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Event Report: Shriekfest 2006!







Photographs by Jude Courtney Taylor

I did not get to see all the films that made it into Shreikfest this year, but I did my damnedest to see a bunch of them, and specifically those with the most buzz. As a horror writer and reviewer, I hear all about what's good and bad that's in the works, but very rarely do I get the chance to see a whole whack of films at once. So thank God/Buddha/Satan for providing us with these horror genre film festivals! They're here to support the films and filmmakers we love, that invest time and energy into the genre and not just people that are making movies to turn a quick buck. While there will always be a few of those that slip in, almost all of the filmmakers I spoke with were horror fans that may be standing next to you in line to see the latest Chainsaw remake/sequel. As a matter of fact, when the grand prize winner Gregg Bishop won for best feature film for The Other Side he mentioned that he was most excited about winning red carpet passes to the Chainsaw prequel premiere!

When the winners were announced there were quite a few surprises, including actual shrieks in the audience at the winners. All the films and screenplays that won really brought something special to this festival and should be applauded for the efforts it takes to make a movie!


The 2006 Winners!


Best Feature Film: The Other Side


2nd Place: Unrest (part of the November mult-city film festival, HorrorFest)

Best Super Short Film: "Itsy Bitsy"
2nd Place Super Short Film: "The Boarder"

Best Short Film: "Penny Dreadful"
2nd Place Short Film: Avatar

Best Special Effects: "Itsy Bitsy"

Best Makeup Effects: Night of the Leben Tod

Best Acting Performance: Amy Beth Sherman In Desperation


Audience Choice Award: Bad Reputation

Best Under 18 Film: Repossessed

Best Feature Screenplay: The Next Plane written by Christopher Moro
2nd Place Feature Screenplay: Reincarnate written by Carl Melchior
3rd Place Feature Screenplay: I, Detective written by Dean Alioto

Best Short Screenplay: "Adrian of Death" written by Terence Brody
2nd Place Short Screenplay: "The Last Request" written by Joe Randazzo

Here's a quick list of reviews for what I got to see in my short time there, I'm sure you can read about all of them if you dig hard enough!

The Bombardier"The Bombardier"
By Timothy Gassen
11 minutes

A well made film about old war heroes that have come back to haunt one of the survivors. This film looked beautiful, but suffered from being overly long and generally predictable. But, the filmmakers here definitely know what it takes to make a good looking film with a high gloss and big (if overly used) music. Watch it here!


"A Terrorist Ate My Brain"
By Brett Young
17 Minutes

iPods and bad music download a deadly virus on the unsuspecting New York City. With a political commentary and timely subject matter hidden well underneath this fun filled blood fest! The crowd was going nuts for this film, and deservedly so, as I have not seen some of the clever and ingenious weaponry ever in cinema history. For instance, when our heroine takes bicycle parts and slices up a Taliban zombie. Find this one and show it off to your friends, they will love you more and think you are really smart for getting the political overviews. Right on! Get more info here!


"The Marionette"
By Holly Paige Joiner
19 Minutes

In Hollywood, every time you sit down to a meeting with a studio or agent they tell you that they are looking for the next Saw or Hostel. While torture movies may not be my particular cup of tea, Hollywood thinks that it is what everyone wants to see. I'll take monsters and slashers over torture any day of the week, but I do have a soft spot in my heart reserved for the well done ones.

Enter Holly Paige Joiner, the filmmaker who really may be fucked in the head. This is one brutal and scary short film that dares to take things way too far, and it's not just gore and violence for the sake of gore and violence. Joiner takes her time in unfolding this twisted tale of a puppeteer that has some pretty unfortunate events (read: torture) happen to him and his unsuspecting wife. The best part was that the torture was nasty and at the same time the story was well thought out and fresh.

This is not a film that just anyone can sit through; you'll need a strong stomach and nerves of steel to endure what you see on screen. And if that isn’t enough a tightly knit story and ending really sells Joiner as a new force in Hollywood that needs to be making movies. Please make more because it takes a lot to get to us horror fans, and she certainly did it!

In a strange twist of real life imitating art, Joiner has been working on an "Americas Most Wanted"- type TV show for a while, getting paid to direct reenactments of real life crimes. A twisted and nasty film, blending great acting with enough visceral punch, to satisfy even the most jaded horror fan. Get more info right here!


