It's been a while since Feet Banks has done anything close to stripping nude, donning a women's wig and getting into a bathtub of blood in front of a camera.
After failing to convince anyone to take on that task for his first-ever film in the Heavy Hitting HorrorFest (back then, called the B-Grade HorrorFest), he took it on himself. "I was like, 'Fuck it. I'll put on a wig and lay down in a blood-filled bathtub,'" Banks recalls. "(Nudity) has always been a struggle for us."
That's why a new prize—the Chili Thom Memorial Trophy—in honour of the festival's co-creator, the late Chili Thom, will go to the best nude scene at this year's newly resurrected festival.
Thom passed away after a battle with cancer in 2016. To that end, the goal of this year's event is to "bring back some of that Chili spirit," Banks adds.
The last festival—which Banks and Thom first launched in 2002, aiming to give local, burgeoning filmmakers a venue for their B-grade horror films—was held in 2015. The following year, Thom and Banks were busy making Thom's final film in Utah. Then, in 2017, Banks' focus was on helping with The Chili Thom Experience, an art and film celebration of his life.
But when Oct. 30 rolled around that year, Banks felt a palpable hole.
"Last year, I was really glad not to do it, it wasn't even a question," he says. "But then the 30th came around and I was just sitting at home. It wasn't Halloween, it wasn't anything ... I felt a little bit empty that night and I learned a bunch of other people felt that we used to have this beautiful thing and Chili is gone and we don't have it anymore. I felt it was worth taking one more kick at it this year to see how I felt."
But what sealed the deal was a promise from his long-time friend Chantal Limoges, who had experience producing events and offered to help. "Our deal was essentially that he had to make a movie," she says. "That was the whole point when we started talking about it."
Banks might sound overwhelmed when discussing the complicated logistics of organizing the festival, but he lights up talking about his forthcoming film. "I've got all the pieces in place," he says. "I haven't made a movie in three years. It feels so fucking awesome to be making a movie again. Chantal said, 'I'll help you, but I'm only going to help you if you make a movie,' so I'm contractually obligated."
Part of the pressure weighing on Banks is that the festival sold out in literally 30 seconds this year. They decided to start small and booked out the 238-person capacity Maury Young Arts Centre—with many of the tickets going to the filmmakers and their crewmembers.
"I thought, 'It's been three years since we did one, a lot of people have left town. Does anyone care about it anymore?'" Banks says.
It turns out, they did.
The festival will screen around 14 films on Oct. 30—with Banks choosing to cull the Vancouver submissions because of time restrictions, despite the fact that they might have been more technically advanced. "Our mandate has always been to support the local community," he says. "But I have a hard time saying no to someone who made a film."
For her part, Limoges says the goal is to honour Thom and Banks' vision for the beloved festival. "For me, it's maintaining that vision and not trying to change it or alter it in any way," she says. "It's been really intense but awesome."
The festival might be sold out, but you can join the afterparty at Garf's following the screenings on Oct. 30. Alongside Gibbons Après Lager, Monster Energy has come onboard to bring a to-be-named act to headline.
"The level of support that has stood up from the filmmakers and the business community, I feel pretty thankful," Banks says. "I don't feel I'm doing it alone."
For more visit heavyhitting.com.