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The Role Of Horror In A Scary World

 September 2, 2020 at 11:35 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00:07 [inaudible] messages on screen as information. Speaker 2: 00:00:12 Well, it is 2020. So would anyone really be surprised if the dead were to walk the earth? Speaker 1: 00:00:31 [inaudible] Speaker 2: 00:00:31 Welcome to another episode of listener supported KPBS cinema junkie podcast on like Mondo, something wicked this way comes Speaker 2: 00:00:48 That's right. It's time for the horrible imaginings film festival, which is dedicated to showcasing horror, scifi and fantasy 10 years ago, I saw a post on social media, or maybe it was a meetup group. I can't remember which, but it was someone new to San Diego who had this idea of starting a horror film festival. And he wanted to know if anyone would be willing to help since I'm a horror fan. I said, sure, just let me know what you need. That person was Miguel Rodriguez and his dream project became horrible. Imagining his film festival. Over the years, I've worked at the festival in various capacities from helping program films to baking bloody treats, to serve at screenings, to stuffing gift bags. For filmmakers, I was sad that the festival decided to move from San Diego to orange County in order to find a more affordable venue. Speaker 2: 00:01:36 And this year the move was from an in-person physical event to an online virtual one that kicked off last night with a double bill of the 1962, the brain that wouldn't die. And it's 2020 remake. The great thing about this online version of the festival is that anyone in the Southwest region of the U S can enjoy the films with feature films available for a 24 hour screening window and the shorts available for a full week. You can still buy a festival pass and enjoy nearly 30 hours of shorts features and documentaries plus discussions with filmmakers to preview the festival and to talk about the nature of horror. In general, I speak with Miguel Rodriguez, the festivals, founder, and executive director. He also happens to be my partner in crime for film geek, San Diego. I need to take one terrifyingly short break, and then I'll be back with my interview with Miguel will answer the question of what role can horror play at a time when people are quarantining at home, dealing with a pandemic witnessing police brutality on an almost daily basis, and just feeling a general and pervasive sense of anxiety Speaker 1: 00:02:54 [inaudible] Speaker 2: 00:02:58 To start with for disclosure, Speaker 3: 00:03:00 I've been working with horrible imagining since it began a decade ago here in San Diego, the cost of venues here in town forced you to move the festival to orange County. And now with COVID, you're taking it online. So Miguel, how does it feel to be launching this festival this year online in the midst of a pandemic? Speaker 4: 00:03:19 Oh, that's a loaded question right off the top. It, I mean, it feels all over the place. There's no one emotion that comes to mind readily. Uh, I'm excited. You know, what I'm most excited about is I've started, I've been able to use the skill set from the, from the education world, because for the last several months I've been working at UC San Diego helping instructors to teach remotely and what, you know, some of the best practices of that are. And I've been using that to think about how we want to do a remote festival. So that has been interesting, but, um, I didn't want to do it remote. I mean, I waited until the 11th hour, I think, late July before I finally pulled the plug and said, yeah, it's gonna have to be remote. Uh, I mean, I suspected it would be, but I made it official at that point. And, uh, it's been a lot of pain, um, and frustration, but there've been some things that are definitely interesting. And what I really think is that whatever happens in the future, the genie's out of the bottle and people are gonna respect, respect, expect some kind of remote components to festivals in the future. So I'm glad that we, you know, had to jump in the deep end because now I've figured out some ways that we can use these tools and, uh, for kind of ongoing engagement. So I'm happy about that part. Speaker 3: 00:05:00 And what can people specifically expect from the online experience from horrible imagining this Speaker 4: 00:05:06 That's the big question, right? Is, uh, this has always been a community event for me. So how do I maintain the community aspect when we're sitting in our homes? And one thing I've come to realize from, you know, also full disclosure, I was able to practice by having a mini event back in June called campfire tales, which is a quarterly series we do. And we did that remotely. So I was able to get data from that and apply it to how I do this, including this is going to cost a lot more than I was expecting it to. But also, um, how, what are audiences expecting? What do they want? And also what can we offer filmmakers if we can't offer them, like in person networking opportunities or chances to connect with the audience in the same room. So I've been trying to build opportunities for community building in the virtual environment. Speaker 4: 00:06:10 And also I've had to let some things go. There is a group of people out there, a segment of the audience who are fine, just watching things at home and like the flexibility of being able to watch it whenever they want. And then there are also a segment of the audience who want this to kind of mirror the festival experience and watch it the same time as their friends and be able to talk about it at the same time. So I've combined the two, um, I have a schedule that has suggested what we're calling CoWatch periods, where we're talking to the audience. Um, we have a zoom for the festival audience, only a special zoom meeting that we're calling the lobby, um, where they can come and get tech support and hang out and talk about what they saw. Um, that's just kind of super, you know, it's outside the times that we're actually watching films. Speaker 4: 00:07:11 Um, and it's all just about building opportunities to connect over what we saw and building opportunities in where people can on their own collaborate and coordinate and watch at the same time and live, tweet it and write reviews on letterbox. And, uh, you know, one of the nice things about the virtual space is a person can with one click of a button now say, say, I really liked this short film lenses. I want to share it with Twitter and they can just click the Twitter button and push it out. And that's not really something you can do very easily in person. Uh, you don't really want your phone out in the middle of the movie. So, um, you could definitely do that now. And, um, I'm encouraging, Speaker 3: 00:07:54 Right? You are running shorts and features, but talk about how you do your programming blocks for the shorts. Cause it's not going to be just like animated films or together or foreign films or in one place it's more thematically divided. Speaker 4: 00:08:08 Yeah. Um, so as you know, this year, I was wondering what we were going to start seeing thematically from the pandemic, uh, and certainly that started to rear its head, but we stopped taking submissions around may. So there wasn't really enough time to get a lot of submissions that were all about people being isolated in indoors with, uh, an illness going around. But the thing about genre in particular, um, horror, fat, dark fantasy science fiction is first, it works really well in the short film format because it's, that's why I call the quarterly series campfire tales. It really is like these kind of campfire tales or urban legends where are talking about the things that scare us or, or our anxieties airing our anxieties. And also, you know, we're afraid of something for reasons. So you start to see these really cool fit, you know, shared themes start to pop up. Speaker 4: 00:09:12 And so for example, one of our themes is called twisted in a sense where you have these characters who are either children or cute fuzzy animals or things like that. And, uh, and they show a