Hollywood Gothique
The Archive

Things I Learned at Shriekfest

I’m a college graduate, with a B.A. in film, but I’ve been attending the Shriekfest horror film festival at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, and I must say it’s a didactic experience far more compelling than the dusty confines of elite academia. Unlike formal education, with its emphasis on abstract theorums of dubious utility in the real world, film educates us on a profound, emotional level, teaching valuable, possibly life-saving life lessons that go ignored on university campuses.

Case in point, over the course of the past two days, I’ve sat through a few short subjects and four feature films, including two (PENNY DREADFUL and NIGHTMARE MAN) that were filmed on location in Big Bear and feature scenes of women in immobile cars menaced by marauding maniacs trying to get in. There was also NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH, about a young couple who move to a house with a very nasty neighbor across the way, and NIGHT OF THE LEBEN TOD, a zombie film set in a private research facility.

Here are a few pearls of wisdom I’ve extracted from this viewing experience:

  • Nobody bothers to fill up the gas tank before going on a long journey.
  • Everybody owns cell phones today, but no one owns the cable that allows you to recharge the battery by connecting to the car’s cigarette lighter after you run out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
  • Even if you could recharge your cell phone, it wouldn’t matter, because all those “Can you hear me now?” commercials are complete B.S. – you’ll never get a useful signal, although you might connect just long enough to shout something useless, like “Don’t hang up!”
  • The easiest, best way to break into a locked car is to get into the trunk and slice your way through the back seat.
  • Even expert marksmen don’t know how to handle a weapon. (Hint: when you’re not actually aiming at something, point the barrel at the ground, not at the head of your friend beside you.)
  • Modern medical science cannot prevent death from something so simple as a nosebleed, but it can bring the dead back to life (as flesh-eating zombies, of course).
  • Psychiatry and therapy cannot cure basic mental illness (not even a garden variety phobia), but the right medication can suppress evil spiritual forces trying to take possession of your body.
  • A woman’s body can be covered in blood, sweat, and tears – not to mention mud, dirt, or even scars and post-mortem lividity – but this will not dampen the male libido to the point where the director will refrain from having the character’s blouse removed, so that the camera may linger over her naked breasts.
  • Sex in current horror films does not necessarily lead to inevitable death, but you will at least get a bad case of diarhea.
  • Yes, it’s twenty-six years since THE SHINING, but black people are still the sacrificial victims whose death provides the means for light-skinned people to survive.