Essential Horror and Fantasy
Film Festivals

By Shelby McElrath

There are a number of genre-based film festivals around the world. Here are more than a few that fall into the categories of Horror and Fantasy.

Must Have Horror and Fantasy Film Festivals

Brussels Int. Fantastic Film Festival – BIFFF

Every spring in Brussels this festival draws in horror  fans and filmmakers for a total of thirteen days. Over one hundred films are shown within the categories of fantasy, sci-fi, thriller and horror, at this festival that fully embraces these genres with a number of themed events including make-up contests and a Vampire Ball! Considered one of the world’s most important horror and fantasy festivals, BIFFF is a must for anyone looking for a thrill.

Fantasporto – Fantas

Started in 1981 as an all fantasy film festival in Portugal, Fantasporto has grown into a general film event. This festival was the first to integrate the arts and sciences by including concerts, art exhibitions, theatre plays, science demonstrations and more in its showcase. In 2012, the theme will be “the future”, and there’s a Vampire Ball at this festival as well.

Film4 Frightfest

23rd to 27th August 2012

Director Guillermo del Toro called this UK horror event “The Woodstock of Gore”. Originally created to give the UK a horror fantasy festival much like BIFFF, this event has grown rapidly thanks to its “don’t miss” reputation.

Maelstrom Int. Fantastic Film Festival

5-7 October 2012

This is a Seattle based festival made by the fans for the fans in the genres of animation, fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. MIFFF was created to bring attention to films from around the world that are so often overlooked by the festival circuit. This weekend long event also offers prizes for the best locally produced films.

Puchon Int. Fantastic Film Festival – PiFan

19-29 July 2012

This festival, held in Bucheon City ‘the Mecca for Japanese culture’, focuses on International and Asian horror, thriller, mystery, and fantasy films. It is globally renowned and highly ranked by audiences and industry professionals alike.


Considered to be the largest horror film festival in the USA, this event showcases works by American as well as international independent horror filmmakers. This competitive festival accepts films based on categories such as Best Feature, Directing, Cinematography, etc. and was originally created to give filmmakers and writers in the horror and sci-fi genres a chance to show their work to people in the industry.

Sitges Int. Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia

The #1 genre film festival in the world with visits from top-level movie stars, directors, and producers, this event is a must for anyone looking to get noticed in the genres of fantasy and horror.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

18-26 October 2012

A fan favorite, this festival is one of the world’s leading showcases of new horror, sci-fi, action, cult features and shorts from Asia, Europe, and North America. This fixture of the Halloween season takes place over nine nights and was voted Runner-Up for Best Film Festival in the City in a poll of local filmgoers.

Important Horror and Fantasy Film Festivals

A Night of Horror Int. Film Festival – ANOH

22 March – 1 April 2012

Australia’s only horror film festival takes place every spring and includes numerous special events, including a zombie walk and horror-themed parties. Going on its 6th year, this festival is committed to helping independent horror filmmakers find their audience.

Imagine – Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival

This eleven-day event showcases a host of fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and animation films, from crowd pleasers to debate provoking. In addition to the screenings, there are dialogues with national and international guests, a master class, and the infamous Night of Terror.

Atlanta Film Festival

23 March – 1 April 2012

This festival is one of only two-dozen Academy Award qualifying festivals in the U.S. and is the largest and longest-running festival in the region. The screenings often include a dialog with the filmmakers, providing an opportunity for networking. This festival shows a diverse range of different independent films, including horror and sci-fi.

Donostia – San Sebastian Horror and Fantasy Film Festival

What was once an event geared toward youth is now a festival for spectators of all ages. In addition to the horror and fantasy film screenings, this event includes street shows, performances, music, and more. There are also competitions for both features and shorts and it all takes place right around Halloween.

Fantasia Int. Film Festival

This summer time festival hosts numerous films in the genres of fantasy, horror, martial arts, and sci-fi. Described as one of the largest and most outstanding genre film festival in North America, this event offers a line up of both national and international films.