very dark side. So there were a few things like that and if it fits together, and it's really interesting to see when different voices can share a same thread, even though their films might be radically different, it might be scary. It might be funny. It might be animated like you said, but they are expressing the same kinds of things. Uh, so I like seeing that and I like showing that and grouping it that way. Speaker 3: 00:09:57 What's great about that kind of programming format is that people who might normally just go to find horror comedy or might just go to find a particular brand of horror might get exposed to styles or techniques that they might not have otherwise been open to. Speaker 4: 00:10:18 Oh yeah. That, that's definitely part of the plan as well. You know, part of the mission is to explore, uh, the kind of umbrella of the myriad ways that you can use this art form to express fear and anxiety. Um, and you know, if someone's only focusing on the same type of thing over and over and over again, then you're not really getting the breadth that we are shooting for. So yeah, absolutely. That's on purpose Speaker 3: 00:10:44 As the name implies horrible imaginings is about horror and you've mentioned genre films, but what role can horror play at this moment in time when we're quarantining at home, we're facing a pandemic there's social unrest. There's a lot of just general anxiety and Ken horror help us through this. Speaker 4: 00:11:06 You know, it's funny that you asked that because it's a question I've been asking myself these last few months, as I have struggled, um, myself, both emotionally and psychologically, and also with my health, uh, as we try to, you know, make it through lockdown in a safe way. Um, and also everything that's going on in the world that, uh, that's really having a strong every day, it's a stronger effect. And I feel like, you know, society is eroding around us. So, um, I I've found myself recently kind of questioning my role as a film festival director, why I'm doing this and how I can keep it up. When I see, uh, when I still see people being shot by the police and protests happening and counter protesters arriving with automatic weapons. And, you know, the world seems just awful right now. And, um, and so, you know, I, I did make a post recently a couple of days ago on social media, kind of like just to though, to my friends really, but kind of airing these feelings, get getting this out there. Speaker 4: 00:12:27 And it's probably one of the most reacted to posts of a roommate. It's got like 300 comments of people expressing to me, pretty adamantly that adamantly that they need this, that we need this, that this expression is necessary for some people. And that's something I've been saying for years, and I don't know why I've been second guessing myself lately, other than, you know, it's an emotion, there's no, there's no logic behind it, but you will hear from people who don't horror movies, you know, why would you want to watch you hear this all the time? Why would you want to watch this? The world is scary enough, right? That, and to some degree, I understand why they're asking that, but my answer has always been, I want to watch it because the world is scary enough. Like the purpose is, is to express these feelings, get them out there and also share them and let it be like a way to have conversations with people about things that are uncomfortable. Speaker 4: 00:13:31 You know, for me, it serves the purpose of exercising, dark feelings and providing that moment where it's an opportunity to have conversations about things that are not comfortable. And, you know, it shouldn't be comfortable. This is not a comfortable genre. So I think that, uh, that's the purpose it serves is putting our fears on display and, and letting us kind of pick a part, pick at them a little bit. Cause a lot of times our fears are completely irrational. And when you hear people say, Oh, horror movies, there's no logic. And people always act so stupid. Well, you know, one thing that we're noticing is when terrible things happen, people do tend to act pretty stupid and you know, fear is irrational. And if you express it, then yeah, it should be irrational. This is not, I mean, I think I would argue that cinema in general is not necessarily an intellectual art. You know, it's an emotional art, it can be intellectual, but it's largely an emotional art. Um, and this is one of the most potent emotions. So for me, it's all about expression and, and giving me a chance to talk about things that, um, are kind of taboo and, uh, in a way that's, you know, I guess I'll use the word safe even though I don't really love that word all the, that much. Speaker 3: 00:15:00 Well, I have to say, because I'm a juror for the festival I've just recently watched roughly about 29 hours worth of horror films. And I have to say that I feel much better than I do after five minutes on Twitter. Speaker 4: 00:15:16 Well, yes. You know what absolutely. Um, you know, I'm going to admit here, uh, that for me, and I admit this pretty openly, the short films are always my favorite. Um, and particularly like when we have a really strong block of films that fit well together, I that's, when I feel like most empowered, um, this always happens in person at the festival when we're like getting ready to project. And I look at the program and see like what the first couple of titles are. And it's like, Oh, I can't wait to hear what the reaction's going to be. You know? Um, that's a, that's, that's like my life's blood. And, you know, back when you asked me how I felt about going virtual for me, that's the hardest part. Uh, there's this story that gets told amongst the filmmakers a lot. Um, we've actually, this is a good time to say we have these alumni meetings now on zoom and on Facebook where the newer filmmakers and our alumni filmmakers can kind of talk about things and meet each other. Speaker 4: 00:16:27 And I was afraid that would be really awkward and annoying, but actually it was great. And, uh, and one story gets told a lot. Last year we had a wonderful short called a noise that carries, uh, by a director named Guillermo Delarosa. And, um, it's, it's a very tense short, but it has a really potent scare. And there's this moment that we were showing it. And when the scare happened, uh, me and Sterling were in the back of the theater, like just watching and waiting for it. And then when it happens the entire, it was a full theater to the whole, you just heard 200 people just go at the same time and we high fived each other. And one of the other filmmakers, Christina, like looked back and saw, she caught us. She caught us high fiving. Um, and so she tells everybody about that. Now, you know, it's one of those things that like, you get that visceral reaction and you live for it. Uh, and I'm not sure how, um, how I'm going to really get that now, other than people just telling me after the fact, but how is that relevant? That release. It does kind of make you feel better, right? You, you, you get that out of your system and it's a really weird and morbid kind of meditation, I think. Well, the other thing Speaker 3: 00:17:50 Is with film, I mean, this is an art form. So art is meant to create empathy, to try and heal, to provoke you, to make you think, I mean, to do all these things that engage you in a way that's meant to come out with something positive, whereas an angry tweet by someone is just, you know, you feel like it does nothing. Speaker 4: 00:18:17 Yeah. Except to stir the pot even more, you know? Um, yeah, on that note too, you know, art is something that the composer of the piece, whether it's music or a painting or a comic book or a film, which has many, many composers, um, it's something they put thought into like a lot of thought. And even the best tweets I would venture to say are not that well thought out, you know, they're it, a tweet is based off of like the basis of reactionary kind of, uh, kind of nonsense. You know, that's why I, you know, personally, I like Twitter for live tweeting because, um, it's, you're really reacting to things that you love