separate from any Wizard World passes. Festival badges are $100, but you can also buy individual tickets for any film for $12. Check out the full schedule here.