For those of you unaware, SLC has an amazing film scene thanks in large part to Utah (Park City/SLC/Heber) being the home of the world’s largest independent film festival, Sundance. But for those of us who can’t afford the thousands of dollars it costs for a full pass to Sundance, fear not. Locally in SLC we have an incredible scene brewing if you know where to look.
The first place you have to look is at the Salt Lake Film Society. This group celebrates independent films in many ways. They own two theaters in town, including the almost 90 year old Tower Theater which is the oldest movie theater in the Salt Lake Valley that is still in operation today. It’s full of dirty old charm and always has an eclectic crowd of film buffs and lovers as well as history hunters and just families that live in or around the busy 9th and 9th community of SLC. The tower shows indie films, foreign films, cult favorites, and even has a DVD rental shop in the front where SLFC members get unlimited access to DVDs whenever they want (non members can rent too for a small fee).
This is a very cool place.
In addition to their theaters and their efforts to screen indie and foreign films for SLC residents, they also support local film in a variety of other ways.
One of the biggest ways they do that is by supporting a man with a vision named Brian Higgins. Higgins believes deeply in the power of film and in the power of being creative. As a child he was dealt a traumatic hand in life and struggles now with depression and PTSD. As a result he started Create Reel Change which encourages film creation as a way of dealing with mental disease, providing a creative outlet service for our vets and fellow citizens suffering. In addition to that Higgins also runs and manages a second film festival series called Filmulate which is a platform for any local artists to showcase genre specific films.
Higgins believes deeply in the power of film and in the power of being creative.
So enter DemonChaser, Higgins’ annual horror festival that touches on every sub-genre from horror comedy to straight up dark demonic possession films and everything in between. This year there were 13 scary stories (only 12 made it in the running though as one was submitted late) in addition to a double feature bill where Higgins screened the Vincent Price interactive classic “The Tingler“.
First let’s talk about the Tingler. If you’re not familiar the Tingler was a 1959 Vincent Price film most famous for a gimmick called “Percepto!”, vibrating devices in theater chairs which activated when the Tingler on the screen gets let loose in the theater.
Disney was famous for trying to incorporate 4D interactions in his films as well (see: Fantastia) and this was a pretty popular thing to do in the 50s.
But the film is more than just the gimmick.
It’s over the top cheesy and has a quaint and cute feel from a time long gone even though it touches on dark topics like death, infidelity, drugs (even LSD!), and advancing science at the cost of loss of humanity.
Of course, there was no way for Higgins to run electrical vibrating pads throughout all the theater’s chairs here in 2016 for a one night double feature, so here’s where they had to get a little creative.
Throughout the show Higgins uses a rubber Tingler (heh) to scare the audience, but of course it’s all just good laughs!
Screaming is the only know way to stop the Tingler so the audience is encouraged to scream and interact as Higgins and his talented Filmulate crew run up and down the aisles fighting with the little rubber Tingler prop.
He even uses psychedelic lights for the drug scenes and incorporates skeletons and other sound effects for fun. It’s all like stepping into a time warp and getting to enjoy a simple entertainment experience that just doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
Next up between the Tingler and the DemonChaser festival Higgins had a pal come and organize a seance with the audience to an old dead friend. The seance master tells a long tale of a dead friend who asks to be cremated and ends up coming back to life once he finally feels warmth again. Then using some fun magic and slight of hand convinces us that we have called on his friend to come visit us from the spirit world.
If you enjoy the old story tellers and side show performers, you’ll dig this.
OK now for DemonChaser!
The Tingler and the seance are designed to get people having fun and talking before we get into the 12 short films that will be judged and awarded live. Each film is given an Enigma and a theme that they have to work against. The audience has to figure out what the Engima is which this year ended up being Alfred Hitchcock movies (our writer Waylon was very proud to guess about 9 out of 12 of them).
I won’t go into every single film that played but I have to at least mention a few.
First was the highlight of the night, a scary thriller by the name of After Hours which honestly should go on to win tons of awards and hopefully get picked up for a full movie deal. It is that good. Some of the camera work gives you feelings of dread, the sound is perfect, the acting is spot on, and it’s genuinely scary. Check it out:
This was by far the most professional looking short of the night but no where near the only good one. In fact I can confidently say that I thoroughly enjoyed all 13 shorts we saw for different reasons.
One of the first ones to be screened is called “Crystal Lake Memories” and in it the main star, an 80s horror movie victim, sings the famous CATS song “Memory” while a Jason-esque slasher murders everyone at the camp in the background.
Please watch this, it’s amazing:
The audience was roaring with laughter. Here’s the CATS song she’s singing as her friends are slaughtered. Perfect juxtaposition if you ask me:
At the end of the night there’s an awards ceremony and a Q/A session with all the local film makers and everyone gets together to discuss the films. It’s honestly one of my favorite events in SLC and I can’t tell you how much I look forward to next year!
I really want one of those awards.
Here’s a list of all the films that were shown. we’ve only been able to find the 2 that we listed above but as more come online we’ll add them:
Murphy’s Curse, Koren Butkovich
The Wish Granting Hobo, Danny Chadwick
Panic Attack, Teresa Wyckoff
Hitori Kakurenbo, Nate Norman
What Has Been, Elsine Clarke
After Hours, Kasry LaRose
And Inside I’m Screaming, Matt Brunk
Be Loyal to Your Realtor, Christian Dives
Crystal Lake Memories, Taylor Doose
The Bernie 2016 Project, Jiovani Medina
Ancient Evil xx, Jason White
Anger, Brian Higgins