This week, the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival is kicking off with in-person screenings in New York City as well as providing movie fans from all over the opportunity to catch many of the fest’s offerings virtually as well (for more details on how to enjoy Tribeca at home, click HERE). Daily Dead will be covering Tribeca’s slate of Midnight films over the next week or so, but to get you ready for what to expect, we recently had the opportunity to speak with lead programmer for the Midnight section, Matt Barone, who gave us some insights into all the new horror being highlighted during the festival, and also chatted about the TribecXploitation lineup of movies being featured as well.

Check out our discussion with Barone below, who does an amazing job of hyping up Tribeca’s all-horror slate of Midnighters as well as just how the horror genre is thriving in particular, and be sure to check out Tribeca’s site for more details on how you can see some great horror for yourself over the next few weeks.

Congratulations on this year's Midnight lineup, Matt. In terms of the new films playing at Tribeca this year, what was the process like for you as you’re going through possible films to showcase as part of the fest? I know there are so many films out there so I’m curious about what caught your eye in regard to these films that you knew you wanted to highlight them this year at Tribeca?

This was an interesting year because if you look at the past Midnight sections, it's not just horror. The approach generally is to make sure you have a diversity in styles and genres and tones, but they all have to obviously adhere to that Midnight aesthetic. Last year, there was Ultrasound that we premiered, which is like a weirder, Lynchian sci-fi thing. And then the year before, we premiered Sputnik, this really cool Russian alien film, and Becky about the little girl becoming a badass John Wick-type character. The Midnight section in the past always covered various different genres, but this year, not by design necessarily, it's all outside of the retro films, all five of the films that have premiere status with us are horror films. And that essentially came down to just the best stuff we saw this year was all horror. You start off the year thinking, “Ah, we definitely want to keep an eye out for some sci-fi stuff or something that maybe is more in the action realm. It'd be great to have as much eclectic energy in the section as possible,” but at a certain point this year while I was looking at stuff and while we were putting the section together, the best stuff we were seeing was all horror.

And it just was that we're going to obviously want to show the best films that we can. So this year is interesting in that it's the first time since I've been working with the festival that the Midnight section is fully horror, which as a horror lover like myself, that's obviously a very exciting and cool thing. So once you drill it down to that, you realize that you don't want to necessarily just have five haunted house movies, right? If it's going to be all horror, you still want to have some variety or diversity. And especially as I love horror so much, if it's going to be a full horror Midnight section, I want to make sure that we give everybody a wide spectrum of what the genre can be and what it can do. Especially these days when it's one of the best times for horror in the sense of the diversity of filmmakers and the different kinds of POVs that we're getting in characters now.

Our team wanted to make sure that we covered different styles and different genres and stuff. So with these five films, I'm excited that there are three different countries represented. One of the filmmakers is a woman. Two of the films actually touch on queer characters and queer stories. There's a different breadth of the different POVs and different voices that we're excited to happen in this year's Midnight section.

So that's a long way of saying that this year is unique and that it's all horror, but we still wanted to make sure that it wasn't just like one style of horror. We wanted to make sure that there's a film in there that's really crazy and out there that you'll have fun with and it's a big crowd movie. There's another one that's more of a bleak, slow burn. All of the five films touch on different styles and aspects of what horror can be and what it can represent. So I'm pretty excited about it in that regard.

I wanted to talk a little bit about your TribecXploitation lineup because I really love that these are three very distinct and different portrayals of New York City as a backdrop, which I think is really fun. Can you talk about the genesis of this idea in terms of being able to highlight New York City while holding the festival there and celebrating the legacy of NYC in a very unique and very Midnight fashion?

We've always talked about wanting to make the Midnight slate bigger and to add more films to it and hopefully, we'll still get to do that in years moving forward. But for this year, a good way for us to start doing that was to have some retro films to tap into the great history of New York City when it comes to horror filmmaking, especially in the late '70s and early '80s.

It was tough to figure out which films to show specifically, but as you said, there’s Tenement, which is more of a grimy, sleazy action film. And then there’s Ms. 45 which is much more of a character piece and rape-revenge film with a slow burn build. And then Basket Case is just Henenlotter being Henenlotter doing Henenlotter things. But of the three films that we got, I like how they touch on different aspects of New York. There's this really deep history of filmmakers like Bill Lustig and Ferrara and Larry Cohen, all these guys that have made these great films set in New York and to capture how different New York was in that time. I mean, if you come to New York now and you walk around Times Square, it's obviously very corporate and it's commercialized and all that. 

But one of my regrets is being born when I was born because I would've loved to go see all these movies in 1981 and in Times Square. You know what I mean? Like when it was seedier and you were in a much more of a theater environment that I'm sure fit seeing a film like Maniac or seeing a film like Ms. 45. So this section is a small sampling of that era that I'm excited that we're doing this year because at Tribeca, there are always reunions every year and anniversary screenings and retro stuff, but the festival's never really done anything dedicated to our reunions anniversaries and stuff that we know as horror fans love about New York. So this is our first go-around with it and I hope that in the future years, we can revisit this at some point and do other films and make TribecXploitation some kind of branding thing that we can keep going because there's just such a deep history of New York in horror that we couldn't even touch on only three films. You can go so deep with it. 

