The pool of submissions for the 2016 Idaho Horror Film Festival was deep—and icky and ghoulish.
"Zombies? Zombies were so last-year," said Molly Deckart, IHFF founder and director.
"This year, it's children in peril. Creepy clowns? Oh, yeah. And..." she said, "how can I put this? Well, we saw a lot of killer toilets and killer poop. One of the local films submitted is actually called—wait for it—DIE-arrhea. And, of course, there's a film that has a killer vagina."
Those gag-inducing gems will be folded into the 10 blocks of movies spread over two nights, certain to give viewers nightmares well past Halloween. This year's entries include scores of feature-length and short films from filmmakers across the U.S. and many Idaho-based entries, dubbed "Spuds and Guts."
The fest is bringing in some real star power, too, including an appearance by Daniel Myrick, a filmmaker who redefined the horror genre in 1999. Myrick was a little-known editor/cinematographer of music videos and commercials when he and his writing partner, Eduardo Sanchez, put together a 35-page outline and eight-day shooting schedule that ultimately became one of the most successful independent films of all time, grossing more than $250 million worldwide: The Blair Witch Project.
"What did I have to lose?" said Deckart. "I called and called and called and begged Daniel to come to Boise. I told him what a unique showcase IHFF could offer to embrace how his filmmaking forever broke the mold of horror films."
A screening of The Blair Witch Project on Friday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. at The Egyptian Theatre will include an audience Q&A session with Myrick hosted by Idaho filmmaker Christian Lybrook, whose film Carbon won him the One Potato screenplay prize at the Sun Valley Film Festival.
The stars come out again at The Egyptian on Saturday, Oct. 15 with a screening of the 1977 Wes Craven cult classic The Hills Have Eyes, which will include an appearance by horror film legend Michael Berryman, who played mutant cannibal Pluto in THHE and the 1985 sequel The Hills Have Eyes Part 2. Berryman also haunted Weird Science, Star Trek IV and The X-Files.
Now in its third year, the success of IHFF isn't due only to the slate of horror films screened at The Egyptian—the festival is, primarily, a celebration of filmmaking in general. Deckart is quick to remind anyone who'll listen that some of Hollywood's best filmmakers—J.J. Abrams, Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, the Coen Brothers, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone—cut their teeth on horror films.
"It's the one common thread of up-and-coming filmmakers," said Deckart. "And that's why the centerpiece of IHFF this year is our Filmmaking Boot Camp."
The day-long symposium comes via the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking, which is flying some of its faculty to Idaho for the exclusive opportunity. The educators will use the digital studios at Boise's newest landmark, Jack's Urban Meeting Place, and lead Idaho movie directors-in-the-making through screenwriting, project development editing and even how to expertly light a film set.
The boot camp, which is limited to 40 attendees, is sponsored by the Boise City Department of Arts and History, Boise State University and JUMP.
"JUMP is new. IHFF is still relatively new. It's a natural fit," said Deckart. "I'm a huge fan of the education piece of the festival. That's truly why I do all this."
Deckart is the first to admit a lot of IHFF revelers don't go anywhere near a movie theatre during the festival, which is why she fills the opening night of IHFF, Thursday, Oct. 13, with events across the city. For example, The Mode will host a horror poetry slam while Humpin' Hannah's will present a live production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There's even something for the kids, with a 10 a.m. free screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on Saturday, Oct. 15 at The Egyptian.
"I can't tell you how many times people ask if we do more family friendly things," Deckart said. "I agree; I'm a mom. Who knows? Maybe we've grown big enough to hold two separate IHFF events in 2017: one for hard-core horror fans and one that's more about families, fun and film," said Deckart. "Something to think about."