My favorite component of any given film festival should be pretty obvious by now. Sundance calls it Park City After Midnight. Toronto calls it Midnight Madness. Over at SXSW, the program's known as 'Round Midnight, and here in the beautiful city of Philadelphia, our local film festival calls it Danger After Dark. No matter what you call the program and no matter what city you happen to be in, any half-decent film festival will always offer a colorful variety of horror flicks, cult-type comedies, and genre fare that's not easily classifiable, but will undoubtedly appeal to the more intrepid movie geeks out there.
So while the Philadelphia Film Festival is obviously not on the same playing field as a Toronto or a Sundance, that doesn't prevent Danger After Dark programmer Travis Crawford from cobbling together one heck of a genre display, year after year. And while it seems unlikely that a professional festival-goer would call the Philly Fest "the finest in the country," there's little denying that the Danger After Dark program gets more exciting (and more popular) with each passing year. Basically what I'm saying is: The festival as a whole is a darn good time, but if genre fare is what you're after, make sure you get down to Philadelphia next April! (We're one of those shiny spots right near New York, Baltimore, and Atlantic City.)
My first Philly Fest was in 2003, and while I was psyched enough to see all the "regular" movies, my eyeballs kept focusing on the Danger After Dark lineup, which back then included titles like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Dark Water, Eternal Blood, Love Object, Mimic: Sentinel, and Beyond Re-Animator. Nothing too staggering, but I got a good introduction to Chan-wook Park and Hideo Nakata, and a few DTV Dimension titles that, despite common sense, I always get a little psyched for.