Event Coverage: San Antonio Horrific Film Fest 7

Posted: September 9, 2014 in Events
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Event Coverage: San Antonio Horrific Film Fest 7

by Pontifex Aureus

I’d like to begin with an apology. I am not a writer, let alone a journalist; this instrument is new to me and if from time to time I hit a discordant note or lose my rhythm, I’m sorry. If this apology sounds like a case of “please don’t yell at me, I’m new”, well…maybe it is a little. But mostly, I just wish to make it clear that I don’t imagine that I’m a journalist just because I say so. I intend to earn that distinction, readers.

In the meantime, bear with me as we embark on a journey through San Antonio’s Horrific Film Fest 7. I have tried to recreate, in semi-stream-of-consciousness style, the experience of actually attending the film festival for those of you who missed it or have never been at all. I hope you can get some idea of what it’s all about from this firsthand, first-person perspective. So here we go; this is your very own virtual tour—a little slice of life from Day 2 of the festival, August 29th, 2014, presented by your humble narrator, Pontifex Aureus.

IMG_1988 2

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The Westlakes Alamo Drafthouse: an import from Austin that found its way to San Antonio and breathed new life into the husk of the old Westlakes Movie Theater, now a holy ground for movie-lovers—especially today. Today we have here the seventh annual San Antonio Horrific Film Fest, the brainchild of horror filmmaker George Ortiz, director of House of the Demon and the upcoming Applewhite Bridge—a film based on San Antonio’s own local legend, the Donkey Lady.

IMG_1989 George Ortiz

I enter the Drafthouse and walk down the theater hallway. I slip on my Friday the 13th Jason mask; dressing up in costume is not only allowed, but encouraged by way of an admission discount. Up ahead I see the first of the merch tables; the dull orange glow of the interior lighting gives them an appropriately dusky look—a horror bazaar by candlelight, almost romantic.

To my right I see, sitting at a table, Alfredo Lopez Jr., an accomplished artist surrounded by a gallery of prints. Drawing inspiration from horror, sci-fi, comics, and pop culture he freely combines elements from all four to create unique and often humorous illustrations. He’s done work for Marvel, Image—he even created the poster for this very film fest. My favorite: iconic pop-rock star Morrissey, drawn as a child, playing with a bunny. Adorable.

IMG_1984 Alfredo Lopez, Jr.

To my left, Ju Gomez, from Virus Comix has his own artwork on display. Virus Comix offers independent comic book creators to have their stories published and seen within their regular series of collected works, Viral. Specializing in gory horror fantasy, Virus Comix offers up the blood and guts in hearty helpings, all within a deep mythology of demonic creatures and epic battles. Other titles include Bloke’s Tomb of Horror and Son of 6.

IMG_1983 Ju Gomez

Moving further down the hall, I come upon Pigstagg Records & Videos. If the video-store of old is truly dead, then here at least is its vengeful ghost…a lean, mobile operation specializing in the odd, the collectible, the hard to find. Laid out before me like a weird buffet are the “cultest” of cult classics—Castle Freak, Mandroid, American Gothic; the schlock is so thick you could make a gravy out of it. They’re on tour now, working the convention circuit, but when they’re not, you can find them at their stand in Alamo Market Shopping Center on Hwy 90.

IMG_1981 Luis and the Marvelous Movie Table

Right next to Pigstagg is horror author, Scott A. Johnson, who has with him the collected ghost stories and urban legends of both San Antonio and Austin in his two books, Ghosts of San Antonio and Haunted Austin, Texas as well as a collection of short stories entitled Droplets. A true-believer in the paranormal, Scott did a series of pieces for dreadcentral.com, called Cold Spots, exploring haunted locations all across the country.

IMG_1986 Scott A. Johnson

Further down I see none other than Amelia Kinkade, well-known to horror connoisseurs as Angela, from the Night of the Demons series of films. The ever-gracious Amelia was kind enough to reenact her famous dance scene for last night’s triple-feature of all of the Night of the Demons movies. Now devoted to her work as an animal psychic, she travels the world using her abilities to help bridge the emotional gap between humans and animals. Merging her horror-film past with her current role as animal benefactor, she has created her own charity called No Horror for Animals.

IMG_1987 Amelia Kinkade

I turn to my right and see there horror author Tim Miller. If you’re a fan of horror fiction but you feel like most books simply can’t shock you anymore, then perhaps Tim Miller’s extremely gory, ultra-graphic books might give you the jolt you’re looking for. Tim’s book Hell, Texas was considered so objectionable by Apple that it was banned from the iBooks store (yet ironically, Apple appears to be just fine with the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom, which remains for sale). Luckily, Hell, Texas and all of Tim’s other books are still available on Amazon.

