Lucky 13: International Horror Hotel Film Fest to haunt Crown Plaza

For many in the business of making horror films, 13 is a lucky number when the International Horror Hotel Film Festival haunts the Crowne Plaza Cleveland Airport hotel, bringing in 155 horror, sci-fi, action, and fantasy filmmakers from around the country and Canada, from Thursday, June 20 through Sunday, June 23.

For 12 years, independent filmmakers and founders Ray Szuch and Kristina Michelle ran the independent film festival. For the 13th year, a group of seven local award-winning filmmakers have taken over ownership, and new co-owner including Johnny K. Wu say they plan to take horror and film to the next level.

“We’ve been involved with this festival for 12 years and we just wanted to keep it going,” says Wu. “It is a very local, independent film festival where everybody gets to mingle, gets to know each other, and gets to enjoy [the films]. It's not because we want to make money, it’s more about wanting to keep it going and having a great time with it.”

Awards ceremony at the Horror Hotel Film FestivalAwards ceremony at the Horror Hotel Film FestivalIn addition to Wu, the other six owners are Scott T. Morrison, Pauline Nowakowski, Tina Hobbs, Gaines Strouse, Scott E. Brosius, and Tyler N. Thomas.

Wu says the films being screened next weekend all fit under a broad horror umbrella. “We have slasher, supernatural and such, and we also have fantasy action,” says.  “Anything that’s not comedy, documentary, or drama.”

Some of the elements of taking the festival to a new level include two distributors, an Oscar-nominated speaker slated to talk about AI filmmaking, and AI and intellectual property experts.

“With new owners, we have decided to start with a bang—bringing known experts from around the nation to Cleveland providing lectures,” says Wu.

Also attending are scriptwriters, directors, and cinematographers, and Women of Color Filmmakers founder Landi Maduro.

True to the horror genre, visual effects makeup artists and fight choreographers will also make appearances.

Wu says they received almost 250 submissions this year, doubling the number of submissions in previous years, and a selection committee nominated 155 films for screening.

Still from Suicide for BeginnersStill from Suicide for Beginners“We did our best,” he says of the great selection of submissions. “There were a lot of good films, so we had to go back and forth to make everything work.” The full screening schedule is on the website.

New this year, the festival hosted a Room 237 Film Competition ("The Shining" and Stanley Kubrick fans know the reference). Ten teams had 30 days to create five-minute films using a murder weapon assigned to them. The films will be screened on Friday evening, with the top three teams awarded cash prizes.

There will be a networking event at 11 p.m. on Friday, June 21 and Saturday, June 22 for mingling, as well as competitions for best makeup and titles such as a “Scream King” and “Scream Queen.”

Horror Hotel Film FestivalHorror Hotel Film FestivalOn Saturday, June 22 at 5pm, the awards ceremony will be held to award the best of the best films and scripts at the festival. 

On Sunday, June. 23 there are additional film screenings. Wu himself has two short films and a feature film in the Horror Hotel Film Festival. His latest feature, Bullets, Brothers and Blood, will be shown at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Throughout the event the convention area will host vendors offering a variety of products and services. 

Wu says there is something for everyone over the course of the festival.

“There will be good things for anybody who is interested in filmmaking, being an actor, or wants to get into film projects,” he says. “Come and check it out because you're not only meeting with different filmmakers locally, but you’re also meeting filmmakers all over the world. You get to network, socialize, mingle, and watch their films.”

Tickets range from $10 for a single film, time block, or lecture, up to $60 for a full VIP weekend pass.

For complete ticket prices, schedule of events, and screening times, keep the Horror Hotel Film Fest site handy throughout the weekend.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.