and, and, and sharing the joy of something with a group of people in a way that makes you feel like you're in a community, but when it comes to religion or politics or loaded topics like that. Yeah. I mean, even thinking about it now makes me depressed. Speaker 3: 00:19:34 Your festival has always drawn on films from all over the globe. How was it programming this year? And there had to have been an impact from a lot of film production just being shut down for most of 20, 20 so far. Speaker 4: 00:19:49 Yeah. Um, I suspect we're gonna see that impact to a greater degree when we open up submissions again in October, uh, I can tell you that around late March, the, we got half the submissions this year than we normally do. Um, because one South by Southwest canceled, it was like alarm bells, I think. And people were really hesitant to submit anywhere. So we saw a pretty significant drop off in, in just that with people holding off and like, Oh, maybe I should just wait and see what happens. And there are a lot of people I know who finished their work like last year and still haven't started the festival circuit yet. Cause they're hoping to wait until this blows over whenever that would be. Um, so yeah, I know that we felt it to some degree this year. I think we're going to feel it more next year, but in terms of internationally, what was most interesting is when over campfire tales, we had live Q and a and since that is a short film quarterly series, uh, we can have a group Q and a session with various different filmmakers. Speaker 4: 00:21:06 And some of these people were in Spain. I, the trouble is time zones, right? So what ends up happening is you have like a lot of Europeans on the same call because there it's around the same time for them. But we did have these filmmakers, uh, one of them Francisco who was on the Canary islands. And then we had other filmmakers who were in Germany and this was June. And like, you know, things were pretty bad here in the States and very clearly getting worse. And I always start the conversations. You just couldn't help, but start it's like, Oh man, it's pretty bad right now. And at that point they weren't really feeling it anymore. They hadn't been passed it Germany, especially the two people from Germany, you know, they, uh, they were pretty happy. So seeing, seeing other countries going through this time, um, in a much smarter way is, is very interesting and, and kind of infuriating at the same time. Speaker 3: 00:22:14 One of the features you have is actually a documentary and it's your closing night film. If, if we can call things closing night anymore online. Um, but it's hail to the deadites. Speaker 4: 00:22:25 It's a couple of guys I know, decided to, you know, look kind of like Ramy and Campbell and Todd birdie. And all those guys did in those early days is roll their sleeves up and jump in and, and do something really insane and crazy. And there, they actually are making a movie about the whole dad. And it's you guys. So to me, this is the most extreme example of fandom. Talk a little bit about this film. So this documentary, I was actually just talking about this earlier. It's a documentary about the fandom rather than the product. So this is about Sam Raimi, his evil dead series. Um, going back to, uh, you know, the first short film that evil dead, the first movie, evil dead, two army of darkness all the way up through even the new one. But, um, that series has a very peculiar fan base that is not only rabid about it, but is also, you know, pretty specific about it. Speaker 4: 00:23:34 There are a lot of people who love those movies, but don't really watch anything else. They just love Ash and the evil dead. And that's it. Um, and I believe it was probably either Sam Raimi or Bruce Campbell who coined the term deadites to describe the fans. That was the term that was for the, uh, the kind of zombie creatures that were in the army about, and this movie, I guess, with ban, should realize is that, uh, what they do can be tremendously, uh, impacted for good or bad, you know, you stalk somebody that's bad. Um, but if you appreciate them in a way that is appropriate or whatever, uh, actors do, it does mean something to fans. Documentary talks about the subculture of evil dead fans, which has included not only, you know, people who dress up as the characters or by the toys, but also things like evil, dead, the musical, and some of the other just wild pop culture stuff around it. So, um, I do think that for people who like that series and more specifically, the people who like it to such a degree that they'll, I don't know, make a pizza NAMEC on, um, might be something that they can relate to Speaker 3: 00:24:58 You weren't implying me. Were you, Speaker 4: 00:25:05 I mean, it is delicious. Speaker 3: 00:25:11 You talked a little bit about how trends kind of form as you're going through films. And since I've been on the jury committee for a number of years, it does seem like these things happen. And, you know, one year we had that horror for humanity because a number of films seem to spring from real life horrors. I think it was the year Trump was elected or the year after there were a number of zombie films that you had that were all from the point of view of the zombie, which seemed to be this call out for, you know, empathy for the other. As we see Trump and his administration put kids in, in cages. Um, there have also been years where there seemed to be a lot of more Gore Fest kind of films this year. It seemed like there wasn't as much on screen violence and onscreen Gore, but there seemed to be this greater kind of contemplating and questioning of reality, um, that was flowing through them. And I was just wondering if, if that was something that you saw or did you see a particular kind of theme coming from, you know, just a general feel that, you know, cause each year does kinda tend to have kind of a general feel to it. And I was just wondering what you were kind of seeing from these entries. Speaker 4: 00:26:41 I think you nailed it actually. Um, you know, there it's, it is really hard to look at it from a bird's eye view of everything that we saw, especially including the things that we didn't take, but certainly the, the source of the horror this year is a lot less about, um, immediate bodily harm or running away from a killer. I mean, there's that too, you know, there'll always be that, but if we're talking about like a trendline, it does seem to be more, you know, the questioning of reality definitely comes into play. Um, there's a, a short film called optic nerve that is very much just like very abstract, you know, it's like, it's a mindscape. So it's kind of taking that to the next year. Speaker 5: 00:27:48 There's also, Speaker 4: 00:27:49 There's a zombie short film called Dale from Mexico, uh, which follows the, uh, the kind of path you're talking about, which is a almost poetic narrated day in the life of a zombie, uh, for three minutes. And it's actually, it's not scary at all. It's just a very touching three minute dark film that happens to include a zombie, um, and remembering life, right. Remembering how things were. And, um, I do think that there's some of that, I think there's that, uh, the, the, uh, idea of Speaker 4: 00:28:34 Are the things that used to make us feel safe. Did they ever really exist or were we always just lying to ourselves all the time? There's one feature film from Singapore called repossession. And it's a really bizarre one because it's almost like a half and half film where the first half is like a, an economic drama, almost following a character in his fifties. So it's a middle aged man. Um, and the film is mostly about Singapore. Like the, uh, Singapore is a sprawling metropolis and class distinction and showing yourself as being of a higher class is very important to this main character. And at the beginning of the film, when we meet him, he's fired, he's laid off and then he does not respond well to that and ends up getting just outright fired. Um, and just this character, his inability to face reality or the truth about anything ends up morphing into something