"Deadly Tantrum"
By Michael Mort
6 Minutes

Take a shot of your favorite libation because this is one of those sort films that is meant for fun and laughs. One mutant monster, one determined cop and a foxy damsel in distress create the perfect blend of splatstick, fun and gore. You need to see this short just so you can marvel at the silly and gross creature that is trying to kill the girl in a ridiculous mouse trap style. Mort knows how to please an audience that is ready for a fun goofy and juicy journey. Now the very best part about "Deadly Tantrum" was that the filmmakers decided to make DVDs of the film and put them out on the flyer tables, so everyone who so desired was able to take it home with them. If only every film had the sense to do that. More here!


Bad Reputation
By Jimmy Hemphill
92 Minutes

When Director Jimmy Hemphill set out to make a feel good date rape revenge movie, he had to know that he would run into certain challenges. The audience was divided on the subject matter, but at the end of the festival Bad Reputation, with its controversial subject matter, won the audience choice for best feature! The best way to describe this film is to try and imagine what John Hughes might have done with Carrie. Somewhere between She’s All That and I Spit on Your Grave, Bad Reputation is the legitimately fun, albeit dark, comedy horror film that just may find its way to a video store near you. Hemphill is one twisted dude with an insane sense of humor. Lifetime Channel could even play this if they had any balls. Visit the film's official site for more!


Penny Dreadful
By Richard Brandes
92 Minutes

This is the film I really wanted to see. It stars super sexy Rachel Miner, and (used to be) super sexy poker shark Mimi Rodgers. The two girls set out on a self cleansing road trip that takes a turn for the worse when a hitchhiker decides to make the girls his victims.

I enjoyed this film quite a bit, especially because Miner, who knows how to play the sad and victimized girl amazingly. She was robbed by not winning best actress of the festival! Director Brandes does a good job of taking a movie that is virtually set in a car for the duration and delivers some interesting visual choices, great performances, and simple story that takes its time delivering the scares.

Now as you may already know, this film is one of the 8 films to die for in the upcoming nationwide After Dark Film Festival that is happening this November. The studios have noticed that this is a stand out film with great performances, so you too will have a chance to see this in a theater as you, as it should be seen. I do have one criticism in that I don’t think it need to be as long as it is, there are quite a few repeated shots and under utilized subplots that could have bulked up the films time if only we were given the chance. But, it delivers what all horror films should; Boobs Blood and Scares!

See the trailer at the film's official site!


"Contorded Hazel"
By John Gorman
24 Minutes

WOW!!! A visual masterpiece that needs to be seen to be believed. Hidden beneath the amazing look and top notch special effects is a story that could be one of the most original and scary ghost stories in a long time. This is one of my personal favorites of the festival. The story about a boy who traps his nightmares in jars until one of them escapes, leaves my imagination reeling with possibilities!

Most of the short films on display are used as calling cards for the directors with hopes that they will get funding to become a feature length film. This is one film that deserves to be expanded! Make this a feature now; the world will be a better place for it. Somewhere in the cultural translation this Scottish film does lose a bit of the story, but I have to believe that it was done that way on purpose because the tortured mother character has to have a much bigger back story then we are given.

Masterfully acted, "Contorted Hazel" is a perfect blending of style, story and frights! One last thing, look out Guillermo Del Toro! If John Gorman has the chops to make this into the incredible feature that it deserves to be, then you have some new competition in your neck of the wood. Learn more right here!


"BugCrush"
By Carter Smith
36 Minutes

If "My So Called Life" took steroids and had a special episode directed by David Lynch you may come close to what "Bugcrush" delivers, but probably not. A lonely high school student is going through the typical emotional transition from boy to man, when a new kid in town arrives and piques his interests in ways that he cannot hide. Director Carter Smith is not from the same place you and I live. He resides in another world, where people are making a different kind of horror film; films that play with your emotions and bring you along for a barrage of disturbing feelings, then summed up in a smart and serious way. In our world the majority of horror films are made to play more like comedies, and every so often we get to see a glimpse of that other nightmarish landscape.

