Zombies are the middle children of the otherworldly family. Vampires are the oldest brother who gets to have a room in the attic, all tripped out with a disco ball and shag carpet. Werewolves are the youngest, the babies, always getting pinched and told they're cute. With all that attention stolen away from the middle child zombie, no wonder she shuffles off grumbling, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha."

- Kevin James Breaux

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Horror Films at the Gwinnett Center Int’l Film Festival

As a first year international film festival the Gwinnett Center Int’l Film Festival (held July 27-28) had a healthy dose of genre films (I should know since as Program Director I scheduled them).  Located in Duluth, Georgia right off of I-85 the Gwinnett Center houses three screening rooms and two panel and workshop rooms all within walking distance of each other.  This makes for an all encompassing event for the average indie film watcher.  As Program Director of the event I wanted to provide audiences not only with a healthy variety of international films but films of all genres which include sci-fi, comedy, drama, animation, and experimental including horror.

There were many shorts this year on display for the avid horror fans which include the Edgar Allen Poe inspired Her Heart Still Beats (which has great play in many film festivals thus far) Play House, which begs the question of how far would a father go to create the perfect family at any costs, and Root, a disturbing psychological look at a woman trapped between her fiancé and the man she’s having an affair with.  There were also a few interesting oddities such as the faux trailer Hell No, which demonstrates what would happen if all characters in horror films actually made intelligent choices (this was a personal favorite of mine) and the whimsical dance piece Dance Till You Drop.  There was also the Georgia Premiere of the second episode of the web series Ghost Trek: Goomba Bodysnatchers Mortuary Lockdown and the World Premiere of my own short film Primal (think infected mixed with zombie film) and the bad mothering of Wide Awake, where the dead children of a woman come back to haunt her.  Surprisingly, there was only a single student horror film which was Visitation Hours, which had a recently dead teenager return to make amends. 

Some of my personal favorites were Root, Play House, and Hell No as these films had something more to say about the human condition and the horror genre.  It’s always good when a horror film tries to say something more about the darker side of the human condition rather than simply be a gore film or a film that goes for the lowest common denominator.  More often than not many shorts have little to say other than be simply entertaining.  It should be noted that Root received the 2013 Audience Choice Award for Best Fiction Short.

There was a surprisingly large number of horror features on display this year and it seems that zombies were the monster of the year as they featured heavily in Ace the Zombie, a local production with the effects talents of 9 Cop FX behind it, and the Brazil film Beyond the Grave, a post apocalyptic world with zombies and all kinds of other manner of creatures and evil.  My feature House of Secrets is a suspense thriller that has a man buried alive to menace a group of women who wrongfully buried him and then there is the epic All Hallow’s Evil: Lord of the Harvest (with a running time of over 140 minutes) with every known type of monster thrown in; this film is for the hard core horror fan as Halloween is taken over by every type of monster in the book (zombies, werewolves, witches, goblins, ghouls, and even a killer clown, to name a few).

Each film presents its own challenges and offers a different perspective on the genre whether short or feature.  If you were unable to catch them at this year’s festival then I hope that you search them out online to see when they are playing at a film festival near you.

The film festival also had a few other events lined up for horror fans!  9 Cop FX put together two workshops for our event which included “Special FX Makeup” where co-founders Ondie Daniel and Ace Talkingwolf applied make up FX to a couple audience members while also demonstrating how easy it is to create some of the amazing FX that they have achieved (they worked on Ace the Zombie).  Their second workshop on Sunday was “Distressed Accessories,” where they showed off some of their amazing props, costumes, and weapons created for the various films that they have worked on.  Another workshop was held by Ron McLellen (producer & writer of All Hallow’s Evil: Lord of the Harvest) called “Home Grown Special Effects” where he showed filmmakers and audience members how to use common household items to achieve low budget horror film effects.   These hands on workshops were a huge hit with the audiences and filmmakers.

We also had several panel discussions that interested our horror fans most prominently “Directing the Horror Film” with noted panelist Darla Rae (director of Brutal) and John Conkle (director of Zombeak!) and Christopher DiNunzio (director of Her Heart Still Beats) and Giles Shepherd (director of Ace the Zombie), to name a few.  There was also a panel discussion on “Fan Films” with Ron McLellen (who has directed fan films based on the Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises) and Ondie Daniel and Ace Talkingwolf (who have worked on numerous fan films through 9 Cop FX both horror and sci-fi).  For the “real” horror fan we presented a one-on-one interview between Russell Cherrington (producer of Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut) and Craig Sheffer (star of Nightbreed) that encompasses the actor’s huge history in film.  This was followed by the Georgia Premiere of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut, which was our Saturday Late Night film screening, which started off with a Q&A of the film followed by the Director’s Cut of the film (which is approximately 145 minutes long).

All in all I believe this was a decent turn out for horror films and the horror fans as there was much for them to enjoy (and on occasion not so much to enjoy).  Next year I hope there is a bigger sampling of genre films especially from the student filmmakers and I hope to find another horror film worthy of the Saturday Late Night treatment.

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