Indie horror film fans who live in the Central East Coast region took a hit in 2012 when Horrorfind apparently shut its doors for the foreseeable future. Horrorfind, the annual Gettysburg, Pennsylvania film festival and horror convention, had started carving out a nice reputation for itself as a fun little convention and for running a film festival that screened quite a few entertaining indie horror films.
But even as Horrorfind seems to be leaving us, another indie horror film festival has been steadily chugging along and making itself a more than ready replacement for people looking for their indie horror film festival fix. That would be the Washington, D.C. area’s annual Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival.
The Spooky Movie festival came into being in 2006 with the aim of giving fans in the D.C. area an enjoyable look at the indie genre scene as well as to give indie filmmakers a chance to showcase their works in front of people in the industry. While the festival itself is the child of C.W. Prather, it in part came out of the long running Spooky Movie Television show hosted by Dr. Sarcofiguy (the multi-talented John Dimes) and produced by Prather. 2006’s Spooky Movie ran for a total of three days and featured such films as Teddy Scares, Pervert!, Two Front Teeth, and the Korean frightener The Red Shoes as well as having some of the filmmakers involved with the films that were screening on hand to talk about the films. Additional draws for some of the local crowds were appearances by Dr. Sarcofiguy and legendary D.C. area TV horror host Count Gore de Vol (Dick Dyszel).
In the years since 2006 the festival has grown noticeably in size and attracted talent from all over the United States as well as all over the world. A short list of films that have achieved more notoriety and fame that have been a part of the festival’s annual lineups includes names like Carved: The Slit Mouthed Woman, Eat Your Heart Out, 99 Pieces, The Slaughter, Electrical Skeletal, The Dollhouse, No Through Road, Night of the Hell Hamsters, Rising Up: the Story of the Zombie Rights Movement, Colin, Broken Springs, S&Man, Zombie 108, Chained, Tinglewood, Some Guy Who Kills People, and Ninjas VS. Monsters among many, many others. The festival has screened classic films like the silent era’s Der Golem (with performance artist Bobo Golem providing a live performance soundtrack on a host of different instruments that included a Theremin) and Two Thousand Maniacs. The festival also maintained its connection to the horror host community with continuing appearances by Dr. Sarcofiguy, Gore de Vol, and the cast of Monster Madhouse.
2008 and 2009 also saw a return to the air for Spooky Movie Television as well as the release of two Festival of Horrors DVDs that further showcased some of the short films screened at the festival. Spooky Movie Television was once again hosted by Dr. Sarcofiguy with new co-host Boo de Pest (played by the lovely and talented indie horror actress Leanna Chamish). The two (now fairly hard to find) Festival of Horrors DVDs showcased a total of 14 short films and were hosted by Count Gore de Vol.
The festival and its related events have also brought a host of offbeat celebrity filmmakers and their films into town for Q&As or How To sessions. Lloyd Kauffman screened Troma’s Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead and then followed that up with a two hour Master’s Class from his “Make Your Own Damned Movie” course. Teller (of Penn & Teller fame) brought along Play Dead for one such screening and Q&A. One of this year’s name attractions is Bobcat Goldthwait screening the much buzzed about Willow Creek and then staying on hand for a post-screening Q&A. There will also be a week long retrospective of Goldthwait’s films that will examine his evolution as a filmmaker.
As a matter of fact, 2013’s Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival, running this year from October 10th to October 19th, looks to be one of its most stacked with regards to films and talent. The collection of short features and films brought in from around the world for this year’s festival look to be some of the most interesting screened so far, and the event’s closing night festivities include a 40th anniversary screening of the 1973 “blaxploitation” classic, Scream Blacula Scream hosted by Count Gore de Vol Dr. Sarcofiguy.
A part of what has driven the growth of the Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival can be seen by peeking behind the curtain and looking at the people working to put each year’s festival together. For them, fans of the types of films and filmmaking being presented as well as the art and craft of it all, this event is a labor of love. That might be most true of the man behind the festival, C.W. Prather.
