The Unfortunate Return of the Pandemic Panic Film Festival

Last year I came up with the idea of the Pandemic Panic Film Festival. One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic was the at-home accessibility of film festival screenings. The Telluride Horror Show and Nightstream Film Festival aligned in such a way that their virtual screenings meant two weeks of watching new films from the comfort of my couch. It was one of the highlights of an otherwise depressing year. As we went into 2021 my assumption was film festivals would return to normal, virtual screenings would come to an end, and I’d finally make it to Telluride in person. 

Alas, just as no one could predict the pandemic, no one could predict we’d still be faced with such uncertainty. No one could predict we’d still be dealing with ICUs at capacity due to COVID.

Due to the circumstances, there are multiple ways film festivals are approaching their return. Telluride Horror Show chose the all in-person option. Fantastic Fest is taking the hybrid approach and doing a little of both. Overlook Film Festival, the one that brought me to Nightstream, is sticking with all-virtual.

I’m sorry it has to be this way. Yes, selfishly, I would prefer all film festivals have a virtual component moving forward. It creates accessibility for people who don’t have the financial or physical means to travel. Yet, I would have preferred festival programmers to arrive at this without this neverending pandemic. It’s sad that it takes a selfish population that eschews community – extending the pandemic – to reinforce the role film festivals play in expanding the cinematic community. 

But here we are. Once again I embrace it but not with the enthusiasm of 2020. It doesn’t have the same symbolism. 

Pandemic Panic Film Festival returns for 2021. We’re swapping out Telluride Horror Show for Fantastic Fest while sticking with Nightstream. Fantastic Fest @ Home runs September 30 – October 11. September 30 through October 3 will be screenings of new films for a limited window of 48 hours. Each day at 11 a.m. CT FF@Home will announce the films for the next day. Running in conjunction and through October 11 will be a selection of favorites from Fantastic Fests of the past. Nightstream drops on October 7 and runs until the 13. These films will have timed releases each day and will all expire on the 13th.

How to Watch Pandemic Panic Film Festival

There are some tricks to doing the Pandemic Panic Film Festival. There are only so many hours during the two weeks of films which means a person can’t watch everything. It requires researching and prioritizing.

Step One: What’s coming soon?

During a traditional film festival where I’m attending in person I don’t worry too much about release dates. It’s about the shared experience of seeing a new film even if it’s only a couple of weeks (or days) before it hits theaters. When you’re streaming at home it’s a little different. There are a handful of films playing at both Fantastic Fest and Nightstream that will drop on streaming channels shortly after screening virtually and at those festivals. In some cases there are films screening physically at Fantastic Fest that will soon be streaming. I’ve weeded those out of the selection because it simply means I get to extend my virtual film festival. This is what I know.

Code Name: Nagasaki :: Nightstream :: DocLands :: Available now

Bingo Hell :: Fantastic Fest (in person) :: Amazon Prime :: October 1

There’s Someone Inside Your House :: Fantastic Fest @ Home :: Netflix :: October 6

V/H/S 94 :: Fantastic Fest (in person) :: Shudder :: October 6

Step Two: What overlaps?

Next I figure out what’s overlapping with both film festivals. If something is screening at Nightstream and Fantastic Fest @ Home I’ll deprioritize it at Nightstream. This is because I only purchased the 10 film package for Nightstream while Fantastic Fest is unlimited. Here are the films that overlap.

After Blue (Dirty Paradise)
Beyond the Infinite 2 Minutes
Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest
Eyes of Fire (1983)
King Car
Name Above Title

A cool thing about piggybacking these genre festivals is that a handful of the Fantastic Fest in-person only films are screening for Nightstream. For example, Bloody Oranges is one of the buzziest horror films of the year, so I was a little disappointed it wasn’t streaming for Fantastic Fest @ Home. Happily, Nightstream has it. Here’s everything I believe that’s streaming on Nightstream that was physical-only for Fantastic Fest.

Bloody Oranges
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched
Mother Schmuckers

Step Three: Make your choices

Now comes the hard part. Making your choices. Nightstream has made it easy by letting us know the times and days when everything is playing. Here’s a handy schedule. Fantastic Fest @ Home? Notsomuch. They’re going the route of letting us know what’s available at 11 a.m. CT the day before. Currently, as of 8:30 p.m. PT on September 29, we have the schedule for September 30. Here’s what to expect on the first day of Fantastic Fest @ Home.

After Blue (Dirty Paradise)
Sweetie, You Won’t Believe
Nr. 10
There’s Something Inside Your House
The Execution
The Taking
The Glasshouse

Here’s how I dealt with day one using the Pandemic Panic Film Festival strategy. Remember, you only have 48 hours after these movies drop to watch them. After Blue (Dirty Paradise) is screening at Nightstream, but I’d need to use one of my 10 tickets, so I chose to save one of those tickets and prioritize it for Fantastic Fest. One small catch with that decision: After Blue (Dirty Paradise) is one of a handful of limited screenings at Fantastic Fest @ Home. Once all of the streams are gone (and who knows how many that is) the film will no longer be available.

There’s Something Inside Your House will hit Netflix on October 6. That’s perfect because it’s in between Fantastic Fest and Nightstream. My film festival can be contiguous! Scratch it from Fantastic and watch it on Netflix.

That doesn’t lighten my load too much, but it helps with decision making. My current plan is to start light with Sweetie, You Won’t Believe and hope not everyone wakes up on a Thursday morning to watch twisted French apocalyptic, sci-fi.

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