Newport Beach Film Festival 2016’s Best Genre Films

Lace Crater is a film written and directed by Harrison Atkins, in which a twentysomething woman named Ruth spends a weekend in the Hamptons with some friends for some drunken debauchery. After a pill-popping episode, Ruth finds herself alone in the supposedly-haunted carriage house and meets “Michael,” the ghost rumored to be living there, dressed completely in burlap sacks. They have intellectual conversations and end up having sex, but by the morning, he has completely vanished. Things go awry from there: Ruth starts to feel horrible physical effects, from vomiting violently to memory loss to shedding her skin. Her doctor tells her she has an STD that he can’t seem to identify—because, unfortunately, medical science hasn’t advanced far enough to diagnose paranormal STDs. Not for the easily disgusted, this film will make you feel better about your own love life.

Other notable horror flick mentions include Curve, which features Julianne Hough as the lead heroine, Mallory, putting her post-Dancing With the Stars gams in danger when she gives a hitchhiker a ride after he helps her with her car trouble. That hitchhiker (played with demented gusto by Teddy Sears) turns out to be psychotic, so when Mallory sees he’s not wearing a seatbelt, she tries to kill him by driving into a guardrail overlooking a cliff, but the crash only leaves her leg stuck in the vehicle while the car teeters over the edge of the cliff. Will Mallory escape to safety from the car and her homicidal passenger?

The premise of French science-fiction thriller House of Time focuses on Robert, who moves into a castle and discovers its time-traveling powers, enabling him to travel back to the World War II German occupation of France and study secret scientific documents belonging to Nazis. Robert’s friends don’t believe any of this, so he invites them over for a weekend stay. As the night moves forward, each friend encounters Nazis, spies and strange characters. For the average person, this might be enough to convince them they’re in 1944, but these friends still firmly deny the time warp. They have the potential to change history, but will they? Would you?

Another must-see for sci-fi junkies is U.K. short film FlySpy, and it’s a doozy. An eccentric, obsessive inventor named Greg builds a tiny drone camera in the shape of a fly to spy on his ex-girlfriend, Haley. Greg can now view every intimate move she makes, as well as that Haley has a new abusive boyfriend. Rather than offering help, Greg offers a deal: If Haley sleeps with him one more night, he’ll get rid of her toxic beau for good (because he wasn’t already creepy enough). FlySpy screens as part of the Horror Shorts series.

Speaking of shorts, the Short, Sweet & Queer series promises great documentaries on trans and gay youth, including Lexi and Pink Boy. For the second year in a row, the Made In California short series and juried competition will screen multiple films made in or about California, with an official recognition from the state of California given to the director of the winning film. And new program Down Her Shorts features films focused on female, um, masturbation and sexual discovery. (While there’s no rating system for every film, the programmers point out this series is more appropriate for mature audiences, so maybe take your kiddies to see the 35th-anniversary screening of The Fox and the Hound instead.)

The much-celebrated Art, Architecture and Design series continues, including an Orange County Musueam of Art-hosted screening of Eva Hesse, a documentary on the pioneering Jewish-German sculptor and artist, as part of NBFF and OCMA’s ongoing Cinema Orange series. Tyrus is a documentary on the life of Tyrus Wong, a Chinese painter who contributed heavily to animated films for Warner Brothers and Disney studios as a storyboard artist, inspiring the look and design of the 1942 Disney film Bambi.

Icelandic import Yarn spins a documentary on the traditional craft of knitting, crochet and other wool-based arts. Often considered skills saved for the domestic sphere, modern artists all over the world have applied them to their street art, namely in the form of yarn bombing to transform public spaces and creating physical yarn installations for an incredible new art medium.

Continuing in the street-art vein, Los Angeles-based street artists Chaz Bojorquez, Defer and Big Sleeps are among the names profiled in Dark Progressivism, which profiles former gang members who went from committing crimes to painting murals and, eventually, landing in art galleries. The style, called Dark Progressivism, refers to the way artists aim to channel their angst of inner-city violence and drug use into an artistic movement, rising above their grim circumstances and influencing others just like them—and, in the case of Bojorquez, becoming legendary.

Harry Benson: Shoot First details the Scottish culture photographer who was at the center of many roving hipster and youthquake movements of the 1960s and captured the Beatles during their 1964 tour through America. This film aims its lens at Benson, who discusses the intimate background stories about some of the most iconic moments he’s photographed with Muhammad Ali, Michael Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., Ray Charles and Elizabeth Taylor. It’s paired with the short documentary Cindy Sherman: Untitled Film Stills, which features another famous photographer who changed the game for photography as art during the 1970s.

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