Shortly after beginning the Retro Film Series in 1998, Carl began adding classic horror movies to the theater’s programming. This positive audience reaction to classic horror led Carl to start a festival that exhibited new films within the genre.
“If there’s enough of the audience for the classics, what if we produced a festival that had nothing but brand new horror films? That was the genesis of 'Nevermore,'” Carl said.
Since its founding in 1999, Nevermore has grown in popularity while building a reputation for showcasing the best that horror has to offer. Films such as "Let the Right One In" and "The Host," two critically acclaimed horror movies of the last 15 years, were screened at Nevermore before going on to find mainstream success.
The growing popularity of the festival in recent years has led to a significant increase in submissions. According to Carl, the festival received over 500 submissions this year from around the globe. This increase led to an expansion of the festival’s selection criteria. Now, genres such as science fiction, fantasy and action are accepted along with horror.
For many filmmakers, the environment at Nevermore is a large part of the festival’s allure.
“The audiences at Nevermore are the nicest, most gracious and most excited about seeing horror,” said Trip Hope, a producer of "The Boogeys," a science-fiction short playing at Nevermore this year. “The Carolina Theatre is just an incredibly gorgeous, historic theater that has such a great reputation. To have the opportunity to have your film shown in that theater is quite an honor.”
This year’s festival takes place during a time when horror is arguably in the middle of a critical and commercial resurgence. Many films, such as "Get Out," a rare example of a horror film being nominated for an Oscar, are tackling issues that are at the forefront of society today. "The Quiet Room," the festival’s Jury Award Winner for Best Long-Form Narrative Short, aims to do the same by portraying mental illness onscreen in a unique way. The film tells the story of a man who must stop a psych-ward demon that he encounters after a suicide attempt.
“Genre film has been a space where we can process really specific social situations, as well as internal struggle, so in films like 'The Babadook' where we’re processing grief, or films like 'Night of the Living Dead' where we’re looking at race relations, horror has been an excellent place to do that,” said Sam Wineman, "Quiet Room" director. “I feel that we are on the verge of a lot of change, and to be able to create films at a time when we're actually manifesting the kinds of change I like to see is why I'm doing what I'm doing."