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Preview: Slamdance Film Festival 2008

Source: Ryan Rotten
January 11, 2008

Hear that? It's the sound independence roaring from Park City, Utah. Not from the hipper-than-thou Sundance Film Festival, no sir. Extend your gaze beyond Redford's media-gobbling orgy of cinematic delights and towards the Slamdance Film Festival. This event overlaps Sundance and runs January 17th - 25th. Going strong since '95, it touts a robust platform upon which filmmakers and screenwriters can present their truly independent works (i.e. shot on a cheap-ass budget). Jeremy Saulnier took home the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature for Murder Party in 2007. This month, Slamdance's genre rundown runs the gamut in tastes, whether you want something to make the hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end, you want some laughs with a solid helping of spilled viscera or if you're down for a reflection on old school Hollywood horror. Let's take a look and see what's on the schedule.

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer

Horror needs another hero (cue Tina Turner) and Canada is throwing one into the ring for your consideration. Trevor Matthews is the eponymous hero, a plumber with a lot of pent-up aggression. For good reason, too: At a young age, the poor shlub saw his family murdered. He learns to channel his anger when an ancient force surfaces and a local professor swallows down a helping of evil thus beginning a hideous transformation.

Yes, folks, it's monster madness from writer-director Jon Knautz and co-writer John Ainslie. Under his Brookstreet Pictures banner, Knautz dabbled in short films like "Teen Massacre" and "Still Life". "Brooks," his feature debut blending action, horror and comedy, went into production in 2006. To play the sinister Professor Crowley, Knautz snared Robert Englund. Actress Rachel Karsten ("Birds of Prey") is Eve, Jack's girlfriend. An interesting bit of trivia: Composer Howard Shore's nephew, Ryan Shore (The Girl Next Door), contributed the score. For a full photo gallery, click here.

Screening: Saturday, Jan. 19th @ 10:45pm
Special guests: Robert Englund, Travor Matthews, Jon Knautz, Patrick White, Ryan Shore
Location: Treasure Mountain Inn
Purchase tickets here!

Paranormal Activity

A guy, a girl and a camera. The possibilities for entertainment there are endless, right? Well, that scenario in the hands of director Oren Peli, however, begins as playful mystery and turns into a living nightmare for San Diego couple Katie and Micah. When they suspect their home is being haunted, Micah purchases a digital camera to record the occurrences. "Paranormal Activity" is the edited account of their experience from late September to early October 2006. Think of it as The Amityville Horror and The Entity by way of The Blair Witch Project. Peli shot the film in seven days using only a rough outline to carry his actors through the scenes, the result is an exercise in claustrophobia and anxiety that Robert Wise would commend. For a full photo gallery, click here.

Screening: Friday, Jan. 18th @ 10:00am (Purchase tickets here!) & Sunday, Jan 20th @ 10:30am (Purchase tickets here!)
Location: Treature Mountain Inn

Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story

Finally, the master showman behind The House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, Mr. Sardonicus, 13 Ghosts (ahem, the original), Macabre and, lest we forget, Rosemary's Baby is getting a documentary all of his own. Director Jeffrey Schwarz looks at the life and career of Castle culling together interviews with Forrest Ackerman, Bob Burns, Roger Corman, daughter Terry Castle, Stuart Gordon among others.

One of the leading names in horror during the '50s and '60s, Castle lured audiences to his films with fun gimmicks such as offering health insurance to movie-goers in the event they get frightened to death, or, rigging the seats with buzzers. He laid the groundwork for future super-producers like Joel Silver, who would eventually carry on the Castle name through a series of remakes. John Goodman and Joe Dante cribbed heavily from Castle's antics for the feature film Matinee.

Director Schwarz is the prez of Automat Pictures in Los Angeles, a company that specializes in DVD docs (recent credits include work on Snakes on a Plane, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and Resident Evil: Extinction). "Spine Tingler" made its debut at the AFI Fest in Hollywood last fall.

Screening: Tuesday, Jan. 22nd @ 10:45pm
Location: Treasure Mountain Inn
Purchase tickets here!

Trailer Park of Terror

Imperium Comics' EC-flavored throwback comes to life on the big screen in music vid director Steve Goldmann and writer Timothy Dolan's adaptation starring Nichole Hiltz. Six troubled teens venture into a trailer park when their bus breaks down and there they meet Norma, a doomed gal - living with a nefarious array of corroding ghouls - who wants to lift the curse plaguing her life. Blood spills. Teens die. Trashy, sleazy fun ensues. Look for "Devil's Rejects" vets Lew Temple and Priscilla Barnes doing what they do best: Raising hillbilly hell. Shock visited the set last year, read our first report here.

Screening: Monday, Jan 21st @ 10:45pm
Location: Treature Mountain Inn
Purchase tickets here! is attending Slamdance this month, so keep an eye out for full coverage here.

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