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Notes from the Back Row

B-Graders bring "A" game

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It's been a tough year for Hollywood but local filmmakers brought their A-games to the Heavy Hitting B-Grade Horrorfest last weekend for an evening of raunchy, bloody madness and high-quality filmmaking. With over 20 independent flicks making the cut, in the end Pemberton filmmaker Conrad Shapansky nabbed "Best in Show" (again) with So You Think You Can Write, an introspective homage to the festival on its 10th anniversary. The film starred Shapansky as himself, trying to brainstorm up ideas for his B-Grade HorrorFest film. It's all very meta, but somehow Conrad managed to stitch together a story combining all the ingredients HorrorFesters love, plus bacon and eggs. The victory is Shapansky's third Horrorfest win while Gabe Langlois, who shot the flick, picked up a Best Cinematography award.

Vancouver filmmaker Ben Stoddard tore the roof off the Fairmont Chateau Whistler with Zombie Skatepark Bloodbath (which is as awesome as it sounds) and ended up winning Best Death Scene and Best Single Visual Effect

Stoddard's cast of real skateboarders translated into some truly spectacular skate-deaths, backed up by solid acting. Whistler's Braedon Wheeler took home Rookie of the Year honours and Trevor "DJ ROB BANKS" Anstey (who appeared in Shapansky's film as well) won Best Actor - he literally killed it.

As did Horrorfest judge/actor Bruce McGregor in Compuncture , a foreboding revenge flick from Stu MacKay-Smith that rounded out the creepy factor of a night punctuated mainly with low-brow humour. Dark and brooding, and with some social commentary mixed in, Compuncture brought some intelligence to the evening, as well as the return of the crowd-favourite Gas Mask character.

On the campier end of the spectrum, Brad Chornoby presented a highly involved crime picture called Raunchy, featuring a couple of drag-queen hit men going after a martial arts master. From costume to dialogue to bone-shivering underwater death scenes, Chornz channels the B-Grade spirit perhaps as well as anyone so it was fitting that he won the Peoples' Champ award which included a handcrafted championship belt from Whistler's Love Jules Leather.

Down the road, Squamish was incredibly well represented at B-Grade HorrorFest with films like The Sweater, Mystery Line and Blood Quest, an 18-minute medieval epic by Miles Wilkinson and HorrorFest co-creator Chili Thom. Chock full of perfect costumes, enormous battles, one-liners, high-ridgeline sword-fighting shot from a plane and more, Blood Quest is easily the largest production screened in HorrorFest History.

Other highlights included Stuart Andrew's Mystery Line , a choose-your-own-adventure movie where audiences could affect the story by voting (via Twitter over intermission) on four options presented by Darla, a take-no-prisoners tough girl who gets herself into a real pickle (and a Best Actress nod). The participatory, crowd voting concept was a massive hit and one wonders how much longer until Hollywood picks up the idea (and further blurs the line between film and gameplay entertainment).

Female filmmakers were well represented with Janice Low winning The Manimal Award for Most Fearless Performance by directing and starring in Trepan , a female-driven revenge film that redefines the concept of badass.

The list goes on. Flame thrower battles on top of an evil Vancouver apartment building ( Tenant Terror) , a possessed and bedazzled ugly sweater ( The Sweater) , a killer slinky ( Coils of Terror) , surf terror ( Red Fin) , cannibal immigration agents ( Dead Crossing ) and a bear ( Play Dead) - every film was a winner, the production value and effort were astounding, and while Hollywood flounders and recycles ideas almost weekly the Whistler filmmaking community should be proud of themselves for pulling off the best sequel of the year.

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