Horror Comes to Rhode Island

What do Providence, Rhode Island and Halloween have in common? For the past decade, the spookiest of holidays has been the backdrop of the Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary from October 22nd to 25th. An offshoot of the Rhode Island International Film Festival, one of New England’s premier cinema events, this year’s RIIHFF will screen more than 35 thriller-themed films from all over the world.

With the glut of horror film festivals now in existence, what makes the Rhode Island version a standout? MM spoke with executive director George T. Marshall to find the answer to that very question.

Jennifer Wood (MM): This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival. What are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed since year one—both in terms of the event itself and the submitted films?

George Marshall (GM): The biggest changes have been both the growth of the festival, the number of films submitted and the quality of that work. When the event began, digital video was just taking off; film was still a dominant shooting format. Today, that has changed radically. We rarely see an entry shot on film stock, unless it comes from a specialty distributor.

MM: What makes Providence and horror movies go so well together?

GM: In a word: H.P. Lovecraft. Providence was the home and inspiration for this legendary author. Also, New England itself, because of its age, is filled with stories that evoke the macabre and horrific. Think of Mercy Brown and the vampire lore. Mercy was from Exeter, Rhode Island (to the south of Providence.) There’s nothing like a long New England winter with short days and long, dark nights to serve as inspiration for the genre.

MM: This year’s event will have a focus on local moviemakers. Why is it so important for you to shine a light on the moviemakers in your own backyard?

GM: We believe it is important to nurture and support our talented filmmakers. This is a year-round focus, not just for the Horror Festival. We define “local” as “New England,” since the region is actually fairly small, geographically. This event was actually created by a former intern, Shawn Drywa, who is himself a talented artist and filmmaker. Shawn’s vision for the festival still exists today. His successor was Ric Rebello, another filmmaker, who enhanced and expanded Shawn’s work. Local films are screened with work that comes from across the globe. Since many filmmakers attend these presentations that the festival becomes an ideal networking platform and an opportunity to see the latest trends in shooting, editing and storytelling.

MM: Of course, being an international event, you’re screening films from all over the world. Are there any new trends that you’re seeing in the international world of horror? Any trends specific to certain regions?

GM: If there is any trend, it is that more and more filmmakers are creating work in the genre. Films have come from all over the globe. It is very strange to receive work from Germany that has a Halloween theme for example, since Halloween is a very American invention. What does seem true is that the storytelling tends to be much tighter with a higher level of performance by the talent. Thanks to the availability of HD cameras that have greater flexibility and are cost-effective, the work being submitted has a more polished look. I think the genre has come into its own and is no longer overlooked. It has moved beyond its niche.

MM: What’s the one country you’ve never received a submission from—but are dying to receive?

GM: Tough question, since we do receive work from all over the world. Spain, for example, has sent us some amazingly scary horror films. While I’m not dying to get a film from the country, we’ve not had anything from Vietnam or southeast Asia.

For more information, visit http://www.film-festival.org/Horror.HowTo.php.

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