Shriekfest 2019 – Let Me Hear You Scream!

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Red carpet at Shriekfest

Shriekfest is a bi-annual and bi-coastal horror film festival that takes place both in Los Angeles and Orlando. This was my second time going to Shriekfest and once again it didn’t disappoint! Denise Gossett is the founder of this festival and has been very influential in giving many horror shorts and movies a chance to be seen and discovered by a myriad of people. This year I got to chat a bit with Denise and she’s a very lovely woman and a very busy one since she not only runs Shriekfest but will also appear in a TV series about astronauts very soon.

 

Just like last year, I was able to attend the third day of the festival (Saturday). Luckily, I got right on time to the studios as the first short Finley aired. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE killer dolls in any shape or form, so a killer doll that kinda resembles R.L. Stine’s Slappy? I was ALL OVER THAT. It was by far my favourite short. This year, I noticed that some of the shorts explored some true horrors like domestic violence in short films such as She Fell and Listen. Although, I’ll admit that I preferred She Fell’s feminist message where the abuser gets what he deserves (the new program is very unconventional and effective). The Clapper was a classic horror short about an invalid girl who has to deal with an unknown presence in her house whilst in the dark.

 

The second half of the shorts started off with a bang with The Thing About Beecher’s Gate. A deputy that has recently transferred to the town of Beecher’s Gate, is ordered by the town’s sheriff to spend a night alone in a barn with only a shotgun as a rite of passage. This short was very intriguing and suspenseful. By far, this was my favourite short from the second half of the fest. We Got a Monkey’s Paw was a bit campy but fun. The two actors Jacqueline Jandrell and Zack Ogle had perfect comedic delivery and made the most amusing duo. Naughty was both a fun and twisted film about a little girl who gives a robber a run for his money. Just like last year, we also got to check out a music video. This year it was Aesthetic Perfection’s Gods & Gold, which is a very goth-inspired video with lots of old school vibes with a touch of glam.

 

What differed between last year’s event and this year is that they had a couple of hours reserved for a Meet & Greet. This gave everyone a chance to network, chat, and get some food. Which made watching the second part of the festival a little easier with the break in between. I took that time to explore Raleigh Studios, as it’s very fascinating to be on an actual movie lot studio.

 

I ended up staying for three feature films.

First was the viewing of The Field. A long-empty farmstead holds secret worlds, accidentally unlocked by an amateur photographer and his wife. This movie wasn’t that scary and had more of a sci-fi bent than horror. Initially, I was very intrigued by the premise of Norse witchcraft in the beginning, however, it was never fully explained in the movie why they were doing those rituals. That was what made the film fall short for me.

The second was the viewing of Volition. A man afflicted with clairvoyance tries to change his fate when a series of events leads to a vision of his own imminent murder. I really enjoyed this movie and again, it didn’t quite fit the horror bill for me. It had more a thriller sci-fi feel to it with time leaps and bending time. But it was a very original film that Tony Dean Smith directed, and I can give him props for having one of the most unique films at the festival.

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The third was the viewing of Max Winslow and the House of Secrets. This was one of the few films that actually had a very popular actor, with Chad Michael Murray (from One Tree Hill series and most recently playing an enigmatic cult leader in Riverdale) in the role of eccentric genius billionaire Atticus Virtue. Five teenagers compete to win a mansion owned by Atticus Virtue. To win the teens must face-off against a supercomputer named HAVEN who controls the mansion. The film had Escape Room moments and would be better suited for tweens and teens as it has scary elements but it never gets too bad. None of the main characters face any serious consequences but each character grows within the course of the movie, so at least you get good character arcs. I’d recommend watching this as a family movie more than a classic horror movie.

 

Viewing the movies from 11a.m.-11p.m. was a very intense but fun experience. I appreciate Denise for giving me the opportunity to attend Shriekfest once again! And this time around I managed to snag a tee before they ran out my size (small) since ya know, now I feel like a veteran of the event and all. Here’s looking forward to next year’s 20th anniversary, I’m sure it’s gonna be one hell of a horror ride!

DSC_0045 modified.jpgPhotos by: David Hanger

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Film Review: Ovunque Proteggimi (Wherever You Are)

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I had been planning on attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival, then work got busy and I only knew about which films were going to be screening at times the same day that they were screening so trying to take time off at the last minute was kind of difficult. However, out of the films that I was proposed to watch, I was curious about Bonifacio Angius’ film (maybe I was biased cause he’s a fellow Italian as myself), Ovunque Proteggimi (Wherever You Are for the English public) that was competing at the festival. I contacted the director and he graciously allowed me to stream the film since I couldn’t make the screenings.

I didn’t read the plot summary before plunging headfirst into the film, but I often find that going into a film blindly renders it more enjoyable as I have no expectations. The film is about Alessandro, an aging singer that primarily does gigs at local events with his childhood friend. One night, after a particularly failed gig due to the low audience outcome, his friend tells Alessandro that he’s no longer going to play backup for him and that he too, should think about quitting the local music scene. Depressed, Alessandro decides to hit up a club where he meets a group of young girls who want to buy coke. To show off, he assures them that he can get the money to buy the coke, he simply needs to stop by home first.

