Festival Review

2018 Silver Scream Fest (Feb 16-18)

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.

Short Films


     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.

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     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.

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     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.

Feature Films


     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…

Other Fun!!

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.

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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.

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With twenty books published internationally and nineteen feature movies in worldwide distribution, John Russo has been called a “living legend.” He began by co-authoring (with George Romero) the screenplay for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which has been recognized as a horror classic. He has had a long, rewarding career, also penning films such as RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, MIDNIGHT, THE MAJORETTES, THE AWAKENING, and HEARTSTOPPER.
— https://www.silverscreamfest.com/guests/
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Crampton took an extended break from acting to raise a family, but when she finally returned to the screen, it was horror that brought her back: Adam Wingard’s YOU’RE NEXT (2011). The second stage of her acting career has also been dominated by genre films, including WE ARE STILL HERE (2015), Rob Zombie’s LORDS OF SALEM (2012), and BEYOND THE GATES (2016). She recently filmed a role in the star-studded extravaganza DEATH HOUSE.
— https://www.silverscreamfest.com/guests/
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Maroney has often cheerfully poked fun at her own B-movie starlet image in numerous TV guest star appearances, such as a crazed evangelist on HBO’s TRUE BLOOD. She has also continued to act on the stage in Los Angeles in productions such as PINK at the Renegade Theater, OUTWARD BOUND at the Hudson Backstage, THE EDGE OF ALLEGIANCE at the Met theater.
— https://www.silverscreamfest.com/guests/
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When your on-screen monster is an aquatic fish man, someone has to do all that swimming; and for the original Universal classic CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, that man was Ricou Browning!
— https://www.silverscreamfest.com/guests/

SFX Artists

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!

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Ellinor Rosander, aka Elli, is one half of ellimacs sfx, a YouTube channel sensation that creates eye-popping special effects makeup tutorials, from monsters and Halloween heroes to gore effects and macabre Disney characters. 21 year old Elli is primarily self taught and uses basic makeups and household items for her amazing creations, which are filmed by Swedish photographer Macs Moser (the “macs” half of the duo). Elli recently won first place in the NYX Nordic Face Awards. The ellimacs YouTube channel has over 800,000 subscribers, and the most popular videos have upwards of 5 million views apiece.
— https://www.silverscreamfest.com/guests/
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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!

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I had the pleasure of attending one day of Cinemafantastique at the UBC’s Norm Theatre - a treat as the theatre is slated to undergo renovations for the next couple years and the fest will be changing venues for the foreseeable future. Hanging out there was like stepping back in time, which seemed to suit the theme of the festival which brought us a plethora of 70s inspired magic. I was instantly welcomed to a cozy space filled with niche horror fans, quality vendors, such as Cranium of Curiosities, Videomatica, and a very chill vibe. Sadly I was only able to attend one day of the festival, but without further ado here are the films I saw:

The Cruel Tale of the Medicine Man
2015, James Habacker
1hr 30 min (NR)

If I had a word cloud about this movie (re: if it was 2013) the most prominent word would definitely be ‘GLITTER’. This is a burlesque-themed film, and it is obvious the moment it begins. In fact, the location of The House of Choad is actually James Habacker’s own Slipper Room, a burlesque theatre-lounge in New York. Picture a dark, smoky bar filled with society’s fringe: knife throwing, exotic burlesque performances...it’s beautiful, cheesy, fantastical, and fun.

Right away we meet Linda, a young woman (brilliantly played by Jillian McManemin) who has left a mental hospital and almost magically arrives at the House of Choad. It’s obvious she’s desperate for work and is quickly hired to dance. Habacker himself plays Mr. Choad, a man so obsessed with an artistic awakening he’s willing to sell his soul (and the souls of others) to achieve it.

Taking notes from the Grand Guignol, a French theatre specializing in “amoral horror entertainment”, The Cruel Tale delivers frightfully grotesque short-form theatre with impressive performances from all involved. Even in the films entirety you can see the Guignol influence with it’s bloody macabre climax. It only makes sense then that I often felt I was watching a stage play. All I could think while watching was how much I would love to see those shows live (minus the uh, special performances). Matt Fraser of American Horror Story was among the cast, an extra bonus since seeing him perform at the International Burlesque Festival here in Vancouver in May.

