Horrorfest III: the awakening 

Body count for Whistler’s home-grown horror film festival grows

Video evidence from a variety of sources is revealing that dozens of people have been brutally maimed or killed in the Whistler area in the past month. The gruesome body count is the work of several characters, among which are deranged, blood-lusting maniacs, killer vampiresses, and other super-slasher monstrous minions of the macabre.

While not personally responsible for each and every kill, the highway to hell leads to dastardly filmmaking duo Feet Banks and Chili Thom, clearly the masterminds of the death orgy. The Svengalis of slash. This year is by no means an isolated incident. Banks and Thom, under the auspices of Heavy Hitting Films have been inspiring seemingly sane local folk to pick up their pitchforks and pick-axes and hack each other to pieces since 2002, the inaugural year of their B-Grade Horrorfest.

Their reputation precedes the first Horrorfest. Heavy Hitting is the crew behind the bold, unconventional ski film Parental Advisory (2000) that raised its share of eyebrows for its blatant anti-authority stance.

Fans of the outrageous B-Grade horror genre of 1950s and 1960s cinema, Banks and Thom had it in mind to make their own budget slasher flick. Local lore has it that enthusiasm for their project inspired many to follow suit. Hence the first Heavy Hitting Films B-Grade Horrorfest came to be. Ten films were screened on Halloween night 2002 at local public house the Garibaldi Lift Co., in advance of a party organized by Thom and his lovely, yet equally deranged wife KLC Nash.

It was that year that a deceptively deviant, young lass named Lauren Graham gained infamy for her film Hagridden, a blood-soaked homage to horror that earned her the festival’s mounted metal skull trophy and the fear of her peers.

But it wasn’t just Graham who came away a winner. Word of the event as a whole buzzed throughout the Whistler underground to such extent that when 2003 rolled around, Banks had reason to move the event to the night before Halloween and into the impressive soft-seat screening facilities at MY (Millennium) Place.

The fest defiantly sold the venue dry with wannabe audience members moping in the lobby, hoping in vain for an extra ticket to materialize. Fifteen films came in from as far away as the Lower Mainland metropolis, and in the bloody end it was Vancouver artists Stu MacKay-Smith and Pilar Alvarez’s surreal relationship wrecker Happy Anniversary that emerged the clear winner of the silver skull and, for the first time, a cash prize. The stage was set for a roaring third.

And roar it will. This year’s festival will screen 16 short films this Saturday, Oct. 30. The youngest contributor is MacKay-Smith’s 12-year-old cousin Addison with an animated entry. The event has been sold out for weeks — a bizarre occurrence here in the land of the last minute planners. Proud parent Banks shows not a hint of remorse over creating this monster. In fact, he revels in this year’s entries being even gorier and more true to their B-Grade roots with stepped up levels of blood, monsters, DIY special effects and gratuitous t ’n’ a.

The rebel outsider is even joining hands with the soc’s this year. The Whistler Film Festival is hitching itself to the Horrorfest wagon as a prize provider with passes to the upcoming Reel Alternatives film Riding Giants. And 2002 sponsor BASE energy drink is back with a $250 cash prize for the winning film. There are also prizes in the works for the honours of Best Actor and Best Actress.

Of course, the skull trophy is back too.

As mentioned, Horrorfest III is quite sold out, tickets in the hard-to-get stratosphere once occupied solely by the Cornucopia wine rave. Outcry of the unticketed has inspired a second screening on Thursday, Nov. 4 at the event’s old stomping grounds, the GLC, which closes for two weeks of renovations the next day.

And of course, like every good horror franchise, fans can count on there being a Part IV.

Cue the creepy organ music and maniacal laughter.


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