Festival of Screams

The Express hosts its first horror short-film festival.

Organizing film festivals with over-the-top and odd submissions is nothing new for the Express — we host the adult, erotic short film festival BRIEFS every February — but this month’s East Bay Indie Scream Film Festival marks the first time we’re delving into the horror genre. “If February is sexy-time month, we should obviously celebrate the month of the macabre and everything that is twisted in the world,” said the event’s emcee, Jamie DeWolf, who also hosts the long-running variety show Tourettes Without Regrets.

The horror short-film festival is the brainchild of Express senior account executive Marie Ortega Haslam, who said she loves spooky, classic horror movies but, oddly enough, is freaked out by blood and guts. She knew there was enthusiasm for horror in the East Bay, but even she wasn’t expecting the amount — and the high quality — of submissions. “We’ve gotten everything from grindhouse-style, sleazy, sexy gore to downright cannibalism to a total mindfuck,” said Ortega Haslam, who added that she started to become desensitized after watching the 23 submissions. “After seeing somebody eat someone’s tongue and make it into sushi, shows like The Walking Dead aren’t actually all that scary,” she said.

DeWolf’s own submission is about the alarming realization that reality is changing around you and you are the only one who notices. For DeWolf, horror is an exciting medium because it makes audiences think about the uncomfortable idea that violence can be incredibly entertaining. “In horror films, all of the good guys can die, the rules are completely different,” he said. “There’s a lot to be mined in terms of what scares us and why.”

The festival, which will take place at The New Parish (579 18th St., Oakland) on Thursday, October 17, will award cash prizes for judge’s pick and audience choice ($1,000 and $500, respectively), as well as three non-cash prizes for most creative use of blood, best monster, and most terrifying storyline. Guest judges include Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller, Hubba Hubba Revue’s executive producer Jim Sweeney, Science Channel’s Oddities: San Francisco‘s Wednesday Mourning, the Oakland Underground Film Festival’s Kahlil Karn and Cate Freyer, and the Express‘ own film critic, Kelly Vance. After the screening, attendees are invited to judge fellow festivalgoers during the audience costume contest and watch local burlesque talent perform as their favorite horror movie characters, like Pinhead and Carrie.

Having been to horror film festivals in other cities, DeWolf is excited to see what local filmmakers come up with. “I want to see Berkeley’s version of horror,” he said. “Besides people who drive Hummers.”

7 p.m., $10. TheNewParish.com


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