Shriekfest Love and Lashings

Love for Denise

This last weekend was the 12th Annual Shriekfest Film Festival run by the wonderful Denise Gossett. The festival showcased 10 feature films and 27 short films. Bless Denise for such a well-run, pleasant festival that was just brimming with sweet people. Everything seemed to run smoothly, with the exception of the food truck that evaporated even though they’d booked it a month in advance. (Green Truck, if you feel like boycotting.) It means so much to me that she does this every year and that I got to be a part of it. Thank you, Denise!

I’m the 3%!

So, while I didn’t win the horror screenplay category (I didn’t expect to, as I said before), I was pleased to find out that there were only 20 Finalists out of over 600 entries. That means our scripts were in the top 3%, which isn’t bad at all. The judges certainly had their work cut out for them!

“The Dump”

I wasn’t able to get there until late afternoon on Saturday, so I didn’t see all the films by a long shot. In fact, I missed the main short I’d wanted to see that was directed by Rebekah McKendry called “The Dump.” I was glad to hear it getting good buzz during the festival, though, as some folk talked about how much they enjoyed it. As a female horror director, Rebekah was a unicorn — a red-headed step-unicorn, in fact — as I don’t recall seeing any other films in the program that were directed by women.

No Mo Poe. Like Seriously. Knock it the Fuck Off.

While I saw some cool, well-made shorts (hello, Burn) I was deeply disappointed in the writing and acting of most pieces I saw. (Like I said, I only saw part of them, so it’s possible that I just got unlucky.) And as I tweeted and even told Denise early Sunday afternoon, I’m really tired of people doing and re-doing Poe. I’m an enormous fan of his writing and he was one of my first literary loves as a child. But people are constantly rehashing his work, ripping off his stories and doing the same things over and over with them. It’s damned depressing. The endless cannibalism makes me feel hopeless for the horror film genre. This lack of originality was rewarded at the festival, too, which was both infuriating and soul-crushing. Not surprising, though, as Hollywood loves retreads and what I call Frankenfilms (done-to-death ideas all sewn together).

Last Kind Words

The feature Last Kind Words was a lovely surprise with its moody, Southern Gothic ghost story. It was a bit slow and might have benefited from about 10 minutes carved off the end, but it was beautifully shot and starred Brad Dourif who can really do no wrong. The sweet emotional chemistry between Spencer Daniels as Eli and Alexia Fast as Amanda squeezed my heart and the music was terrific. Director Kevin Barker is a professional musician and his ear enriches the film immeasurably. Another woman at the festival complained (rightly so) about how it was yet another horror film that emphasized how women’s sexuality, financial health and independence are controlled by men. She wasn’t wrong. I wrote that off to the culture of the region. But if you like languid stories about ghosts, love and secrets, you’ll enjoy this film.

Nailbiter Can Bite This

Nailbiter won Best Feature Film at the awards show.  It had me holding my breath with its wonderful original premise (Yay! No Mo Poe!), crazy-awesome claustrophobic tension and terrific production values. But its portrayal of women was outrageous. It’s about a “military mom” who, girding herself with mind-boggling stupidity, drags her three daughters straight into a tornado because she wants to pick up her husband at the airport as soon as he gets home from his deployment overseas. (A flight that would most certainly have been delayed by such events in the real world, but Contrivance is Thy Name.) Absurdly placing herself and kids in such tremendous danger is only the beginning of her complete intellectual and parental vacancy. The military mothers I know are all practical, resourceful and bad ass; this one was not remotely. There’s a flimsy setup at the beginning about her being a recovering alcoholic and how she wants to “be a better person” that doesn’t pay off in the least. Rather, when the four women find themselves trapped in a cellar with scary things, “Military Mom” wooses the fuck out while her two youngest daughters sit around as cute little sniveling, lisping chunks of monster bait. Even after they’ve been locked in the cellar and viciously attacked, the women DO NOTHING to arm themselves, nor to close the opening through which a vicious fucking monster has escaped, nor even to plan. Because, you know, that’s what chicks do: sit around babbling “We have to get out” as they wait unarmed for Bad Things so that they can get munched and the audience can go “Awww!” Only one character — the oldest daughter — eventually rises to the occasion, growing brains and bravery to do something that will actually protect them. The ambiguous ending was left open for a sequel with Military Dad coming to the rescue once he finally lands, but fuck that.


And On a Positive Note

While flawed in many ways, I still enjoyed the short Star Wars fan film, “A Light in the Darkness” and LOVED the very ending, which left me feeling pretty much the opposite of how I did later with Nailbiter. I cheered loudly at the end and clapped my heart out. It won Best Sci-fi Short at the awards show. I congratulated star Mark Whitten, who’s a real sweetheart. I don’t always dig Star Wars short films — Again, can we do something new please? — but I admire the heart and determination that goes into them because the production efforts and costs are enormous. Plus, unlike other shorts, they’re battling expectations set by the original film, which are virtually insurmountable. So, go Mark! I’m looking forward to the sequel.

That’s it from the Snark Cage. Thanks for reading!

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