The greater metropolitan area of Phoenix, Arizona in the southwest United States is known as the ‘The Valley of the Sun’ – but something far darker and more outlandish lurks there during late March every year.
For eight days, genre fans descend on the city to enjoy the thrills, gore and futuristic gadgets displayed in all their glory at the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival. Now heading into its 11th anniversary edition for 2015, the fest is the place to go for the best in mainstream sci-fi and horror along with a huge selection – typically 100 or more – of indie efforts at what is described as one of the biggest and most enjoyable film parties of the year.
Since its inception in 2005, the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival has grown to become the top genre event in the southwest, with a simple yet effective ongoing goal: to promote independent filmmaking, with a focus on horror and sci-fi. From this they have created a dynamic, diverse and, most of all, fun fest which continues to bring together the sci-fi and horror communities. To provide an ever larger platform for genre movies, in 2012 the event allied itself – and now runs concurrently with – the larger Phoenix Film Festival, meaning yet more people are attending screenings; 2014 saw over 25,000 attendees walk through the doors.
The festival’s program is packed with genre goodies, including premieres of international feature length and short horror and sci-fi films, as well as tributes, screenings of cult classics and guest speakers from the acting and directing world. Previous editions have seen showings of the acclaimed horror-comedy Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, while 2014 saw Dee Wallace, star of countless films and TV shows including Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, attend for a special retrospective screening of the Stephen King adaptation, Cujo.
Other movies screened at previous fests include the controversial Donkey Punch, which had earlier played out of competition at Sundance, along with retrospectives of such classics as Re-Animator, John Carpenter’s They Live and the original Friday the 13th. Previous Phoenix editions have seen such genre luminaries as Linda ‘The Exorcist’ Blair, Aliens’ Lance Henrikson and Michael Biehn – who screened his directorial debut The Victim – and the legendary director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper, make guest appearances during the festival week.
Alongside the screening program there are numerous awards in both the horror and sci-fi strands, including Best Feature, Best Short, Best Surreal Short Film and Best Splatter, while each year sees inductees into the festival’s Hall of Fame, with the original A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Heather Langenkamp honoured in 2011. Add to this the Annual International Horror and Sci-Fi Screenplay Challenge, numerous parties held inside the Party Pavilion – including the famous Saturday Night Costume Party and the Gore Girl Competition – and the Beat the Geek finals where horror and sci-fi fans take on the experts, and the festival has everything a discerning genre lover could ask for.
The 11th annual International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival takes places from March 26th to April 2nd 2015, at the Phoenix’s Harkins Scottsdale 101 theatre.