Cannibals, zombies, vampires and gore are expected at the 2006 Spooky Movie Film Festival, but Count Gore De Vol said the inaugural festival is about more than just Halloween screams and terror.
The weekend before Halloween is now a time for filmmakers to showcase their work to local horror fans. About 30 feature and short films are set to play at the Cinema Arts Theatre at the Fair City Mall, 9650 Main St., in Fairfax, over the course of the three-day film festival. Count Gore De Vol, a popular vampire character and local television personality in the 1970s and 1980s, will make an appearance on opening night. He said film festivals allow filmmakers to gauge the success of their work by seeing and hearing live audience reactions.
“These people put a lot of effort into making these films,” said Count Gore De Vol, whose real name is Dick Dyszel, but he stayed in character as the Count for the purpose of this interview. “They need a place to show it.”
Hollywood films follow a formula which is why film festivals have an upper hand, he said with a scary, vampire-like accent. The festival films have originality and creativity that is often lost in the Hollywood process, said the Count. At this film festival, the purpose of that creativity is to draw fear and laughter.
“Ours is a comedy,” said Angela Lee, from the production team of "The Slaughter," a feature scheduled to show on opening night. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Curtis Prather, the founder and organizer of the festival and Movie Madness Productions, said many of the films, while gory and bleak, are still funny. Prather is a big fan of the horror film genre, but said he loves all genres of film. The horror films were a perfect fit though when he was deciding on what to feature in the fall season festival.
“There is really nothing I enjoy more than the shared collective experience of being in a movie theater,” he said.
Prather has also been a fan of Dyszel’s since childhood, and the two have since become friends. Prather has met many Hollywood celebrities through his work in the movie business, but he said he “turned into a 10-year-old kid” when he met the Count.
“I grew up watching him,” said Prather. “There is something about that connection to your childhood; it immediately takes you back to that.”
THE FESTIVAL IS SET UP with blocks of films consisting of two or three shorts and one feature. The two opening night blocks are not rated, but Prather said they are not suitable for children. He said he might end up putting an 18-year-old age restriction on the midnight block because of excessive violence and nudity in some of the films. The overall theme for opening night is “zombies and cannibals,” so parents can take that and use their better judgment, he said.
The styles of the films vary from science fiction and mysteries, to thrillers, comedies and fantasies. Prather said some are “experimental independent, underground and even mainstream cinema.” “The Slaughter,” appears in the 9:30 p.m. block, and while Lee said the film hasn’t received its American motion picture rating yet, the United Kingdom has given it the R equivalent rating of 18.
“There is nudity and violence; it’s very gory,” said Zak Kilberg, a leading actor in the film from Rockville, Md. “It’s not recommended for children, although I’m sure there are some 16 and 17-year-olds who would get a kick out of it.”
“The Slaughter,” with its gore and violence, is a satirical film with a lot of zombies, said Kilberg. It was shot in and around Los Angeles for about a week. Kilberg said it uses all the horror film clichés, and he describes the film as almost a commentary on horror films and zombies. His character, Iggy, is a “revolutionary anarchist.”
The title of the midnight block feature, “Pervert!,” speaks for itself. It’s about a psychotic sex freak who appears to feast on female flesh, according to the film’s official description. The film’s creators use three words to describe it: sex, death and freedom, said Prather.
Dyszel will make his appearance as the Count at the adult-appropriate Friday night films. His other television character from the 1970s and 1980s, Captain 20, will make an appearance at the Saturday morning block since its films are more child-friendly. Both of Dyszel’s characters appeared on WDCA Channel 20 in Washington, but the Count was a late-night adult personality, while Captain 20 was a Saturday morning cartoon commentator. Prather still has his Captain 20 Club Card, which was the ticket to prizes and special club benefits during Captain 20’s television era. Prather said many children in the area grew up watching Captain 20, and he’s offering discounted tickets to the festival for anyone who shows up with their official club cards.
“I used to watch him on Channel 20 all the time,” said John Singletary, owner of the Virginia Barbeque of Manassas, the festival’s main sponsor.
PRATHER, A FILMMAKER and producer himself, said he wouldn’t have been able to get the festival on its feet without the help from Singletary. He recently picked up another sponsor, Hobby Works, a model toy store located in the Fair City Mall just across from Cinema Arts. Hobby Works is the official sponsor of the Saturday morning block with Captain 20. That block features some animated films, which still have some dark themes, but are nothing like the Friday night films. Prather said he would have no problem taking a child to see the Saturday morning block, which begins at 10 a.m. A good way to gauge whether to bring a child is by looking at which of Dyszel’s characters will be present.
“I have nothing to do with little urchins,” said Dyszel’s “Count Gore De Vol” character. “I deal with adults; I deal with horror and blood.”
The Captain 20 character appeared on many Channel 20 shows, many of which also received national awards, including a People’s Choice Award and an Emmy. Dyszel said the television days were fun, but he said he would never go back to TV after finding such a “global reach” with his Web site, www.countgore.com. On the site, he writes movie reviews and commentaries, and also broadcasts films. His latest program, “Creature Feature,” highlights up and coming filmmakers, he said.
“We’ve gone way beyond television,” said the Count. “TV is so obsolete, it’s incredible.”
The Sunday, Oct. 29, festival-closing feature film is the horror and blood-packed “The Red Shoes.” The film is an “Asian new wave” thriller set in South Korea, and it first appeared in the United States at the 2005 AFI (American Film Institute) Fest. The film’s domestic DVD release is set for the same week as the Spooky Movie Film Festival.
“It’s one thing to make a film,” said Prather. “Until you get that one public screening, the process doesn’t seem complete.”