very different. And the second half of it is just like a demonic possession film. It gets, it gets pretty crazy. But, um, one thing that ties the two halves of this film together is there's one scene. And it's actually my favorite scene in the film. And it's what sold the film for me is there is a scene where the character is doing like an Uber, Uber type job, and it's four in the morning and he picks up this teenage boy, Speaker 1: 00:30:21 One of his story. Um, no, not really. Well. I'll tell you when anyway, there's time to kill. Once upon a time, there was a tiny village in the middle of a forest. The villagers were kind and loving and happy until one day when they heard a horrible scream, they came upon a monster by the river feasting on a washerwoman Speaker 4: 00:30:52 To drive him home. And the boy tells him this fable, and I really love the scene of driving in the middle of the night. And there's no visual of the story, but I love the way this child actor, who's like 15, I think, tells this story so much. And the story itself is it's really all about, like everything you've thought every time you think that you might be safe or that you're doing something to save yourself, it's all just doesn't matter in the end, because sometimes it's just in our nature to, to suffer. Sometimes it's just our nature to hurt someone else. And that idea is very disturbing to me, even if it's not like, you know, someone being ripped in half or what a viscera everywhere in the world and the climate we're living in right now that the idea and that, and I'm seeing it played out so often that some people just in their very nature, just, it's just who I am, you know? Speaker 4: 00:32:14 Uh, I just want to be cruel. I just want to be mean, and it's not even for any reason or any purpose. And, uh, I don't know. I've thought about that scene a lot since I saw that one. Um, it's played out in my head a lot. I, uh, I don't know. I want that kid to read stories for me, but, uh, yeah, I don't know. This is a really tough question because, um, I really do have to look at everything as a whole, but certainly there's a lot of questioning about what the hell is. I'm sorry, dropped the ATW hockey sticks, but you know, what is going on? What is going on in the world? And, and I think the reason there's not a clear monster, you know, we have a block called monsters or everywhere, and some of the monsters are monsters, black and white, but some of them are just like shadows or notions or ideas that are not very clearly or distinctly shown. And I feel like that's really, like, I don't recognize anything. I don't recognize our country. I don't recognize our society. And I don't know who the enemy is. I don't know, who's trying to hurt me. And, uh, I think that confusion is what's coming out. But, uh, obviously, you know, in these last few months I've been struggling with the world and also trying to put together a showcase of expression of anxiety while I feel nothing but anxiety. And it's causing a lot of white noise, um, for myself and my own philosophy. Speaker 3: 00:34:03 Well, and there's also this notion of reality in films, like, uh, everything's fine, where it's a mother dealing with, uh, the horrors of motherhood for some women postpartum depression. But, uh, this notion of what you're seeing, what you're experiencing is real, what's really happening and how that plays into our current world with fake news, with gaslighting, with like all these concepts that it seems like these films are trying to filter them through not always in an overt way where it's like, we're going to deal directly with how fake news comes at us, but, or how it feels to have somebody Gaslight you or things like that. Um, but it does seem like these films were perception, and this is my reality versus this is your reality. Come up a lot also. Speaker 4: 00:35:03 Yeah. There's one, two, uh, the rule of three, that's like a home invasion film, but the protagonist has OCD. Um, so yeah, there's a questioning of, you know, it's almost like the boy who cried Wolf, but the people who don't believe you is yourself. It's like, I'm an unreliable, reliable narrator to myself. And, um, I think that's one of the scariest things is not being able to trust your own perception and your own brain. Did you see VR food? Yes. I love that one. Um, you know, that's what actually, okay. So we have a block called isolation and it seemed almost too obvious to have a block called isolation because of the world we're in. But I was able to define that in so many different ways because, uh, that block has VR food. And it also has Jeff drives you, which is, uh, an LGBT narrative where a man and his cars AI kind of fall in love with each other. Speaker 4: 00:36:12 Oh, I gotta turn that off real fast in there. I'm so sorry. Wow. Isn't that as everyone's nightmare, you forget to close your browser and then you go to a coffee shop and open up the computer, and then you're just staring at a sea full of tangled penises, uh, um, Jeff Carr that watches porn. And as a sexy voice, you think my voice is sexy, shut up, you know, where it is. So I started asking myself, it's like, okay, is it isolation if someone is with something not real, but seems real like the virtual reality and VR food or, or the car AI in Jeff drives you. And I was really excited to start a conversation with people about, you know, you saw Jeff drives you, what do you think this is an isolation film? I do. I think it is. Um, but I don't, I don't think everybody would agree. And I think that's part of the fun thing about choosing themes, but, uh, but VR food is, you know, it's a little bit more fun, but it's describing some of the things we're talking about quite well in that, you know, uh, the line between, you know, what we think is real and what is not real and how much that matters, you know, like how much is our perception, really? What drives us versus what is really out there? Speaker 3: 00:37:48 Well, VR food brings up something else that I noticed too, which is there seems to be a lot of nostalgia for eighties and VHS. And some of it is just, you know, visual look. Some of it is sometimes it's just limited to the opening credits, but, um, that seemed to be something that was, uh, that came up a few times. Speaker 4: 00:38:10 That's been something that's been around for a, for a couple of years, at least is, is saying a lot of that before that, and still happens, you know, there's the seventies Grindhouse look, but certainly yes, you're going to get a lot of synth wave kind of spans rain, dream type scores, like electronic music, uh, bright colors. There there's a feature that I'm still trying to wrap my head around called survival skills, which, you know, for me, the high point is Stacy Keach doing the narration. Hello and welcome to survival skills. A new training video from survival solutions created specifically for the graduates of the Middletown police Academy. And the next hour, we're going to be providing you with the information you need to transition from your training into an active field position. This one was a conversation piece for me too, because it follows the protagonist is a police officer. And right now having a police officer protagonist is, is kind of challenging. It's challenging. Like, um, Speaker 3: 00:39:27 Yeah, I was going to ask you about this film because it plays very differently now than it would have a full year ago. Speaker 4: 00:39:36 Totally. Um, and for some people it might not even, but, uh, but yeah, absolutely. Speaker 3: 00:39:43 I think, and I actually, I had a similar problem with, um, progeny, so progeny and survival skills both give us white male characters to empathize with. Right. And right now, uh, and progeny, let me just explain. So it's, it's kind of a, in an odd sort of way, it's a me too movement film in the sense that it's a futuristic setting and there are there's these creatures alien beings of some sort you could say who impregnate men who have to carry this kind of alien being. And there's a male character who, uh, is forced against his will to do this. But as with survival skills, we're meant to