Some may question the genre of The Cruel Tale of the Medicine Man, and that questioning is more than fair. After all, it describes itself as “a genre - defying mixture of comedy, horror, sex, fantasy, freak show, dream and cartoon.” Hardcore horror fans, beware! But if you’re a big fan of burlesque like I am, it’s a must-see.

The Red Man
2016, Jimmie Gonzalez
1hr 28min (NR)

When I picked up my flyer for Cinemafantastique at the earlier Northwest Horror Show, The Red Man was the one I looked forward to seeing the most. Having been in the festival circuit since October, I was pleased to be able to attend. Director Jimmie Gonzalez was also in attendance, known in the past for his music videos and underground EDM DJ skills. He described his disappointment in the mainstream corporate and commercial leanings of the EDM scene. He decided to quit and turned his frustration into art via metaphor.

Clearly inspired by Argento, and meant for repeat viewings, Red Man was a bit of an adventure. The symmetry and color of the film were noticeable in the first shot. Evan is a famous DJ, troubled with nightmares about a violent incident that occurred several years prior. It’s clear he’s struggling with drug addiction, paranoia, and PTSD.

I love paranoia. It features in every one of my top 10 horror movies, and The Red Man has it in droves. It also has great production quality and performances, and gets fairly twisted. With all its twists and turns, it is an impressive feat and I appreciate what it tried to achieve. More than anything, I was impressed by Daniel David Diamond’s performance as Evan. This is one of those movies it’s difficult to talk about without giving too much away, so if you like this sort of psychological horror I’d encourage you to check it out.

Afterwards there was a Q&A with Gonzalez where he shared more about his life and creative process. He considers it an intensely personal film and found it freeing to “get it out” - even with his great success as a DJ he wasn’t happy. Having a friend invest in him gave him the opportunity to create the movie at the quality it is. I felt lucky to be able to see such a personal piece of art and meet the director.

Hell Town
2015, Steve Balderson, Elizabeth Spear
1hr 29min (NR)

If dramatic horror comedy is your thing, then Hell Town is for you.

Shown as a mini-series of 3 episodes shown in “binge-watching style”, Hell Town is best described as a mash-up of soap opera and horror. It’s extremely melodramatic, playing on daytime TV tropes with absolute frenetic glee. Toss some blood in with the caricatures of small-town teens and you’ve got yourself a real murder mystery.

And what a mystery it is! Who is killing all these annoying kids? Why do they all hate each other so much? What is this family war really about? You will either love or hate the grandiose performances by all the actors involved. One of the actors informed the audience that they were “told to go balls to the wall with performances, it gave us a chance to have fun!” you can definitely tell everyone had fun making it, but frankly I didn’t have a lot of fun watching it. I will say this: some of the kills were unique and stylish - but overall it fell flat for me. If you’re dying to get your hands on it, it comes to VOD on the 23rd of August.

She Kills
2015, Ron Bonk
1hr 41mn (NR)

Yo, you guys like grindhouse? If you can’t get enough of that campy, grimy 70's bush then this is the flick for you. I mean, just look at that poster!

Through an unfortunate attack on her wedding night by a local gang called The Touchers, Sadie learns she is cursed (blessed?) with “fire crotch”, a condition that causes the perfume of her vagina to drive men crazy. Crazy enough to violently kill and eat people while acting like apes, I guess.

Gold star for the writers, I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much vulva slang in my entire life. Look, I love a good revenge horror as much as the next gal, but this was a grueling 101 minutes that could easily have been cut down to a more palatable 80. What started with a pumped-up desire to see her torturers destroyed, turned to malaise and indifference after a while.

This is a total lovefest homage to 70's grindhouse, replete with boom mic drop-ins, continuity errors and a big fat wink right at the audience. With the right crowd, it’s a hell of a ride. Bring your closest friends to this and have a few drinks - you’re going to be laughing a lot.

While Cinemafantastique lasted a solid 3 days, I wasn’t able to attend the whole weekend. I’m especially sad I missed Harvest Lake and Last Girl Standing, as they’ve been on my list for quite some time. I really appreciate fests like this one for bringing in niche horror and connecting like-minded individuals to the horror community. I look forward to seeing what’s in store for next year!

