Thursday, November 4, 2010
KPBS film critic Beth Accomando previews the horror festival Horrible Imaginings
Halloween is over but you can still find something scary in San Diego. Here's a preview of the inaugural Horrible Imaginings Film Festival playing this Saturday at the Tenth Avenue Theater beginning at 1:00 pm.
If you're a horror fan like myself and are counting the 361 days left until next Halloween then here's something to make the wait a little easier: Horrible Imaginings Film Festival. The film festival serves up horror features and shorts both old and new as well as two floors of artwork. This celebration of horror is the brainchild of Baltimore transplant Miguel Rodriguez, who saw a need for more horror in San Diego and decided to try and fill it.
"What people can expect from the film festival," says Rodriguez, "is people can walk around, meet other people who are like-minded and like the same type of genre. They will be able to expect artwork of dark or macabre nature, and also a number of films including two classics that are being screened over the course of the 12-hour period.
Twelve hours may sound like a long time to spend in the dark getting scared but the festival is broken up into two halves representing two different kinds of horror.
"I wanted to showcase how the horror genre can bring out different ways that people communicate fear," Rodriguez explains, "And that could be either from a psychological way or from a more visceral way."
One of the films representing the psychological horror is the Michael Powell classic "Peeping Tom" (1960).
It focuses on a young man named Mark (played by Carl Boehm) who is a photographer obsessed with capturing fear on film. So Mark not only murders young women but films their final moments of terror for his own personal snuff movie and experiment in fear. Powell's film suggests something disturbing about the voyeuristic nature of cinema itself. One character even notes, "all this filming isn't healthy." But Powell also ends up expressing sympathy for its sadistic killer... and maybe by extension asking audiences to be sympathetic to filmmakers like himself who have been criticized for their dark cinematic obsessions.
"We all have a dark side," says Rodriguez, "and horror is an artistic venue and a safe venue with which we can explore that dark side about ourselves."
Embracing this dark side is what good horror is all about. To show the more visceral side of horror at his festival, Rodriguez went for the cult classic, Lucio Fulci's "The Beyond" (1981). Fulci's films have a striking visual style, a penchant for unrestrained gore, and the terror of a waking nightmare. Graphic horror films like this prompt people to ask why we need to explore such gruesome territory. But that's precisely why Rodriguez wanted to do this horror showcase.
"It's a very stigmatized genre," states Rodriguez, "It's not only not respected but it's almost in vogue to say that horror is something you should not partake in and something that you should be ashamed of yourself for."
Rodriguez isn't ashamed of his passion for horror. The genre addresses some of our more base instincts but Rodriguez doesn't see why these instincts should be ignored within an artistic medium. He hopes that the exposure a festival like this can offer will help break down some of that stigmatism.
The festival also challenges the idea that horror can be misogynistic by highlighting work from women filmmakers.
According to Rodriguez, the genre takes a lot of flack for victimizing women but "If you feel it's misogynistic maybe you should say something with your own piece that maybe could combat that, could combat some of that misogyny. So I think there are a lot of female filmmakers in the horror genre who are doing work and not getting exposure for it. So it was my intention to change that a little bit."
One of the films, "The Commune," still cops out to stereotypes of women as helpless victims, despite a female behind the camera. But other films explode that cliché, like the enticingly titled "Dead Hooker in a Trunk." (I mean how can you resist a film with a title like that!)
"It's a very fun kind of grindhouse film," says Rodriguez who can't help but smile at the mere mention of the title. "Just go for the ride. Turn the brain off and have a lot of fun."
Twisted Twins Productions
The film was made in Canada by identical twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska, and the female characters they play are anything but passive victims. The film is an uneven, ultra-low budget project fueled by wild energy and do-it-yourself inventiveness. A similar inventiveness is on display in such local shorts as Nicolas Simonon's "Derailed" and Cathy Alberich's "Algesia," both of which make excellent use of sound.
Rodriguez hopes to make this an annual event and to supplement it with additional programs throughout the year, like an upcoming holiday horror show. This is a year of firsts for horror in San Diego as Horrible Imaginings follows on the heels of another horror debut, The Blacklist Art and Film Festival. That festival was a showcase of horror shorts with an art show at the Birch North Park Theater. It drew a surprisingly large crowd. So maybe San Diego is hungry for horror.
So if you feel in need to extend the Halloween spirit for just a little longer, check out some of the horrific fare at Horrible Imaginings. Rodriguez has programmed a diverse festival filled with wicked treats that will make horror fans happy. So go and enjoy!
The complete festival schedule is available at the Horrible Imaginings website.You can also purchase tickets online. In addition to the films there will be art on display from local artists, including a black light installation by Nigel Brookes, and an after party on the roof where you can mingle with filmmakers and fellow horror fans. You can also follow festival founder Miguel Rodriguez on his podcast Monster Island Resort Podcast.