Short days, longer nights, that slight chill in the air — Halloween must be getting close, which means the time has come once again for the Spooky Movie Festival, scheduled this year for Thursday through Monday, Oct. 21-25, with most events taking place at the Cinema Arts Theater in Fairfax.
Curtis Prather, director and founder of the event, said that while this year’s even kicks off with the local premiere of “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil” at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Cinema Arts is the movie festival’s true home and has been for all five years.
“Friday and Saturday evening, we’ll be screening a lot of double features and shorts,” Prather said. Friday night will be filled will zombie movies, including an “extraordinary, very independent” film called “Colin” which was made for a mere $70.
The story in “Colin” is told from the zombie’s perspective and gives a glimpse of what that person’s life would have been like had he not become a member of the undead masses, Prather said.
Saturday night will be the Spooky Movie Festival’s version of a Grindhouse event, including the D.C. premiere of an Australian movie, “El Monstro del Mar!” that follows in the same vein as films like “Mad Max” and is an “over-the-top” production, Prather said.
The second headliner on Saturday evening, “The Uh-Oh Show,” is by gory movie master Herschell Gordon Lewis. The Spooky Movie Festival was among the first places in the world to premiere bits and pieces of the movie during last year’s event, and Prather said he’s probably most excited to see this on the big screen
He’s not the only one laying in wait to see Lewis’ latest work: Local legend Count Gore De Vol, also known as Dick Dyszel.
“He’s just an incredible director,” Dyszel said in his mock Transylvanian accent. “Here’s a guy who really invented gory movies. That one’s a can’t miss.”
Count Gore De Vol, who will be making an appearance at the festival and will host the local premiere of a movie about his life and work, “Every Other Day is Halloween,” on Sunday afternoon, said he’s prepared to leave his maple casket in the crypt to come out and meet his fans.
“I get to see people come out smiling and happy and saying ‘I remember when,’ and that’s always a thrill,” the Count said. “If you can’t get all ready and geared up for Halloween at this festival, you just can’t get ready for Halloween.”
Other than the Lewis movie, Dyszel said he’s eager to come out and watch the shorts, because they take the best part of full length movies and leave the audience wanting more.
“Shorts give you the meat of the story and they suck you in right away,” he said, no pun intended.
Both Dyszel and Prather agreed that the festival does so well in this region, attracting scary movie fans of all ages, because of this area’s storied history, from the early settlers in Jamestown to the bloody Civil War battles.
“This whole area drips with creepiness,” Dyszel said.
Returning for another year is Brian Lonano, a filmmaker who first got involved with the festival in 2007 when he created a short film advertising the event.
“It was my first film shot on actual film so it was very exciting and nerve-wracking to shoot,” Lonano said.
He’s excited to be involved again this year because “As a sci-fi filmmaker, Spooky Movie is a given home for my films. Curtis is such a great guy and Spooky Movie is one of the best. It’s in my top tier of film festivals, and when he asked me to make something, of course I couldn’t say no.”
When asked if people should come to the movies in costume, Lonano was more than enthusiastic.
“If people dress in costume, I will personally hug them,” he said. “Tell them to come see me.”
While he’s looking forward to seeing his own work on the big screen again this year, it’s the camaraderie that brings him back.
“The best part is sitting in a crowded auditorium, watching a collection of awesome movies and seeing how people react,” he said.
Also returning this year is John Dimes, host of Spooky Movie Television, which Dimes created in honor of Count Gore De Vol’s own television show in the Washington area in the 1970s. In Spooky Movie Television, Dimes plays Dr. Sarcofiguy, the show’s host.
“I tend to enjoy whatever is put before me,” Dimes said. “My philosophy has always been, there are no such things as bad movies, only bad audiences.”
Like Prather, Dimes is most looking forward to seeing “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil,” the premise of which he says is “quite wonderful.”
For the past two years, Dimes has been asked to illustrate the posters advertising the festival, but this year’s design, featuring a “bizarre fusion of the Frankenstein monster and Albert Einstein,” is his favorite.
“To my mind, no matter how old you get, you still feel the enjoyment of Halloween,” Dimes said of his favorite thing about fall. “I love watching all the horror films. My favorite to watch around this time of year is ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch.’ It was a radical departure from the original ‘Halloween’ film, but it takes this wonderfully perverse, tongue-in-cheek spin on the holiday of Halloween. Oh, the potentially dire happenings for all those poor, unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.”
With only a few weeks to go before overtaking the Cinema Arts Theatre, Prather said he can’t imagine hosting the festival anywhere else.
“We’ve had filmmakers come in who are used to having their films screened on projectors and card tables, but we go the extra mile to make sure films look and sound good,” Prather said, giving a big thanks to the crew at Cinema Arts for making them feel right at home.
“We didn’t expect it, but we tapped into a kind of art house crowd,” Prather said. “Initially, they came out to support the theater but now they love what we do too.”