There will be blood. There will be social significance. Zombies will slobber at the EpiCentre, and demons will gibber at Neighborhood Theatre. Your gut will churn, your spine will tingle, and your brain will kick into a higher gear than required for the usual fight-or-flight reaction.
These are Louis Gurgitano’s hopes for the first Charlotte Horror Fest, Friday through Wednesday.
It’s his first move to expand his umbrella organization, Indie Film Force, which traditionally has sponsored only the Charlotte Film Festival but will produce three fests over the next 12 months: this one, the first Big Cause Docu Fest in February and the Charlotte Film Festival in September.
“The whole concept was to create year-round programming with some serious content,” says Gurgitano. “The documentaries obviously fit that, the horror films less so.”
Other than the Halloween timing, why begin with horror?
“The horror entries we got at Charlotte Film Festival have been getting away from slasher movies: They’re more symbolic, more about social issues.
“Think about zombies. What do they do? They eat and consume and try to turn everyone else into one of them. They are all over our culture now, because people see others turning into ‘zombies’ around them in real life. I hope audiences will connect those dots.”
Like Charlotte Film Festival, the Horror Fest took submissions through the online site Withoutabox. Volunteers sifted through those, and Gurgitano and his selection committee picked the finalists.
This festival offers five features and three blocks of short films. The shorts come from France, Italy, Germany, Australia and other distant locations. The features, all produced in America, are these:
• “The Big Bad” follows a vengeful woman into a surreal world, in pursuit of a man nobody seems to know.
• “The Black Box” takes place during the Shut-In Period, an Internet-dominated era where most people have gone mad, while the sane have been implanted with a chip that records each second of the day.
• “Dead Inside” is about a mentally disturbed woman who has a premonition that her friends are in grave danger during a sleepover.
• “It’s in the Blood” tracks a grieving son and his estranged father, who try to reconcile in a wilderness full of unreal apparitions.
• “Unwelcome” begins with a strange man and his timid girlfriend crashing a party of friends renovating a house, then gets weird..
“I don’t like brainless movies that splatter blood,” says Gurgitano. “I like horror with some philosophic meaning. Having said that, there is some gruesome stuff in these. But the aggression has a greater point.”
Film festivals often go beyond screenings to include panels, parties, presentations and merchandising. This fest will not, at least in year one.
“There are plenty of places where people can dress up in costumes or do zombie walks or buy products,” says Gurgitano. “In the future, I’d like to do panels about where the genre is going or how to do (special effects) makeup. But I don’t know that we need parties.
“To make a festival a huge event, you need to keep growing that side of it. With the Charlotte Film Festival, we started to do so much planning for parties that a lot of energy went into things that gave me no fulfillment whatsoever. So I wanted Charlotte Horror Fest to be just about the films.”