Time to preen that gnarly werewolf fur. You’re going to the theater!
This weekend marks the eighth annual Damnationland festival, which kicks off with a screening at the State Theatre on the truly fiendish date of Friday, the 13th of October.
One of the homegrown horror film festival’s most notable quirks is that each year features a new batch of directors. This doubles Damnationland’s function. It’s not just an entertaining festival of horror film made by your friends and neighbors; it’s an incubator for budding actors and filmmakers in Maine cinematic landscape. This year’s program contains films by Mainers Charlotte Warren, Mackenzie Bartlett, Alex Steed, Ellis Ducharme and Alexander Richard Balzano, and Tadin Jeongshin Brown. (Bartlett won a trailer contest in 2016, and others, while not directing, have produced or otherwise contributed to films in the festival.)
In a two-hour program screening Friday night (and continuing with a tour throughout theaters in Maine), horror watchers can expect five short films of unusually high quality (at least by the standards of the genre and the often puritanically lowfi aesthetic of its adherents). Beyond that, there are six bizarre-ass interstitial segments (by Derek R. Brigham, Filipp Kotsishevskiy, Stacey Koloski, Shannon Meserve, Mel Salmi, and Clark Shepard) exploring the genre’s psychological complexities and weirdnesses in short, enigmatic bursts.
Another virtue of this year’s Damnationland, notes festival co-producer Allen Baldwin, is that its field of directors is the most gender-balanced in the festival’s history. “It’s the biggest group of filmmakers we’ve had ever,” says Baldwin. “Five women, six men.”
Along with filmmaker Eddy Bolz, Baldwin originated the festival in 2010. They incorporated an original soundtrack a few years ago, with songs by Maine’s artists both campy and esoteric selected by noisemaker and festival co-producer Remy Brecht. This year, they add another component — the International Film Festival, making Damnationland 2017 a two-day event with screenings throughout Saturday, October 14.
Festival co-producer Allie Munier estimates she watched nearly three-dozen horror films submitted from around the globe before selecting the 15 shorts and full-lengths that comprise Saturday’s international component at Mechanics Hall, where screenings begining at 10 am culminate in the world premiere screening of Escape the Dark, a feature starring Portland actor Erik Moody. “With so many tired horror tropes, it’s nice to know that there are still new takes on the genre,” says Munier in her first year co-producing.
Also, we really dig this year’s tarot motif.
Director: Ellis Ducharme (King City Productions) and Alexander Richard Balzano (Resurgam Productions)
Starring: Karen Bombaro, Fiona Cagney, Dave Foster, Brittany Burke, Isabella Coulombe, Anna Gravél, Scott Marcoux, Stephanie Atkinson, Ryan Marshall, Thomas Ian Campbell
Film description: A shy teenage girl battles more than just high school bullies and passing her classes. It’s her own demons she will need to overcome, and the medication isn’t working anymore.
Director: Mackenzie Bartlett
Starring: Sarah Kennedy, Samuel Carlson, Joe Quinn, Lisa Boucher Hartman, Pete Haase, Tony Reilly, Andrew Marston, Harlan Baker, David Vincent, Hal Cohen, Nathan Carlson, Thomas Blackburn, Peter Haller, Justin Chamberlain
Film description: The story of Evelyn Doyle, a beacon of sin in a town which values moral piety above all else. Evelyn Doyle is not the first to be baptized. There are women in the town who carry with them the burden of their shame, and they do not speak.
The Journal of Mortimer Laszlo Frein
Director: Tadin Jeongshin Brown
Starring: Marcel Mascaro, Regina Temple, Vanessa Romanoff, Ian Carlsen, Colleen Clark, Joseph Bearor, Jaime Blumenthal, Elizabeth Freeman, Tootie van Reenan, Lydia McCannell, Evangeline Foss, Derek R. Brigham, Ty Gowen, Natalie Josephine Jones, Karen Bombaro, Bartholemew Powers, Erin Ackley, Leanne Galligan, Sara Lync, Kenneth Lynx, Kate Lizotte, Nathan Horn, Jenny Anastasoff, Peter Campbell, Justin Beth, Crickett Cote, Mazie Bartels-Biswell, Allison Sample, Kate Lizotte, Anna Gravél
Film description: In a neo-period world near the turn of the 20th century, an amnesiatic traveling shoe salesman finds himself guest in a strange Inn, with dark secrets behind every door. With a journal to guide his way, and a peculiar attachment to footwear, Mortimer Laszlo Frein will navigate the steps of his past, present, and future.
Director: Charlotte Warren
Starring: Jocelyn Leighton, Gene Dante, Alana Saleeby, Kyle Dennis, Ethan Kasprzak
Film description: Seduced by the promise of the impossible a young woman follows a strange guide through a derelict world of misfits. Heaven isn’t for everybody.
Director: Alex Steed (Knack Factory)
Illustration: Ryan Lamunyon
Original score: Sea Level
Starring: John Hodgman, Eugene Mirman, Jean Grae
Film description: A vivid and beautiful animated ghost story about a father and daughter who visit a graveyard on a rainy day.
Something Came Up
Director: Filipp Kotsishevsky
Starring: Renee Coolbrith, Erik Moody
Please Pray For Us
Director: Mel Salmi
Music By: Devon Cole
Director: Shannon Meserve
Starring: Samantha Laster
Director: Derek R. Brigham
Starring: Ranin Brown, Everett Bunker, Tadin Jeongshin Brown, Derek R. Brigham
Isle of Capri
Director: Stacey Koloski
Starring: Johnny Speckman, Anna Halloran, Ty Gowen
Satan Wears a Sweatshirt
Director: Clark Shepard
Starring: Mike McGrath, Clark Shepard
“Damnationland: The Way Life Should Bleed,” film screening | Friday, October 13, 8pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | $15 | www.damnationland.com
"Damnationland International Festival" | Saturday, October 14, 10 am-10 pm | Mechanics Hall, 519 Congress St., Portland | $5 per film; $20 whole day (six screenings)