One of MovieMaker magazine's "Bloody Best Genre Fests in the World."

Previously participating studios: Neon, Gunpowder & Sky, Magnolia, IFC, American Genre Film Archive.

"The Cannes of horror"
- iHorror

"Highly recommend submitting ... maybe more than any other festival"
- HorrorHound Magazine

"One of the best fests in the world ... a wonderful, welcoming home for fans of independent horror and genre cinema"
- Dread Central

"One of the most highly regarded horror film fests in the United States"
-Gruesome Magazine

"One of the best-curated shorts programs on the planet"
- The Film Coterie

- We Are Indie Horror

"Immediately in the class of the best genre festivals anywhere"
- Bloody Disgusting

"Quite possibly the best four days of film programming ever put together, EVER"
- Days of the Dead

"Among the premier horror film festivals in the country, if not the world."
- Horror Hound

"A must for genre filmmakers and fans"
- From Dusk Till Con

Cheer! Shudder! Never sleep again! Audiences and filmmakers discover their new favorite genre films at the world’s premier program of horrific, dreadful and weird movies – Nightmares Film Festival.

Nightmares Film Festival is a destination horror and genre fest conveniently held in the heart of the Midwest: easily reached, easily navigated and inclusive Columbus, Ohio. NFF sets itself apart from other genre fests by its deep year-round connection to the horror filmmaking community, which gives it the first line on the rarest, scariest, most daring and most unsettling films being created around the world.

Festival screenings are held at the world-renowned Gateway Film Center, named one of the 20 best art houses on the continent by Sundance. The film center’s dedicated team of expert projectionists – maybe the last such team in the country – oversees all presentation, to ensure every film looks and sounds its very best.

Nightmares Film Festival celebrates writers with a screenplay contest for horror feature and short scripts, overseen by a Script Pipeline grand champion and Screenwriter of the Year. Support for screenwriters includes the FinaLIST: an opt-in internal listing service before the festival, which allows all selected filmmakers the option to read finalist screenplays and meet with the writers at NFF.

NFF also rewards fandom with surprise gifts and giveaways for its most faithful screening attendees, lovingly known as The Sleepless. So don’t skip that midnight block!

World-class screening facilities. Top-notch films. Filmmakers and fans being shocked and celebrated together. Nightmare Film Festival is a prestige festival and part of advancing horror filmmaking around the world.

Short and feature filmmakers and screenwriters selected for NFF compete for the coveted Night Mare, the festival’s beautiful hand-sculpted award honoring the dark horses of horror and genre filmmaking. The Nightmares Film Festival Night Mare is designed and sculpted by toy and figure artist Tony Simione (Star Wars, Walking Dead, Aliens, Marvel Superheroes, Nightmare Before Christmas).

When qualifying submissions are screened, awards and Night Mare statuettes are given for:

The Film from Hell – best of the festival
Best overall feature/short
Best horror feature/short
Best thriller feature/short
Best midnight feature/short
Best horror-comedy feature/short
Best director feature/short
Best cinematography feature/short
Best writing feature/short
Best lead performance feature/short
Best supporting performance feature/short
Best Recurring Nightmare

Screenwriting: best screenplay feature/short

Esprit de Gore

Submission Eligibility:
The festival welcomes for consideration short films of 59 minutes or less and feature films of 60 minutes or longer in the categories of Horror, Thriller and Midnight as described below, produced after January 2019. Premieres are prioritized in programming.

Horror: Tales of terror and death.
Thriller: Tales of dark suspense.
Midnight: Tales of the weird and bizarre.
Documentary: True stories of the horrific

All submissions not originally in English must be subtitled in English, and screenplays must be in English.

In support of paying creators, Nightmares Film Festival does not offer fee waivers.

Submission Materials:
1) Entry fee paid by credit card or PayPal. Entry fees are non-refundable.

2) Private online/FilmFreeway screener link (preferred) or 2 preview DVDs (NTSC only) postmarked by the listed deadline and mailed to the festival's attention at 1550 N. High St., Columbus, OH, 43201. Please test DVDs on several makes and models of players. DVD+RW and DVD-RW are not acceptable formats. DVDs will not be returned.

The Nightmares Film Festival jury is composed of film production, exhibition, press and audience community members. Their decisions on official selections, award nominees and award winners are final.

Filmmakers of selected films will be notified by email or phone.

Exhibition Prints:
Nightmares Film Festival accepts for exhibition HD digital files, Blu-Rays (features) and DCPs. Materials must be received by the cutoff communicated to selected filmmakers; films not received by the cutoff will be replaced in the program. The festival does not pay shipping costs for delivery or return of materials.

The Fine Print:
NFF reserves the right to disqualify any submission without refund of submission fees.

While premieres are not requirements for NFF, premiere status is considered in final programming decisions.

All accepted films are scheduled at the discretion of the Nightmares Film Festival staff.

Films produced or financed by a major motion picture studio are eligible for festival screenings but are not eligible for competitive awards. Films that have acquired distribution are eligible for festival screenings but are not eligible for competitive awards.

Nightmares Film Festival is hereby granted the right to use an excerpt from any film submitted and accepted for exhibition at the festival for promotional purposes. The festival is hereby also granted the right to use image(s) and/or biographical information of the filmmakers for promotional purposes. The festival reserves the right to fill in any information not supplied by the filmmaker from whatever source available and will not be responsible if incorrect information is entered.

It is the responsibility of the filmmaker to secure authorization for any copyrighted material that may be used in the film. I shall indemnify and hold harmless Nightmares Film Festival from and against any and all claims, liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including but not limited to attorney's fees, and costs of the court) which may be incurred by reason of any claim involving copyright, trademark, credits, publicity, screening, and loss of or damage to the screening videos entered.

NFF does not pay screening fees.

By submitting your film, you expressly acknowledge and agree that you shall be bound by the terms of this agreement.

Overall Rating
  • Ryan Stevens Harris

    Nightmares is one of the coolest genre festivals in the country playing at the premiere indie theater in Columbus, Ohio. We were grateful to be included with our feature film, "Moon Garden", which played with great sound and picture at the Gateway Theater. Lots of filmmakers and distributors in attendance and a fantastic lineup. Highly recommend!

    September 2023
  • Jake McClellan

    Great experience. The team really rooted for our feature and carved out a great space for their audience to enjoy. It was a pleasure working with Nightmares AND to be nominated for their awards. Wish we could've been there in person!

    December 2022
  • Lindsay Zibach

    I am so impressed by the networking at this event and the environment the organizers have created. In-person or remote, every filmmaker feels truly involved and connected to the community. What an honor to be included!

    December 2022
  • Adam Marans

    Easy and empathetic communication from submission to post-festival wrap-up, Nightmares backs up its outstanding curation with equally thoughtful organization. An elevated and incredible festival.

    November 2022
  • What a wonderful experience Nightmares was! Jason and Chris have truly curated a FILM FAMILY! So many talented, good people were brought together and I'm so lucky to now be a part of that family. Super cool venue, great networking, fantastic distribution panel and wonderful films. We were honored to be given the inaugural Etheria Spirit Award for our film VICTIM NO. 6... I will be sure to submit any genre film I'm involved with forever going forward!

    November 2022