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|Written by Kevin Johns|
|Friday, 18 September 2009 00:00|
"It's a machete," says the costumed convention attendee in front of me, "you'd think people would get out of the way, but that's the fourth person I've hit today!"
For those of us who weren't lucky enough to take advantage of the bubble of space afforded by a fake machete through the head, movement through the aisles at Fanexpo 2009 wasn't easy. Nearly 60,000 comic book and horror fans descended on the Toronto Convention Centre over the course of the weekend, making movement of any kind nearly impossible.
If you were willing to throw some elbows, however, you may have been lucky enough to make it to the After Dark Films Horrorfest booth. Manned by Horrorfest director Sara Finder, the booth offered posters, stickers, and a glimpse at this year's festival films.
Finder took some time during the convention to talk with (Cult)ure about the festival.
(Cult)ure: Can you tell me about the After Dark Horrorfest?
Sara Finder: It's the After Dark Horrorfest: Eight Films to Die For. We are on our fourth year. We choose eight independent films, every year, and we put them out theatrically in the U.S. We're in at least 25 different markets every year. People can go to the theatre and spend the whole weekend seeing eight films, back to back, that normally would go straight to DVD.
So the festival about giving independent films a chance to find an audience?
Yeah. A lot of these films are great films. For example, Stan Winston has produced a few of our films. We have actress Lena Headey's film The Broken. We have Mike Mendez's The Grave Dancers. A lot of the independent directors are thrilled to have the opportunity to be able to see their films get a theatrical release.
How is this year's festival shaping up?
This year we are announcing that we have Clive Barker's Dread; Anthony DiBlasi is the director of that one. We also have Brian Pulido's directorial debut The Graves, with Bill Moseley and Tony Todd. We also just announced Lake Mungo as our film for this convention.
Sounds like an eclectic mix.
We've got tons of fans who enjoy our movies because there is a variety of different horror films. One year we had Mulberry Street, which is about rats taking over New York. Some people love that. Others are like, "I can't do rats, but I can do zombies." If you are a horror fan, you will always find something that you'll like.
So the festival isn't in just one city?
No, it's nation-wide. The first year we were in over 300 theatres. What happens is the films play for a week, but the weekend is when you can see the set of all eight together. Monday to Friday, they all play again, and you have an opportunity to catch them if you missed any on the weekend or want to see them again.
Is the festival developing a strong fan base?
Absolutely. A lot of fans go and meet up, and they spend the whole weekend at the theatre, going for drinks afterwards, and discussing the films. It's become a bit of a tradition. It's great for us to see them having fun together, instead of having to look for these films in a DVD store."A lot of the independent directors are thrilled to have the opportunity to see their films get a theatrical release."
Do you attend many conventions like Fanexpo?
We do conventions all year long. I do probably ten conventions every year, so I meet a lot of fans that way. It's a lot of fun because we give out tons of free stuff. As you can see, we give out stickers, posters, and we have talent signings. I was at the San Diego Comic-Con, and I was lucky enough to have the talent from The Graves there to sign. Rachel Miner is an indie princess in my mind. She's been in one of our films every year, so she's great. She was good enough to come down and sign and meet the fans. It's a lot of fun for people who have followed us right from year-one to meet an actress who they have seen in one of our films every single year.
Is there anything that makes the Toronto convention unique?
Toronto is kind of the San Diego Comic-Con of the horror industry, where you announce your news and meet fans. The owner of the company and myself are both from Toronto, so it's really nice to be able to come back home and spread the word. I've met many fans who are collecting our stuff on DVD. Unfortunately, they don't get to see the theatrical release in Canada, but I've met several people that cross the border to see the festival. Our goal is to be up here theatrically in the next year or so. I totally see that happening.
How did the festival get started?
Courtney Solomon went to Los Angeles and did the film Dungeons and Dragons, and then he moved on to do An American Haunting. People really took notice of that film and wondered what studio had made it. They found out it wasn't a studio, it was a man by the name of Courtney Solomon. From there we created a partnership with Lion's Gate, who distribute all our DVD's. When Courtney started thinking about the partnership and what he wanted to get out there, he started watching a lot of horror films to see what he wanted to acquire. He kept seeing all these great horror films and said, "You know what? We need to do a festival."
Because otherwise these movies wouldn't get a theatrical release."Lots of doors open to us by meeting people in the horror community."
Exactly. All these films deserve to be seen in theatres, and it's a shame that some of them just get buried in DVD stores. By putting together a festival, we are able to bring the independent directors and actors out in the open, and give people have an opportunity to see the films without having to rely in word of mouth, or browsing in the video store. People say, "When I see your branding, 'Eight Films to Die For', I know that I'm going to like it. It's nice that I can go into a store and get an independent film and know that I'm not going to be wasting my time or money."
Where do you find the films?
We go to Sundance. We go to Toronto. We go all over to acquire different films. One director was really lucky; he came up to me at the San Diego Comic-Con and handed me a screener, and asked "Do you think, possibly, we could do something together?" What ended up happening was we picked up his movie. We're always looking in different places. Lots of doors open to us by meeting people in the horror community. We don't go out with a set idea of what we want to do. Every year is different, and we've been very lucky to get great quality films. Like I said, we have The Broken, and Stan Winston's productions -- to have people and talent like that in your film festival is excellent.
Are the films available through your website?
They are available through our websites, horrorfestonline, or you can also log onto Lion's Gate, but they are sold everywhere. Blockbuster, Netflix, and in the U.S. they are shown on the Sci Fi channel. We're everywhere! We're on our forth year and hopefully it will be a tradition for many more years.
Horrorfest 4 will be in theatres across the U.S. January 29, 2010, and available on DVD everywhere March 2010. For more info, visit www.horrorfestonline.com