I never understood peoples' attraction to horror movies but, as a writer-turned-filmmaker who just spent three days totally immersed in the genre (courtesy of Shriekfest Horror Film Festival in Los Angeles), I have a newly-developed appreciation for the films, for those who make them and for the loyal audiences who flock to see them.
What I learned is that horror allows filmmakers to not only experiment, but to push the envelope and twist reality in a way that no other genre does. There is freedom and beauty in an art form which begs its creator to ignore every limitation he or she has ever known, but still keep his or her audience utterly mesmerized.
From children's toys that speak and commit multiple, horrific murders to otherwise normal-seeming people who eat portions of other people for survival or fun, from habitats found only in the mind to others found only in the post-apocalyptic future, from machines that animate and imitate humans to humans that are part-machine, this genre not only allows the filmmakers to stretch every known boundary of the imagination, but to reach as far beyond that boundary as they possibly can. Pretty much, the rule is "there are no rules!" If you can think it or imagine it, and if you and/or the members of your team can find a way to portray it, then it's fair game!
And the beauty of all that is that while you are doing all this, you are, as a story-teller, still charged with the responsibility of drawing your audience in, capturing and holding their attention, convincing them beyond the shadow of a doubt that what they are witnessing in the moment, on the screen in front of them, is utterly possible, utterly plausible, and that they have every reason to be terrified.
According to Shriekfest founder and director, Denise Gossett, and her trusted festival judges, of the twelve hundred or so submissions they received this year, 42 of them (10 features, 32 shorts) did an especially outstanding job of achieving that goal, and then, of those 42, one horror feature (Berkshire County, directed by Audrey Cummings) and one horror short (Let Me See Your Eyes, directed by Derek Cole) were deemed the best of the best.
For the complete list of winners, follow this link.
In future articles, I am going to be introducing you to some of the amazing men and women who create these bizarre, horrifying, thought-provoking, and entertaining masterpieces.