empathize with a white male character. When the issue at hand in progeny is really more about how society views women in a similar situation, um, where they are saying I was abused, I was treated badly and men don't take them seriously. So in here we just have the gender roles reversed. And in survival skills, we have a white male characters and this really kind of all American guy trying to do the best thing, trying to it's like every time he tries to do the right thing, it turns out wrong, but he's always well intentioned. And so having that as the main character at this particular time with no real people of color in that film does make it kind of a conversation Speaker 4: 00:41:27 It starts and it's something we have to acknowledge. Right. And, um, it's why I'm it up too. I think it's a very, like, I think it's a very interesting film, a survival skills. So it goes, and another thing that's interesting about it is it was made in partnership with a domestic violence center called good shepherd shelter. So what my hope is, and it's not confirmed yet, I'm hoping to get a representative from the shelter to join us in the Q and a, but the director Quinn Armstrong has been involved in that shelter. So, um, I want to get their perspective on survival skills as well. Uh, I should also say for, um, people out there, it's an experimental film in that it is shown through the lens of a police training video. And, uh, and so it's, it's, you know, watching it, there's a lot of fresh stuff about it, but yeah, it's not without things that made me like, huh, think, um, but you know, that's not, that's, that's something I want to, I want to talk about it. That's something I want to bring up and acknowledge and, um, Speaker 3: 00:42:45 Well, and I mean, it's done as a set tire. Yeah. Um, so that's, it's, that tire is always tricky because some people don't recognize the satire part, uh, and on a certain level, it is addressing what our current problem is, which is to say that there are these ideals we have about what police officers should be doing and they don't get to achieve it. But in this particular film, it's almost like the cop is really the good guy who's battling a system that won't allow him to do the good. Speaker 4: 00:43:23 Hello. Do you know what your name is? I sure. Don't your name is Jim and you're a policeman. I don't know if I have what it takes. Well, are you brave? I think so. Are you compassionate? Are you a hard worker? You bet, then you'll be okay. The most important qualities a policeman can have are honesty, diligence, and a commitment to justice, no matter what. Speaker 3: 00:43:52 And now with the real world, we don't feel that that is the actual dynamic that needs to be addressed. Speaker 4: 00:44:00 No, and there are many of us who have felt that for a long time. Um, but yeah, these are, these are things that are worthy of talking about, and this provides us the opportunity to do that. I am curious to see what different people think of this, of this one. Uh, cause it, it started a lot of interesting conversations for me, uh, in my head. And I, I would like to play that out with the audience. Mostly. I really want to talk to Quinn this, the filmmaker, um, uh, behind it about some of these ideas, uh, and some of these things we were talking about, um, and also how he feels about the film coming out in a, you know, um, post George Floyd world. Um, and it's, it feels, you know, nasty even saying that, cause there are many people before George Floyd, but that's certainly what's, uh, ignited our certain, our current situations and our current, uh, protests and, um, societal turmoil. Well, yeah, Speaker 3: 00:45:08 The survival skill brings up current issues in kind of an unexpected and unintentioned way, but there are some films that very directly want to hit these issues now. And there's a film. Um, one that I really enjoyed was affliction, which addresses kind of the, some of the same issues as progeny, but in this very kind of, um, you know, uh, not directly not hitting it on the head, it's some futuristic kind of world that looks like ours, but there's a way that if a woman is forced to have sex against her, will that this manifests itself in a particular way. And I really enjoy that film because it's not hitting the nail on the head. It's not in your face with the issues, but it makes you think about them in interesting new ways. Speaker 4: 00:46:08 Yeah. Even the way it's PR affliction is also one that stands out for me, honestly. Um, even the way that it's presented, it's not the, some of the shots are not composed. So you see everything in the frame, right? Uh, the top of a head might be cut off or, or something like that. And it just provides this feeling of, um, of being somewhere you don't want to be, or feeling like you're trapped in your own body. Uh, I'm trying to put this in a way that doesn't give anything away, but yeah, absolutely. It's not as overt in its presentation, but it's also not so ambiguous that you don't know what the, what the message is. So it's, it's a really effective, Speaker 3: 00:46:54 And then there's an animated one called them. Yes. Which is very much about these kind of false leaders that rise up dividing people in communities. And you know, this is kind of a, this isn't a new concept. I mean, this is basically dr. Seuss and the snitches, but played out in a more artistic and kind of esoteric way. But I mean, this is, again, this is very much something that people have talked about for a long time, but hits especially hard right. At this point time. Speaker 4: 00:47:30 Yeah. You know, them, I think could start another conversation. That's similar to survival skills depending on who's watching it and how they take the way them is presenting the message. Um, because in them, first of all, it's a beautiful animated film. I really love the aesthetic of it. And I love the message of it, but, um, Oh gosh, I guess it's probably giving too much away to say that. Ultimately it seems like the message is, you know, whatever colors we are or whatever flag we're waving, we're all really the same on the inside kind of thing. It's an interesting conversation to have, but I'm kind of also interested in having conversations about like, you know, we are different and how do we show that that is not something that should make us want to kill each other? You know what I mean? So them is another one that made me have conflict within myself. I did love it, um, because I love the presentation, but in terms of the message, I was more ambivalent about it. Speaker 3: 00:48:40 Well, and your animated films are always great. And two of my favorite films from the festival this year were animated films. And I think you briefly mentioned one but lenses and I'm not sure how to pronounce the other one. Malik out of both of those were just spectacular animation, but also wonderful narratives because sometimes with animation you can get seduced by just the visual style, but the content is not as strong, but both of those were just wonderful. Speaker 4: 00:49:13 Yeah. Oh man. I love them both. I love them both so much. I'm Malik out and they're both definitely very international Malik outs from Iran and lenses is from Columbia, I believe. And, uh, they're both also radically different, like in, in their style, they're radically different Malik out is very Baroque. Uh, Edgar Allen Poe's style. It's kind of hard to tell if it's full, like stop motion or CGI or some blend of the two, but it is absolutely just jaw droppingly. Beautiful [inaudible] whereas lenses is far more sparse. The animation is almost, uh, deceptively simple because it's really complex. Uh, it's almost like it's hand drawn pencil rotoscoped over actual images and some of the images are erased away. So you end up with these beautiful negative space, uh, parts of the composition that is really wonderful, but lenses is very much about like, who am I in this society where everything else seems to be a monster. Um, whereas Malik out is that would have fit in isolation too. It's much more, you know, it's what you would think of as with a post story. It's very psychological