Screamfest Orlando Recap:
The Good, The Bad & the Ugly

The Good…

I arrived Friday evening at the Wyndham Resort in Orlando for Screamfest Orlando 2007 Horror Convention & Fear Fest Film Festival. Checking into the hotel was a bit chaotic, but before long I had my hotel room and was on my way to the convention hall.

I got to catch just about every one of the shorts and features playing Friday night (though I did walk out on the last one…more on that later).

The best of the batch on Friday night for me was a movie entitled Ghost Month. I really liked this one as it embodied more of what actually defines "scary" and "horror" as far as I'm concerned. It didn't have much gore to speak of, nor profanity, nor gratuitous sexual situations for that matter--all of which some feel is a requirement in horror films these days for some strange reason, whether it serves the story or not. But what this movie did have was all it needed to far surpass the competition: a spine-tingling story with a moral to it.

There was one line that still sticks with me as especially ringing true: At the dinner table, Ms. Wu notices her new live-in housekeeper is sporting a necklace with a cross on it. To this Ms Wu inquires whether she goes to church, etc. When she replies no, Ms Wu inquires: "Why do you wear something you don't believe in?". And again later, in a climatic moment, she scolds her for "worship done at her convenience". Without giving too much away, I'll just say this movie gave people a lot to think about above and beyond the story that was playing out on up on the big screen. I wish they all were this good.

The next morning, after checking out of the hotel and putting my stuff back in my car, I returned to the tradeshow area thinking I would get a jump on the crowds. But to my dismay, I learned the that only those who bought VIP tickets were being let in at that point and the rest of us "common folk" had to wait another hour. So okay, no biggie. I understand. I was off to find breakfast and breakfast found itself to be a tall bottle of cold, chocolate Nesquick. As I gulped it down, I heard a conversation in the hallway. I looked and it was the guy from the "Hills Have Eyes" movies, Michael Berryman. He was on his way to the autograph hall.

Eleven o'clock finally came and the rest of us were allowed into the tradeshow area where I bought a couple souvenirs. First was a DVD of Creepshow for my collection and then I met a nice vendor selling prints of his drawings. Some were original concepts he says he literally "dreamed up", and some were tributes to various horror movies. The one I bought was a tribute to the movie Gremlins. It's really cool. I just need to get an appropriate frame for it now. I may have my artist sister paint a gremlin or two on a frame for it…LoL. I'll try to post a pic of it eventually.

Betsy Palmer, Jason Vorhee's mother Pamela in Friday the 13th, spoke at one of the early seminars. She was wonderful...very personable and down to earth. She related to us how she got the part, what she thought of it, and other aspects of her career in general. She then turned it over to the audience for questions...and there were many, of course! Hearing Ms. Palmer speak was definitely one of the highlights of ScreamFest Orlando for me.

The Bad…

Well, this one is no fault of ScreamFest Orlando, of course. But being "single" and stuck in a tiny town in the midst of a county known for it's retiree population, one of the benefits to attending such an event as this is the possibility that you might just find other young singles there with whom you share a common interest. It would have been great to meet some nice, single, young women at this event. But alas, the very nature of it with the crowds and noisy atmosphere doesn't make for an atmosphere very conducive to such pursuits. Besides, it seemed the women I saw at this convention were either already attached or, like a particular one I had my eye on, were simply too wrapped up in their girlfriends to take notice. As they say, c'est la vie!"

The Ugly…

First, contrary to what the convention's marketing materials claim, ScreamFest Orlando is not really a "family event" [At least it's not one I'd take my kids to if I had kids]. I suppose some might argue that no horror convention is. If so, that only further supports my point that this one should not be promoted as such.

As mentioned earlier, other than Ghost Month, the movies that played Friday night didn't strike much of a chord in me really except for the last one: Days of Darkness. This one started out quite interesting…a zombie movie basically with a disparate group of character types penned up together and battling an ever-growing army of zombies outside their "fortress". But, for me at least, it went downhill from there until my conscience compelled me to walk out midway.

Unfortunately, this is one of those movies that portrays the Christian character as a maniacal villain, while seeking to make saints and heroes of everyone in the film that is non-Christian. In fact, one scene incited so much hatred against Christians that I heard a viewer on the other side of the auditorium shout out "That's Christians for ya!" Sheesh, talk about stereotyping! Enough was enough. "Entertainment" for some perhaps, but not for me. A half hour investment wasted, but there were much better things to do with my time. [Tip to horror filmmakers: portray your Christian character in a positive light--now that would be shocking. But the bashing? Nah, that's really old hat. You can do better.]

As you may have read elsewhere on this site, I'm in the midst of producing a horror flick of my own. I'm in the editing stage right now and before long will enter the marketing phase. While I already have done a lot of reading on the subject and have a plan of action, I was still looking forward to the seminar entitled Marketing Your Own Movie, thinking I could pick up some extra tips that might be helpful. It was to be presented by a particular special guest whom is well known in some circles for a certain "Toxic" character. I wasn't familiar with his work, but since it seemed he had at least one movie that had somewhat of a "cult following" as they say, I figured he might be worth a listen. I hoped I could learn some new things from him that would do exactly what was promised--help me to market my own movie.

Well, I sat and sat, patiently listening to this celebrity spout off offensive garbage thinking, "Ok, just sit tight and eventually he'll get to the main presentation—marketing your own movie—and this will all be worth it. Well, it wasn't. All I got for my trouble was, without warning, he proceeded to play on the big screen a graphic homosexual movie he had produced. When did such films come to represent "scary" or "horror" entertainment? There are other festivals more appropriate for his work. So once again, I found myself walking out on a movie at this event. I double-checked the program to see if I had the time wrong. I didn't. I never did glean how it had anything to do with "marketing my own movie" as described in the program.

Am I the only one who longs for the days when "scary" and "horror" meant spine-tingling? It was once about mood, mystery and suspense…the supernatural and paranormal… It was not about gross "potty humor", foul language, Christian bashing, pure gore, and the aforementioned so-called "art".

On the drive back, I pondered how we got to this state of affairs. While I don't believe any one movie was the turning point, I do recall reading somewhere another's thoughts on Friday the 13th. The author had argued how one of the statements this movie was actually making was *against* illicit sex and yet, ironically, filmmakers ever since have gotten it all wrong. So much so, in fact, that the industry now even refers to this aspect as one of the "conventions" of horror—a must have element in your independent horror movie if it is to be have any chance of being successful. To this I say "hogwash". It's only when your movie's story is incapable of standing on its own merits that you need to resort to such tactics. I'll take a movie with a solid storyline over a weak story propped up by adhering to the touted "conventions" any day of the week.

All in all, I found some aspects of ScreamFest Orlando to be enjoyable, some not. To each his own. If you've never been to a horror convention/film festival, at least you now have an idea of what to expect should you ever attend one.

Finally, let me say thank you for visiting my site. It's on track to beat it's traffic record from last year which was appx. 30,000 unique visits last October. This October, the final tally is projected to be around 45-50,000 unique visits. If you like this site, please bookmark it on your favorite social bookmarking site and tell a friend.

While you're here, be sure to check out the Scare Cams page that I just updated...there's some great live feeds up this year!

Enough about ScreamFest Orlando! Take me to the scare cams!