What's the scariest thing about Colorado? The haunted mountain resorts? The cemeteries-turned-city parks? The escort-loving, meth-using pastors? All of those may soon be trumped by the second annual Mile High Horror Film Festival, which takes over the Tivoli Starz Film Center October 7 through October 9. With this year's edition boasting not only films but a music showcase and celebrity-tinged discussion panel, it's quickly growing into a true international festival.
We caught up with creator and director Timothy Shultz to ask about what to expect, what not to miss and, most important, what Denver gets out of the deal.
Westword: Tell us about your second year. How is it going to be different from the first?
Timothy Shultz: We've doubled our size, for one thing. We have two screens this year and double the amount of films. We have a lot more generally: the music showcase Friday night and the panel discussion on Saturday afternoon. And celebrities --- someone who's played the role of Freddy Krueger, someone who played Jason, and we have Michael Berryman, who has been in The Devil's Rejects, in the original The Hills Have Eyes and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. We're giving him a lifetime achievement award and screening the original version of The Hills Have Eyes Friday evening. We also have Jeffrey Reddick, who is the writer and creator of Final Destination. He's flying in to help judge.
How does the competition work? Are there awards?
Well, we have a number of awards. There's best feature film, best short film, an audience award for both those, the Mile High Gore Award is for the most gore, best shock factor, best animation, and lifetime achievement. And then Dan Myrick, who is the director and writer of The Blair Witch Project, is going to be judging our short film category. And we'll be presenting an award for innovation in horror, which is an award he is voting for.
Why did you decide to do a music showcase and discussion panel in addition to the festival this year?
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We're trying to branch out and make this festival appealing to everyone in the larger community. We'd like to eventually grow into a full music and film festival, and have it become a huge event every October. There's a huge music community in Denver and a lot of those people like horror, so we want to make those people happy and give a voice to those artists as well as the independent horror films from the world over. With the panel discussion, it's pretty unique to hear experts in the field talk about the industry. I went to a lot of film fests, SXSW and Sundance, scouting for films for this festival, and at a lot of those festivals there are panels. It's a huge component to them and I'd like to bring it to Denver. I think there's an audience for it. It's really interesting to hear about making a horror film and how they do the effects. It's nice to hear from the people who are actually doing it. You've received submissions from eleven different countries. How did you solicit so many entries from so many places?
We received submissions from a lot more than eleven different countries. I screened well over a hundred films this year with our screening committee. The majority of them are submissions that come in from around the world, from people who want us to play their films. We have a very diverse screening committee. One person is a film professor at the University of Colorado, another is an English professor at the University of Colorado who is also a horror author, we have the girl who runs the Mile High horror meet-up group on meetup.com, and then myself and my fiancé. So it's really diverse because everyone's of different ages and likes different types of horror. It's a democratic vote as to what gets in; it's not up to any one person. We sift through a lot of films and take only the absolute best. And there are a couple Colorado films that will be included this year, so we're excited about that. Is there a particular country or area that does horror the best?
I hesitate to say that there is one country doing it the best, but there are certainly trends happening now. There are a lot of ghost-type films coming out of Asia. There's one thing that's pretty unique and special this year-- one of our features is called Rabies, and it is Israel's first horror film. This will be the Colorado debut for the film; it's rated pretty highly on imdb.com. We have quite a few Colorado debuts, actually. Another is Chillerama, which debuted a week or two ago in the Hollywood cemetery for about 300 people and will be showed here for the first time.
What do you love most about horror?
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Well, it's fun, it's unpredictable, and you never know what's going to be around the corner. There's comedy horror, campy horror, from the violent and gruesome to the zombies and psychology thrillers; there's all these subgenres of horror. It's kinda gritty and edgy, and it's a great type of film to go on a date with because your significant other is going to curl up next to you. And it's unpredictable. A lot of what Hollywood puts out is predictable, you know, and that's what I love about independent horror films. They aren't. Do you have any favorites of the entries this year?
Let's see, Rabies, Chillerama... there's an excellent short film called The Legend of Beaver Dam, which played at Sundance this year and is really funny, just hilarious. The other is called Bunny Boy, which is a short that played at SXSW. The most shocking one we have is called Mockingbird, and then lastly, I'm very excited about the Colorado debut of a film called The Woman, which is a feature film that already has a release through AMC. This will be its Colorado debut, giving people a chance to see it before it is screened nationally. One of the lead actors, Zach Rand, is flying into Denver for the screening. It was directed by Lucky McGee, who directed May, and it made quite a stir at Sundance this year. It'll be fun to give the people of Colorado the chance to see something that's got a lot of buzz in the horror community, something they can't see anywhere else.