and, and dark and dreary and lovely Speaker 3: 00:51:03 Lenses has a little bit of a naked lunch metamorphosis. Speaker 4: 00:51:08 Oh, it's so good. It's so good. But I love the style of lenses. It's it's unlike anything. I think I can really say I've seen, um, and how meticulously, what is shown and what is not shown, right. Like what is missing from the images in lenses is just as thought out and important as what is on display. And I could watch that one, like on repeat, I love it so much. Speaker 3: 00:51:40 I think both of those are completely wordless. Speaker 4: 00:51:43 Yes. There are both wordless. Yes. Yeah, absolutely riveting. Speaker 3: 00:51:48 And I do want to mention a couple of my favorite, uh, short films, which were milk teeth and night crawl, which both could have been in the monster category, but they're there, they're in separate, uh, short blocks, but they both include monsters and both of these monsters are everywhere. They are, they are. But, uh, those were fabulous. Speaker 4: 00:52:13 Oh yeah. So good milk teeth. You know, milk teeth I think is going to be like one of those audience favorites. It's a, uh, you know, it's very much for people who love Guillermo Del Toro, folk horror, um, fairy tale, monsters. It is right up that alley, um, beautifully presented, taking place in an orphanage with child actors who are all just stunningly good actors, including, especially the lead little boy. Um, but also doesn't shy away from things that might make you, uh, cover your eyes. So it's, I love it. It's so good. Speaker 1: 00:52:59 Leave him alone. I can give you all of riches beyond your wildest dreams. Just send one of your teeth down the drain. Speaker 3: 00:53:15 Another film I just want to mention is, and I'm not sure I'm pronouncing it right. Hamma Robbie. Speaker 4: 00:53:21 Oh, Hannah Robbie. Yeah. Speaker 3: 00:53:23 And this involves a mute protagonist, which gave the story a nice, fresh spin to the way. And it's a revenge tale that this revenge plays out and the actress in that was great. Speaker 4: 00:53:39 Fantastic. I think so. Um, both the actors who are involved in the conversation. So, um, again, I think it would, it would probably be unfair to the film to really explain to in too much detail what I'm talking about, but you have a PR basically the film is in ASL, it's in sign language. Um, and you've got the one actor who is speaking in sign language and the other actor who is repeating or translating. And I think both of them are very good. Speaker 1: 00:54:15 No sleep. Sorry. Hi. Thanks for being so patient take a Lena dad. Surprise. I bet you didn't expect to hear from me the way that I could talk. It's a nuisance, but kinda cool. Speaker 4: 00:54:38 I think the actor who has to translate the sign language, because her job as an actor is basically to sit in front of a computer screen. Her entire performance is in the way she's delivering the lines and I'm really impressed with that. I really liked that portion of it. Um, and yeah, I think, I think that's all I'll say about that one because I really liked that one. And, uh, and that's another one too that, uh, it doesn't shy away from, from darkness. So I like it a lot. Speaker 3: 00:55:14 So before we end, uh, you have a number of international feature films, you mentioned repossession and another one is loos. And this one kind of reminded me in some ways of, uh, we are what we are in kind of the family dynamic. This is a film that has a very dysfunctional, uh, family dynamic with a father and daughters. And it was visually stunning and really, uh, just riveting, even though it's a slow burn type film, but, um, just incredibly well done. Speaker 4: 00:55:57 Yeah. It's definitely one that, uh, you're going to want to pay attention to. This is, you know, of the films that we're showing, you know, what film makes me really kind of gnash my teeth, that we can't be in a cinema watching it, you know, on a big screen, this is what this is that film because it's the poetry is in the image for this film. And, uh, there's lots of linguistic poetry in it. It's in Spanish, it's from Columbia, but, um, but the, the, the colors and the presentation of the landscape where it takes place is for me, it's dreamlike, it's both realistic, but hyper real at the same time. And the, uh, it's distinctly Latino, this film is distinctly a Latino horror film. Um, where, you know, you've mentioned that it's a slow burn, you know, even like calling it a horror film by the standards of, you know, Blumhouse or, or insidious or something like that. Speaker 4: 00:57:06 If that's all people know as horror, then they might not know what to make of this movie because it, it, doesn't it challenges. It's not like really easy to figure out what's going on. And there's a real conflict about religion in it that I feel is distinctly Latino. Um, so, you know, it's distinctly Catholic. Oh God. Yes. Yes. It's distinctly Catholic. Yeah. So, um, and the more you go into that, the more like familiar, familiar that aspect of it is, and how just conflicted people are like about the devil, you know, but, uh, yeah, the whole, the whole title is loose, the flower of evil, but that will only be showing one day on Friday, the fourth, Speaker 3: 00:58:04 Well, another foreign film it's being promoted as Panama's first horror film. And now in terms of, of, of style and, and meticulous detail, these two films are just wildly apart, punk rock. Yeah. This is a Diablo ROHO. Yeah. And it's, uh, it's low budget. It's cheesy. It's, it's not slickly produced at all, but it is so rooted in this feeling of folklore and the special effects have this wacky, uh, craziness to them that this film just in, in Deard itself to me. Speaker 4: 00:58:48 Yeah. Uh, I mean, I couldn't have said it better myself. Absolutely. Um, and it had the audacity to, gosh, how much do I want to reveal about what happens in this film? But there, there is a monster that is just beyond the it's just completely bonkers and it comes from out of nowhere. Uh, and the other star of the Abloh ROHO is a bus, uh, that the it's actually the titular bus, the name Diablo ROHO refers to like this, uh, this passenger bus that's just covered in lights and colors. And it's such, it's such a remarkable thing to watch, even though it is, you know, like you said, it's a low budget film, but the things that they're filming are so interesting looking that it works like everything about this film for me, uh, was just entertaining. And, um, I love, I just love folk core. And, uh, I don't know if it's really the first horror film from Panama, but I know I've never seen one. So Speaker 2: 00:59:59 I like to say it is, but then, you know, every country likes to brag about their first zombie film or whatnot. Speaker 4: 01:00:03 Absolutely. Speaker 2: 01:00:06 That one, that one was, I really had a good time Speaker 4: 01:00:09 Directed by a woman too, that one's a female directed film. So that's another nice one for that one, but a super fun. And yeah, I just, you know, I even say this explicitly on our website, like I just, I love monsters and, um, that's half the job for me sometimes is a really cool monster and Diablo ROHO does give you that. Speaker 2: 01:00:34 Well, I want to thank you for once again, talking about horrible images. Speaker 4: 01:00:39 Yeah. Thank you for allowing me to rant. I it's, uh, it's always fun to let these movies be a springboard for something that seems completely irrelevant. It's totally relevant. Speaker 1: 01:01:06 [inaudible] Speaker 2: 01:01:06 It was Miguel Rodriguez, founder and executive director of horrible imaginings film festival. The festival runs through Monday of labor day weekend. For more information, go to HII October is just around the corner and I'll have some special treats for Halloween, including a pair of original horror tales written from quarantine by playwright, Michael misery Rainey, and produced exclusively for cinema junkie podcast. It's a Halloween double dare as we dare you to listen at home alone in the dark. So til our next film fix I'm Betha Mondo, your resident cinema junkie Speaker 1: 01:01:59 [inaudible].

