Event Recap: Horrible Imaginings Film Festival - 10th Anniversary

I was invited to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival recently and I was delighted to have had the glorious opportunity to have this much fun in Orange County. 

The festival is located at The Frida Cinema in downtown Santa Ana, CA. The Frida Cinema is indeed named after the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and is a not for profit theatre dedicated to bringing arthouse cinema to Orange County. The crew there does a very good job. Word had previously reached my ears about how the Frida was a great place to see a movie, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to check it out yet. 

Horrible Imaginings Film Festival is a horror-themed festival that was founded in San Diego that has moved north and I, for one, am glad that they did. Miguel Rodriguez is the founder and executive director of the festival and he is a bit of showman in the William Castle style as well.

The festival was programmed for three days this year, Friday, August 30th, Saturday, August 31st and Sunday, September 1st. On Friday night the opening film was Chelsea Stardust’s Satanic Panic, which I was sadly unable to attend. However, I was able to attend Horrible Imaginings’ screenings of Swing Low, directed by Teddy Grennan, starring Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Bruce Dern, Robert Longstreet. This was paired with the short film Pipe

Reborn, directed Julian Richards, starring Barbara Crampton, Michael Pare, and Kayleigh Gilbert, was paired with the short films Always, Creaker, and Wally and His Hideously Malformed Wart, and 60th-anniversary screening of William Castle’s The Tingler in PERCEPTO on Saturday. And the screening of Antrum – The Deadliest Film Ever Made, directed by Michael Laicini, David Amito paired with the short film, Gingerfall: Reckoning.

The closing film was Porno, directed by Keola Racela – a filmmaker local to Riverside, CA, starring Evan Daves, Jillian Mueller, Katelyn Pearce paired with the short film Once Bitten

Horrible Imaginings also had blocks of short films during the day and a panel “Horror for Humanity”, which focused on real-life anxieties through a genre lens. Although the festival is short time-wise, they really pack in a lot of activities in the time allotted.

I have to compliment the programmers of the festival, especially on the side of short films. All of the films were interesting, even if they might not have been totally successful and the short films shown with the features were all of a quality I rarely see at film festivals. Even the short that I liked the least was still better than a lot of shorts that I have seen at or from bigger name festivals. Yes, I have attended Sundance and sat through their short film programming. Horrible Imaginings has a genuine love for cinema that shows through its programming and presentation. 

The festival is very welcoming and a lot of fun. One of the most important parts of a festival is that the attendee should actually enjoy going to the festival and staying there for some time. Horrible Imaginings hit the mark. I enjoyed every moment that I was there. The care and the attention to detail shown by the staff is obvious as well as their friendly manner. The concession stands had Coppola wines and craft beer, so you know you are covered for quality refreshments.

The festival organizers go out of their way to craft an experience that is special and for true fans of cinema. They even leave time for a dinner break and that is a welcome addition to any festival schedule. They helpfully point out the quality restaurants and food hall that was within walking distance for hungry attendees. They had a terrific horror cosplayer every day of the festival decked out in full costume themed to the day’s schedule who was more than happy to pose and play with the guests. They are invested in improving the experience for you and assisting local businesses in staying open.

For example, I don’t know a small festival that has the ability or willingness to track down a print of one of William Castle’s films and the gimmick used in the original run to delight the audience and give everyone (and their butts) a treat that they won’t forget. I have to rate my experience at Horrible Imaginings as one of my favorites and I will be sure to attend the festival again to see what they have in store next year. You might be thinking that Santa Ana is too far. However, it’s really only about 33 miles from Los Angeles and that’s really not too far to travel for a cinematic experience that will delight and horrify you. 

I cannot recommend attending this lovely festival enough. If you are a true cinema fan, you owe it to yourself to check this film festival out at the very next opportunity you are given. There’s pure cinema love and some dope creativity at work here. Don’t sleep on Horrible Imaginings. They’re only going to get bigger and better. 


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