Twisted Dreams Film Festival to haunt Milwaukee

Michael Muckian, Contributing writer

Fans of all things that go bump in the night should get ready for their annual seasonal fright.

The Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Festival is returning to the Underground Collaborative March 31–April 2 for its second year, with live action and animated shorts and a feature — all designed to tickle, titillate and terrorize Cream City horror film fans.

Beyond the films, festival events include appearances by Kenosha cable TV horror host Deadgar Winter and the Dead Girls, Rich “Freakshow” Peterson from Madison cable TV’s Bordello of Horror and a live performance by Milwaukee performing arts troupe Dead Man’s Carnival.

The festival’s purpose is to provide fans a venue for seeing new and innovative films with other horror aficionados, say event organizers Christopher House and Stephen Milek, founders of the blog Milwaukee Movie Talk.

“We don’t want to just show films,” says House, a system network tester in his other life. “We want to give people the experience of watching these films together.”

Anyone who has ridden an audience’s energy while watching a horror film in a theater understands what that means, House adds.

“People like to be scared,” he explains. “They like the adrenaline rush.”

“I like my horror films a little bloody and gory,” says Milek, a local pharmacist. “But I can appreciate a suspenseful thriller that doesn’t have those elements.”

Horror films, gory or not, are relatively economical to produce, Milek adds. Unlike their expensive blockbusters, studios can crank out low-budget horror films that nonetheless make real money.

Advances in technology will help enhance the horror experience for viewers of these films. “We may see some virtual reality films in which things jump out at you,” Milek says.

The festival planners say there’s been a resurgence in horror in recent years. Independent filmmakers have been tapping the jugular of audiences with films ranging from guts and gore to subtle, supernatural horror. And it’s a trend likely to continue.

Here is a list of the horror that’s in store at the 2017 festival:

March 31

  • 6:30 p.m., Twisted Wisconsin Shorts. A collection of nine comedies, thrillers, a documentary and creepy clowns from around the state will be hosted by Deadgar Winter.
  • 9 p.m., opening night party at 42 Lounge, 326 E. Mason St. Live entertainment and alcohol abound.

April 1

  • Noon, Liquid Dreams: Not Your Father’s Saturday Morning Cartoons. Fifteen animated features offer looks at bizarre worlds and deadly encounters.
  • 2 p.m., Serial Killer Culture. Director John Borowski’s documentary examines why artists and collectors are fascinated by serial killers.
  • 4:30 p.m., BGG (Blood, Guts, and Gore) Nightmare Short Block. The name sums up the content of seven shorts not for the faint of heart.
  • 7 p.m., Welcome to Willits. More annoying young people encounter strange locals and tales of creatures while lost in the woods near Willits, California.
  • 9:30 p.m., Who’s Watching Oliver? A mentally unstable loner wanders the streets perpetrating a truly shocking and humiliating killing spree — and only the fair Sophia can save him (and others) from himself.
  • Midnight, Another Yeti A Love Story: Life on the Street. Adam, a single father of a yeti baby, is dragged into Los Angeles’ seedy underbelly when an evil pimp kidnaps his child. With help from a heroin-addicted yeti prostitute and a sexy stripper, he fights the forces of evil to save his baby and the world. Really.

The film is preceded by the short Polterstache, in which a hapless man’s facial hair becomes possessed by the spirit of a satanic serial killer bent on finding his final sacrifice to complete an ancient ritual.

April 2

  • Noon, Sunday Brunch Short Block: No Food, Just Terror. Bring a bag lunch.
  • 2:30 p.m., This Woods is Cursed. A Wisconsin-produced film finds five friends mistakenly entering the woods to celebrate the life of a dear, departed friend. Preceded by Murder in the Making: A Documentary.
  • 5 p.m., Twisted Fantasies Block. A collection of nine otherworldly shorts looks at fantastic themes.
  • 7:30 p.m., The Power. Will Magda the anthropologist be able to convince the cult that captured her that she is one of them, too?

On screen

The second annual Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Festival runs March 31–April 2 at the Underground Collaborative, lower level, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. Tickets are $10 for individual screenings and $75 for an all-weekend pass. For a full schedule, tickets and more information, visit