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Experiencing Screamfest LA 2019 (Horror Movie Festival)


If there’s one thing (of the very random things that make up my life and person) you should know about me is that I love horror movies. Love, love, love them! The spookier, the better! And out of all the genres (and sub-genres) there are horror, my favorite tend to be the paranormal/supernatural. Does it have ghosts in it? I’m watching it! Does it have demons or someone that is possessed by a demon in it? Then I’m watching that one too! I do love a good psychological horror movie as well, but the paranormal/supernatural genre is where it’s at for me. So it was such good timing and luck that some friends of my family in Los Angeles, California invited me to go to a horror film festival with them last week!

Screamfest is an annual film festival that celebrates horror in all of its many genres, with short films and feature films that come from filmmakers from all over the world. It’s a great way for directors, writers, actors, musicians, cinematographers, student filmmakers, and more to enter their films and showcase all of their hard work and passion for the horror genre. The movie Paranormal Activity (I’m sure you may have heard of it and all of the sequels/prequels it has spawned over the years!) premiered there and movies like Trick ‘r Treat were awarded prizes (on closing night they have a party and hand out awards). Basically, it’s great for both filmmakers AND horror lovers and the perfect way to celebrate both film and Halloween. The festival this year ran from October 8th to the 17th and is celebrating its 19th anniversary! Which makes me wonder what the 20th anniversary holds in store for the festival next year!

I had been looking forward to this for months and my friends were super excited to take me. They love horror too and, living in the LA area, they go to Screamfest every year. Since it was my first time going, my friends decided to give me the whole Screamfest experience, which means two blocks of short films and then ending with a feature film at the end of the night (there are actually two feature films showing each night, but they usually only see one and I was fine with that. It sounded like it was going to be a long- but fun- day anyway!). My friends picked me up on Saturday, October 12th and we left for Hollywood at around 12 pm (because you know it takes at least an hour in LA traffic to get anywhere! And if you didn’t, now you know! Los Angeles is HUGE).

We got to the famous TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood (formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, back in the day. Fun fact: as an LA native, my mom used to go there to see movies back in the 50's and 60's) and attached to it and the surrounding area, is almost like a huge, multi-storied mall, filled with stores and restaurants (very touristy, but fun!). The first block of short films didn’t start until 2 pm, so we wandered around the mall, checking out the fun (and expensive!) shops, as they pointed out the El Capitan theater across the street, where they film Jimmy Kimmel Live. As we people-watched the tourists walking and posing with the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, then posing with the people who dressed up as famous characters like Batman and Minnie Mouse to take pictures with, the clock made its way toward two and we headed back to the theater.

Screamfest is run by volunteers, and they were giving out booklets in the front about the featured films, little postcard sized ads for the short and feature films, and were working hard by giving out general information about the festival. (If I lived in the area, it might be fun to volunteer with them! Especially if I could sit in on all of the films!) Behind them was a fun black carpet where the filmmakers and actors could pose for the cameras before the showings. They also had some fun zombie props to pose with, which my friend and I did. I wish I had the picture! (Hopefully they’ll send it to me at some point) I’m sure me standing next to a decrepit zombie lady made me look even better in comparison. It was really fun to wait in the lobby and see lots of people dressed up, knowing that they were either the filmmakers or the actors, and this was their big, proud moment. Plus, you could tell they brought their family and friends, too, to share in the joy of their finished work!

That Weird Girl Life
We got in our seats before two and enjoyed the first block of films! Each film could be as short as 3 minutes or as long as almost 30 minutes. I’ll try to list all the ones we saw in the first block with the descriptions listed in the official booklet (I’m sorry if they’re out of order, I’m doing this from memory! The arrangement, not the descriptions. That would be quite impressive of me!):

The Original- “Alana’s partner, Gwendolyn, is in the final stages of locked-in syndrome. They are offered a chance to regain the life they thought they had lost through a procedure that will transfer Gwendolyn’s consciousness into a healthy clone. Although the procedure initially appears to be a success, something has gone terribly wrong.”