IMG_1979 Tim Miller

Right across from Tim is Eugene Clark, who played the “big daddy” zombie in George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead. Eugene began his career as a star football player for UCLA before going on to join Canadian football team, the Argonauts. I am told that Eugene himself will be on hand to lead the Saturday zombie-walk being held in the ample parking lot of the Drafthouse. Regrettably, I was unable to attend the zombie-walk so I can report no further on it.

I move past the last of the guest tables and enter the theater. Inside I find San Antonio’s dedicated horror fan base waiting for the next movie to begin. George Ortiz is there, in fact, he was everywhere, since George personally oversees the operation of his film festival. The next film, In the Shadows, is about to begin as I take my seat.

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In the Shadows:

The film begins with a man driving. He talks on the phone to his friend; they’re meeting up tonight to play darts. Suddenly, the driver sees a masked man in the road and narrowly avoids hitting him. As the film progresses, the masked man and other masked individuals sporadically emerge from the shadows to torment and harass our protagonists.

The film is not bad considering that it was made by very few people and for very little money. I’d say its greatest weakness is its derivative home invasion premise. Even the masks looked a little like 2008’s The Strangers. Still, a great example to aspiring filmmakers; you don’t need much to make a film, just gather some friends and get to it.

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As the movie ends, George comes up to the front of the theater, bringing with him the creators of In the Shadows. Like many independent filmmakers, George has been to his fair share of film festivals, but found that it was quite difficult for the filmmakers to get any real attention. So for his film festival, George gives every single filmmaker a chance to come up for a few minutes and talk to the audience. He believes that the filmmakers’ interaction with the audience (some of whom are fellow filmmakers) provides them with valuable criticism and direct insight into how their films affect the viewers. After the makers of In the Shadows answer a few questions from the audience, the lights go dim again and the next film, Caught in My Eye, begins to play.

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Caught in My Eye:

As the movie begins, we see a shabby man leading a solitary existence; he becomes aggressive with a prostitute. The narrative shifts to a young female model and we see the man beginning to stalk her in increasingly disturbing scenarios, including a particularly nasty scene of the man masturbating outside her window. Ultimately, the man breaks into her home and faces the model in a final confrontation.

The first thing that I notice immediately about the film is the exquisite camera work. The lighting, the framing, color, focus—all impeccable. The story itself is ok, but there is no real suspense or thrills; we are simply watching a stalking occur in a fairly straightforward fashion, moving from one creepy set piece to the next, so that the film feels more like a series of vignettes rather than a cohesive whole. The final confrontation offered no surprises either and the film ends with a rather campy “You could be next!” line. I know it seems like I’m being unduly critical, but only really well-made films like this can capture my attention so fully. It is so beautifully crafted and has so much scare potential that I can’t help but wish that the story was a little better.

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The film ends and George walks up to the front once again, this time with William Instone, the director of Caught in My Eye. William takes a few questions from the audience and discusses the challenges of creating the film and of filmmaking in general. As it turns out, William goes on to win the prize for Best Director this year—a distinction well-earned for his masterful camerawork and visual style.

At this point, I take my leave and our virtual tour of Day 2 of the Horrific Film Fest comes to an end. If you live in San Antonio and love horror movies, make horror movies, or dream of making horror movies, then this should be your Mecca. I was really astonished by the rather low audience turnout as I know from my own experience that San Antonio has a varied and lively horror fan-base. And it really is a shame that out of the 23 independent movies shown, only 2 were made by local San Antonio filmmakers. If you are a San Antonio filmmaker interested in the horror genre, then you could not ask for a better local venue; at the Horrific Film Fest, you will be seen, you will be heard, and you may even walk away with a beautiful custom-made trophy—a bronze chainsaw that is an exactingly detailed replica of the one used in the 1974 film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And to all of you San Antonio horror fans: get out there and show your support! Unlike some other film festivals that are ridiculously over-priced, you can attend the entire 4-day Horrific Film Fest for 10 dollars per day, or 7 dollars per day if you’re rocking a sweet costume. Overall though, the film festival was an outstanding success and is getting bigger and more elaborate all the time. Next year’s Horrific Film Fest 8 promises to be even bigger and better than ever.

 

2014 Horrific Film Fest Winners:

Best Director: William Instone

Best Feature: Army of Frankensteins

Best Actor: Gerald Grum

Best Short: Night of the Sea Monkey

Johnson Family Writer’s Award: James Christopher

Best SFX: Scars

Audience Choice Award: Make It Stop

Best Sci-Fi: Army of Frankensteins

Best Producer Screenplay: Velvet Vengeance

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