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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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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7 Things I Learned From Directing a Short Horror Film

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In 2016 I embarked on a very ambitious project, I decided to direct, star, and write the screenplay for my very first short horror. Now, being someone who loves the horror genre, and who loves film in general, I wanted to create a horror film where the woman wasn’t only the victim, but that she could also be the villain. So I managed to convince some friends and my boyfriend to help me bring this project to fruition, and that’s how DEVIL IN THE DETAILS became my first short.

Since it was my first short and the only experience I had with film was working in front of the camera and not behind one, I didn’t quite anticipate a lot of the things that came up later in the process. With a bit of arrogance, I thought, if Quentin Tarantino could direct a film without ever stepping foot in a film school, then I too, could create an entertaining short in with grindhouse horror elements.

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The SEVEN THINGS I learned from Directing a Short Horror Film:

  1. Choose your cameramen wisely. When I first started out, I had two cameramen, and I figured that I could rely on them to know how to take good shots and edit. Well, it turns out that it’s easier to direct both actors and crew to get what you want done when you’re literally behind the camera than rather when you’re also acting in scenes. Being both the actor and director turned out to be far more complicated than anticipated. Also, you need to be able to trust that your cameramen are responsible, I made the mistake of not asking for my filmed scenes till I had filmed them all, which caused for some of the footage to be lost when the cameramen were unable to locate one of the SD cards.
  2. You will bruise or get hurt whilst filming. No one realises how intensive it is to be a horror actor. Hats off to all the veterans of horror and scream queens, because I didn’t realise how labor intensive it is to be a horror actor. I had to put up with fleas from being tied to a post, got bruises on my back from being tied to said post and bruises again from pretending to pass out and trying to make it look natural.
  3. Fake blood will haunt you for days. If you’re one of the actors who dies or gets hurt (as my character did in the short) then you will be splattered with fake blood. The funny thing about fake blood is that no matter how many times you’ve showered, you will somehow miss a spot and won’t know till someone randomly mentions to you two days later, “Are you bleeding?” and then you notice that you have a rogue bloodstain on the inner corner of your elbow.
  4. Don’t have a big cast. If someone would’ve told me just how difficult it is to coordinate everyone’s schedules when most people work on a rotating schedule, I wouldn’t have cast so many characters for the short. So my advice is, start small. Have three characters max, not seven like I did, and three crew members (which makes ten people total), cause let me tell you, trying to coordinate the schedule of ten people is difficult (although since I finished the project, not impossible).
  5. Create a budget. There are many expenses you need to consider when making a short. Some people may have to pay actors (I managed to cut that expense by getting my friends to act), you may need to pay for editing services (again, I managed to cut that expense by approaching a friend of mine from high school that works in film to help me with that, and I greatly appreciate the time and sweat he put behind it to deliver the finished project), buy props (most of our money went towards making the fake blood, but we also had to buy costumes, wig, and lights). Some filmmakers have had to pay for the location, I was lucky that my boyfriend allowed me to use his family’s historic barn house as the location of my film, again cutting expenses. Then there are film fest fees. Some film fests aren’t expensive, you can pay as low as $5, but others will ask as much as $20 or $50.
  6. Be realistic. Chances are your first film won’t be selected to play at Sundance, so don’t even bother sending it to that (not to mention having to pay a $50 entrance fee) because Sundance only accepts around 5% of the films sent to them. You’re better off using that money to enter in lesser-known festivals who are more apt to accept your entry. In fact, you should enter the majority of festivals that fit with your specific genre first, and then enter in ones that are close to where you live as more festivals are apt to select people who will be able to attend the actual festival than if they can’t.
  7. Have fun! Remember, you aren’t making films to make money or become famous (although of course, who wouldn’t want both?), but you must remember that you did this because you LOVE film and want to create something original. If you don’t love the world of film, then you won’t be able to survive the lesser fun and glamorous aspects of film.scream queenAlthough my short fell in post-production hell for two years, DEVIL IN THE DETAILS is finally complete and is currently being considered for several film festivals. Let me know if you’re a filmmaker or an aspiring filmmaker and if you have any advice or suggestions in the comments below!

     

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Poetry: Hollywood Summer

Hollywood-sign

We got high at Griffith Park

Looked up at the Hollywood sign

and felt alive.

We shared kisses in Venice Beach

You strummed your guitar

and sang to me.

We danced along the streets

of Sunset Boulevard

While people watched with smiles.

It was summer,

The height of our love.

When winter came,

It took you away.

And I drove alone at

night in the lonely streets

of L.A.

Crying over our hapless Hollywood love

that no longer was.

By: Azzurra Nox