Horror film festivals you shouldn’t miss

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Are you a genre filmmaker looking for horror film festivals to submit your film or screenplay to? Are you a horror lover who just wants to go see some exciting indie films? Are you a filmmaker who is curious about the world of indie horror films? Today I have listed nine exciting and reputable horror film festivals that should be on your radar.

GenreBlast Film Festival 

We had a blast at GenreBlast, pun very much intended. It was actually where our debut horror short, Biters & Bleeders, premiered! As the name implies, GenreBlasts celebrates all things genre, horror included. Held in Winchester, Virginia, this international film festival attracts genre filmmakers of all stripes. GenreBlast isn’t happening in 2024 (sob) but they’ll be back and better than ever in 2025, and we truly can’t recommend it enough. You can submit your genre short or feature film on FilmFreeway.

Nightmares Film Festival

Once called “the Cannes of horror,” Nightmares Film Festival is held annually in October (prime spooky season) in Columbus, Ohio. You can submit your short, feature, or screenplay to this horror-specific festival on FilmFreeway. Submissions are broken down into four broad categories: horror (tales of terror and death,) thriller (tales of dark suspense,) midnight (tales of the weird and bizarre,) and documentary (true stories of the horrific.) If you’re from Ohio, there’s a special category for Ohio horror filmmakers.

Nevermore Film Festival

Hosted annually at the historic Carolina Theater of Durham, North Carolina, Nevermore was listed as one of the top 100 film festivals by FilmFreeway. This spooky film festival accepts submissions for horror, science fiction, mystery, and suspense. We had such a great time at this film festival and met so many creators we’re excited about. If you’re based in the southeast or able to travel, we can’t recommend this festival enough.

Fantasia Film Festival

Praised by powerhouses like Quentin Tarentino and Guillermo Del Toro, this prestigious genre film festival welcomes famous guests and record breaking crowds year after year. Home to the Frontieres Market, highly successful horror films like Unfriended and Skinamarink have premiered here. While they focus on horror, fantasy, and action, according to their FilmFreeway profile, “Fantasia has always embraced works whose sheer individuality puts them in a genre of their own.” If you’re seeking prestige, distribution, or industry connections, definitely add this Canadian classic to your list.

Popcorn Frights

Popcorn Frights, a horror film festival that has been around for a decade, is another great fit if you’re looking for a distributor. According to their website, “domestic US theatrical distributors participating in the Festival have included 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., A24, Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, IFC, Gunpowder & Sky, and Oscilloscope, among many others.” They are sponsored by horror royalty like Alter, Dread Central, and Bloody Disgusting. Another southeastern horror festival, this event takes place in Florida and has a special category for Florida filmmakers.

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival

Hosted in October, the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival is another important event to consider. Vulture has called it “one of the country’s premier indie horror showcases.” Feature films must have their New York premiere at BHFF in order to be considered, whereas short films must not have played in NY for thirty days prior to the festival. One thing that sets this festival apart is their TVOD platform, Nightstream, where horror lovers can rent or purchase films year round.

FilmQuest

This Utah based genre festival is another one to add to your list. With plenty of prestige and categories for features, shorts, student films, music videos, screenplays, animation, documentaries, and Utah produced films, they have something for everyone. Attendees praise the festival’s curation, events, the sense of community, and of course the coveted Cthulhu prize. Sponsors include Dread Central, Alter and Dust, and FilmFreeway, so you can tell this festival is the real deal.

Panic Fest

Panic Fest, which specializes in horror, thriller, and science fiction films, has been around since 2013. FilmFreeway declared it one of the top 50 best genre festivals, and in 2021 Dread Central listed it as one of the best horror festivals in the world. In 2015, they hosted the North American Premiere of What We Do In The Shadows. Sponsors include Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria, and Shudder, among many other notable companies. Hosted in Missouri, this genre film festival offers both virtual and in-person ticket options

CineQuest

Voted best film festival by USA Today readers, this Silicon Valley based genre film festival and screenplay competition attracts the most innovative filmmakers of our time. It’s for good reason: CineQuest is Academy Award qualifying, and it attracts all star guests (like Elle Fanning, Spike Lee, and Harrison Ford) with its iconic Maverick Spirit Award. Check out their varied submission categories and mark your calendar for March because CineQuest is not to be missed.

Are there any horror film festivals that I should have included? DM me and shout out your favorite spooky festival!

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Author

Molly is an author, screenwriter, blogger, and brand manager for New 32 Productions. They are passionate about sharing content that helps filmmakers live a more productive, informed, and well-balanced life. They live in North Carolina with their spouse and way too many dogs.

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