Bad Hair- “Insecure and balding Leo has closed himself in his apartment to try hair growth liquid for fixing up his looks. The liquid causes a series of grotesque metamorphoses with his skin and hair and as Leo tries to get his bodily changes under control the evening quickly turns into chaos.”

Dead Packet- “On the eve of his record breaking 444th on-screen death, veteran Hong Kong actor Richard, forsakes a long lasting Chinese superstition- challenging the Chinese demon, Sui, to come and devour his soul.”

The Desolation Prize- “With only the ghost of the man he killed years before to keep him company, Jake lives an isolated life. He rarely goes outside, and his groceries are delivered to him. Fearful that this unwanted spirit will continue to humiliate and terrorize him in public, he has structured his life around a lonely and bleak existence.”

Murder Ballad- As an abused wife tends to the post-robbery wounds of her criminal ex-husband, they are visited by a mysterious- and malevolent- preacher.”

The Listening- “A group of friends on their way to a remote lake house come across a stranger with some important information.”

The first set of short films, as well made as they were, honestly weren’t my favorite. Since my favorite genres of horror are supernatural, which none of these were, none of them really spoke to me. I did really like The Listening, since it was a straight up horror comedy, mocking the slasher genre is such a fun way. As for Bad Hair, I am not a body horror fan at all, and while well done, I made the mistake of snacking right before it came on, and my stomach started churning as the gory special effects started getting more extreme and nauseating (but the film was a big hit with the audience!).

After the first block, a Screamfest volunteer invited the filmmakers of the shorts to come up and introduce themselves and explain a little bit about their films. It was so interesting to hear how they came about with the ideas for the shorts and even where they were from! It’s amazing that filmmakers from all over the world had their short films premiere for the first time here at Screamfest. You could definitely hear the pride from the crew, actors, and families in the applause after the films ended (and sometimes right as they started!). Though most of the short films in the first block weren’t my style, they were all excellent and so original and everyone in each and every one of them should be extremely proud!

Afterwards, we had some time before the next block started at 4 pm, so we got a snack at concessions (nachos!), used the bathroom, and then headed back to the theater for the second block of short films:

Amandine- “Amandine is a kind, extroverted Postdoc student who is living temporarily at a student residence. Oscar is the doctor who works at the infirmary. As the rest of the students leave the residence for the holidays, Amandine is forced to stay on a few more days to finish her Postdoc. Her relationship with Oscar intensifies. When the day arrives for Amandine to leave, Oscar finds an unusual way for Amandine to stay with him, perhaps forever.”

The Crying Boy- “Andrea visits deceased painter Arganti’s house to investigate his cursed paintings of the crying kids, among them The Crying Boy.”

#chadgetstheaxe- “Join top ten vlogger, Chad Ryan, as he live streams his visit to the William Burrows murder cabin!”

Honour Thy Mother- “Liz is homeless, living life adrift. In a moment of despair and loneliness, she returns home after many years to her God-fearing mother and discovers time has changed more than she ever could have imagined.”

Shelly- “Shelly is the story of a Halloween party gone very, very wrong…”

A Mother’s Love- “A woman forgets who her daughter is, but things aren’t as they seem.”

Sunnyvale- “Sunnyvale, a ‘happy healing home’ uses cutting edge technology to free its patient’s minds...But happy comes with a cost.”

Now the short film block #2 was more of my style! While all of the films in second block were great, one of my favorites was definitely, Amandine, a Spanish short, which was a great way to start out the second part of the night. It was more a psychological thriller and was just so well done. It had me on the edge of my seat the whole time! #chadgetstheaxe was a perfect horror comedy and a hilarious commentary on influencers in the world of YouTube and streamers right now. It had the audience, myself included, literally howling with laughter, but still had that great horror edge to it. Shelly was a cute, fun teen short about a ghost girl who just wants to attend a Halloween party, with devastating results for the other partying teens.

