It is with a heavy heart that I report the passing of Michael J. Hein, director/screenwriter & director of the NYC Horror Film Festival. Details are scarce but it has been reported that he passed away in his sleep over the weekend.
I met Michael last fall at the NYC Horror Film Festival. I had only been writing for horrornews.net for a few months when I was asked if I was interested in covering the event. Of course I was, but I was also a bit intimidated by the enormity of it all. It would be the biggest event I had covered up to that point & I knew that I needed to make a good impression on Michael. I was quite frankly…very nervous. But I had accepted the assignment & soldiered off to the venue for four days of horror films.
When I arrived I inquired as to Mike’s whereabouts to introduce myself to him. I was told he was running a little late so I grabbed a drink & a seat as I made small talk with some of the other attendees. Even though I quickly realized that I was among friends, I still had a bit of a nervousness inside because I had yet to meet the big guy himself.
When he arrived, It was as if he brought in a tidal wave of energy with him. Mike knew how to enter a room…big time. When he came in he brought a kinetic sort of enthusiasm with him that was immediately infectious. It was ridiculous how much the venue brightened up when he walked in. He was a whirling dervish as he greeted people as he removed his coat & got his staff hustling to make some magic happen that evening. I had to introduce myself to him eventually & inquire as to my “Press” pass but I knew better than to jump him right away. I sat back & waited for a chance to approach him. A little while later he emerged from the back to apologize for his tardiness & to assure everyone that everything was OK. Afterwards he started chatting with folks & I figured now was the right time to ask.
I approached him & introduced myself & asked as to the availability of my pass. He looked at me like I was an idiot. He scanned me up & down for a few seconds & I can honestly say I was intimidated for a quick second. But after a few uncomfortable silent seconds, he wrapped his arm around my shoulder & said “Follow me buddy”. He led me to the back room where a staff member was preparing all of the passes. He then assured me “Don’t worry, you’re good”. We then went to the bar & introduced ourselves to each other over a few beers. It was then that I realized that I had made a friend without even knowing it. Michael made it easy for me & I imagine for everyone else who was a friend to him as well. He was just that kind of individual, he let you know if you were cool with him right away. And you just stayed cool with him, period.
The next four days were a blur for me so I can only imagine what he was going through. Everyday his voice got a little more hoarse, the bags under his eyes got a little heavier, his posture sagged just a bit more on a daily basis. But once he hit that f*cking stage, he was large & in charge! And no one had any doubt about it. His exuberance for the genre was contagious & all of us were willfully infected with his passion & his spirit. He was so “In the moment”, so happy about what he was doing. You just had to love the guy, he gave you no other option.
He had his moments of anger of course. Something went wrong everyday, and he wore his anger on his sleeve so everyone could see it. But once the problems were solved & he hit the stage…pure magic. Afterwards, we kept in touch through emails & Facebook. There were events we were both supposed to attend but I always ended up not going for one reason or another. But I always knew I’d catch up with him this fall at the next NYC Horror Film Festival. Of that I had no doubt. I now regret not taking him up on at least one of his invites & I cried like a baby when I realized I’d never see him again. That a spirit so strong & forceful was taken away from us. He was only 41 years old. A terrible, terrible loss to his family, friends & the horror community in general.
I don’t know if there is going to be a NYC Horror Film Festival this Fall. Even if there is, it just wouldn’t be the same without Mike in front of the screen, introducing the films, filmmakers & making small talk with a couple of hundred people seemingly at the same time. I find it kind of ironic that a man who lived his life so fast & without ever looking back passed away in his quietest moment, in his sleep. Although it gives me as a bit of relief to think that there was no pain when he passed. His battle cry of “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor” has resonated through my head since I heard the news & will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. As will my memories of the man & the friend we’ve all lost.
I miss you already Michael. I truly do. I know that you are already organizing a Horror film festival in Heaven & although there are probably a lot of empty seats in the theater right now, knowing you they won’t stay empty for long. You just won’t let that happen….
I am sure I speak for everyone at Horrornews.net when I offer my sincere condolences to Michael’s family. He will be missed by all of us in the horror community & can NEVER be replaced.
The Black Saint
Images courtesy of latinhorror.com