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Idaho Horror Film Festival: Spud and Guts

"The festival is really, really welcoming. I don't know what I'd do in October without it."

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People don't usually make friends when they're scared out of their wits, but the Idaho Horror Film Festival, which will take over downtown Boise Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 11-14, is that rare place where lifelong friendship can be formed from the fetal position.

To that end, the festival—part Sundance, part "Monster Mash"—offers something for everyone, from the most timid to the most maniacal.

Short, feature-length and even foreign language films will be screened at Boise's Egyptian Theatre in 10 separate "blocks" during the festival. Additionally, horror luminaries will participate in a series of panel discussions at the Amsterdam Lounge and organizers of Storyfort, the literary branch of the Treefort music festival, will host a micro-fiction contest. Parents might be pleased to know that Casper, the 1995 story of everyone's favorite friendly ghost, will be screened at the Egyptian on Saturday, Oct. 13. 

That same evening, adults will rule the theater as "scream queen" Linnea Quigley will be honored with the IHFF Trailblazer Award and join Boise Weekly's George Prentice for an onstage Q&A following a screening of Return of the Living Dead.

And here's another twist of the screenings at the Egyptian: You're invited to "confess your sins" to someone in the lobby who will write a poem about your worst secrets.

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"We actively try to plan a festival that is not just about watching scary films," said IHFF Director Molly Deckart, who founded the festival in 2014 and has watched it grow from a small band of enthusiasts into what has become a must-attend event on Boise's crowded fall calendar.

A leading advocate for Idaho's film industry, Deckart considered a variety of genres for the festival in 2014 before ultimately deciding that horror was the best choice.

"One of the things that new emerging filmmakers have in common with even big Hollywood directors is they all usually have a horror film in their filmography," she said. "It doesn't rely as heavily on script or dialogue. It can be visual and you can tell a good story in two minutes."

Plus, it's particularly friendly to novices, even those whose first films are rather bad.

"B movies are a thing," said Deckart. "People hunt them down."

In the first year of the festival, Deckart said she had to scramble to find enough quality films to fill the slate, but this year, IHFF received a stunning 750 submissions.

Deckart added that the number of Idahoans submitting to the festival also continues to grow, the result of a concerted effort to give in-state artists more exhibition opportunities. IHFF waives submission fees for Idaho filmmakers, entering them into the Idaho-only "Spud and Guts" category.

Matt Robinson, a Lewiston-based heavy equipment operator and filmmaker whose films have been featured in all five years of the festival, was amazed at the number of Gem State submissions.

"An Idahoan that makes short films that also happen to be horror films: That's such a specific group," he said.

Filmmakers relish the chance to watch an audience react to their work.

"I try and sit at the very front so I'm staring at the audience, trying not to look creepy," said Robinson. "My favorite response in a scary movie is always the jump, and then after you jump you turn to your buddy and you laugh and you go, 'You jumped!'"

Artists say that sharing their work at festivals like IHFF is reinvigorating after the difficult, often lonely work of producing a short film.

"No one was sitting here with me in my office at 2 a.m. I was super tired, red-eyed, while I was deciding between several different angles for one frame at three minutes 42 seconds," said Florida filmmaker James Reeves. "You're like, 'Why am I doing this?' And it's because you're passionate about it, so it's nice to have some confirmation."

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They may traffic in blood, guts and gore, but horror fans say there's no reason to be afraid of them. In fact, they declare themselves the least pretentious and most friendly part of the film world.

Boston filmmaker Izzy Lee, whose film The Rites of Vengeance was named IHFF's Best Short Film in 2017, said that people watch horror movies for the cathartic experience of seeing something worse than their own lives.

"Because of that, the people who love horror are the kindest, sweetest people I've ever met in my life," she said. "I think we get our demons out and we're all the better for it."

IHFF's joyous atmosphere keeps people coming back year after year.

"The festival is really, really welcoming" said Robinson. "I don't know what I'd do in October without it."

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