Screamfest had a great line-up of fairly diverse films this year. Now that the week-long event is finally over, I have but two regrets. One, I was unable to attend the screening of Caged, which ended up winning Screamfest’s Best Picture award. Two, that the screening of Jennifer Chambers Lynch’s bonkers sounding Hisss got canceled (the film’s fault, not Screamfest’s). Though the upside of Hisss‘s cancellation was that it opened the door for a film made by some good friends of mine! That 11th hour replacement was Undocumented, a disturbing tale of xenophobia and patriotism gone extremely wrong, which I ultimately decided I couldn’t review for CHUD because of a conflict of interest (though I can say with no bias that the crowd was cheering during the climax, and that Peter Stormare is creepy as fuck in the film).

There weren’t any major upsets (good or bad) for me this year, aside from maybe Altitude, which I thought looked inane based on its trailer but I ended up enjoying quite a bit. I didn’t see anything truly horrible, which as a horror fan is always nice to be able to say (god I willingly sit through a lot of horseshit). So what was the best film I saw? Well, Black Death was the best feature film, but ignoring run-time, the cake-taker for the festival was hands down the short film…

The Legend of Beaver Dam.

Holy shit did I love this thing. Directed by Jerome Sable, the brief and deliriously wonderful short features a group of youngsters gathered around a campfire to learn the spooky tale of Stumpy Sam, only for Stumpy Sam to show up and start slashin’ – all while everyone rocks out. Showcasing what would – were this a feature – be a star-making turn by Sean Cullen from Canadian gag-band Corky & The Juice Pigs (anyone remember them?), part of what makes Beaver Dam so goddamn fantastic is that the music is awesome. I can guarantee right now that Jerome Sable is someone we will be hearing from in the future, and I hope his next project is a feature length horror-comedy-rock-musical just like this bad boy. I’m also really hoping Beaver Dam pops up on iTunes or elsewhere so you guys can check it out. Men, women, boys, girls, grandmas, grandpas, babies of all creeds and colors… you will uniformly love this. Or you have horrible taste, and likely no one will ever tell you they love you.

Another fun highlight was FX guru Greg Nicotero’s horror-comedy short film, United Monster Talent Agency, which is a cute, zany, and bursting with love homage to the Universal Monsters. The short imagines a Pixar-esque world where the monsters used in movies are real, and rented out by a special agency (basically as if they were tigers or bears). Aside from featuring acting cameos by Jeffery Combs, Frank Darabont, Robert Rodrigez, Eli Roth, and Dana Gould (who Nicotero is currently writing a feature length adaption with), the short shows off some truly great costume work (not that surprising considering who made it). 

The short film portions of festivals like Screamfest are always great, because the excitement in the air is palpable (these people usually can’t believe their stupid film made it this far), and the attendance is often higher than the features too (more films means more friends and family in the seats), so the crowd support is always fantastic, even for films that kinda suck. And I gotta say, horror film festivals in general, big or small, are really wonderful. It has been said many times in many places by many people, but horror fans are the best fans. It is not that they will love anything (as it is sometimes negatively characterized), but that they want to love anything. They’re eager for horror and can appreciate little things buried in some mediocre films. So very often I walk out of screenings and everyone immediately start tearing the film apart. At Screamfest it seemed like all anyone wanted to talk about was what they liked about the film we just saw. It is refreshing to see people so firmly embracing films.

Good times.

For those curious about the award winners, here they be:

BLACK DEATH was a big winner taking home four awards for Best Director (Chris Smith) ,  Best Actor (Sean Bean), Best Cinematography (Sebastian Edschmid) and Best Musical Score (Christian Henson). 

Best Picture went to the French film CAGED (Captifs) as well as Best Actress (Zoe Felix)

Filmmaker Jerome Sable won Best Horror Short for his short film THE LEGEND OF BEAVER DAM.

Best Editing (Olivier Gajan) and Best Special Effects was award to the French film THE PACK. The Aussie flick, NEEDLE, took home an award for Best Makeup.

CONTROLLED won for Best Screenplay in Screamfest Horror Film Festival’s screenplay competition.  It was written by Craig Cambria.