Prather was able to take a few minutes out of his busy pre-festival schedule to talk to Nerdy Minds about Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival and what he’d like to see from it down the road.
What would be the top five highlights that you would like mentioned in a write up on Spooky Movie?
This year or if all time doing it?
All time. Or both if you want.
“This is a very tough question, because over the years we have screened well over 300 features and shorts from all over the world, so in many respects, that is over 300 highlights! There was Lloyd Kaufman with POULTRYGEIST back in 2008, who stuck around and taught a class; there was singing scaryoke and eating sushi with Mink Sole back in 2011; there was the audience shock over the documentary SNUFF: A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT KILLING ON CAMERA; there was the overwhelmingly positive reaction from our very first film, THE SLAUGHTER in 2006; there was drag performer and filmmaker Peaches Christ who tried to kill us all when she did a 4D show of ALL ABOUT EVIL; and then the satisfaction of screening my own film, EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN.
But “5” – that’s tough.
In no particular order, the highlights of the Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival include-
One that always snaps back has to be when we did a midnight screening of the silent classic DER GOLEM, for no real reason except we wanted to. This was back in 2007, which made this our second festival. We liked to program provocative or experiment works at midnight to challenge the audience. Going into our second year I talked with a friend who was a local musician about screening a silent film and having him create the soundtrack for it. Using 11 instruments, including a stand up bass, banjo and even a Theremin, he nailed it. Within minutes you forgot he was there. It was the only time we did something like that – he moved out west shortly after – but people to this day still mention how they were there.
The godfather of gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis, introducing the 45th anniversary screening of TWO THOUSAND MANIACS back in 2009. He is the man who created DIY indie horror cinema and blew open the boundaries of what could (and should) be done. Everything about the event was spectacular, from his performing the opening theme song, alongside horror host Karlos Borloff (Jerry Moore II), to the Q&A after the film, which included the first look preview of his new film, THE UH-OH SHOW!, which we wound up premiering in its entirety one year later.
TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL was our opening night feature in 2010, and was a coup for us. The film had debuted in January 2010 at Sundance, and went on to win big at South By Southwest. Then, there was not a lot seen or heard from the film for much of the year, as they worked out the details of their distribution. Thanks to the help of Fangoria Magazine, we approached them about playing opening night of the festival, and they agreed. Fangoria turned around and did a glowing review of the film, and even mentioned us in the same sentence with those larger festivals. Magnolia would later pick the film up for distribution, including a limited theatrical run. Thanks in part to the good word of mouth, the film was extended and played in D.C. for two weeks. Later, when it was released on Blu-Ray and DVD, Magnolia used a quote from the same Fangoria article on the cover. We don’t take credit for that, but we are proud to be in the mix with what I consider to be one of the greatest horror comedies in recent years.
Last year’s entire festival was a favorite of mine for so many reasons. It was the first year where we had the entire festival at the American Film Institutes’s AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD. This theatre is a holy space with regards to film. It is such an honor. In previous years, we were lucky enough to get one one or two screenings at the AFI Silver, in addition to other venues in the area, but having the entire fest under one roof, and having it be THAT roof, really was amazing. In addition, the AFI Silver had enough faith in us to expand the festival from a weekend event, to a 9 night festival. Really an incredible feeling to see the name of my festival with the dates that run for 9 nights (this year we’ve upped it to 10 nights!).
And then there were the movies and the guests – EXCISION, with local filmmaker Ricky Bates; the US Premiere of CHAINED, with Jennifer Lynch, RESOLUTION, with producer David Lawson, PLAY DEAD, with filmmakers Shade Rupe and Teller (from Penn and Teller), ZERO KILLED, with Michal Kosakowski (who came in from Germany) and NERVO CRANIANO ZERO with Paulo Biscaia Filho (who flew in from Brazil). And then there was our day devoted to local filmmaking, starting with a roundtable moderated by Ed Sanchez (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT) and ending with the World Premiere of the amazing NINJAS VS. MONSTERS.
