Five Horrific Questions with Jason Tostevin, co-founder of Nightmares Film Festival

Are you ready for the Nightmares Film Festival?
There’s nothing horrific about the Nightmares Film Festival, a new horror fest concocted by award-winning filmmaker Jason Tostevin and his business partner Chris Hamel.

Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Nightmares promises to deliver the scares while uniting and elevating horror around the world. The inaugural event takes place October 20 to 23, 2016. Screenings will be held at the Gateway Film Center, named one of the 20 best art houses on the continent by Sundance.

“We’re lifelong horror fans who’ve been part of hundreds of festivals,” said Tostevin. “We’re using that experience and those connections to bring the very best horror and genre films from across the globe to one easy-to- reach, welcoming festival that really celebrates horror and genre.”

Tostevin, born in New York, calls New Albany, Ohio, home these days. A graduate of The Ohio State University, Tostevin, a writer, fell in love with filmmaking after taking part in a 48 Hour Film Project competition in 2009.

“I thought, I’d love to write a short script. I got a team together, jumped in without having any idea what I was doing, and after our director left halfway through, I took the production over. By the end of the shoot, I was on cloud nine and knew this is what I was supposed to be doing,” he says.

His 2010 48 Hour Film Project entry, Stones, won the central Ohio competition and eventually played during the Cannes Film Festival. The film team has produced a number of horror shorts. Its current project is a comedy horror short titled Born Again.

With a track record like that, Tostevin was the perfect person to torture with our annual Five Horrific Questions:

Filmmaker and film fest founder Jason Tostevin
MMM: What makes a horror movie scary?

Tostevin: The short answer is, empathy. The audience can’t be scared, or feel anything, until they’re connected to the person on the screen.

The longer answer is, I think of it in two ways. There are the physiological scares — jump scares, surprise reveals with a pan or tilt, loud stings after silence — that you get by using the audience’s involuntary responses against them. Those are only peripherally dependent on the story. You’re going to jump or gasp regardless.
But the second kind of scare, the real horror, comes from your on-screen avatar being someone you identify with emotionally, and having him truly vulnerable. When you’re cheering for that person like you would cheer for yourself, and that character becomes you and is put in danger that connects in a primal way, then you’re in a scary movie.

MMM: What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?

Tostevin: The Blair Witch Project scared the shit out of me. The closing scene unfolded so perfectly, I’d get chills thinking about it years later. And The Ring had me turning off the ringer on every phone.

MMM: Who is your horror inspiration?

Tostevin: From the past, it’s the Bloody Triangle: Carpenter, Romero and Craven. From the indie directors of today, Jason Eisener (Hobo With a Shotgun), Moorehead and Benson (Spring) and Ricky Bates Jr. (Excision) are three I’m inspired by.

Tostevin's latest, the horror comedy "Born Again"
MMM: Why do we like to be scared?

Tostevin: Wes Craven said horror is “like bootcamp for the psyche,” and I think that’s right. In a primal way, horror movies give us a chance to run our brains through scenarios and experiences that would be dangerous or deadly in real life. Coming back to your regular world from a horror movie also reminds you how safe you are and how good you have it.

MMM: What movie would you like to turn into a horror movie? And how would you do it?

Tostevin: I’ve always thought Westerns were fertile ground for horror. I think we saw that with Bone Tomahawk last year. I’d love to see something like The Magnificent Seven or The Seven Samurai done as a horror film — assemble the team of experts, make them have to work as a team, and drop them into a vampire’s nest. Think Alien with six-guns.  
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