(Full disclosure: This correspondent didn’t get to Shriekfest 2010, held at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, until the closing evening — Sunday, October 3. So this is only a quick snapshot about the festival, and you should probably take it with a little grain of salt.)
Film festivals are pretty close to a dime a dozen these days. How many are there? So many that you could probably spend most of the year just going from one to another to another, in any given year, seeing all manner of short films and features, and going through all the rounds of handshaking and congratulating and awards. Some of these movies go somewhere, most don’t, and the festivals just keep going and going.
That’s what made Shriekfest a surprise. It’s not your average film festival. There were actors, producers, promoters, press and fans, yes; and yes, there was a red carpet and cameras flashed and speeches were made. But from the moment I entered the theater for the first of two screenings I would attend, I noticed something different about the material on offer. It was a notch above the usual festival fair. It made you really think!
Shriekfest is advertised as a horror/sf/fantasy film festival, which it is. But the first feature I saw, Solitary (site) started out from the viewpoint of a psychological thriller (with science fiction overtones) and then took you on a different kind of ride from there. I can’t tell you about the mysteries within mysteries of the plot, but I can tell you that there’s a lot more brains, heart and drama going on in Solitary than you would ever expect from its make-‘em’-jump packaging. It’s downright moving.
The second film I watched there, Ashes (site), was a much more straightforward and traditional horror film. It even had a rather commonplace and prosaic central plot element (the virus that triggers a lethal epidemic of flesh-eating maniacs/zombies). But the filmmakers treated their story with a lot of thought, and lead actor Brian Krause invested the scenario with so much reality that by the time terror is unleashed (the movie has an old-fashioned pacing for its first half) you will believe that gruesome nightmares are truly being unleashed. Not only that, but the movie name-checks Cthulhu just because it can. How can you beat that?
After you’ve been to enough film festivals, you know that a two-for-two ratio of good, solid movies is not the norm. Most festival programmers can kindly be said to have uneven tastes in film, and political considerations probably skew things even more. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to report that the people behind Shriekfest clearly care about quality and upholding the genre film.
Festival organizers Denise Gossett and Todd Beeson have a lot to be proud of for Shriekfest 2010. It’s a professionally run film festival that recognizes excellence in moviemaking and helps encourage emerging filmmakers to do their best. Be there next year, as Shriekfest returns in 2011! Learn more.