Preview: Music Box’s Cinepocalypse Brings Genre Premieres, Guests and More to Chicago

Like any new film festival attempting to break into a marketplace already rich with festival options in any given month, the second annual Cinepocalypse genre film festival made its first major adjustment to its 2018 edition when it announced its dates—June 21-28, again at the Music Box Theatre—a full five months earlier in the calendar year than last year’s November event. With the hope of getting the jump on many of the world’s other genre festivals that happen later in the year, Cinepocalypse had hoped to up the number of world premiere films and the plan seems to have succeeded.


Topping last year’s one world premiere film, Primal Rage, the 2018 edition of the event will feature no fewer than nine planetary debuts, as well as special guest Lana Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy, Cloud Atlas, Speed Racer, Netflix’s “Sense8”) appearing with her groundbreaking debut, the 1996 lesbian-noir feature Bound; a Lifetime Achievement Award for esteemed filmmaker Ernest R. Dickerson (with two of his earliest directing efforts being screened, 1992’s Juice and 1995’s Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight, both in 35mm); and an array of feature films (including Midwest, U.S., and North American premieres), documentaries, short films, and repertory offerings.

The Midwest’s largest gathering of genre films and fans, the sophomore year of Cinepocalypse also features a Feature Film Jury, with co-presidents Scott Derrickson (the director and co-writer of Marvel’s Doctor Strange) and his co-writer C. Robert Cargill; a 35mm screening of 1993’s Judgment Night (shot in Chicago), with director Stephen Hopkins in attendance; a rare 70mm screening of 1986’s notorious Howard the Duck, George Lucas’ cinematic interpretation of the cult favorite Marvel comic book; a 35mm showing of the 1932 Michael Curtiz-directed Doctor X (considered the great-granddaddy of body horror movies); and the first-ever live recording of the ’80’s All Over podcast, co-hosted by respected film bloggers/critics Drew McWeeny and Scott Weinberg, with special guest Jonah Ray, the new host of the recently rebooted “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

In addition to the Opening Night film, Mike P. Nelson’s The Domestics (starring Kate Bosworth and Tyler Hoechlin), Cinepocalypse will host first looks at eight other features, including Michael Winnick’s Malicious (from Get Out producer Shaun Redick); Blumhouse’s Boogeyman Pop (produced by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story screenwriter Chris Weitz); Snowfort Pictures’ killer drone thriller Hover, written by and starring Cleopatra Coleman (“The Last Man on Earth”); the extreme virtual reality sci-fi thriller Empathy Inc.; Gags, all about horrifying clown in Wisconsin; director Johnny Kevorkian’s Await Further Instructions, a work that is part techno-paranoid thriller, part intergalactic body horror; The Russian Bride, the story of a coupling gone horribly wrong; and The Appearance, concerning an investigation into a bizarre murder of a monk during the Inquisition.

The Closing Night spectacular is a 30th anniversary screening of the beautiful, nostalgic, bizarre, and utterly creative Killer Klowns from Outer Space, with the writers/directors The Chiodo Brothers (Charles and Stephen) in attendance for a post-film Q&A.

Two documentaries playing the festival are particular highlights of the regional debuts: The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From A Mythical Man, from director Tommy Avallone, which is a collection of first-hand accounts of seemingly random encounters with the great actor and Second City/SNL alumni; and Wolfman’s Got Nards, about the making of, box office failure, and later successful cult rebirth of director Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad (André Gower, one of the film’s young actors, directed the documentary.)

Also tapping into the nostalgia vibe is the midwest premiere of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, a continuation of the beloved franchise, filled to the brim with homicidal puppets, written by the man who wrote Bone Tomahawk, and directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund, who aren’t afraid to get gory and politically incorrect.

For the full slate and schedule of films & other happenings, as well as tickets to all Cinepocalypse 2018 events (full disclosure, I participated in programming the festival and will moderate several Q&As), go to the Music Box Theatre’s event page.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.