The 9th annual Horrible Imaginings Film Festival stressed variety over pure horror bonafides at its first weekend in Orange County, Calif.

In theme and style, HIFF went exploring Sept. 3-5 at Santa Ana’s Frida Cinema, with German film Snowflake, and short film The Quiet Room picking up the festival’s top awards.

The program was incredible, and what more could I really ask for than I’m sharing great films with people who appreciate them,” founder/director Miguel Rodriguez told the festival audience during the awards ceremony. Rodriguez said he received more than 1300 short and feature film submissions from around the world. 

HIFF founder and director Miguel Rodriguez talks to an audience at a screening. Photo by Jessica Peralta.

Snowflake, directed by Adolfo J. Kolmerer and William James, is a wild ride of Scorsese, Coen Brothers and Tarantino-era genre mashups in a tale of two hitmen stuck — literally — inside a film of fellow crooks and killers, an angel and a superhero.

Snowflake won four awards, the most out of any film at HIFF, for: Best Special Effects (Feature), Best Actor (Feature), Best Directed (Feature), and Best Overall (Feature).

During the voting process, three of the seven judges asked Rodriguez if both of the lead actors from Snowflake could win the award. So, in a strange series of events, Erkan Acar and Reza Brojerdi both took home the award for best Actor.

There was also entertainment in the lobby of the Frida during HIFF. Photo by Jessica Peralta.

The Quiet Room, a long-form short, won three awards at HIFF: Best Screenplay (Short), Best Monster (Short), and Best Actor (Short).

Set in a mental health facility, The Quiet Room following Michael (Jamal Douglas), whose attempt at suicide awakens a psych ward demon, but this isn’t your typical mental-illness-as-boogeyman type of movie. It’s much more real.

Douglas took home the award for Best Actor (short), and during a Q and A following the screening, he described his experiences with mental illness.

Douglas’ brother, who suffers from mental illness, saw the film and asked Jamal if he was playing him.

What do you say to him? Because that could be very insulting. Jamal had the courage to say yes. And the response was a huge smile. Award deserved,” Rodriguez said.

The Returning, originally called 9.13, is a film is based on a true story. The 1972 Sungai Kerian tragedy, where a monsoon hit the town. A ferry carrying a bus of school children broke, causing the death of everyone on the bus. The film, reminiscent of Devil’s Backbone and Carnival of Souls, delves into Malaysian culture and lore, and was easily the most intense film at HIFF and picked up the Best Score (Feature) and Best Cinematography (Feature) awards.

La Quinceanera directed by Gigi Guerrero, is action-packed women empowerment. A bloody, webisodic “Latino Kill Bill” that follows the great lengths Alejandra Santos (Mia Xitlali), and her grandmother (Gabriela Reynoso) will go to get revenge.

Xitlali won the award for “Best Actress (Feature), but the judges said they had a hard time choosing between her and Reynoso. The film also won the award for Best Screenplay (Feature).

Next year, Rodriguez plans to return to the Frida for HIFF’s 10 year anniversary. “This theatre is like a gem,” he said.

H.M. Cthulu and The Intriguer contributed to this story.

Director Gigi Saul Guerrero talks about her web series/film “La Quinceanera.” Photo by Jessica Peralta.

Actor Gustavo Gomez from “La Quinceanera.” Photo by Jessica Peralta.

Ben Brown and Laura Mock talk about “Bong of the Living Dead.” Photo by Jessica Peralta.

Director Jenn Wexler of “The Ranger” greets the crowd. Photo by Jessica Peralta.

Professor John Jennings spoke about race and horror during the Scary Black Folks panel. Photo by Jessica Peralta.

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