A Night of Horror Film Festival 2023: Bryn Tilly Paves the Way for a Spectacular Night of Horror

Bryn Tilly, the Festival Director of A Night of Horror Film Festival (ANOH), has officially launched the program for the 2023 edition of Australia’s longest-running horror showcase. Spanning four thrilling days, this year’s festival promises to be a spine-chilling experience, featuring an impressive lineup of ten feature films and 31 short films from around the globe. ANOH has come a long way since its inception seventeen years ago, and under Tilly’s stewardship, it continues to evolve and thrive.

The roots of A Night of Horror can be traced back to seventeen years ago when festival founders Dean Bertram and Lisa Mitchell embarked on a journey to create an event that would serve as a platform for showcasing short horror films from both Australia and abroad. The response was nothing short of spectacular, with the inaugural event spanning three days, leaving audiences hungry for more. The following year, the festival relocated to Dendy Newtown and expanded its program to include short films and feature-length horrors. Over the past decade, ANOH has solidified its reputation as one of the world’s premier genre film festivals, providing unwavering support to independent cinema and emerging filmmakers. Remarkably, the festival continues its tradition of selecting the majority of its program through cold submissions, a practice dating back to its inception.

Stepping into the role of Festival Director and Programmer in 2020, Bryn Tilly has brought a fresh perspective and a wealth of experience to ANOH. His goal for the 15th edition of the festival is clear: to celebrate the rich and diverse spectrum of horror cinema. Under Tilly’s guidance, ANOH seeks to honor filmmaking that reflects the contemporary world while drawing inspiration from the past and reaching toward the future.

Under Tilly’s visionary leadership, ANOH promises to offer audiences an unforgettable cinematic experience that transcends the traditional boundaries of horror. With a diverse lineup of films from across the globe, this year’s festival is set to terrify, entertain, and inspire, reaffirming its position as the foremost horror film festival in Australia and beyond.

As A Night of Horror Film Festival’s 15th edition approaches, horror enthusiasts and cinephiles eagerly await the unveiling of a program that reflects Bryn Tilly’s passion for the genre and his commitment to pushing the boundaries of cinematic horror. The festival’s legacy of showcasing innovative and spine-tingling works of cinema remains as strong as ever, ensuring that ANOH 2023 will be an event horror fans won’t want to miss.

FilmCentral magazine recently had the privilege of sitting down with Bryn Tilly, the creative force behind A Night of Horror Film Festival, to delve deeper into his vision for the 15th edition of this iconic event, and here’s what went down:

As the Festival Director, what are your main goals and aspirations for this year’s ANOH, which is now in its 15th edition?

I began programming for the festival back in 2014, with the shorts programs and took over as Festival Director and programmer in 2020. I intend to nurture and celebrate the broader spectrum of horror cinema with filmmaking that is an expression of the here and now but can also pull from the past and reach into the future.

The festival is known for showcasing horror films from around the world. How do you go about selecting the films that make it into the program?

A Night of Horror, like the majority of film festivals around the world, uses a platform called FilmFreeway and invites filmmakers to submit their films once we announce our Call for Entries each year. I watch hundreds of movies over months, looking for features and shorts exhibiting originality and craftsmanship. They don’t necessarily have to have high production values, but in order to make my shortlist, they need to show me they understand the medium well and know how to achieve the best result, and that means not casting amateurs, not attempting to make a feature when you’re making a short film, and striving to make something striking and memorable.

With such a diverse array of films from various countries, what common themes or trends have you noticed in this year’s selection?

The curious thing is that I never deliberately select films because of their thematic content. Still, invariably, when I’m shaping the program from my short list, that’s when common themes can become apparent. This year, and it’s no real surprise, many of the features and short films deal with trauma, grief, survival, delusion, mental illness, and psychological turmoil—all very much a post-pandemic expression.

ANOH has gained a reputation as Australia’s longest-running horror film showcase. What do you think has contributed to the festival’s sustained success and popularity?

The key to the respect the festival has garnered over the years is due to its programming of independent cinema, screening films that often don’t get a theatrical release, and dedicated support for local filmmakers, especially with the festival’s signature session, the Australian Shorts Gala. People love a festival that champions a community vibe and encourages it.

Could you highlight a few standout films or events from this year’s program that you believe attendees should be especially excited about?

We have four Aussie features in the program, including our Opening Night session, Ursula Dabrowksy’s The Devil’s Work, a World Premiere. The other three are all Australian Premire’s, Jack Dignan’s PUZZLE BOX, Gareth Carr & David Sullivan’s SAVING GRACE, and Steven Mihaljevich’s VIOLETT, our Closing Night session.

Horror is a genre that often plays with emotions and pushes boundaries. What are your thoughts on how horror cinema has evolved over the years, and where do you see it heading in the future?

The horror genre is often, unjustly, the most maligned yet provides audiences with the greatest thrills. The essence of what makes a good horror movie work hasn’t really changed. It’s about an effective atmosphere and the fear of the unknown. Audiences are still freaked out by the same things that freaked them fifty years ago, be it the weird supernatural, brutal realism, monsters, psychopaths, or madness. In the future, horror will continue to thrill and chill, much like it has for the past 100 years. It’s a genre that relies very much on pure cinema – the moving image – and is best enjoyed in a darkened cinema with an audience.

The festival’s tagline is “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” What do you think draws audiences to horror films, and what experience do you hope they take away from ANOH?

That’s the tagline to David Cronenberg’s THE FLY! People are drawn to watching horror films because it provides them with the shared experience of being confronted with something fearful on the screen yet within the safety of a cinema audience. There’s a real adrenalin rush that comes with that combination. I hope audiences come away having seen films that excite and inspire them that they otherwise might not have been able to see in a cinema.

As the official program is set to launch soon, can you offer us a sneak peek into any special elements or surprises that attendees can look forward to?

The program is out now! Check the festival site, Dendy site, and the festival socials. We have Q&As following all four of our Australian feature sessions. There are excellent short films preceding all the features and two dedicated short programs of local and international films. Dendy has a great value 10-session Pass available directly from the Candy Bar.

Lastly, what do you find personally rewarding about being involved with ANOH and the horror film community, and what message would you like to send to both seasoned fans and newcomers to the genre?

As both festival director and programmer, I love celebrating bold new talent and providing a platform so others can appreciate their work in the proper setting. I love being able to impart my own vision – to curate and select films that work well on their own, but also work well together in the way that any good film festival should.

Here’s a link to their official website: A Night Of Horror International Film Festival