Iowa’s only horror film festival, Halloweenapalooza, is now accepting film submissions

Halloweenapalooza Festival

Hotel Ottumwa — Friday and Saturday, Oct. 12-13
Film submissions due by Thursday, Sept. 6

Still from “Get Out.”

With Jordan Peele scoring a Best Picture nomination and Best Original Screenplay win for his chilling debut film Get Out at the 2018 Academy Awards, the time has arguably never been riper for horror movies.

For the ninth year, horror filmmakers in Iowa and beyond will have the opportunity to showcase their work within a haunted house, during peak horror season. The 2018 Halloweenapalooza festival, presented by independent film group Prescribed Films, is now accepting horror film submissions to screen this fall at the notoriously ghostly Hotel Ottumwa in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Halloweenapalooza features celebrity guests, costume contests, a zombie walk and a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show, among other Halloween-centric entertainment. But the core of the fest is Iowa’s only horror film festival, highlighting the work of indie filmmakers for an audience of horror fans. The ninth-annual Halloweenapalooza will take place Oct. 12-13.

Festival co-director Jason Bolinger — also one of the three film fest judges, alongside fellow directors and filmmakers Mike Saunders and Steven Tracy — said the festival featured 43 films in both 2016 and 2017. This year, the fest will be extended to two days, opening the lineup to even more screenings.

“We receive films from all over the world! It’s been consistently 12-13 different countries each year,” Bolinger said in an email. “We definitely get a slew from Iowa as well.”

Prescribed Films is accepting short films (under 30 minutes) and feature films (75-120 minutes) from now until Sept. 6. The films may be comedies or dramas, animated or live-action, science fiction or fantasy, documentary or avant garde — but they absolutely must have “some horror elements,” according to the guidelines.

Bolinger said the horror genre is hard to pin down, but can be defined by a “million things”: images and themes that are unsettling, disgusting, scary, macabre, thrilling and/or supernatural in some way.

“And if it has some blood in it, then good,” Bolinger added.

Filmmakers don’t have to attend Halloweenapalooza to qualify for the festival — and its awards. Trophies will be given for best short, best feature, best runner-up short, best runner-up feature, audience choice, best kill and the Halloween Spirit award.

Films must be made in 2013 or later, and either be in English or feature English subtitles. Fan films — films based on an existing movie, book or franchise — will not be accepted. Filmmakers are encouraged to send a DVD or Blu-Ray copy as well as an mp4 file. Further guidelines can be found on the Halloweenapalooza submission page.

Last year’s Halloweenapalooza featured actors from the classic film Children of the Corn, mentalist Ray Thompson, an onsite tattoo artist, a live recording of Attack of the Killer Podcast and much more.

The 2018 programming has yet to be announced, but Bolinger said they were exploring the possibility of adding a Halloweenapalooza ghost hunt.


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“It’s a kitchen sink type event,” he said. “We just fill it up with as much cool Halloween related stuff as we can!”

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