from All Things Horror correspondent Joan Donovan
While I couldn't make out the trek to Los Angeles myself, when offered a pass for SHRIEKFEST, I knew there would be too many good films on the docket to ignore. One of my oldest and closest friends stepped in to save the day. Below is Joan's recap on some of ShriekFest's highlights. Congratulations to all the participants who had their work screened-Mike
You can imagine my delight when Mike called me and asked me to cover SHRIEKFEST in LA this past weekend. I felt honored excited to hit the festival and wrangled up a few friends and went to catch some flicks. The Saturday early matinee was sparsely attended, but the fest organizer and directors were friendly and welcoming. The site of the fest was nestled deep in the heart of an LA film set, so the theatre was small and very comfortable if you were there for an entire day of films.
The shorts on Saturday were an interesting mix from truly scary to thoughtful to weird. For those who like a good scare with gore, take a look at J.T. Seaton’s Divination, where a psychic learns that you can’t lie to the dead, only to the living. Stupid living! For those of you who like well thought out shorts then David Matthews’ Murderabilia is a can’t miss. Here, Matthews plays with setting, scene, and context in order to get the audience to think in more depth about the characters and their motivations, all the while delivering an excellent story. Ashleigh Nichols and Eddie Beasley’s Summer of the Zombies (reviewed here), while cute, came as a welcome comedic relief after seeing Caruso’s Zombie. Zombie details the life of a Dahmer-inspired convicted sex offender who seeks out a young man to be his tenured slave. Some scenes in this film were extremely uncomfortable leading to a lot of nervous laughter from the crowd. I can’t say that I didn’t like the short, but it weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.
We went back on Sunday to Catch Mike Flanagan’s Absentia* (reviewed here) and thought it is a terrific horror/sci-fi flick. The theatre was packed, but we happened to be sitting next to the crazy lady who had a raging boner for Flanagan’s work. Everytime his name appeared on the screen she screamed and asked her friend if he was single or still dating ____. It is always so awkward to sit next to a ‘talker’ in the theatre because you want to strangle them, but not ruin everyone else’s immersion. Absentia is set in LA, but it draws on the folklore from Anytown USA. It seems like every town has a mysterious tunnel, wooded area, or haunted sewer drain, so it was very easy to get into the plot and stay there. The director uses the camera effectively in ways that had the audience cringing as close-ups drew back slowly for the wide angle and imminent terror. There were also fantastic plot twists and drawn out scares (that always delivered). This film is very postmodern in its approach to the plot and characters (multiple believable realities), while the ending leaves the audience member wondering if what lies beneath LA.
In its 11th year, SHRIEKFEST delivers high quality films, budget prices, and a very comfortable festival vibe. Mike, if you miss it next year you’ll regret it again just like you do reading this review. HA!
* Winner: Best Horror Film**
** Also playing in Boston October 14th as part of Shudder Fest