So it's really cool that we're doing it in a small dose this year to let people know that if they don't know already that New York has this really great history with exploitation, with horror and with genre films. If you're a diehard genre fan, you're definitely aware of that already but I’m excited to hopefully expose the casual Tribeca festival goer to a whole other era of New York City filmmaking that they might not have looked at otherwise. So I'm really happy that we're doing it this year.

Yeah, definitely. I'm with you because I think that examining the past through media is fascinating and I think that can tell us a lot about things that were going on at that time without actually coming out and saying those things. So I always think that there's a lot of value that comes from looking back as much as looking forward as well.

Yeah, exactly. I was watching Maniac recently because that's one of my favorite of these New York films. It's interesting actually how in Lustig's Maniac you see him stalking the women in the subways and all that, and just how grimy and just unwelcoming the subways feel in those films, and how dangerous New York City feels at that time. But when you take a subway in New York City now, and in some parts, it's completely different, but there's also an interesting dynamic where sometimes when you're taking the subway in New York now, you still feel a little bit of that unease. So it's interesting that a lot of things have changed since the early '80s, but also you go watch these films and see things that you recognize that's like, "Oh wow, not everything has changed." Some of that New York City experience is still there and it's still been retained. So there's that fun element of seeing how far the city has come, but also seeing it's still New York City at the end of the day and there are still these certain touchstones about the city that are always going to be there. 

Before we go, I wanted to ask - in terms of this year's slate of new horror at Tribeca, what are you hoping that audiences for these films come away with in terms of this lineup of films? I'm just curious if there was something that you're hoping that people get out of being able to experience these stories in particular.

It goes back to something I was saying earlier, where my hope is that if they already love horror, these five new films just confirms that love and excites them in a way like where they are like, "Oh yeah." It points out to them that we're in such an exciting time for the genre and there are no limits to what kind of stories can be told and what kind of filmmakers now have access to make films, and what kind of stories are going to be given the platforms to shine now.

If you're a casual genre fan, my hope is that you'll see a film like Attachment which is a really strong film from Denmark from director Gabriel Bier Gislason. He's actually the son of Susanne Bier who directed Bird Box and some other films. But this is his feature debut and it starts off as a rom-com basically and there’s this dynamic and layers going on within the story that aren't even horror. It's just more like these characters that you can recognize and you fall in love with these two women because the actors have amazing chemistry. Attachment's a great example of when the filmmaker gives you 45-50 minutes of just falling in love with these characters and getting to know them and investing in their world so by the time the director introduces all the genre elements, you genuinely want these two women to succeed. 

And then, on the flip side, you see a film like Travis Stevens' A Wounded Fawn. I'm sure you've seen Travis's other films and you're a fan like I am, but this is him taking the biggest swings he's ever taken. It's completely bonkers. I can only talk about the first act, which is basically the set up of Josh Ruben, director of Scare Me and Werewolves Within, who plays a serial killer who's next potential victim is this woman who's coming out of an abusive relationship and she finally decides to get back in a dating pool. She meets Josh Ruben's character who is this really charming, nice guy who invites her up to this abandoned art deco-style house he has in the woods. In his mind, he's bringing her up there to be his next victim but nothing goes as planned and it just goes in all these insane, bizarre directions. It's a completely insane movie that I can't wait for audiences to see.

Then there’s a film like Family Dinner which is very much in the same vibe as Goodnight Mommy where it's much more of a sterile cold, bleak, psychological horror feeling about this overweight teenage girl who's desperate to start losing weight. She has this aunt who's a famous nutritionist who's written successful books on diets and how to eat healthily and all that stuff. So this girl goes to spend Easter weekend with her aunt in hopes of her aunt getting her on a diet regimen and making her eat healthier, but she realizes that there’s something off about her aunt's family. I won't say where it goes, but it gets very bleak and heavy, and it's a film that I think audiences will see just how punishing and unrelenting horror can be in certain filmmakers' hands.

And then lastly, Huesera comes from a first-time filmmaker named Michelle Garza Cervera from Mexico and she's been on the festival scene for a little bit in recent years with some short films. She was also part of the Mexico Barbaro 2 film, the sequel to the Mexican horror anthology from a few years back. She had a segment in the second one. But this is her feature debut and I love it. Yeah, it's great. I don't know if you've seen The Lost Daughter, that Maggie Gyllenhaal movie from last year, but Huesera taps into similar themes of motherhood and becoming a first-time mother and touches on taboo subjects of how women might react to that world. The main character in this film, she and her husband have been trying for a long time to have a kid. She finally gets pregnant, and as she's going through the pregnancy, she starts seeing different kinds of visions in her apartment. It becomes a haunted house thing to a degree but it’s also just a really unique take on motherhood and the fears and anxieties that come from being a first-time mother that you can only really get from a woman filmmaker. It speaks to that earlier point of the importance of having various POVs and having more diverse voices in filmmaking these days. So that's an exciting one for us, too. 

So I think that was an extremely long-winded way of answering your question (laughs), but I hope that people that see all the Midnight films take that collective realization that the genre can be anything and everything and there's no limit to what horror can be as long as there are filmmakers out there that are willing to push it into these directions. And I think that the filmmakers that we have in the Midnight section this year are definitely doing that. So what excites me about it is just the fact that we're able to have an all horror Midnight section that doesn't feel repetitive or doesn't have recurring types of themes and stuff. Each film has its own identity. Oh, and there’s The Black Phone, too, which is also incredible. Scott did a phenomenal job on it.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.