Westchester Natives Launch Genre Film Festival in Sleepy Hollow

Updated: Oct 8, 2019

By Brian Ponte



Photo courtesy of Matt Verboys and Dale Cunningham.

As the leaves in the Hudson Valley begin to change and pumpkins begin to appear on front porches, the village of Sleepy Hollow is once again fully enraptured in its centuries-long adoration of all things paranormal. The most notable addition to this year’s Halloween festivities is a four-day long genre film festival featuring everything from Disney animated shorts to a one-man-show featuring actor Jeffrey Combs as Edgar Allan Poe.


Co-founded by Taylor White and Westchester natives Dale Cunningham and Matt Verboys, the First Annual Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival descends on the storied village from Oct. 10 to Oct. 13. The festival coincides with the approaching bi-centennial anniversary of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” as well as the 70th anniversary of the Disney animated short based on the story that first brought international fame to the now-legendary Westchester town.


Both Verboys and Cunningham were raised in Somers, a northern Westchester town, and were surprised that a festival of this nature had not yet been held in a town with as much horror bona fides as Sleepy Hollow.


“We have Sleepy Hollow here and no one has ever taken advantage of it,” said Cunningham, a writer based out of White Plains. “That’s really what went behind the whole idea. We were like ‘why is this not happening?’”


Verboys, a writer and film producer based out of Los Angeles, praised some recent progress made in showcasing genre film in the region—citing Yonkers’ Alamo Drafthouse as an example—but felt that the area was still lacking in a true celebration of all things spooky.


“It just seemed like a way that we can celebrate movies in tandem with the Halloween celebration, and quite frankly in the most historic supernatural place in the country,” said Verboys. “It’s just so rich in history that it excites everybody.”


The festival has, indeed, attracted a great deal of high-profile attention as actors, filmmakers, and comedians will all be appearing in Sleepy Hollow over the weekend. Along with the Jeffrey Combs performance entitled “Nevermore,” the weekend will also include:


· Bobcat Goldthwait, Dana Gould, John Hodgman and more in a live reading of Ed Wood’s infamously so-bad-it’s-good film “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”


· A double-feature screening of both Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” and the aforementioned Disney animated short film “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” celebrating their 20th and 70th anniversaries respectively.


· “The Bride of Frankenstein” followed by a Q&A featuring John Waxman, the son of the film’s composer Franz Waxman.


· A conversation with producer Edward R. Pressman, whose films “Phantom of the Paradise” and “The Crow” will also be shown during the festival.


· Two blocks of short horror films.


· A 35th anniversary screening of “The Neverending Story.”


The broad interpretation of genre films, as well as many of the more family-friendly events and screenings were a vital part of planning the festival. The festival's founders found that genre film festivals were often geared more towards adults, with little offered in the way of family entertainment.


“One thing that Taylor White, Dale and I wanted to do was make sure that there’s a little something for everybody,” said Verboys. “That’s really what the Disney screening is all about. Then on the other end of the spectrum you can go see Peter Strickland’s ‘In Fabric.’”


The Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival will take place in the Tarrytown Music Hall, as well as Warner Library. The full schedule can be found at sleepyhollowfilmfest.com

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