Horrorfest 2011 scares up Cape Town audiences

2011-11-07 15:48
Greg Evans
Cape Town horror fans were treated to a week-long celebration of thriller, suspense and slasher films which covered just about every incarnation of the genre imaginable.

The festival kicked off on October 26 with a literary event and panel discussion at the Book Lounge in Cape Town and film screenings started at the Labia on Orange with the ultraviolent offering, The Orphan Killer (2011), by director Matt Farnsworth who has recently achieved notoriety as a maker of cult slasher films in the US.

 Several of the screenings took the form of documentaries which offered a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of film production. Legendary filmmakers including the likes of George A Romero of Night of the Living Dead (1968) fame were interviewed and spoke candidly about the challenges involved in producing horror flicks. Also interviewed were special-effects gurus and B-movie scream queens. The documentaries are mandatory viewing for anyone aspiring to get involved in making films.

An international collection of themed short films, titled Shadow Realms, was presented in four parts over the course of the festival. Most were engaging but struggled to shock, in part, I think, because the effects of suspense require more time to make a psychological impact. The best shorts tended to rely upon dark humour rather than true horror.

A brilliant example of this was a French short which featured a businessman trapped in a phone booth and surrounded by what were clearly zombies, but which he took to be druggies or delinquents. His desperate calls to friends and family allowed the viewer to witness the ensuing zombie apocalypse which was proceeding largely unnoticed by any of the characters. The subtext? Know your horror films or face the consequences!

And knowing your horror films paid off, literally, too. There were DVD prizes galore up for grabs for audience members who could answer themed pop-quizzes.

The highlight of the festival was the full-length films, many of which were making their international debut at Horrorfest 2011. The Japanese horror POV, due for general release in 2012, is a gripping, layered psychological thriller. Night Drive, a South African take on the slasher film, is set in a game reserve in Mpumalanga and kept the viewer on edge throughout.

A special screening of the classic 1920s silent version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde included a live music accompaniment by The Makabra Ensemble in what must be one of the most unique viewing experiences ever! The audience was transported back in time to a period when the big screen was itself a novelty.

The festival closed with a final collection of shorts, titled The Theatre Bizarre. Each short focused on a different aspect of sexuality and explored the potential for horror in the scenario, ranging from the grotesque to the darkly amusing.

Related festival events included an alternative market, a zombie walk and many prizes and giveaways. Visit the website at www.horrofest.info to read more.