Shriekfest 2021 – Getting a little freaky, getting a little spooky, getting a little SHRIEKY

Photo by: David Hanger

Shriekfest is a Horror Film Festival that is a goldmine of both upcoming and veteran horror talents. Denise Gossett, the founder and organizer of the festival has helped many debut directors and screenwriters find an audience at Shriekfest, which is very much appreciated. There’s suddenly been a resurgence in the horror genre, but Gossett has been an advocate for horror for the past twenty-one years, which is to say that she has seen a lot of horror films to know exactly which ones are worth showcasing and which ones need better tweaking.

I was very excited to receive Press Passes for this event because as a huge horror enthusiast, watching horror films for thirteen hours straight is basically heaven. Not to mention that I really love the chill vibe that the festival has and how appreciative everyone is for being there to view their films and support them. Plus, I really have a soft spot for the Charlie Chaplin theatre at the Raleigh Studios. I’d give anything to watch ALL my movies there. Seriously, folks, if you haven’t seen a film there, you’re missing out.

That being said, I was so happy that this year the event wasn’t canceled as the previous year (pandemic and all – ya know the drill) because the films I got to see this year were incredibly good. The previous years, the shorts tended to be more on the campy side of horror (which I don’t mind cause who doesn’t love the OG Evil Dead am I right?), but I do love it when horror can also be on the uber dark and creepy side, so I was all for that.

I ended up watching 31 shorts and 2 features and I know many of the directors and screenwriters I spoke to asked me how I was going to remember all of them and I told them that I was taking notes of the film titles and what they were about, but that mostly after one day of viewing if I could easily recall my favourites then that means that those were the ones that really stood out to me and were worthy of my mention. Although, I have to admit that there were probably only one or two films I wasn’t too crazy about, for the most part, the shorts were extremely well produced, edited, written, and acted.

One of my favourite shorts was from the Spanish director Alvaro Vicario called Polter. The film was about a guy trying to get rid of poltergeist in his home. The film didn’t take itself too seriously, and the fact that it was fun and campy is what really honed in the ending for me. I really suggest you guys check it out if you can because it’s very well worth the ten minutes it takes to view it. Polter was followed by another very well acted and written short called, A Strange Calm. This short was very dark and sad as it followed two friends, Rosie and Mills who encounter a strange man while they’re out playing in rural California in the 70’s and end up getting abducted. The short was full of tension and dread and overall it was excellent. Now, the shorts seemed to get progressively darker as A Strange Calm was soon followed by Killing Small Animals which was a very disturbing short where the protagonist kills various animals throughout the movie, slowly graduating to bigger ones until the very end where she’s seen abducting a little girl. I wouldn’t say that the short was bad, but I wasn’t that keen on the storyline and wasn’t a fan of seeing various animals getting killed (guess it’s just not my kind of horror).

Meanwhile, The Rule of Three expertly explored how a young woman suffering from severe OCD has to try to overcome her demons while trying to survive a home invasion. The short was filled with dread and suspense and tied everything up in a way that wasn’t cheesy. Wide Awake in Bridgewater may have easily been my favourite short. It was mysterious and held an element of sci-fi that I really liked. An elderly man receives a phonecall from his teenage girlfriend and he tries to figure out what happened to her fifty years ago when she disappeared. It was easily the best written, acted, and edited short and had a satisfying ending. Seek was a fun, thrilling short about two sisters who stop at a rundown restroom only to find out that a strange entity haunts that area.

Love Bite was a refreshing and hilarious take on the zombie trope. A bickering couple soon find out to what lengths one of them will go to just to be proven right, despite the dire consequences that it will bring. It was easily very funny because it was also very relatable. I think any couple whose been together for awhile could easily see themselves in the couple. Being a huge fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street Nancy played by the incredibly awesome Heather Langenkamp, it was a pleasant surprise to see her star in the short Cottonmouth. The short easily flourished cause of Langenkamp’s star power, but it was also engaging as the viewers can’t help but wanting to know who or what is continuously drinking from a glass of water that the protagonist keeps next to her bed stand. Selfie was another short that I enjoyed, where a girl’s photoshopped self somehow manages to come alive and become the monster that she is.

The Otherside dealt with the very real horror of child trafficking and how the mother’s of the victims tend to be haunted by their grief and in this case, one mother in particular not only haunts but seeks revenge to those that do the same to other kids. And last but not least the shorts cycle ended on a high note with Half-Cocked where two doctors find a way to bring a man to life and make him immortal only to find out that that man isn’t appreciative since he had committed suicide. The film was definitely on the campy side of horror but it was a very funny and thrilling ride.

The two features I was able to view were Ten Minutes to Midnight and Redwood Massacre: Annihilation. Ten Minutes to Midnight was a campy fun vampire film about a radio show host (played by the ever charismatic and alluring Caroline Williams) who slowly manifests the signs of vampirism after she’s bitten by a rabid bat. Apart from being a fun film, the movie also focused on an important message, especially for women, how we’re often easily discarded after we’ve passed a certain age. That’s why I love horror, because it’s a genre that dares to tackle difficult topics that other genres simply gloss over.

The last film I viewed was Redwood Massacre: Annihilation that starred horror veteran Danielle Harris (which you may recognize her from the Halloween franchise). I was really excited to check this film out as I have an affinity for killers who choose to use a burlap sack as a mask. All in all, I did enjoy the film, although once we started to surpass the sixty minute mark and no one had died I started to fret when the massacre was going to happen (no need to worry, the promised bloodbath does occur and doesn’t disappoint).

Thirteen hours of film watching was an intense feat but can you truly call yourself a horror fan if you can’t do that? Am I right?

Stay spooky my friends.

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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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