Popcorn Frights Announces Jury Prize and Audience Award Winners

Popcorn Frights Announces Award Winners with THE PUPPETMAN Receiving the Jury Prize for Best Film and made-in-Florida LGBTQ Horror Musical BIG EASY QUEENS Captures the Audience Award at Record-Setting Festival

The Ninth Annual Popcorn Frights Film Festival was a hybrid experience that pulled in a record-setting 10,000 attendees and viewers across all 50 U.S. states

After a fantastic run of eleven nights of in-person and virtual programming experiences, the ninth edition of the Popcorn Frights Film Festival draws to a close. The festival takes pride in unveiling its juried and audience awards, carefully selected from a robust lineup of 119 films — a program encompassing 51 features and 68 shorts hailing from 20 different countries, spanning 8 distinct categories.

This year, the jury panel, composed of national media figures and local filmmakers, elected to honor Brandon Christensen’s diabolical tale THE PUPPETMAN with the Jury Prize for Best Feature Film. Notably, this marks Brandon Christensen’s second triumph of the festival’s Jury Prize, having previously secured the honor in 2021 for the Shudder original SUPERHOST. In their award announcement, the jury said the following: “We were captivated by THE PUPPETMAN’s exceptional portrayal of the essence of horror. The film’s outstanding ensemble cast, combined with masterful sequencing of suspenseful scenes, succeeded in crafting an atmosphere filled with palpable tension that resonated deeply with us.”

Accepting the award, Brandon Christensen said, “Holy shit! Popcorn Frights has always been an important stop for every one of my films to date. I’ve met tons of amazing fans of horror who come out every time to support our films as well as the Florida horror community. It’s a total honor to take home the Jury Prize for this film, and I love you all! Until next time!”

This year’s Scariest Feature Film Prize was given to Jason Miller’s chilling saga GHOSTS OF THE VOID, a timely tale that reminds us that true terror often lies beyond the supernatural by capturing the essence of our collective fear. In its effort to shine a brighter spotlight on first-time filmmakers, Popcorn Frights created its New Nightmare Prize celebrating filmmakers making their feature film debuts. This year’s recipient is Devanny Pinn’s Florida-based true-crime thriller THE BLACK MASS, which received its world premiere at the Festival to great acclaim. In accepting the award, Devanny shared the following statement:

“This film and the effort behind it come from a truly independent spirit and love of cinema. It’s such an incredible honor to not only have Popcorn Frights’ support as I begin my directing career, but to receive recognition for it in the form of the New Nightmare Award. I am and will continue to be grateful for this moment and inspired to continue to create more art in our genre thanks to this support.”

Winning the Jury Prize for Best Short Film was GET AWAY by Michael Gabriele, one of 67 films competing for the prize in eight short blocks. The Scariest Short Film Prize was claimed by Florida’s very own filmmaker, Jay Henric, for UNKNOWN, a sinister tale that takes an incredibly simple story and delivers something truly special.

The Festival’s spotlight on Florida horror marked its largest program to date featuring a curated collection of the weirdest, wildest, and most off-the-wall films from the sun & scuzz capital of the world. Among the gems presented were the world premiere of SANTASTEIN as well as repertory showings of JAWS 3D for its 40th anniversary, the theatrical restoration premiere of the video nasty NIGHTMARE courtesy of Severin Films, and closing the festival was the 30th anniversary of Fred Williamson’s murder mystery romp SOUTH BEACH accompanied by live commentary from local comics. Central to this spotlight on Florida horror was Popcorn Frights’ HOMEGROWN: 100% PURE FRESH SQUEEZED FLORIDA HORROR, a dedicated program that showcased 7 films of the cream of Florida’s homegrown crop, featuring a lineup of local filmmakers including Popcorn Frights alums Jay Henric, Jack Kierski, and Rostislav Vaynshtok. In this fierce competition, this year’s award for Best Florida Short Film went to Brian K. Rosenthal’s POV.

