Last year’s inaugural Cinepocalypse was a great surprise, a solid genre film fest dropped seemingly out of nowhere into one of the best theaters in Chicago. That element of surprise has not entirely disappeared with the 2018 edition–instead of waiting a full year to return, Cinepocalypse is back just over six months since the last one! The lineup for this year’s fest is really strong, with some major Chicago premieres and nine world premieres. This may only be the second year for the fest but it’s already starting to shape up as a real contender in genre festivals here in the States, something Chicago has been sorely missing. Here are five films I’m most looking forward to at this year’s Cinepocalypse in no particular order:



RELAXER (USA, dir. Joel Potrykus)

The name “Joel Potrykus” was enough to put this on my list, and I’ve intentionally avoided reading anything about it. Potrykus’s previous features BUZZARD and THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK were defined by wildly unexpected approaches to genre tropes, with subtle but cutting commentary on modern working-class Americans trying to scrape by. After those films, I’ve been anxious to see where Potrykus would go next, so I’ve been looking forward to RELAXER for quite some time. Anyone who hasn’t seen his previous films is strongly encouraged to do so ASAP, preferably knowing as little as possible about them going in. You’re in for a treat.



CLARA’S GHOST (USA, dir. Bridey Elliott)

The polar opposite of RELAXER, I had not had this film on my radar at all until it was announced for Cinepocalypse. Written and directed by Bridey Elliott, CLARA’S GHOST stars her sister Abby and her parents Chris and Paula. Chris Elliott has been a personal hero of mine ever since his absurdist sitcom Get A Life broke my teenage brain during its original run on Fox, so I’m obviously excited to see him in a lead role. But the idea of a genre-tinged family comedy/drama starring an actual family is a great hook, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.



PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH (USA, dir. Sonny Laguna & Tommy Wiklund)

Despite getting some wildly disparate reactions in the wake of previous festival screenings, I’m still really looking forward to this non-Full Moon canon take on PUPPET MASTER. Writer S. Craig Zahler was quite an inspired choice for this given his novelistic features BONE TOMAHAWK and BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99, and the cast is straight-up insane: Barbara Crampton, Thomas Lennon, Michael Paré, Udo Kier, and Charlene Yi? I can’t even begin to process all this information and come up with an idea of what the movie actually could be, so I’m up for pretty much anything.



HOVER (USA, dir. Matt Osterman)

I’m a huge fan of Matt Osterman’s low-budget 2010 feature directorial debut PHASMA EX MACHINA (later re-released as GHOST FROM THE MACHINE), although his follow-up 400 DAYS is still on my “to watch” list. It just got bumped way up in the queue thanks to the announcement of his third feature, HOVER, starring and written by Cleopatra Coleman (late of the sadly overlooked post-apocalyptic sitcom LAST MAN ON EARTH). Osterman made excellent use of very limited resources with his first feature, focusing more on the relationships between characters than traditional genre thrills. My hope is that sensibility carries over to his more recent projects, and I’m anxious to see the results.



GAGS (USA, dir. Adam Krause)

Full disclosure: I know some of the folks who worked on GAGS, so I’m a little biased here. Shot in Wisconsin following a highly effective viral marketing campaign, GAGS is having its world premiere at Cinepocalypse. Hopefully some of its cast and crew will be in attendance to see the result of their hard work on the big screen at the Music Box! The film stars some local talent and also features Lauren Ashley Carter, who has become a household name among horror fans for her excellent work in a number of independent genre films including Chad Crawford Kinkle’s JUG FACE and Mickey Keating’s DARLING. There have been a number of creepy clown movies lately, but Gags’s monochrome look and trademark black balloons promise something a bit different from what we’ve come to expect.



In addition to the two dozen new feature films playing Cinepocalypse, there will be a short film block and some crazy rep screenings including films by Ernest R. Dickerson (JUICE and TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: DEMON KNIGHT) with the director in person, BOUND with Lana Wachowski, a 25th anniversary screening of JUDGMENT NIGHT with director Stephen Hopkins, a 30th anniversary screening of KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE with the Chiodo Brothers, and a 70mm print of HOWARD THE DUCK (!!!!!). This promises to be a hell of a good time, and I’m looking forward to running myself ragged at this fest for many years to come, fingers crossed!


Cinepocalypse runs from June 21st through June 28th at the Music Box Theatre. Full schedule and information including badges and individual screening tickets are available on the Music Box site here: https://musicboxtheatre.com/events/cinepocalypse-2018


–Jason Coffman (@rabbitroom)

Jason Coffman
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