Simply put, this is a great festival. Horror, sci-fi, and fantasy filmmakers and fans converge for three days and see films, grab some cool merch, and chat.
First, a big shout-out to the staff at Nevermore. It is VERY well run. We got emails every step of the way, spelling out the delivery requirements, who to talk to about publicity, what the accommodations are – did I mention that they put us up for two days in a really awesome condominium! – and how to get from place to place.
We also had a very gracious volunteer, Sarah Preston, who picked us up from the airport and took us to the theatre and then to our condo. Thank you Sarah.
While we were there, we saw fewer films than we had initially intended. But we did get a chance to talk to some of the filmmakers and fans. By the way, the theatre is a reconditioned landmark. The projection quality in all three screens was tremendous.
DAY 1: The ABC’s Of Death
After heading out to a Mexican restaurant, we ended up seeing The ABC’s Of Death, a feature film consisting of 26 shorts, directed by a mix of horror veterans (like Ti West) and relative newcomers (at least to me). The gimmick, of course, is that the title of each short is “___ is for _______.” Of the films, about six were worth watching – “C is For Cycle,” “P is for Pressure,” and my favorite, “W is for What The Fuck.” The others varied from “that was okay” to “I wish I could unsee that” (and not in a good way).
Saturday morning was the big filmmaker brunch. The staff prepared delicious Southern BBQ (pulled pork, greens and other goodies) and a ton of desserts. We say down with Robert Fillion, the producer of the short Lot 66, and Scott Schirmer, writer/director of Found (one of the horror features). We didn’t have a chance to see either of these films, unfortunately, but we’re heading to the Phoenix Film Festival and will get another chance to see Found in April.
Then it was off to see Leaving DC, written, directed and starring by Josh Criss. This was a really great film. I was initially apprehensive – it’s a video diary film (and haven’t we seen a ton of those) – but instead of going for the cheap scares and trick shots it goes for something more interesting. The plot is simple – a Mark Klein, who suffers from OCD, has finally left Washington D.C. and bought a beautiful, remote house, where he can work and live in peace. Except, of course, that something/someone may be out there. What makes this film different is that you actually come to care about Mark. He’s trying his best under some very difficult circumstances to figure out what’s going on, while also monitoring his meds and live a normal life. Watching him gradually give in to his fears even as he’s trying to talk himself out of being afraid was really quite good.
Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh
Then we saw The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, which was interesting but unfortunately not scary enough. An antiques dealer inherits a house from his estranged mother (played in voice-over by the wonderful Vanessa Redgrave). He’s estranged because his mother was a religious nut, believing in a cult of angels. His son starts to think that his mother is still around – as a spirit or malevolent force. Or he could be grieving for her, or losing his mind. Or some combination of all three. It was really well shot, beautifully designed, and decently-acted, but I kept waiting for it to kick into high scare/discomfort gear and it kept not doing so.
Found In Time
Then came our screening. The BluRay projection was really crisp, the sound quality was great, and the audience seemed to really enjoy it. We got some great questions during the Q&A. Then it was off to see Dawn of the Dead!
Dawn of the Dead
The makeup looks pretty terrible by today’s standards, and some of the music hasn’t aged well, but the movie still delivers the goods. In fact, because I’ve seen it so many times I was able to focus on other things – the psychological complexity of the character (yes, they were more complicated), the horror of their situation, the real sense of hope – and hopelessness – and of course the vicious satire of everything: guns, ego, consumer culture, and society as a whole.
Wicked Radio Network
In the lobby we got a chance to meet fun folks behind Wicked Radio Network, an eclectic collection of podcasts and blogs. Many (though not all) are horror-focused, but there are some humor-, videogame-, comic-, and other-oriented shows that are part of the network.
This is a great deal. They’ve basically built the equivalent of a broadcast or radio network, with plenty of programming, for not a lot of dough. They’ve also solved one of the more annoying dilemmas that content creators (like us) face – how do you get seen/read/listened to beyond just your friends? The answer is to pool resources together and create a platform where everyone gets to shine a little bit, and each podcast’s audience support the others. We’re starting to think of a way to work with these guys.
The rain stopped and it got warm enough to finally do some walking around Durham. What a neat town. We were in the warehouse district, which has been going through something akin to what happened in Brooklyn’s DUMBO a few years ago – manufacturing spaces turning into artists spaces turning into yuppie/hipster spaces, the last step displacing both the artists and the original inhabitants.
Our second Found In Time screening was in the smaller theatre, and the crowd was a little more subdued (hey, it was Sunday) but really seemed to enjoy it and asked some great questions during the Q&A.
Casebook of Eddie Brewer
We saw The Casebook of Eddie Brewer, which was a bit disappointing. It’s a great setup – a documentary crew follows a paranormal investigator around (Eddie Brewer) on a couple of cases, and it looks as though he’s stumbled onto a couple of hauntings involving a pretty powerful spirit. There’s a rival paranormal team, a skeptic who debates with him, and some other good stuff. But the last twenty minutes or so feel a bit rushed and too derivative of other “found footage” horror films we’ve seen.
Unfortunately, we had to leave without seeing the evening films, but we had a great time and will be back again in years to come. Thank you again to the filmmakers, staff, and fans at Nevermore!