Few holidays are tied to the movies as closely as Halloween. For sure, there are a litany of uplifting Christmas flicks out there as well, but Halloween is the realm of the horror movie and horror is one of the oldest and most diverse genres in the artform.
French filmmaker Georges Melies, one of the founders of moving pictures, threw down the first horror flick way back in 1896. Le Manoir Du Diable (The Devil's Castle) was only two minutes long, but contained a lot of the classic horror imagery — skeletons, ghosts, a spooky castle, a bat, the Devil — that are still prominent in the genre today.
And today is the best night of the year for local film fans as the 13th annual Heavy Hitting HorrorFest B-Grade Throwdown gushes onto the screens for "Devil's Night" (Thursday, Oct 30.) Sticking with those short-film roots "The B-Grade" is where homemade special effects meet ill-conceived storylines, and the cream of Whistler's filmmaking community gather to feed the demons and push the line as far as they can.
"My first year was mind-blowing," says Vancouver filmmaker and 2013 HorrorFest champ Gigi Saul Guerroro, who, as a 19 year old still in film school, submitted to the festival in 2010 and got her first taste of the rabid Whistler audience. "I have never been to a place where people are so passionate to watch a movie. They scream and yell and cheer, it just pumps you up. And the local filmmakers like Conrad Schapansky, Chili Thom and Stu Mackay-Smith are not afraid to just be totally out there, to throw their film to a whole different level."
While much of the success of HorrorFest comes from watching movies alongside 1,100 other people there is just as much fun to be had sitting at home in the dark with some classic flicks — the blood-chilling terror of watching Satan himself possess a little girl in The Exorcist or the claustrophobic anxiety of the first Alien movie. The isolated sense of helplessness combined with a "that-could-easily-happen" wild humanity always make The Shining worth watching, and there are hundreds of home-alone-trapped films that can turn any night into a heart pounder.
The best thing about horror flicks, however, is watching them as a child when the world is still big and scary and full of things that go bump in the night. Totally non-scientific, 100 per cent anecdotal research has suggested that watching horror movies as a kid increases creativity and problem-solving skills all the way into young adulthood (so when The Crazies invade, you're ready). As such, don't be afraid to let your five year old watch Ghostbusters (with you) and what kid doesn't love Monster Squad for the joke about kicking wolfman in "the gnards." So long as you're watching movies together, it's always time well spent.
Speaking of, the always dependable Whistler Village 8 has a doozy dropping this Friday. Nightcrawler is more of a thriller than a traditional horror, but it stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain, Donnie Darko) as a dude so desperate for work he starts filming L.A. crime scenes to sell to news outlets — and the faster you get there, the better footage you get, the more money you make.
The film, a directorial debut for Dan Gilroy, hangs on the emaciated shoulders of its star but Gyllenhaal delivers a stellar portrayal of the dark side of opportunistic capitalism. Even when things get a bit uneven, or (kinda totally) unrealistic in the pace and performances, Nightcrawler still works, and as a commentary on fear-mongering, sensationalist media outlets it ain't half bad either. Who's worse — the petty criminal or the conglomerate that captures, replays and monetizes the crime in order to sell deodorant and SUV advertisements to a nation continually growing more afraid of everything "other" than themselves?
It ain't Wolfman we need to worry about, it's shit like Fox news.