I mentioned EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN above, and for me one of the happiest highlights of this festival is how it has solidified a friendship between myself and television personality Dick Dyszel, who didn’t know me as a child, but in many ways was responsible for raising me. Since 2006, Dick has been a large part of the festival. His internationally identified, and locally beloved, character of “Count Gore de Vol” has been the ambassador for Spooky Movie Film Fest among local fans. He has been to all but one of our opening nights; he has come out in support of other programs (including once as his other character, “Captain 20”!); he allows himself to be interviewed by the local press, which was a huge deal when we first started and had no name for ourselves. In 2008 we did an after-festival event on Halloween with him hosting shorts and a feature in a setting of a party. This set the ground work for us doing regular screenings of Count Gore presenting old films, complete with breaks between the reels. In fact, on closing night this year he will be having fun hosting the 40th anniversary screening of 1973 blaxploitation classic, SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM, alongside “Dr. Sarcofiguy.” This is fitting for many reasons, including the fact that this year also marks his 40th anniversary. His advice, mentorship and friendship has been invaluable.
What do you most want to see out of this year’s festival? Not in terms of viewing a specific movie or seeing a specific guest, but rather what do you most want to see done for Spooky Movie itself by the end of this year’s event, and where would you like to see Spooky Movie taken to in the next ten years in terms of location, size, and its ability to both attract name talent and to show off the up and coming indie artists out there?
(“Indie artists” in that question not being limited to just filmmakers if you have had thoughts of expanding out a bit.)
The goal for the festival is to grow the audience. Last year was our first year in a new location, and we were fortunate that a lot of our fans followed us here. It means so much to us to know there is that level of support. Now, we need to have the roots take hold. It’s not going to be easy; we are fighting a generational shift in people becoming more and more accustomed to having their horror movies when and where they want them. We have to present opportunities that are unique to the festival, like on opening night this year with Bobcat Goldthwait and his new film, WILLOW CREEK, or when we present PINUP DOLLS ON ICE the following evening – several burlesque dancers will be here for a pre-show, along with a Q&A with filmmakers Geoff Klein and Melissa Mira who are coming down from Canada.
Having guests is very nice, but it can also be a trap. People come to expect that – “Who are you having this year?” as opposed to “What films are you running?” becomes the question. Before I know it, this can become a convention and not purely a film festival. And make no mistake – I love conventions, and D.C. is in desperate need of a good genre based convention of some sort, but my passion and expertise are not suited for that. Some years, it’s just not the case, and the bottom line is sometimes it is not financially possible to bring in a guest. Or schedule wise. Ultimately I really want the fest to be able to succeed because we have enough people who love these films and this experience. If you ask many of our regulars, some of the favorite guests have been filmmakers no one has ever heard of – first time filmmakers who win over an audience, or hang out during the festival.
Long range goals is pretty much the same – to continue to build on the audience we have, and have this become a reliable barometer for the people of the region of current genre cinema. It’s an exciting time now for independent filmmaking. I would like us to be in a position where we can do more with that. You see cities like Austin, Texas or up in Montreal have these very vibrant film communities. The filmmakers there are aiming to making accessible, unique, original and good films that play beyond their home base. By no coincidence the top two genre film fests in North America are also in those cities. The relationship between local filmmakers with festivals and with fans is strong and is something I would like to emulate. We have that this year with BACKWATER and MORTAL REMAINS, two locally produced films that will more than likely enjoy larger distribution. Having a premiere with us is part of their strategy just as us having them present elevates our awareness among local filmmakers.
One thing I would like to do – and we set the groundwork last year – is to do a weekend long conference for filmmakers in the mid-Atlantic region. I think it would be very important. What constitutes this region – from North Carolina up to New York – is one of the more vibrant places in the country with DIY filmmaking. Some of the most iconic filmmakers who have done it themselves are from here. John Waters, Ed Sanchez, George Romero, Jeff Krulik, Don Dohler and Kevin Smith are from the mid-Atlantic region. It is something I am still thinking about, and if this does keep going, is something I would like to pursue.
Information on the festival can be found at their website here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Additional video previews, some not fully safe for work, and highlights can be found on their website and on their YouTube page.
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