But my absolute favorite of the night, by far, was The Crying Boy. It was a supernatural short, and while quick, it had the best scare of the night that left the whole audience jumping and then clapping. It was so well received that I swear it got the best audience reaction of the night (or, at least, in my opinion it did!). During the second block Q&A (which included a director from China who was in the US for the first time ever!), the directors of The Crying Boy, three Italian men, said that they are hoping to turn The Crying Boy into a full length feature film! That got a big round of applause from me! (I’m now following them on Instagram to get more updates on it!)


After the second block of short films, we had time to kill (hardy har har) before the last feature of the night, the full length film, which started at 8 pm. We had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen, where we ate outside and had a great view of the Hollywood sign, and then browsed at the Sanrio store (who doesn’t love Hello Kitty??) and then at a very expensive sweet shop that have a ton of different themed rooms and candies of all types (they had European candy! I got to get my Kinder Happy Hippos for way too much! But did I regret it? Only slightly because they were so delicious and cute!)

And now, it was time for our main (and last event). The 8 pm full length feature film! Here’s the premise:

Swing Low: “When a nature photographer explains to the police how she fought her way out of the Watchatoomy Valley, they dismiss her crazed and violent story as a meth-induced nightmare. But when they discover that she’s telling the truth, it’s too late.”


Wow, you guys. This movie. Was. DISTURBING. So, so disturbing. It was a rollercoaster ride of a psychological/revenge thriller and by the time it was halfway through, I was hugging my knees I was so terrified. A nature photographer named Harper sees something horrific done by some locals, takes some photos as evidence, and brings it to the police. From there, she learns that she can trust no one, and must escape from some truly horrifying men, survival being her main goal. This film was brutal to watch, but it was so well made and left me truly aghast at the end. I was almost shaken up it was so intense and horrifying. It’s definitely one of the more disturbing movies I’ve ever watched (and that’s saying something) and it really does have that Deliverance vibe to it (if you’ve seen that movie, you know what I mean). Wow. While this movie was incredibly good and so well done, I would only recommend watching it if you kind of know what you’re getting in for. Because I didn’t and it was intense, to say the least. Right after it ended, I wanted to turn to my friends and ask “what did we just watch???

Thankfully, there was a Q&A with the director/writer, cinematographer, and fellow actors, who got up from the audience to answer questions (including how they got Bruce Dern to be the in movie- who was great, by the way) and, for me, bring some much needed levity after the credits rolled. It was fascinating to me to hear from the director/writer and see how the film was made, where they filmed it (his place in Virginia!), where the story came from (one of the most disturbing parts was based on a news report he heard on NPR, of all things), and what it was like to work with Bruce Dern. It was a crazy way to end the night, and it gave my friends and myself a lot to talk about.

After we left the theater, our night of horror was officially over, but for the people who were there for the 10 pm feature, it was just getting started. A movie called The Wave, starring Justin Long, was playing after Swing Low, and the lobby was crowded! It must have been a popular one, but we were tired after a long day, so were headed out to the parking garage to start the long trek back.

Screamfest wasn’t what I expected (I actually wasn’t sure what I was expecting!) but it was a whole lot of horror fun and I’m so glad I got to go! It would have been fun to go another day as well, that way you could pick out of the schedule what movie you wanted to see that night (not that Swing Low wasn’t good, I just might have picked a feature length that was more supernatural based). It was really neat to be able to see the cast and crew sitting in the audience with you, but only realizing it after you saw the short or film! I got a little bit shy once I noticed I was sitting near some of the actors that afterwards I avoided them, instead of saying “good job!” (I get a little starstruck around celebs. Apparently when I was little and at Disneyland, I was terrified of Mickey Mouse when I finally saw him in person. I think it got a bit too real for me and that’s how I felt with the actors in the theater!) If I go again hopefully next time I’ll have the courage to say hi and congratulations!

If you’re at all interested in horror and are in the LA area when Screamfest happens in October, I highly recommend you check it out! It’s a great way to discover new horror and support the filmmakers who love the genre as much as you do! Check out their website at Screamfest LA and also, they have a YouTube channel where you can watch some horror shorts that have been featured there in the past. But be careful- you might fall down a horror filled rabbit hole like I did before I went! (Fun though it was, it just sucked up my evening and made it hard to sleep that night!)

