Hi everybody! Sandra here, fresh off of a weekend chock full of horror content at the 2018 Silver Scream Fest, held at the Roxy Stadium in Santa Rosa, CA. I saw A LOT of brand new horror shorts, full length films, and even a couple special screenings over the festival's three days. A few standouts were exceptionally awesome and I want to get them on your radar.
I’ve never been good at saving the best for last. My favorite short from the festival this year was absolutely Avulsion. This piece was written and directed by Steven Boyle. The 10 minute short revolves around a female escort with a very specific set of skills. Her abilities enable her to grant the darkest wishes for people with a certain…fetish, let’s say. Avulsion is beautiful, and harrowing to behold. The color pallet is gorgeously balanced. The simple soundtrack, haunting. But the writing is the thing that truly shines and set this one apart from the pack for me. Keep an eye out, Avulsion is not to be missed. Unless you’re the queasy type.
Babysitter Wanted (Se Busca Ninera) is a Spanish language piece hailing from Mexico. Running a well-timed 18 minutes, we join a teen girl named Carmen as she settles in for a night on the job watching a pair of little angels. The kids want to play a game, of course. This one is a variation on hide-and-go-seek called, The Paltrish. What could go wrong with such a harmless premise? Plenty. Thank you, writer and director Pablo Olmos Arrayales, for crafting this tale of suspense. Arrayales has an eye for knowing when to show his cards, and when to tease the viewer by cutting away and prolonging the dread.
Last Meal is a horror comedy short that took me by surprise. This blend of genres often doesn’t work for me. So, imagine my pleasant shock when I ended up loving this one. Clocking in at 15 minutes, Last Meal was written by Jenny Klein and directed by Lula Fotis. This one revolves around a prolific serial killer on death row who requests a TV chef, famous for his unapologetic carnivore viewpoint, to craft him his last meal. And not just any dinner, a true masterpiece that will live in infamy. This one has a nice satirical comment on the cult of personality, and the lengths one will go for ego’s sake. Fotis impressed me with her visual storytelling. There are a few basic “sets” and each one sets the tone with differing camera angles and color patterns. It also enhanced that satirical edge by being just over-the-top enough to seal the deal.
There was one especially strong movie I truly hope all of you get to experience one day. The eerie faux documentary, Butterfly Kisses. Expertly helmed and directed by Erik Kristopher Myers, this one, not so surprisingly, won Best Picture at the festival. It may be hard to explain, but Butterfly Kisses is actually a documentary inside a documentary…inside a documentary. A videographer allows himself to become the subject of a movie to help promote his own film. Gavin, an unfulfilled wedding videographer, thinks he’s struck gold when he finds a box of footage from a couple of student filmmakers investigating a local urban legend. The legendary figure is a particularly creepy ghoul known as Peeping Tom. But what happened to the students? They seemingly disappeared without warning. Gavin is met with skepticism. Is this all some elaborate hoax? Or will Peeping Tom soon be claiming his next victim?
Myers did a truly masterful job at building his film. The stakes felt high, the mystery felt real. Peeping Tom is the archetypal local boogeyman we all grew up hearing about as whispered spooky stories at sleepovers. Or as some conspiratorial evil that befell a “friend of a friend of a friend” years ago. I was really pleasantly surprised by the way the movie was edited. There wasn’t any wasted or dragged out scenes that seemed to be begging to be cut. I’m also pleasantly surprised at how the scenes were stitched together. It wasn’t jarring to go from the student film footage and then back to Gavin in present day. Oh, and don’t worry about scares. There are plenty, and a few lingering images that will be burned into my brain for a while. One of my favorite things about film festivals is getting the chance to have a Q&A with the cast and crew. Erik Kristopher Myers was present after Butterfly Kisses played and I got the opportunity to chat with him about his movie. It’s so refreshing to be reminded that a REAL person composed and created this piece for us. His audience is made up of fellow horror fans, like himself. To me, that X-factor of someone who truly is a horror junkie making movies that they know WE want to see is irreplaceable.
Living Among Us, directed and written by Brian A. Metcalf, was another stand-out offering at the festival. The good news is, you can find and watch this one right now on a couple of different streaming platforms. This story follows a small news crew as they’re invited to spend a few days living with a tribe of vampires. That’s right, vampires are real and want to show the public who they are and how they coexist with humans. The question hangs in the air, can we trust them? Will they tell the whole truth of who and what they are?
Here was another opportunity for festival goers like myself to sit for a Q&A session with the director and cast. Metcalf is another self-confessed horror fan. One of his biggest influences for Living Among Us was the 80’s classic Fright Night. It was evident to me that he also truly loves the horror genre and believes in his movie. I found this film to be very entertaining and a fun watch. The concept feels a tad tired, but I can’t say I was disappointed in the finished product. Actors Andrew Keegan and the late John Heard are particularly bright points. Though, I wouldn’t necessarily classify this one as comedy, there are plenty of LOL moments, and even a satisfying smattering of gore.
I don’t know if I could say I’m any sort of genuine horror writer if I didn’t mention Derelicts. Written by Brett Glassberg, Clay Shirely, Andre Evernos, and directed by Glassberg, Derelicts is a burlesque in the most classic definition of the word. This one is unapologetically polarizing. Fans of 70’s grit and gore will probably be quite happy. I’m really glad I saw it, and Ieven enjoyed it. It is profane, gory, and darkly humored. Please also consider this a trigger warning for sexual assault, yet another plot point often found in those 70’s cult classics. A seemingly “perfect” upper middle class family is sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner when an uninvited posse of, well, derelict individuals show up. They then proceed to torture and terrorize the family. If one can stomach it, the viewer will hopefully see the satirical and farcical nature surrounding class warfare, mental health, inner demons, and family dynamics. The audience will love it or hate it. But, you will have a conversation about it, and that is art. When you do see it, reach out to me so we can talk about the ending. I have some thoughts…
Besides tons of great film content, The Silver Scream Festival had some other fun for horror fans. Special guests for instance! Here is a picture of the opening night ribbon cutting ceremony featuring horror icons, Barbara Crampton, Suzanne Snyder, Kelli Maroney, and John Russo.
It was especially an honor to get to watch one of my favorite horror classics, Night of the Living Dead, up on the big screen. This was the beautifully remastered Criterion Collection edition. It was a highlight of my dorky life to get to experience this movie in a standing-room-only packed auditorium with other diehards. Not to mention, John Russo himself there as a guest of honor.
There were several SFX Makeup artists present doing live demonstrations and answering questions from the audience. I was particularly excited to see Elle Macs there!
Please take the time to cruise on over the official Silver Scream Fest page and see for yourself the full lists of guests, vendors, and events. And if you’re in the mood to support Famous Monsters of Filmland and Sonoma County, consider stopping by next year! Look for me, the drooling horror nerd with tears in her eyes. Let’s grab a glass of wine and geek out!