Fantastic Fest

Fantastic Fest is one of the largest genre film festivals in the United States. Screenings include the genres of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action, Asian, and cult. This festival was named by Moviemaker as one of the 25 film festivals worth the entry fee and has premiered films such as “There Will Be Blood” and “Zombieland”.

Fantaspoa Film Festival

Considered to be the biggest fantastic film festival in Latin America, Fantaspoa is an ever growing, competitive, summer film festival in Brazil for the genre film lover.

Fantastisk Film Festival – Lund Int. Fantastic Film Festival

This competitive film festival shows numerous fantasy, horror, and sci-fi features and shorts at their event in Lund, Sweden.

Festival Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre

Also known as the “Red Blood” festival, Rojo Sangre is the only festival focused on fantastic, horror, and bizarre films in Argentina. It serves as an exhibition for independent and low budget films and includes competitions for both shorts and features.

Neuchatel Int. Fantastic Film Festival – NIFFF

NIFFF is renowned as a genre film festival centered on fantastic cinema, Asian cinema, and digital images. The films range from those made by well-known directors to completely unknown and offers five different competitions.

New York Asian Film Festival – NYAFF

This festival focuses on contemporary premieres and classic titles from Eastern and Southeast Asia, primarily in the genres of horror, gangster/crime, martial arts, and action.

Ravenna Nightmare Film Festival

Ravenna Nightmare is considered the most important festival in Italy for horror and fantastic cinema. It includes the International Competition for Feature Films and the European Competition for Short Films, as well as numerous special events and Halloween parties over the course of a week.

Telluride Horror Show

This is a three-day horror, fantasy, and sci-fi intense experience for every genre fan. A host of features and shorts are screened in the historic Sheridan Opera House as well as the Nugget Theatre. This is a must for genre fans.

To Keep on the Radar

Abertoir Horror Festival

Supported by the Film Agency for Wales, this festival promotes all things horror while remaining affordable. In order to support the continuation and growth of European fantastic cinema, Abertoir created the Golden Méliès Competition for Best European fantastic Film.

Atlanta Horror Film Festival

28-30 September 2012

Jam-packed with horror, experimental, sci-fi, dark-comedy, and gore, this festival is sure to be memorable. For three days in September, filmgoers will see the very best independent horror films from around the world at this celebration of independent cinema.

Big Bear Horro-Fi Film Festival

This festival is the festival that brings everyone together. It provides a forum for both established and up-and-coming filmmakers, as well as an intimate atmosphere to facilitate interaction between celebrities, filmmakers, and fans.

Bilbao Fantasy Film Festival

It’s a horror film festival for the die-hards and the casual fans. Bilbao screens films from all over the world and celebrates the horror genre by giving out awards in eleven different categories.

Bram Stoker Int. Film Festival

25th – 28th October 2012

Just in time for Halloween, this festival screens features, documentaries, and shorts from around the world within the genres of horror, sci-fi, and suspense. It’s the perfect way to get yourself into the Halloween spirit.

Buried Alive Horror Film Festival

Atlanta is a hot place for the horror genre. Here’s another film festival that’s all about terrifying its audience. Atlanta’s premier horror film festival showcases the very best of independent horror both from new filmmakers and longtime underground favorites.

Dark Carnival Film Festival

Dark Carnival is a celebration of horror, with live entertainment, film screenings, costume contests, dance parties, and much much more. Located in the historic Buskirk-Chumley Theatre, a vintage 1930s era movie house in Bloomington, Indiana, you’re sure to have a unique experience. Listed as one of the “13 Horror Film Fests to Die For” and one of the “25 Film Fests Worth the Entry Fee” by Moviemaker Magazine, it’s definitely a must for any horror fan.

Dead by Dawn

29 March to 1 April

Dead by Dawn is a weekend of nighttime movie madness. Screenings start after noon and run right through to the early morning hours for four consecutive days. What better time is there to watch a horror movie than around the 3am witching hour?  This Scottish film festival also awards three prizes that that audience can vote for.

