After eleven nights of hybrid in-person and virtual programming, the eighth edition of Popcorn Frights Film Festival has announced its juried and audience awards selected from a lineup of 113 films (36 features and 77 short films from 20 countries) in 10 categories. Consisting of members of national media and local filmmakers, the jury chose to honor Florida filmmaker Sylvia Caminer’s Follow Her with the Jury Prize for Best Feature Film. The jury called Caminer’s feature “A socially relevant horror movie for modern times, Sylvia Caminer’s Follow Her features a completely unpredictable screenplay by star Dani Barker with a twist at the end that rivals The Sixth Sense. Caminer’s directing style is near perfection, and we can’t wait to ‘follow her’ into her next film.”

Upon receiving the award, Sylvia Caminer said, “Winning the Jury Prize for Best Film is such an incredible honor as the level of programming at Popcorn Frights is top notch — we saw such fabulous films at the festival. It is truly my new favorite American film festival! The directors Marc and Igor take such incredible care of the filmmakers, the audiences are tremendous and such great networking! It’s everything you hope for in a festival. I can’t wait to make another film so that I can hopefully get back there soon.”


This year’s Scariest Feature Film Prize was given to The Ruins director Carter Smith’s Swallowed. The New Nightmare Prize shines a spotlight on first time feature filmmakers, this year Shane Brady was honored for his “poignant fever dream” Breathing Happy. Shane said, “Making my first feature, and self-funding it, is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life — if not THE scariest. So it is only fitting that Popcorn Frights, A HORROR MOVIE FILM FESTIVAL, GAVE US AN AWARD!!! To be not only recognized to be accepted into film festivals as a first-time filmmaker, but to be celebrated for it??? That’s more than I could have ever hoped for. On behalf of our entire cast and crew, with our whole hearts, we thank the city of Miami, FL and the wonderful people at Popcorn Frights for making our time there so memorable.”



Kelsey Bollig’s Kickstart My Heart kickstarted action, tears, and horror — awarded the Jury Prize for Best Short Film, one of 77 films competing in five blocks of short films. The Scariest Short Film Prize goes to Ryan Valdez’s We Got A Dog, a sinister tale spinning a simple story and delivering something special.


The Festival also celebrated local filmmakers with a dedicated program featuring 10 films spotlighting the cream of Florida’s homegrown crop, including several returning local filmmakers: Mike Marrero, Jon Rhoads, Rostislav Vaynshtok, and Scott Vasey. This year’s award for Best Florida Short Film went to Sean Menendez’s Midnight Screams.



Kyra Gardner takes home the crown for Popcorn Frights’ Audience Award for Best Feature Film for her documentary Living With Chucky, and Best Short Film goes to Will Lee’s body horror Ringworms. Kyra Gardner had this to say about her win, “I am so humbled and honored to see such a dedication to our friend til the end, Chucky. Thank you so much to all the people who attended, and to Popcorn Frights for such a wonderful festival. It means a lot to receive love and appreciation from the very people I made this movie for — the audience. Thank you so much for selecting me for the Audience Award, it is something I don’t take lightly.”


The Festival, which proudly celebrated 28 World Premieres, 6 North American Premieres, 5 US Premieres, 19 East Coast Premieres, and 45 Florida Premieres, featured 55 scheduled in-theater and virtual screenings and events, in addition to its virtual reality world experience. More than 50 filmmakers flew down to attend all the festivities in downtown Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach at this year’s Popcorn Frights.

The full list of the festival’s award winners can be found below:

Jury Prize for Best Feature Film: Follow Her, dir. Sylvia Caminer
Jury Prize for Best Short Film: Kickstart My Heart, dir. Kelsey Bollig
Scariest Feature Film Prize: Swallowed, dir. Carter Smith
Scariest Short Film Prize: We Got a Dog, dir. Ryan Valdez
New Nightmare Prize for Best Debut Film: Breathing Happy, dir. Shane Brady
Best Florida Short Film: Midnight Screams, dir. Sean Menendez
Audience Award for Best Feature Film: Living with Chucky, dir. Kyra Gardner
Audience Award for Best Short Film: Ringworms, dir. Will Lee

Submissions for the 2023 Popcorn Frights Film Festival are now open via FilmFreeway:

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