I (through horror.com) have been covering Shriekfest for several years. There is always something cool, fun, freaky, dark or just downright scary to see there. Founder Denise Gossett leans toward women in film, and indies from all sources. As an actor herself, she sees the value in having as many of the players participating in the fest and this year is no exception. Check the site for who will be appearing and when, but definitely don't miss the annual kick off mixer!
I'll be attending some of the fest, but rather than give you a report after the fact, I thought you guys would enjoy a preview and some of the filmmakers.
First up is a piece I have seen, Brooke Lewis's Sprinkles. Produced by Lewis along with Roger A. Scheck and starring Lewis herself, Sprinkles logline warns, "Sometimes the past will cost you."
Lewis plays a high-priced call girl in the short, Maura, who has a seemingly chance encounter with a client, Gary (Don Danielson). When Gary turns violent in the midst of their exchange, Maura's fear slips away as she realizes that Gary has a dirty little fetish. Maura, with a secret of her own, reveals that this encounter may not be a random occurrence, but a calculated attempt to avenge a man from sprinkles of her past.
Lewis agrees that the key to Shriekfest's success is Gossett's enthusiasm for showcasing female filmmakers and indie producers. "Shriekfest is one of the most amazing truly independent horror/scifi film festivals. Our feature, iMurders, was an Official Selection in 2008 and we had an incredible experience. I believe that Denise Gossett and her judges seek out artistic films that go beyond slasher and gore and, although Sprinkles is quite chilling at times, it is much more of a psychological thriller with horrific elements and I felt that Shriekfest would be the perfect forum to screen it."
Sprinkles had its premiere a couple of years back, but it's a perennial favorite. Lewis still supports and plans in being in attendance this year, but right now she wants to continue acting and is "completely focusing on my Ms. Vampy brand and feature film Vamp It Out. I want to continue to move forward and create projects that inspire others and myself."
One the features at Shriekfest this year is The Millennium Bug, which is a look back at the Y2K scare but with a hillbilly twist. Written and directed by Kenneth Cran and starring John Charles Meyer, the story focuses on "bugs" of all kinds (archanophobes, cover your eyes!). As the filmmakers say, "If you like unapologetically grotesque and goofy hillbillies, if you like your movies without CGI, if you like really big monsters played by actors in animatronic suits, if you like splattering blood, and if you prefer gals with three nipples instead of two, then you'll like The Millennium Bug."
And, now for something completely different! There's a lot of visual effects in our next short (22 minutes), Molly and the Masked Storm. Starring an an-child cast and made by a (then) adolescent boy Ben Kadie, Molly and the Masked Storm took 12 months in post for intense editing and 3D visual effects work, bringing to life the film’s glass-shattering, roof-top-jumping fun. More a dark fantasy than a horror, the fable follows the adventures of stage magician Molly Marlow as she struggles to protect the powers of Merlin from a horde of masked wind demons. Filmed in the summer between 8th grade and high school, the young cast brings drama and humor to remarkable locations found locally or constructed in Kadie’s backyard.
I viewed Molly and the Masked Storm online, and I must say… I was suitably impressed! "The film should be fun for everyone, but kids seem to really enjoy it," says Ben. "They appreciate not just the adventure on the screen, but also that a bunch of eighth graders could start to make a film with Victorian mansions, trains, carriages, theaters, docks and windmills!" Kadie is now a high-school junior and the next step is university film programs in which he hopes to gain a foothold on pursuing filmmaking as a profession.
The 91 minute feature Absentia, written and directed by Mike Flanagan, is about a woman searching for her missing husband. He's been gone for 7 years, and as the pressure mounts to finally declare him 'dead in absentia.' Tricia is reluctant, always holding out hope, but her sister Callie is practical and wants her to move on. But Callie finds herself drawn to an ominous tunnel near the house. As she begins to link it to other mysterious disappearances, it becomes clear that his presumed death might be anything but 'natural.'
"A lot of people who 'normally hate horror movies' really responded to our film," says Flanagan of a Sonoma Film Fest audience who saw In Absentia, "and that was very gratifying. We had an amazing time at Fantasia in Montreal, where we sold out two screenings, prompting them to add a third ... which also sold out. It was nice to see it play that well with the hardcore genre fans - Sonoma and Fantasia represent two very, very different types of audiences, and that they both really responded well to the film was truly exciting." Hard-core gore-hounds might not spark to it, but if you liked Session 9 or Lake Mungo, odds are you'll respond to Absentia.