As the real world feels scarier each day with a pandemic in full swing, police brutality and people just behaving badly filling social media, and a president fanning the flames of hate and unrest, the horror genre has had to adjust. This year's Horrible Imaginings Film Festival has had to move online for its annual showcase of horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Festival founder and executive director Miguel Rodriguez says that the films this year serve up less gore and tales of physical harm and instead focus on horror relating to undefined dread, to not being able to distinguish what's real from what's not, and to stories where you just can't figure out what it is that is trying to hurt you. We discuss the diverse array of shorts, features and documentaries available through Sept. 7 as well as discuss the role horror can play in a world that makes us increasingly anxious.

Horrible Imaginings Film Festival's Miguel Rodriguez discusses the role of horror in a scary world.

Rodriguez has been running Horrible Imaginings for more than a decade now. Each year themes emerge that reflect the current state of the world and this year filmmakers seemed to conclude that the source of horror is a lot less about immediate bodily harm or running away from a killer and more about ill-defined dread and not know what is real.

That said, there are also a fair share of slasher films, monster movies and good old-fashioned ghost stories.

Ten years ago, I saw post on social media or a meet up group, I can’t remember which, but it was someone new to San Diego who had this idea of starting a horror film festival and he wanted to know if anyone would be willing to help. As a fan of horror, I said sure. That person was Miguel Rodriguez and his dream project became Horrible Imaginings Film Festival.