"Bugcrush" is by and far my favorite film of the entire festival. It left me feeling really gross and icky, delivered on every line and every beat; The closest thing I can compare it to is when Christian Slater shows up to do away with Gary Oldman in True Romance, or in the beginning of Wild at Heart when Nick Cage beats the bad guy to death with his bare hands. Both of hose scenes have my heart jumping out of my chest, not necessarily with horror, more like with adrenaline that I cannot control. That's where the problem is, however: the lack of control.

If this film is a sampling of what Carter has in store for the film going audience we are all about to be slaughtered by his next work. It will be a bloody massacre that will look glossy and feel like a normal Hollywood drama, but deep down when audiences are least expecting it Carter will pull out his sheathed weapon and unleash the fury, and at the end of the movie half of America will end up in the loony bin. I know this all sounds crazy, but the metaphors and twists on everyday life interacting with the imaginative worlds that we create to survive the mundane and bland are just the beginning of how fucked up this movie is. I'm very anxious to view this one again and I hope to soon, because I don’t know when we will get another movie that makes me feel such unconcealed revulsion, while simply falling in love with the way it messed with my head.

Listen up Studio development guys, find this film and finance whatever the fuck he wants to do next. Smith is quite possibly the next Tarantino. Mark my words! Get more info here!


"Grace"
By Paul Solet
8 Minutes

Unfortunately I cannot review this film objectively as I worked on it, but I will offer you some insider scoops: Paul Solet is on smart and cool cat, who knows his horror. Liza Weil of "Gilmore Girls" fame is way more beautiful in person. Brain Austin Green (yeah the guy from "90210") plays an asshole in the film, but could not be a nicer dude! The FX teams at Wicked FX were drawing so much attention to their work that the set was visited by Bob "Black Christmas" Clark and the infamous Damon Packard. Since I cannot review it I suggest you go to Fango TV and watch it yourself!


"Firefly"
By Pete Marcy
8 Minutes

When this one started all I could do was struggle to get over the video look of the film but about 20 minutes in everything changed. "Firefly" is a story about 4 peoples lives that are connected and they don’t know why. With homage’s to Close Encounters of a Third Kind and certain Donnie Darko elements, this one takes its time unraveling its twisted tale of violence and science fiction, peppered with geek boy humor.

The name "Firefly" is possibly appropriate to the context of the film, but when there is a beloved TV series with the same name, someone needs to do something to change it. "Firefly" is a competent and strange movie that has a worthy story and pay off, but suffers a bit from not letting the audience in on enough of the story to make it a truly satisfying film.
(No website found. That’s just plain weird...)


In Memorium
By Amanda Gusack
73 Minutes

The trailer looked like it’s a gimmicky shot on video feature, but what's really there is a determined quaint film that boasts some INCREDIBLE performances and a genuine terrifying premise. This is one flick that acts and looks like horror, but could also be played straight at any film festival. Using motion-activated video camera, a filmmaker decides to document the last of his remaining days as he succumbs to cancer. But the cameras record much more then he anticipates. Dudes, get out of that house!

This film is so scary and freaky I have no doubt that we will see a DVD release very soon! Part psychological drama and part Blair Witch, we see the unmarried couple deal with real life pain of a terminal disease, and then struggle through a ghost messing with them. In Memorium is a ghost lovers wet dream that doesn’t rely on heavy VFX but lets the audience experience the scares as if they are involved. This is intelligent horror, that doesn’t wus out on the frights! Official site here!


"Midnight Screening"
By Annabelle Osborne
8 Minutes

A fairy tale of sorts about going to the movies and coping with the rude people around you. When a short couple is trapped behind two extremely tall folks, the projectionist and ushers at the theaters take matters into their own hands to help out the situation. This is a fun and wonderful take on the assholes that we have all been subject to suffer with, at one time or another. Every now and again you see shorts like this play in front of major studio releases, and this could certainly be one of them. The best part about the short was that all of the theater was full of gothic looking mean people, a wonderfully funny visual look. Learn more here!


Cult
By Joe Knee
85 painful minutes

After this mess of a film was done screening, there was a Q and A with the filmmakers and cast. Director Knee started the whole thing off by asking "Did that film make any sense to you, because it sure doesn’t to me". A telling moment for a confusing and poorly made excuse for a film. Props to Knee for admitting that the film has problems, and not trying to explain how great it is, when it's clearly not.