And that was my very first experience at Screamfest! Would I go back again? Definitely! I’m crossing my fingers for next year! If I lived in the area I’d love to volunteer, but I think it would be so much fun to be part of a cast and crew that helped make the film and then finally see it on the big screen. You definitely felt proud for being there and supporting filmmakers who love horror just as much as you. Plus, I kind of really wanted to get dressed up and walk that black carpet after seeing some of the filmmakers and actors do that too! All in all, it was a spooky fun time and a great way to celebrate all things horror!

What did you think of my experience at Screamfest? Are you a horror fan too? Would you dare to go and see lots of different types of horror shorts and films? And which short films sounded the most fun to you out of all of them? Let me know in the comments below!

Stay Weird,
Emily

PS. Also, I NEED The Crying Boy to be online as soon as possible because I loved it so much and I just want to show everyone how brilliant it was! If I find it online, I’m definitely going to be posting it on social media, so look out for that!


20 comments on "Experiencing Screamfest LA 2019 (Horror Movie Festival)"
  1. I don't normally watch horror movies because I get way too scared, but I do love a good crime show. If I was a horror fan and lived in the area, this event would definitely go on my list. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it and I hope you get to attend again next year!

    Dominika | http://www.intothebloom.com

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    1. Thank you so much, Dominika! I'm one of the only people I know and in my family who loves horror, so it was nice to be invited by other people who love horror too! I know it's not everyone's jam ;) Aww thank you so much for the kind words! It WAS a lot of fun and I hope I can go next year too! Ooh I love true crime shows too. That would be amazing if there was a true crime festival! I would definitely go to that too!

      Thank you for reading and commenting!! <3

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  2. This sounds like thee perfect thing to do for Halloween! I love scary movies, horrors are my thing so this is right up my street. It's awesome there were volunteers, I would definitely be up for doing something like that as well, imagine the experience! The original - Alanas partner sounds very interesting as does the listening, I would love to see them. From the 2nd block I have to agree, The crying boy sounds awesome, I love anything that can give me a scare because I feel that horror movies these days just don't hold up to it, the babadook was the first in a long time that actually gave me a scare. Glad you had such a good time, I would love for glasgow to have something like this, I would be there in a heartbeat!

    Jordanne || Thelifeofaglasgowgirl.co.uk

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    1. Hi Jordanne! It was so perfect to have it in October! I was already in a Halloween mood but this just upped it even more! I'd love to volunteer there if I lived closer. The short The Original was great- it just reminded me more of sci-fi, like Black Mirror, more than horror. But I always forget that there IS sci-fi horror! Oh, The Crying Boy was SO GOOD! It got the biggest jump of the night in the audience. I really can't wait for it to be a feature film. Thank you so much, it was a great time! I hope there will be a horror fest near you, so you can go. As a horror fan, I have to say it was a great experience being around other horror fans. Let me know if you find anything near you!

      And thank you for reading and commenting! It really means a lot :)

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  3. This sounds perfect for this time of year! I'm a massive coward so wouldn't be able to cope with watching so many horror films but I've always wanted to be in one! Something about being a villain sounds like fun! xD

    Daisy xoxo | TheDeeWhoLived

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    1. Hi Daisy! It was so perfect for this time of year! It really got me in the Halloween spirit (though, truthfully, I was already in it, haha). And no worries! If you don't want to watch them, that would be even more amazing if you could be in one! Oh, being a villain would be SO fun! I could see you as a villian we all love to hate or a villian that the audience totally roots for, haha.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!! <3

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  4. Although I love a good horror film, which seem really hard to come by now days, but I'm not much of a fan of short films. Not because they can't be good, but because they're short. If I do happen to like a short film, then I want that short film to actually be a film film so I can enjoy a longer story. Basically I can find it frustrating I guess. But that's just me and my weird ways

    Unwanted Life | www.unwantedlife.me

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    1. Very true! I'm pretty picky about my horror movies, which was why I was worried after I didn't enjoy the first short block of films. But once we got to the second block and they were more my style, I was totally in! And I completely get that. I'm not usually the biggest fan of short films, but some I've come to realize are just so great on there own that it would almost ruin them if they were extended. But the one I really liked, The Crying Boy, IS going to make into a full length film, so I'm so happy that would will be extended!!