Dragon Con Independent Film Festival

This festival consists of four days packed with screenings, panels, celebrity guests, discussions, concerts, contests, and seminars. It’s a great event for fans of everything from horror to comics, and with an average of 35,000+ attendees, it’s perfect for networking.

Eerie Horror Film Festival

For four days thousands of horror fans, filmmakers, and screenwriters, make their way to the city of Erie, Pennsylvania for this celebration of independent cinema. Featuring celebrity guests, screenings, and workshops, this festival is sure to entertain.

Grimm Up North Int. Horror Festival

This isn’t any ordinary horror and fantasy film festival. Grim Up North aims to transcend and bend genre expectations to challenge and shock their audiences. This festival explores the many dark and edgier aspects of cinema and is a must for any serious horror fan.

Freak Show Horror Film Festival

Celebrate the art of independent horror at this international film festival where filmmakers compete for awards in nine different categories. As a part of Spooky Empire’s Ultimate Horror Weekend, thousands of horror fans from around the world, are drawn to the area for celebrities, bands, tattooing, parties and more. It’s a fun filled weekend of horror!

Fright Nights Horror Film Festival

It's a weeklong horror event in the scariest month of the year, October. This film festival is always pushing the limits, screening films that sometimes don’t make it into cinemas because of the huge amount of gore!

Horrible Imaginings Film Festival

San Diego’s celebration of horror and its sub-genres, is still new to the festival community.  This showcase of independent artists and revival of classic horror films, launched with great success in November of 2010 is expected to continue growing.

Polly Staffle Grindhouse Fest

This festival is all about the darker side of cinema including horror, gore, sci-fi, fantasy, exploitation, sexploitation, cult, and more. With the aim of celebrating individuality and creativity, this festival makes a point to showcase the work of filmmakers with defiantly independent visions. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to witness or be apart of pushing the boundaries of the horror genre.

Killer Film Fest

Who says Halloween fun has to end in October? This brand new November Horror Film Festival is already off to an exciting start with numerous horror films and their very own Zombie Pub Crawl!

Leeds Int. Film Festival – LIFF

The largest film festival in England outside London shows over 200 films from around the world. This festival also hosts the Night of the Dead, an all night scare-a-thon that kicks off at midnight.

Motelx- Lisbon Int. Horror Film Festival

Motelx is all about new: new auteurs, new films, new looks, and new experiences. Screenings include films that have received enthusiastic reactions around the world in recent years in every possible branch of the horror genre and recently joined the European Fantastic Film Festival Federation.

New York City Horror Film Festival

The NYCHFF shows old and new at this film festival full of screenings, parties, celebrity guests, and free giveaways. It’s a competitive festival that gives out awards in nine categories.

Raindance Film Festival

September 26 - October 7 2012

Long associated with some of Europe's most horrific debuts like Blair Witch Project, The Audition and A Serbian Movie, Raindance was also the first western film festival to premiere Japanese films with movies from masters such as Hitashi Miike and Hideo Nagasaki. Raindance's programmers and their selection of horror and fantasy films has become an important launchpad for horror and fantasy films from around the world.

Sacramento Horror Film Festival

12, 13, & 14 October 2012

This festival screens more films over fewer days than any other horror film festival. This includes everything and anything horror. From features to trailers and music videos, if it’s in the genre and it’s good this festival will screen it. And let’s not forget the inclusion of live music, performance art, interactive games, costume contests, and comedy.


An international festival and screenplay competition, this eleven year-old festival is dedicated to helping horror filmmakers and screenwriters get recognized.

Yubari Int. Fantastic Film Festival

This Japanese competitive film festival screens a number of international films by up-and-coming directors.

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About The Author

Shelby McElrath is working toward a Bachelor's Degree in Cinema Production at Ithaca College in New York. She has spent the last three months interning for Raindance and looks forward to returning to New York to finish her education. Shelby hopes to one day have a career as a director for both her own screenplays and others'.

When she's not absorbed in film related activities, Shelby immerses herself in her other passion, music. She's also an avid Boston Red Sox fan and believes there are entirely too many nice folks in the UK wearing New York Yankee hats. 

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Essential Horror and Fantasy Film Festivals