"My goal is to make consistently thoughtful, classy (and of course, terrifying) horror movies," adds Flangan. "I think a lot of people dismiss or avoid the genre because they assume it favors gore or scares over character and drama, and I hope to make films that defy that trend. Absentia has paved the way for two more projects, both on much bigger scales, that I hope will accomplish that. But ultimately, I want to make movies that use horror as a lens through which we can explore the darker truths of our natures and existence. I want to make the kind of movies that remind us that horror can be beautiful ... horror can be art."
Horror can have a song in its heart, too — and filmmaker Travis Betz is hitting all the high notes at Shriekfest this year with his feature, The Dead Inside. It is described as a "haunting musical" about two artists, Wes and Fi, who seem to have misplaced their muse. When Fi begins to show signs of schizophrenia, Wes finds inspiration in her deterioration. When it turns out she is actually possessed, he must choose between the woman he loves and the evil that inspires him.
Betz says "The ideal viewer for The Dead Inside is anyone who appreciates film as an art form. This is not a horror movie alone. It's a drama, a musical, a comedy, a character piece. People who appreciate risk-takers will love it. People who like to see completely original works will love it. Although it's a musical, it feels more like a straight narrative that happens to have songs. I have had audience members tell me that they 'normally hate musicals', but this was a very different experience for them and one they enjoyed. All you need to enjoy this movie is a simple appreciation for movies trying to do something a little different, but at the same time entertaining you."
Director Tammi Sutton, a regular at Shriekfest, has another feature there this year: Isle of Dogs, which is a shot-on-location thriller about a London crime-boss who is bent on revenge after he finds out his wife is being unfaithful. This is Isle of Dogs' U.S. premiere, and Sutton says Shriekfest is best forum because, as an alumni, "I enjoyed my previous experience with the other filmmakers, screenings, and working with Denise Gossett who runs the festival. It's a great venue and all around experience networking and socializing.
"We screened an early cut of the film at Fright Fest in London and my most memorable response we got was a quote from Total Film Magazine 'Andrew Howard makes Sir Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast look like Miley Cirus.' We are very happy that we are able to be a part of Shriekfest this year with the film. We thought it was the best festival for our U.S. premiere."
Dave Reda, who presents My Undeadly from the perspective of both director and actor, says his short is pretty full-on horror. "If you are a true fan of horror there are extra treats for you. Like, we shot all our exteriors at the original Michael Meyers home from the 1978 John Carpenter's Halloween. I think just about anyone can find things and have fun with our film, plus having the lovely and incredibly talented Michelle Tomlinson starring in the film doesn't hurt either!" Moving forward, Reda says to look for more from him the future. "Being a horror fan myself, I want to make films I would go see. The horror crowd wants new and fresh blood and I want to give it to them."
So there you have it. Just a few of the films screening and premiering
Friday September 30, 2011
Feature 1: 7:00 PM - 8:28PM
Feature 2: 8:45 PM - 9:56 PM
Feature 3: 10:15 PM - 11:44 PM
The Millennium Bug with a Q&A
Saturday October 1, 2011
Short Program 1: 12:00 PM - 1:40 PM
- Send Me To Babylon
- The Ghost
- Death Angel
- Summer of the Zombies
Feature 4: 2:00 PM - 3:36 PM
The Moleman of Belmont Avenue
Feature 5: 4:00 PM - 5:25 PM
Feature 6: 5:45 PM - 7:13 PM
Feature 7: 7:30 PM - 8:49 PM
Isle of Dogs with Q&A
Feature 8: 9:30PM - 11:09PM
The Dead Inside with Q&A
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Short Program 2: 12:00 PM - 1:41 PM
- Molly & the Masked Storm
- Cabine of the Dead
- The Living Want Me Dead
- Last Seen on Dolores Street
- Hawkins Hill
- Nobody But Her
- Rotting Hill
Short Program 3: 2:00 PM - 3:42 PM
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- Negative Image
- Road Rage
- St. Christophorus: Roadkill
- My Undeadly
Feature 9: 4:00 PM - 5:23PM
The Orphan Killer with Q&A
Feature 10: 6:00 PM - 7:29 PM
Pig with Q&A
Feature 11: 8:00 PM - 9:31 PM
Awards Show: 10:00 PM