~ @bexbz

Northwest Horror Show - Vancouver, BC


On April 22-24 I had the chance to check out the second annual Northwest Horror Show in Vancouver, BC. When I heard about the event, I jumped at the chance to see such awesome titles as Maniac, Zombie, Night of the Creeps and more on 35mm at the local Vancity theatre. Though Vancouver boasts horror filmmakers like the Soska Sisters and refers to itself as “Hollywood North”, the horror community is surprisingly difficult to find. One of the best parts of the festival was the opportunity to see several horror shorts by independent directors tucked in between features, and I’d love to share them with you! The weekend also boasted Q&As with William Lustig, Tom Atkins, and Lynn Lowry which were exciting, despite any technical difficulties. The vintage trailers and PSAs before each feature were the true icing on the cake for me with titles like Night of the Bloody Apes, Rituals, and House of the Park on the Edge. There was so much eye candy and I left impressed with the smorgasbord the organizers from Northwest Nightmares gave us! I’ll be back next year for sure. Without further adieu, let’s take a look at the gems on display from the weekend:


Zombie, 1979 - Lucio Fulci
Probably best known for the awesomely bizarre underwater zombie vs. shark scene, Fulci’s Zombie was a fan favourite and a great start to the festival. Surprise: I’m not a big zombie fan in this saturated market, but I have a deep appreciation for this film. In particular, I love the way the zombies look, extra earthy! My favourite scene involved a slow-mo shot of a piece of wood going into an eyeball. Totally gross. If you get the chance, join the two strangers heading into the tropics to locate a missing scientist-dad who’s studying the cause and cure of - you guessed it - a zombie epidemic.

Maniac, 1980 - William Lustig
Though I enjoyed the 2012 remake of Maniac, this was actually my first time seeing the original and I can’t think of a better way to experience it than on the big screen. This was easily my favourite screening of the weekend. Joe Spinell plays the psychopath scarred by childhood abuse with the perfect blend of creepy uncle and sad trauma survivor. The interview with William Lustig after the movie definitely added to the experience. Around the time of filming, apparently Tom Savini was set to get a nose job. He had a bust made of his face pre-surgery, and since it would have been useless once he got the work done, they used it in the infamous shotgun head exploding scene. This was done with a live shotgun on the streets of New York, which was definitely not legal. When they drove the car from the scene home, they had to cross a toll bridge. When the attendant saw the hole in the windshield and the car covered in apparent blood and gore, the cops got involved. You can imagine how that went.

Cannibal Ferox, 1981 - Umberto Lenzi
What can I say? It’s like Cannibal Holocaust with better music. Sorry, that’s a little trite. This one caused an angry walk-out and it’s worth it just for that alone. It’s one of those movies you have to see once, if only because nobody will stop talking about it. It’s gory as hell and involves cannibalism, obviously. Can you tell it’s not my favourite film?

Night of the Creeps, 1986 - Fred Dekker
This is an absolute cult classic that took me awhile to get into (horror/comedy is not my jam) but by the end I was totally sold. There’s a pretty excellent dog in this movie, and I’m a sucker for clearly stuffed dogs in horror films. This movie is insanely quotable with perfect one-liners, and must be the quintessential 80’s experience. You’ve got your rowdy teenagers, you’ve got your alien parasites, what more do you really need? The audience had a blast with this one! Bonus points for a jovial interview with Tom Atkins after the movie, where, of course, his opening line was “Thrill me!” Speaking of which, he shared a story where he was standing in line at the grocery store where a woman approached him yelling “Thrill me!” when he turned to her, she eagerly pulled out a pack of pencils she had made for her personal business with the words printed on them. Who uses pencils still? Atkins prefers the theatrical UFO ending himself, which was the version we got to see that evening. I haven’t seen the other ending; which do you prefer?

I Drink Your Blood, 1970 - David Durston
This movie is one crazy hippie ride, with lines like “...Satan was an acid head. Drink from his cup; pledge yourselves. And together, we'll all freak out.” right out the gates. The audience was quick to laughter with this one, given the quirky dialogue and exaggerated cases of hydrophobia and human rabies. All was put in motion by one vengeful child who’s had just about enough of this hippie group terrorizing the town: meat pies will teach ‘em, for sure. The dessert was an interview with Lynn Lowry after the movie, who was cast as a mute only because she wasn’t supposed to be in the film! This one’s not really a must-see, but fun nevertheless.