In total, Popcorn Frights welcomed more than 10,000 attendees to its films and events, encompassing both in-person and uniquely experienced virtual gatherings across all fifty U.S. states. Each audience member in every hybrid screening had the opportunity to cast their votes online during the Festival, and for as many films as they wanted — but only once per film.

Claiming the title of Popcorn Frights’ Audience Award for Best Feature Film was Erynn Dalton’s BIG EASY QUEENS, a made-in-Florida LGBTQ glam horror musical that also featured a live performance at its world premiere presentation. Winning the Audience Award for Best Short Film was Santiago Saba Salem’s Giallo inspired RED GLOVES. Impressively, this marks the third consecutive year where the Audience Award for Best Feature Film has been won by a woman, following Kier-La Janesse for WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED and Kyra Gardner for LIVING WITH CHUCKY.

In receiving the prize, Erynn Dalton said, “Gallopin’ garfish! The Big Easy Queens team is so excited and proud to have won the Audience Award from Popcorn Frights! It is incredibly special to us that our film — made entirely in Florida — is being honored with this award (especially during a time that state leaders in Florida are trying to make drag illegal). Huge thanks to Popcorn Frights for taking a chance on such a genre-bending film and giving us the best home for our world premiere!”

Celebrating its remarkable run, the Festival proudly showcased 26 world premieres, 4 North American premieres, 4 US premieres, 11 East Coast premieres, and 35 Florida premieres. The cinematic mayhem in all encompassed 63 scheduled in-theater and virtual screenings and events, drawing more than 70 filmmakers from all over the world to the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale and vibrant Miami Beach for this year’s Popcorn Frights Film Festival.

Popcorn Frights began with the world premiere of Magnolia’s dread-soaked nightmare DELIVER US on opening night on August 10, and continued through August 20 with a mix of live events, parties, premieres, and industry sessions. Festival highlights included a live score performance by Miami artist Richard Vergez for Herschell Gordon Lewis’ seminal made-in-Miami splatter film BLOOD FEAST in commemoration of its 60th anniversary. A standout program was the 1983-D celebration, a dedicated homage to the ‘80s, featuring a selection of 3-D classics including the slashers FRIDAY THE 13th PART III and SILENT MADNESS. Attendees also had the unique opportunity to take a walking tour of South Beach’s most notable filming locations from film and TV. A vibrant Ocean Drive party hosted by The Betsy Hotel took an unexpected twist with a procession of creepy nuns courtesy of Warner Bros. The festival’s jam-packed industry sessions boasted notable panelists such as Florida filmmaker Erynn Dalton (BIG EASY QUEENS), Erik & Carson Bloomquist (SHE CAME FROM THE WOODS), and The Horror Collective’s founder & director Shaked Berenson, which were moderated by Fangoria’s Editor-in-Chief Phil Nobile Jr. Amidst the revelry were beach parties, a spotlight on homegrown talent through Popcorn Frights’ HOMEGROWN: 100% PURE FRESH SQUEEZED FLORIDA HORROR program, a special appearance by STARSHIP TROOPER’s Casper Van Dien at the world premiere of THE BLACK MASS, a showing of TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE 50 years to the day the infamous massacre shook the world, Horror Movie Trivia hosted by Fangoria alongside NIGHTBREED star Anne Bobby, and a closing night marked by the uproarious live commentary by Miami comics celebrating the 30th anniversary of the underseen cult classic SOUTH BEACH, to name just a few of the memorable experiences that unfolded during the festival’s eleven-night span.

The full list of the festival’s award winners can be found below:

Jury Prize for Best Feature Film: The Puppetman, dir. Brandon Christensen
Jury Prize for Best Short Film: Get Away, dir. Michael Gabriele
Scariest Feature Film Prize: Ghosts of the Void, dir. Jason Miller
Scariest Short Film Prize: Unknown, dir. Jay Henric
New Nightmare Prize for Best Debut Film: The Black Mass, dir. Devanny Pinn
Best Florida Short Film: POV, dir. Brian K. Rosenthal
Audience Award for Best Feature Film: Big Easy Queens, dir. Erynn Dalton
Audience Award for Best Short Film: Red Gloves, dir. Santiago Saba Salem