A scene from ’Slumber Party Massacre’. Picture: Supplied
A scene from ’Slumber Party Massacre’. Picture: Supplied

The 17th annual Horrorfest Film Festival satiates the blood-curdling appetite of movie buffs

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Oct 27, 2021

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Horror buffs are in for a treat as the 17th annual Horrorfest Film Festival returns, online and in cinema, at The Labia Theatre and Labia Home Screen, until November 10.

There are 30 new movies and around 60 short films, which have been curated from around the world. Most of these offerings will make their premiere at the festival.

Festival director Paul Blom started Horrorfest with his wife Sonja Ruppersberg in 2005.

He added: “The festival grows exponentially each year. While everyone watches horror movies at some stage, it could still be seen as a niche genre but, to us, it is merely just a very specific type of entertainment we enjoy.

“While not everyone is a hardcore fan who could watch it year-round, over Halloween season we make it possible for both the horror hounds and those who like to get into the spirit of the scary season to have access to a wide range of exciting and highly varied movies catering to their specific taste.

“It is by no means a one-dimensional festival, featuring sub-genres like horror-comedy, sci-fi-horror, paranormal subjects, monsters and creatures, psychological chillers, serial killers, slashers, zombies, ghosts, vampires and loads more.

“And each year we also include horror-themed documentaries, like this year there is ‘The History Of Metal And Horror’, which looks at the link between these music and movie genres, ‘Wolfman's Got Nards’ delves into the cult fandom around the classic '80s movie ‘Monster Squad’, while ‘The Explorer’ has a French cryptozoologist searching for a mythical dinosaur-like creature in the African jungles of the Congo.

“Pretty much all of the movies make their Africa premiere at the Horrorfest (feature films and short films), and you're unlikely to see it anywhere else in the country or the continent (cinema or online).”

Festival director Paul Blom started Horrorfest with his wife Sonja Ruppersberg in 2005. Picture: Dr-Benway

Covid-19 has, during those restrictive lockdowns, compelled many festivals and events to exist in a virtual space.

And it has a positive domino effect as it reached out to a wider audience given that it was no longer geographically constrained.

As such, despite SA having moved to level 1 of the lockdown, a decision was made to make it a hybrid event.

Blom explained: “We often get people in other parts of SA like Johannesburg asking us when we're bringing the festival closer to them.

“While we've had a portion of the festival screen at The Bioscope in Newtown a few times in the past, managing it remotely is not ideal.

“We considered looking into an online option before the pandemic. The Covid situation actually forced us to do so, just like it did with our partner cinema in Cape Town, the Labia Theatre, who started their own streaming service due to cinema closures for such an extended period.”

He added: “So the upside is that not only can people still catch some of the movies online if they miss the cinema show, the festival can now be accessed everywhere in South Africa via the virtual option.

“Last year, we only had a handful of movies in the cinema, but of the 30 movies and five short film collections this year, 15 of them will screen in the cinema, a few will be cinema-only screenings, while most of them have a streaming option as well.”

Besides the screenings, Blom revealed they have the long-standing Bloody Parchment literature chapter where local authors read from their works of dark fiction.

“It used to be a live event in one of the Labia Theatre cinemas, but it is now online on our YouTube channel,” he shared.

The Horrorfest event has also been added to the list of the Top 50 Genre Festivals in the World by MovieMaker Magazine in the US..

Blom added: “And for this year's event Sonja and I are joined on the jury by high calibre international names, including Mick Garris, a writer/film-maker who has done many Stephen King adaptations and series like ’Fear Itself’, Jen and Sylvia Soska, Canadian twin film-makers who directed ‘American Mary’ and remade David Cronenberg's ‘Rabid’, and Tony Timpone, a horror aficionado, historian and producer who was editor of Fangoria Magazine for a long stretch.”

On opening night, they will be screening “Halloween Kills” ahead of the film’s Friday release.

Another festival drawcard is the premiere of “Slumber Party Massacre”, which was produced for the SyFy channel with a Canadian director and co-production. But the cast and crew are almost all local and it was shot in the Stellenbosch area.

Celebrities in attendance include Rob van Vuuren as well as Ryan Kruger, who is the director of the cult film “Fried Barry”, which was recently released on DStv BoxOffice.

The Horrorfest Film Festival details can be accessed here.

Streaming titles will be available for specific time periods of several days at Labia Home Screen.

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