The theater was filled and every seat was taken. On the screen, Patrick Wilson traversed the Further. I cowered behind my hands, the only buffer between me and The Man with the Fire in His Face. I was terrified. But when the monster ran toward the audience, instead of screaming, I laughed with a crowd of about two hundred people. We all sighed in relief, and the tension dissipated—we pointed at each other, making fun of our fear.
Panic Fest, running from April 28 to May 8 (times and tickets at panicfilmfest.com), spawns the same atmosphere with a ten-day, horror movie festival held in the historic Screenland Armour Theatre of North Kansas City. This year marks their ten-year anniversary, a stretch of time filled with monumental achievements and several accolades, including the World’s Top 25 Genre Festivals by MovieMaker Magazine.
Adam Roberts, a co-founder for Panic Fest, says what he’s most proud of is “that movies from new voices were discovered during the festival, and some were purchased by distributors and production companies.”
Panic Fest a chance for die-hard horror fans to not only scout out new scares but also connect, attend informative panels, check out terrifying podcasts and, most importantly, watch some of the classics with fellow enthusiasts. Movies like Gags the Clown, The Birch and, most famously known, What We Do In The Shadows, first premiered in the U.S. by way of Panic Fest.
After two years of practice, thanks to the pandemic, Roberts and his co-founder, Tim KC Canton, have altered the way you can attend the festival.
“This year, we really want to focus on in-person experiences,” Roberts says, “but we’re still offering our virtual experience and a hybrid ticket that allows you admission to the in-person screenings, panels and merch, along with access to the online movie library.”
When asked which of the ticket options he’d recommend for the best experience, Roberts says, “When horror films hit in the theater, they hit like nothing else. Everyone in the room is on the same page and the excitement is electric.”
Roberts’ comments brought me back to watching Insidious, scared out of my mind but having the time of my life with people I’d never met before. Horror films are fun when you’re by yourself, but when you’re with a crowd, when the electricity in the air is buzzing, nothing beats that charge.
With hundreds of feature films, short films, panels and podcasts submitted, the process Roberts and Canton go through to curate the festival’s screenings is extensive. “We want to see what people can do differently with the genre. We could easily bring a flashy name to Panic Fest and ride off that, but we want new talent. We want something different.”