Ask any of the filmmakers competing in this year’s Heavy Hitting HorrorFest, and they’re bound to tell you about all the blood, sweat and tears that goes into producing a DIY film on a shoestring budget.
But mostly blood, though. And lots of it.
Such is the M.O. of one of Whistler’s most beloved homegrown festivals, which returns to the Fairmont in all its gory glory after a one-year hiatus.
Over 15 short filmmakers — including plenty of local talent and directors from Spain, Mexico, Brazil and the U.S. — will vie for the coveted Silver Skull trophy and bragging rights as Whistler’s master of horror.
The festival, which typically plays to a rowdy sold-out crowd of over 1,000, has rebranded from the B-Grade Horror Festival in its 11th rendition, opening up the judging criteria to include all aspects of the genre. It’s a move that Sharai Rewels, who stars in the screamer Best Actress this year, thinks should spell success for the future of the event.
“It’s really opened the doors to a different calibre of film,” she said. “My heart is still with grindhouse… I like the old Evil Dead, Army of Darkness and even the Jason (Vorhees) and Freddy (Krueger) films; there’s an element of humour to them. I think that will still remain in the festival, but they’ve just broadened the spectrum of what they want this year.”
Rewels should know just what the judges are after as the resort’s reigning queen of scream, and former winner of the fest’s Best Actress Award. She didn’t have to stretch too far for the role in Angie Nolan’s meta-thriller, which is set at, oddly enough, a horror movie festival where all the leading ladies start mysteriously disappearing.
By this point a seasoned veteran of Whistler’s film scene, Nolan shows the resourcefulness of so many other local filmmakers, writing, directing, and acting in her latest splatter flick. Bringing in some names that should be familiar to locals for the film, like Kristy Mitchell, Janice Low and Tara O’Doherty, Nolan didn’t encounter too many issues during production — except of course, with clean-up.
“I’m still finding blood in my doorways,” she said. “We had some challenges finding locations, so we ended up getting really creative with my house.”
It’s a challenge that seems to present itself on many a HorrorFest shoot, like on location for Conrad Schapansky’s Here Kiddie Kiddie, a film dripping in creepiness, and well, guts.
“I learned how to protect the room from blood. I put plastic underneath everything and then redecorated with stuff that could be thrown away, as opposed to wrecking my buddy’s house and having to rent steam cleaners,” said the former Silver Skull winner. “I learned how to make a bloody mess without making a bloody mess.”
Schapansky wrote, directed and starred in his latest psychological tour-de-horror as “a weird dude who has little quirks and obsessions” — particularly of the sweet little girl down the street and her cute dog.
The twisted short was a bit of a departure for Schapansky, who, barred from taking home a Silver Skull as a former winner, decided to step outside of his comfort zone for the HorrorFest’s return.
Doing things a little differently is the key to success at this grassroots contest, said Schapanasky.
“Anybody can go and write something with boobs and predictable killing,” he said. “Have a good little twist in your story and try to do something that hasn’t been done before.”
One thing that’s always sure to be unpredictable at HorrorFest is the red carpet, where hundreds of attendees typically dress to the upside down nines in their most outrageous costumes. Rewels has got 10 custom costume designs she’s working on herself for the show, including Storm from X-Men, a lady Captain Hook and a zombie Disney princess.
“There’s absolutely nothing like it in Whistler,” Nolan said. “It’s awesome that almost every single person dresses up and the audience really gets into it. I love the yelling, screaming and hollering that goes through the whole thing.”
Sounds like a bloody good time, doesn’t it?
The Heavy Hitting HorrorFest returns to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler next Wednesday (Oct. 30). Cocktails and red carpet gets going at 6 p.m., with the films showing at 7:30 p.m.
Online tickets are sold out but there may be some available at the Whistler Visitor Information Centre in the Village for $50.
Visit www.heavyhitting.com for more information.