I suppose I’m sort of the horror movie fan around here, so it seems somehow fitting that I attended the 8th Annual Shriekfest Horror/Sci-Fi Film Festival this year. I know I certainly was happy about it and hope to make it yearly event.
First of all, I find the horror genre one that is often difficult to make really great as it becomes more and more difficult to find original ideas or at least an original take on an existing idea. However, it is also a genre seems easier to get made and make some kind of profit on. And there were actually some great shorts and films at this year’s festival. I won’t run through them all because there were just so many, but I’ll point out my highlights of the weekend.
Opening night, Friday, October 3rd, started with the Sci-Fi short, “Eel Girl”. A scientist in a government lab finds himself overly intrigued by a strange creature part eel, part human. Infatuation can lead to, well, this.
It’s extremely well made, as it was done by the people at WETA Workshops in New Zealand, the effects people that did all the work for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. This short won the award for the Best Super Short Film, directed by Paul Campion. It certainly deserved the award; it was great.
The feature I saw that night right after this was “Ray Bradbury’s Chrysalis”. Clearly made for a small sum of money, this film shows how your script makes all the difference, not the size of your budget.
A small team of scientists work to find ways to cure an Earth damaged by human’s effect on it, the damaging weather and pollution, etc. on the destruction of plant life. One scientist is suddenly taken ill, and is found in a chrysalis made of plant matter. The other scientists try to make sense of what it means, and what may happen. It was a very interesting film, thought provoking and contemplative. Based on a Ray Bradbury story, as long as the adaptation is well done, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with anything Bradbury.
Saturday, there was a shorts program with a few notables. The first was “He Dies at the End”. It’s a five minute short that has no dialogue, but is both kinda creepy and really funny. The tag line is, “You already know what happens, but will you see it coming?” Most of the audience didn’t, and it was really fun when it did. : )
Next, one of my favorite shorts of the weekend was, “The Procedure”. Directed by Sergio Pinheiro, we see a man trying to come to terms with his new job and it’s rather challenging requirements of him.
What I really love about this film, other than the fact that it’s well acted and has a smoky atmosphere, is the sheer uniqueness of it. I’ve never seen anything like it and again, that’s really important to me. Most definitely the most unique look at ghost hunting I’ve seen yet. Loved it.
Another highlight was immediately after the shorts; a documentary on H.P.Lovecreft called, “Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown”. Directed by Frank Woodward, this was a really informative documentary to me. I certainly learned things about Lovecraft I didn’t know before. It has a great collection of interviews with some great creative people such as, author Neil Gaiman, director Guillermo Del Toro, author Peter Stroud, among others.
The first feature that night was “Dark Reel”, about a guy that wins a walk-on part in a horror movie and then people start dying. Ed Furlong, Lance Henriksen, and Tony Todd are among the cast of this decidedly funny horror film. However, I think it succeeds more at comedy than horror. There are a lot of funny moments here, many about the film industry, more so than scary moments of horror. Not a great film, but still fairly entertaining.
The next film I liked was the winner for Best Horror Feature, “Bane”. Four women find themselves in a cell visited by a doctor with an interest in their blood and memory. Shot all on digital video, a British production, this relies much on camera angles, lighting and some good acting, and certainly an abundance of fake blood. Lots of it. And at a horror film festival, that’s a big plus. Other than needing a slight trim in footage, this was an effective horror film.
Sunday offered quite a lot of shorts. There were actually a lot of good ones, but I’ll stick to the real stand outs for me:
In “The Room” a young woman finds herself locked in a room with the dead body of her boyfriend and no shortage of blood. She is visited by her younger sister who brings her food. The voice of her father over an intercom tells her she must stay in there. She protests. You know, sometimes you can keep time by more than the full moon. This had great production value and acting, and special effects. I really liked this a lot.
“Cheerbleeders” is a funny high school horror romp that has an outcast student becoming the most popular kid in school by way of some very ancient evil. Chock full of entertainment! : )
The next group included “How My Dad Killed Dracula”, a fun well made short that, even though was more directed at a younger audience, was still really entertaining. A father’s prank on Halloween is based on a true story of director Sky Soleil’s grandfather. Good fun!
The last short, and winner of Best Horror Short Film, was “Kirksdale”. This is a great short and very creepy. There’s just enough blood to make you squirm, too. It really has great atmosphere.
The last feature, “Alien Raiders”, is, albeit poorly titled, a pretty good sci-fi thriller that’s a little bit “Alien”, and a little bit “The Thing” remake by John Carpenter. A heavily armed group of marauders enter a quiet small town supermarket looking for a nasty creature that threatens all of us.
Only one film all weekend was so bad to me that I was dumb-founded by its’ existence. “The Invited”; wow, it was bad. Really. Sorry, people, it was just a mess. It made no sense. Though, I must admit, the print looked fantastic, probably the best of the weekend. It made the nonsense look great. But great-looking nonsense is still nonsense.
All in all, a really fun weekend with lots of good stuff to see. And one thing that was so great is the fact that it felt like a close family of people, not one of those huge, faceless crowds at some festivals. There’s something about the horror/scifi fans and film makers that makes for a tight knit group. I met lots of great people and look forward to next year.
— Neil T. Weakley, horror/sci-fi fan.
Check out Shriekfest at www.shriekfest.com>