One of Los Angeles best and most anticipated horror film festivals of the year is always Screamfest, as it always takes place around mid-October, just as everyone is at the height of their Halloween celebration frenzy. And so, patrons of the festival are in the spooky mood and anxious to be introduced to what Pinhead would refer to as “such sweet sights.” Tonally, they couldn’t have picked a better film to kick off the entire festival than opener TALES OF HALLOWEEN.
It was Tuesday evening, October 13th, a few days before TALES official full on VOD and limited theatrical release and the great thing about having it at Screamfest is that the audience was compromised of so many familiar faces. Friends, colleagues, film lovers, horror nerds, filmmakers, actors. Basically if you have anything to do with the genre and your love of horror was genuine, you were there & surrounded by your people!
If you’ve been keeping tabs on the Blumhouse website, then you’ve seen a lot of interviews with the directors of the anthology pic, and you know the deal by now, but I must say, it was a really special experience seeing it on the big screen with a fun, enthusiastic crowd. (Most of you, I’m sure saw it at home on VOD. Get as many of your friends together the next time you watch it!) The segments (in order) consisted of Sweet Tooth by Dave Parker, The Night Billy Raised Hell by Darren Lynn Bousman, Trick by Adam Gierasch, The Weak and The Wicked by Paul Solet, Grim Grinning Ghost by Axelle Carolyn, Ding Dong by Lucky McKee, This Means War by John Skipp & Andrew Kasch, Friday The 31st by Mike Mendez, The Ransom Of Rusty Rex by Ryan Schifrin and Bad Seed by Neil Marshall.
There’s literally not a weak story in the bunch. The quality of the tales and their ideas are rich in every single one, even the ones that might not gel with your own personal tastes. But overall, the order and structure make for a smooth and brisk 92 minutes, brimming with so much love & enthusiasm for the Halloween holiday that it’s infectious. The beautiful thing about anthologies is everyone will always have their favorites and it’ll be completely different from what your friends will most likely pick. For me, highlights definitely included Paul Solet’s crazy homage to the Spaghetti Western with his segment The Weak and The Wicked, as well as Dave Parker’s Sweet Tooth, which not only creates a new Halloween myth, but also best encapsulates the Halloween vibe and why it’s the perfect film to open the movie. The most genuine jump scare that got me, a horror watching professional, came from Axelle Carolyn’s Grim Grinning Ghost. And I loved the placement of This Means War, right in the center of the film, as two neighbors from different generations battle it out over who has got more Halloween spirit with their yard displays. I love the underlining message of yeah, that old school horror’s cute, but you’re the old guard. And how the old guard views the new guys as being “everything wrong with Halloween” these days. Maybe we can all just meet somewhere in the middle and get along?
The most enduring part of the evening however came with the full on Q & A moderated by Adam Green (who also appears alongside Graham Skipper as one of the movie’s cops) and all of the filmmakers. (Minus Lucky McKee and Neil Marshall.) It was really a testament to the power of will and friendship that made this movie happen, and I know first hand that it’ll be one of those flicks that inspires a new generation of horror kids to make cool stuff with their friends. My friend’s 14 year old son, who is an aspiring FX artist, was at this screening and told me he immediately went home and wrote his own Halloween themed script.
A few night’s later on Friday, October 16th, it marked the 10th anniversary of FEAST, directed by John Gulager and scripted by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton. I’m one of the few fans of the film that had never seen PROJECT GREENLIGHT Season 3. I just came to FEAST as a horror fan that caught the opening scene at a Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention and I just was so in love with the lunacy of this film, that I had to share it with anyone who would listen. So it was great to see it back on the big screen with the Screamfest audience. Horror genre writer/guru Sean Decker led a lively and fun Q & A where just about everyone showed up, including lead Kirsta Allen, the Gulagers, the Project Greenlight producers, the writers and crew. It’s a testament to how special and unique an experience it was to all parties involved for them to show up and celebrate the 10th anniversary together.
One new feature I made extra effort to catch was Nick Simon’s THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS. The movie is the last feature to have the late, great Wes Craven involved as a producer, and was also co-scripted by Osgood Perkins, whose debut feature film FEBRUARY knocked my socks off just a few short weeks back at Beyondfest. Another incentive is that the film was shot by legendary cinematographer Dean Cundey, most well know to genre fans for shooting the early and best work of John Carpenter’s career! (He also went on to shoot these little movies called BACK TO THE FUTURE and JURASSIC PARK.) The movie itself was a very unique, unsettling and ambitious modern version of the “slasher” pic. It wasn’t self referential in the way that SCREAM was, but there’s a ton of hilarious biting social commentary is a lot of the script that it’s hard not to get swept up by the humor of the dialogue. It made me genuinely come to care for these characters. So when things took a turn for the inevitable dark 3rd act (this is a horror movie after all), I was truly affected. When the violence, torture and kills do happen, it is brutal and unpleasant; very reminiscent of Craven’s first few pics. You’ll of course recognize Kal Pen from the HAROLD & KUMAR movies, as well as Katherine Isabelle from GINGER SNAPS, AMERICAN MARY and NBC’s HANNIBAL, but lead actress Claudia Lee was the stand out and ideal heir to the throne as our modern horror scream queen.
My Killer POV co-host Elric Kane lead a fun and informative Q & A with cast and crew, including director Nick Simon and Dean Cundey, which primarily revolved around the speedy nature in which the project went into production, Wes’ involvement and working with Cundey. Over all, one of this years festival stand outs.
There’s so much more the festival had to offer. A first look at the American MARTYRS remake. New films like THE ABANDONED, ESTRANGED and even the new SAW documentary GAME CHANGER. But there’s only so much that one reporter can catch!
Tonight, the original PARANORMAL ACTIVITY will play once again on the big screen before the Screamfest audience. And if you’re in LA, tomorrow night, Thursday, October 22nd, Screamfest will close out their 2 week run with the premiere of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION! The screening is FREE, as is tonight’s showing of the 1st PARANORMAL film, so get on down there if you can. It’s at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres located at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90028.
And join us for next year’s Screamfest!