As one of this year's juror for festival awards, I saw close to 30 hours of films. I was impressed by both the diversity of styles and by the diversity of the filmmakers themselves. My two favorite features come from opposite ends of the artistic spectrum. "Luz: Flower of Evil" is a slow burn, gorgeously shot tale a severely dysfunctional family from Colombia. Then there is what's being billed as Panama's first horror film "Diablo Rojo PTY," a low-budget, wildly over-the-top tale of witches and monsters rooted in folklore with a measure of Catholicism thrown in for good measure. "Luz" impresses with its artistry while "Diablo" endears itself with its passion to make a film with limited resources.

As for the shorts, "Milk Teeth" is my favorite with its Guillermo del Toro sensibility, creepy monster, and cringe-inducing moments. I also loved the clever ingenuity of "RING," which told its story through a security camera; "Night Crawl," which delivered a tense prison drama with a horror twist; "The Last Day of Spicy Jack," which was just off the rails wacky; and two wildly different but equally seductive animated tales, "Lenses" and "Malakout."

Check out my full list of recommendations below.

Beth's Top Picks


"Luz: Flower of Evil"

"Diablo Rojo PTY"


"Milk Teeth"

"Night Crawl"




"Optic Nerve"


"The Last Days of Spicy Jack"


"I Confess"


"Everything's Fine"



"Jeff Drives"



"Unholy 'Mole"

"Snakes Eyes"

"Smile for me"

"Hammurabi" is a short film that gives a twist to the standard revenge tale by having a mute protagonist who needs a translator to convey a message to her victim.
"Hammurabi" is a short film that gives a twist to the standard revenge tale by having a mute protagonist who needs a translator to convey a message to her victim.