Once home, we learn that Alessandro still lives with his mother, and it’s her who he begs for the money. That’s when we learn that the protagonist has probably been doing this for years, abusing drugs and alcohol, and on this hapless night, his mother, fed up, decides to have him taken away to rehab. At rehab, Alessandro meets Francesca, a misfit like himself, whom he feels some affection towards, although he doesn’t readily admit to it at first. When the two of them are released on the same day, on a whim, he decides to accompany her to her house and that’s when Francesca learns that her parents had the child services take her son away.

This is when Alessandro begins to see the injustices that women who don’t follow societal norms befall to. Throughout the movie, we’re told by her parents and the child services that Francesca is a former junkie and “whore,” however, we never witness her using drugs, being promiscuous, nor crazy. The only time we see her lose her composure is when she is told that the child services has taken her son away (so in a way it’s understandable).

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Just like the audience feels sorry for Francesca and her plight, so does Alessandro who decides to help the woman reunite with her son. This journey allows us to understand that Alessandro deep down is a man with a good heart who can rise above his own flaws to do what he thinks is morally right, whether that is viewed right by society.

Throughout the movie, we can’t help but cheer for these two unlucky lost souls who clearly mean nothing to the people closest to them. This film isn’t overly dramatic, but it explores some heavy themes such as mental health stigma, motherhood, and the cost of following your dreams. The two leads Alessandro (played by Alessandro Gazale) and Francesca (played by Francesca Niedda) have quiet chemistry and they play their characters in such a broken, vulnerable manner that they manage to steer clear of any tropes or cliches. These characters feel real and because of that, we’re invested in their story, and we want to see them have a happy ending.

Ovunque Proteggimi is a film that will seize your heart and squeeze it ruthlessly, leaving you brutally breathless. Watch this if you want to experience a film that is full of heart and humanity. Hats off to Bonifacio Angius for directing a film that gives voices to those in society who usually aren’t allowed to have one.

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Shriekfest 2018 Horror Film Festival

Shriekfest is a bi-annual horror film festival that takes place in both Los Angeles and Orlando. The event is organized by actress Denise Gossett (best known for appearing in Tom Hiddeleston’s movie I Saw The Light and Mel’s Gibson’s Get The Gringo). She founded Shriekfest 2001 and it’s been the 18th year for Los Angeles. It’s one of the most influential horror film festivals and definitely one with the best horror film screenings.

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Red Carpet at Shriekfest 2018 Photo taken by David Hanger – Dress by Dolls Kill

I was graciously given a Press Pass for the event by Denise and was able to attend the third day of the festival (it’s a four-day fest). I opted to go on Saturday because it was screening the most films that day and had several shorts listed that I was thrilled to check out.

The films were screened at the Raleigh Studios on Melrose Avenue, at the Chaplin Theatre. The inside of the theatre had that old Hollywood glamour to it with comfy velvet cushioned seats that made viewing a marathon of movies (we stayed nine hours with short fifteen interruptions between each session) fairly easy.

Out of the shorts I viewed, one of my absolute favourites was “Snaggletooth,” which was about an unconventional dentist visit. The film had a good mixture of humor and creepiness to it that I enjoyed. Another really excellent short was a British one entitled “The Moor,” that centered around a father and daughter who go the moor to celebrate May Day but find out that sometimes the pagan gods may take something from us that we’re not ready to give up. “A Doll Distorted,” explored mental illness and how obsessive love can lead to dire consequences. “Avulsion,” was another of my favourites as it followed a blue collar worker who visits an escort that is capable of fulfilling her clients unusual and twisted fetish desires.

I really enjoyed the music video for Medicine from Peter Bibby. It had a bunch of kid doctors performing an autopsy on Peter Bibby’s body who’s begging for pills, hallucinogens, or some other form of medication rather than being told to get some sun or some sleep.

The first feature film I saw was Ashes by director Barry Jay. Ashes was about a family who begins to be haunted by their dead aunt once her ashes arrive at their home. What I truly loved about this movie was that there was the perfect blend of humor and horror. Plus, the performances by the actors were truly top-notch, I particularly loved Elaine Partnow in the role of the sassy grandmother, Caroline, who livened the movie up anytime she was in a scene. The first half of the movie delivered more laughs (in a good comedic way), but the second half of the movie focused on the horror elements (I’ll never be able to look at an egg slicer in the same way again!). It was also my first time watching a movie whilst being seated next to the cast and crew that worked on the film, so that added a bit of a surreal feeling to the experience.

The second feature film I saw was Chimera by Maurice Haeems. This movie was less horror and far more sci-fi. The movie centered around a brilliant scientist who chooses to freeze his children alive whilst he tries to find a cure for the deadly genetic disease that seems to have befallen them. The movie was good and full of surprises and twists (some that I had anticipated and others I hadn’t). But the gut-wrenching end left one with the belief that maybe trying to uncover immortality is far more dangerous than death.

Overall, the film festival was a complete success and I loved the fact that food and snacks were provided on location for sale if you needed to grab something quick to eat in between your viewing sessions. I truly enjoyed watching all the movies I had the opportunity to see and would totally recommend this festival to horror film buffs, you won’t be disappointed!

Thanks again to the fabulous Denise who gave the Inkblotters the opportunity to be there! I had a blast!

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Entrace to Raleigh Studios

Photos taken by David Hanger

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