The story focus’s on the exceptional Rachel Miner (in her second film in this festival) who is dealing with her friends being picked off one at a time through a decade (or was it centuries?) old curse, that her mother triggered. With the help of her porno/playmate looking professor, (who just so happens to be her stepmother?), and her school cafeteria cook of a father, she needs to stop some weird Asian curse from happening or the end of the world will happen or some shit like that. I won’t even bother to explain any more because it will hurt my head to much to try to.

Two major problems plagued this film: First the professor, who was played by a beautiful 6.5 foot tall super model that with the help of low cut shirts and ridiculous dialogue, but had not one ounce of believability. Either she was banging someone to get the part or the director has watched the "Hot For Teacher" video one too many times. And since when do shulpy school cooks get hot super model girlfriends? The second problem is the lack of plot, or the poorly constructed one, that's just plain dumb.

I can’t write this review with out mentioning that someone needs to remember that your lead actress needs to have at least one likeable trait. Like in Penny Dreadful; Rachel Miner plays a perfect damsel in distress, but we never get to see a good side of her or have any reason to give a shit if she lives or dies. Not at the fault of Miner, she puts in another great performance, but come on!

Lastly, the one and ONLY reason to see this film is the hilarious performance by Michael Southerly, he steals and elevates every single scene that he is in. Southerly is a true comedian with a very bright future. If it were not for him I would honestly say that you should stay for away from this wretched muddled mess of a film. If you feel you need more, it's available right here!


"Zombie Hunter"
By Geoff Hambry
12 Minutes

So here we have a cross between The Road Warrior and El Mariachi, minus all the charm and style of either. A lone zombie hunter stumbles across a girl in need of some help against the zombies that are attacking her. While the performances are solid the pacing is excruciating, if only this was 5 minutes instead of 12 this would have been a kick ass short film. "Zombie Hunter" plays like it wants to be a feature and this would be the opening sequence, but for some strange reason the director felt the need to draw everything out. This can and should have been really good. Maybe next time. The score was a cool mariachi-esque throwback, that really amped up the flavor of the film. More here!


"Itsy Bitsy"
By David May
9 minutes

A fucking joy! What happens when a man decides to commit to his girl and propose marriage? This is a hard time for any man, even in the best possible setting this truly is a scary and important moment in life. So why not take that and amplify the ordeal of it by 100? A giant spider that creeps and crawls gets in the way of this significant event. While the premise is simple the execution is outstanding! I cannot wait to get a copy of this and show it around to all of my friends. Clever dialogue and genius scenarios make this short film a treat for the eyes. This is one of those movies that you watch and afterwards you want to make movies yourself because its such a great time! What’s next David May?
(No website???)

Unrest
By Jason Todd Ipson
88 Minutes

At film festivals you never know the quality of films you get. At Shreikfest especially, since it's quite a showcase of new talent and that doesn’t always mean "real budgets" or "shot on film". But in the case of Unrest, the quality well exceeded all expectations! This is one slick movie, with a smart script and fantastic acting.

Ipsons' Unrest delivers everything that horror fans want packaged in a tightly woven story and intelligent visuals. Well, I was hoping for nudity and didn’t get it, but even a shortage of boobies wasn’t going to keep me from loving this highly anticipated movie. The buzz on this movie was huge and the buzz was correct!

Set in a medical school, a newbie (Corri English) starts to realize that all the dead bodies in the morgue may not quite have there souls laid to rest. One of the most striking things about this film is the authenticity, which comes from Ipsons' real life past career in the medical field. Turning his profession from hospital service to the silver screen was a very smart move, because we all benefit from someone who is sure to be on the cutting edge of the future of horror. Lead actress Corri English is one to watch, with her schoolgirl good looks and smart wit, she is a rare breed that can play sexy and smart, without even trying.

Unrest is one of the chosen few on the nationwide After Dark Film Festival running in November and I have to say, will be one of the better received films. (I loved Gravedancers as well!!) . When it comes to your town and you're sitting in the theater as the movie opens, take note of the masterful camera work; Ipson has the patience and know-how to deliver extremely long shots in a single take while never taking you out of the moment to notice its grace and meticulousness. Learn more about the movie right here!


Special thanks Denise and Todd for getting such a good group of films for us to see. See you next year!

The Shriekfest Crew!

- Spooky Dan

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