Yes, we’re in a pandemic. Yes, to all of those things that go along with it. No, that doesn’t stop life from happening. We change and reconfigure. We adapt. A special place for the genre community is often the cinema, which is dealing with its fair share of challenges. But sprinkled throughout the calendar year are film festivals, magical places movie lovers gather to sit in the dark together and be mesmerized by the larger-than-life screen (or to get a little blasted at the bar.) Some fests felt it was in everyone’s best interest to cancel this year and others felt the need to adapt to a virtual space. HorrorHound Film Festival chose the latter and I’m so glad they did.
I thought I knew what to expect going into a virtual film festival. I would be at home, on my couch, watching horror movies. Nothing special when you say it like that, right? Except I got 3 days of shorts and features, Q&A’s, & panels all livestreamed with no pause button. Yep, I had to check that schedule (at least 5 times) and be present for the moment. I had to stay off my phone, just like when I’m at the theater, so I wouldn’t miss anything. Admittedly, I was sorely missing popcorn but I fixed that by going to my local theater and bringing home a large tub. I focused on the shorts blocks, as they’re not something I watch regularly.
The shorts were great and there were a few that truly left their mark. MAKE A WISH was riotous, GRISLY GIRLS had the feministic jab I always crave, LIKE ME DEADLY is *like* literally so relevant to today’s culture and so funny, & BLISS BURGER was wonderfully acted and wonderfully weird. THE CHRYSALIS was unexpected and reminiscent of an adult Goosebumps episode. Later in the day on Saturday, Robert Englund’s Q&A streamed. It felt (almost) like waiting in line and hearing him regale the fan at his table with 20 minutes’ worth of stories, as is his style.
I’m still blown away by the creativity swirling around the whirlpool that is the film industry. I was impressed by the caliber of films brought together by festival directors Audery & George Lane.
The chat and watch party features were fantastic elements to the screenings. I didn’t use the watch party, but the chat was simple and seamless. It was great to see the viewer count be right at or steadily above 100 the whole weekend. 100 people watching the same thing, at the same time? I don’t think I’ve ever been in a theater that packed. The formatting of the whole fest was sleek and professional. Those ticket stub title cards? To die for. The promotional commercial the directors did was heartfelt and fun. Everything ran so smoothly. I didn’t find myself fumbling with multiple links or codes in order to access the livestream.
There’s obviously perks to both in person and virtual fests and YES, we miss other people. The virtual fest doesn’t completely alienate you though; it allows you to talk during a movie, to see other’s reactions to the same scene in your watch party, to share on your social media in real time & start conversations with curious friends. It also allows for the rare opportunity to see filmmakers and guests in their comfort zones in their homes and offices recording for attendees. It takes away a bit of the nervousness and adds a semblance of vulnerability to these folks who always seem to be on top of all the social cues during conventions.
The experience was a fun one and something I couldn’t replicate any old weekend. If you’re wondering what a horror film festival is like, why not try out a virtual one? 2020 has presented challenges and changes nearly daily but it hasn’t (and won’t) stop fans from being fans. As a virtual film festival attendee, you’ll be watching shorts and features from all over the globe in your home. Safely and snug, you can be a part of a unique event, talk to other fans, & support creators who are defying the crushing theme of 2020.
For more information on HorrorHound magazine, HorrorHound Film Festival, and HorrorHound Weekend, click here.