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EMAV Review: Sin City Horror Fest 2018

For its second year, the Sin City Horror Fest moved from Downtown’s Eclipse Theaters to the Brenden Theatres at the Palms, attracting a relatively small but devoted audience of horror fans. Thanks to the dedication of its founders (local filmmakers Drew Marvick, Mike Lenzini, Justin Bergonzoni and Darren Flores), the festival is on its way to becoming a local institution, with a third year already planned. The gregarious and prodigiously bearded Marvick was on hand to introduce every feature film and shorts block, and his enthusiasm for the material was infectious, even at screenings with only a handful of people in attendance.

As a genre, horror has a lot of range, and the feature selections included the surreal drama The God Inside My Ear and the cult-movie documentary Survival of the Film Freaks (with Vegas locals William Powell of the Sci Fi Center and filmmaker Jimmie Gonzalez among the interviewees), in addition to more traditional horror offerings. My favorite features at this year’s festival provide solid variations on familiar horror formats, though, with worthwhile takes on found footage (The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan) and ’80s-style supernatural spooks (The Night Sitter). Within predictable, well-worn frameworks, both movies deliver interesting, appealing characters, engaging stories and effective scares.

Lost Footage follows the found-footage template exactly, presented as the unedited footage captured by the title character (Anna Stromberg), a college student working on a school project about an unsolved murder in a small town. Could there be something supernatural lurking in the now-abandoned house where an entire family was brutally mutilated? Obviously yes, and the movie never really pretends otherwise, setting Leah and her affable cop love interest (played by director Burt Grinstead) up for certain death by the end. But Grinstead is much more rigorous about the found footage concept than the filmmakers behind the many, many other lazy takes on the format can be, and there’s a believably naturalistic quality to the performances.