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!!

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  5. You have no idea how amazing this sounds fo me, I absolutely love horror films and this sounds like an amazing event that would be awesome to visit! The film's sound like they are so varied and I would love to see some of the shorter ones x

    Kayleigh Zara ❄️✨ www.kayleighzaraa.com

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    1. Hi Kayleigh! Yay, I'm happy another person thinks it sounds fun! Because I found it VERY fun! If you're ever in the LA area in October, you know where to go! If they have any horror film fests where you live, you should definitely go! And all the short films were super varied, that's what I loved about them. I hope they put the rest online so I can watch those too!

      Thank you for reading and commenting! It means a lot to me :)

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  6. Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun! I live in Portland (OR), but I'm still kinda new to the area. I know we have some film fests here, but I've yet to actually get to one. This really makes me want to change that. It just sounds so cool!

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    1. Hi Angie! Thanks so much!! It was definitely a LOT of fun, and if they have a film festival in your area, I highly recommend you go! Seeing that you live in Portland now, I'm sure there are a TON happening there all the time! (I've never been to Portland but I've heard there's always fun stuff going on there) Let me know if you end up going to any cool film events!

      And thank you so much for reading and commenting! <3

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  7. Hi Emily! You got me wanting to go to a Screamfest now! That's exactly kind of public event I'll want to go to, well, it's a treat for horror movie lovers! I'm definitely going to check out the Screamfest LA YouTube channel. Maybe next year... I'll schedule a holiday to the LA area... If I manage to make some money! :p
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip!

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    1. Hi Julie! Oh yay! You definitely should go if you can! I think you'd definitely love it! And let me know if you do, I can always try to go again next year and we can horror fest together! :) I'm so glad you liked my post! It was such a blast to go and I'm happy I got to share it with fellow horror fans like you :D

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  8. Even though I'm a wimp...this would be such a cool event to go to! I'm seriously interested in The Crying Boy after what you said. I'm slowly getting more into horror after refusing to watch it for 20+ years.

    But I'm glad you had an awesome time! It sounds super fun. I hope you get to go back next year :)

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    1. Hi Meagan! You're not a wimp! Horror is just my way to have fun and experience adrenaline, kind of like how some people like rollercoasters (which I do NOT, haha). But I think you'd like The Crying Boy! It was so short but it had a lot of potential for a full length movie! I love a good background story in a horror movie :) Let me know if you do end up watching any horror movies and how you do with them!

      Thanks! It was super fun and I hope I can go back next year! (Fingers crossed) It kind of makes me want to go to more fun events- if only they happened more where I lived!

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!!

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  9. Wow! I am insanely jealous!

    Swing low would probably be my favourite out of the lot, I like the super disturbing WTF kind of stuff. I also think the idea of bad hair being set in a confined space would give me some serious anxiety too!

    I'd love to visit screamfest one day wow ��

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    1. Hi Kenna! Thanks so much for commenting! If you like super disturbing stuff you'll LOVE Swing Low!! I'd definitely recommend renting it when it comes out, just to see what you think of it! And Bad Hair...brrr! I get grossed and panicky just thinking about it! Which was probably what they were going for, haha.

      I hope you can come to Screamfest someday! It was so much fun!!!

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  10. This sounded like so much fun! I'm happy you had such a great time. Personally I don't like scary movies too much. But around Halloween time it is fun to watch them lol

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    1. Hi Jenn! It was a LOT of fun and perfect for scary movie fans like myself. I totally get that! Most of my family/friends aren't too into horror movies, but they'll watch some fun/not too scary ones around Halloween :)

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!!

      Delete

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