Street Trash, 1987 - James M. Muro
Surprisingly, I felt Street Trash was the weakest screening of the weekend even though it was the one I most looked forward to. maybe it was the time of night, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I covered this movie in my recent Gross-Out List, mostly because the effects of the mystery brew on the street people is pretty fantastic. People tend to enjoy this one, because it can be a lot of fun, and the audience showed their approval. Seeing it with an audience is a whole different experience, so I recommend a group viewing where laughter is encouraged.

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, 1975 - Pier Paolo Pasolini
The crowd was predictably smaller for this showing, and the organizer congratulated us for our bravery before the show began. I was familiar with the content of Salo but this was my first real viewing. It had been 12 years since Salo was screened in Vancouver and I felt it was an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed, especially since we had our hands on such a beautiful copy of the film. Though I found it a little uncomfortable to watch, it definitely inspired a lot of conversation afterwards. I think it’s a movie that should be viewed once, but doesn’t really need to be visited again. There’s only so many times you can watch 4 fascists torture a bunch of adolescents for 4 months. Unless you’re in college, and then you’re there for like 4 years.

Bad Taste, 1987 - Peter Jackson
Despite the name, Bad Taste turned out to be a pretty great palate cleanser after Salo. This little project was so much fun! It initially started out as a weekend short film project by Peter Jackson and his friends, and naturally evolved into his first feature. I really appreciated the opportunity to view it on the big screen and I think everyone should see it! It was a pretty great end to the festival and my only regret is that I didn’t bring more friends to see it. After all, it was rated “auuugh” and I left with a big smile and a great song stuck in my head.

Memorable Short Films, in order of appearance:

Night of the Slasher - Shant Hamassian
Impressively done in a single shot, a fun take on horror tropes and what happens if you try to lure the bad guy… Check this one out if you have a soft spot for ‘90s horror!

The Smiling Man - AJ Briones
My favourite short of the weekend, and recipient of several festival awards, The Smiling Man was a real creep-fest that had me thinking about it for days. Wonderful makeup and acting, it was just what I wanted to see. Everyone should see it, if possible.

Out of My Skin - Nadine L’Esperance
Here was a humble short tackling the demands of motherhood: can’t a lady get a break? What about a break out of her skin? Some definite talent had a hand in making this one, so keep an eye out.

Carved - Mary Russell
If you like hot ladies getting into some trouble, you’re in for a ride. This one is a lot of fun and worth a watch! Check it out!

The Barber’s Cut - Mark Brocking
A cute horror/comedy involving a nefarious barber (no, not Sweeney Todd) with some impressive shots. You’ll get some chuckles out of this one, especially if you like puns.

Chateau Sauvignon: Terroir - David Maire
It’s wine! Made from people! Watch a sickly-looking son try to care for his ailing mother under the guidance of a father with anger issues. Anyone coming out for a wine tour is in for a big surprise.

Dark and Stormy Night - Jared Carney
Another comedy short that is suspiciously reminiscent of a beer commercial. You’ll probably like it.

McDavid - Conor McNally
Do you like hockey? If not, too bad, because I’m Canadian and it’s my only religion. Either way, this experimental short about the Edmonton Oilers was something special. Having been an Oilers fan back in the day, I am no stranger to the true horror that team has become. But the new arena being built, and the new draft picks, well, they might just change everything.

Cantata in C Major - Ronnie Cramer
An experimental short mashing together 600 audio clips from old timey horror movies and transcribing them into electronic music. It sort of felt like 6 minutes of screaming, but if you’re into that stuff I’d give it a try.

Beautiful - Andrew Phillips
What if the person you loved, trusted, and married, turned out to be kind of weird and obsessive about you in a Boxing Helena way? Just wondering.

Canvas - Leandre Low
This was a great little piece about a haunted(?) painting. It lures you in, and with one touch… well, you have to see what happens.

Sunnyville Security - Shelby Wilson
It’s Valentine’s Day and someone’s on night security duty, but they’re not alone. The classic foolish security guard who gets into more than he can handle - this got a lot of laughs, so check it out if you can!

I had a great time this weekend covering The Northwest Horror Show for The Bloodlust! This is going to become an annual tradition for me, for sure. I’m already looking forward to the next one! Let me know your thoughts, and check out some of those great shorts! After all, some of the best filmmakers started out that way. Also, recommend some movies to me with stuffed dogs, because that gets me every single time.

~ Becky (@Bexbz)

Northwest Nightmares (@NwNightmares)