The fifth-annual Kimberley Horror Fest has come and gone, and despite the challenges of hosting an in-person event amidst the current COVID restrictions, the organizers and volunteers endeavoured to make it another memorable evening for all those in attendance, and those who streamed the event online.
Tickets for the event were divided into two groups, with one being the full VIP experience including the films and gala, and the other just having access to the films Horror Fest has sold out every year, but this year organizers were blown away when VIP tickets sold out in 45 minutes.
The VIP event took place on the ground floor of Centre64, and the 50 guests in attendance sat at their own individual tables. The films were screened upstairs in the theatre, in the VIP room and online. The broadcast began with an introduction from organizers and founders Natalie Skokan and Chantel Delaney.
In the introduction they revealed with great irony that Skokan is actually very easily frightened, or “scared of being scared” and doesn’t do well with horror movies, and so of course they showed a short film in which her friends and husband jump scare her a whole bunch of times.
Following a compilation with some of the past year’s film’s highlights, this year’s event got a very special introduction from none other than Tony Todd, better known as the Candyman from the 1992 slasher classic of the same name, who appeared via. Cameo.
Each year the films continue to get better and better and this year was no exception.
“The films reached another level this year,” Skokan said. “There was so much professionalism and comedy and actual terror. I got scared, but obviously we learned in the intro that I get scared from anything, but I was legitimately uncomfortable watching quite a few of them.”
Usually the event has a panel of local judges evaluating all the films, but this year was special in that a panel of film industry professionals was brought in as judges.
“Because the films were reaching these levels of professionalism, we thought we should probably hand it over to the professionals of the industry,” Skokan said.
One of the judges was Brent Hodge, an old friend of Skokan. His resume includes the documentaries “I am Chris Farley,” “A Brony Tale,” and “Freaks and Geeks the Documentary.”
He just released his newest documentary Pharma Bro for Blumhouse Productions which chronicles the rise and fall of America’s “Most Hated Man,” Martin Shkreli. It is now available to watch on Digital and On-Demand.
WATCH: The fifth-annual Kimberley Horror Fest live stream
Hodge connected Skokan with Chris Kelly, an acclaimed sound designer and multi-platform director, musician and composer. He has 16 years working as a podcast producer, and his award winning work includes starting CBC’s first-ever podcast, Rainn Wilson’s “Dark Air”, Al Jazeera’s historical fiction series “Hindsight” and three seasons of “This Sounds Serious.”
Skokan also brought in Ellie Irwin who she’d worked with at the Whistler Film Festival. Irwin is based out of Yorkshire, England and is lead programmer at the Hull Independent Cinema and Projects Manager for arts organization Back to Ours.
The judges did not collaborate, but made their own decisions on who they felt should win and submitted their results directly to the organizers.
This year’s winning film was the hilarious and brilliantly creative “Panicdote: The Story of Stricken” created by The Helmers and Japhy Hunt out of Invermere, who have won the last three years in a row.
“Really impressive work went into this, if not already the plan I’d consider submitting to other festivals,” Ellie Irwin said of the winning film.
Music following the films was provided by Lennan Delaney and Oliver McQuaid, who play every year, and this year were joined by another local artist, Heather Gemmell.
“It was such a treat to have Heather Gemmell join them and the three-part harmonies were pretty awesome,” Skokan said.
They also employed the dramatic talents of Brigitte Franyo and Tylene Turner, who spooked all the guests and provided a few wonderfully weird performances throughout the night.
The whole night went well, even though current COVID restrictions made for a challenging and tiring night for organizers and volunteers alike. Skokan and Delaney were there from 9 a.m. setting up until 1 a.m. tearing down and said the whole experience gave her even more respect and appreciation for hospitality and other frontline workers who have to work long hours in masks every day.
“I have to give kudos to everybody who attended because everyone was such a great sport, everyone was kind, everyone followed the rules and I think everyone seemed to have a really good time,” Skokan said.
She made up a comical bar menu and had charcuterie boards available to order from local restaurant Biscuit, as the organizers were very mindful of the fact that their guests would have to be seated for long periods of time.
“The guests were fantastic, everyone brought their banter and their positivity and they were all very receptive and respectful which made it a lot easier on everybody else and especially our volunteer team, who were champions by the way, the volunteers were just absolute champs,” Skokan said.
Skokan and Delaney have big plans for the event moving forwards.
“We’re year five and we’re on the precipice of some wonderful growth and we just need to get aligned on what that direction is,” Skokan said. “We know that the focus is going to be on the films because the talent that comes in from these filmmakers is just awe inspiring and so much fun, but we also want to make sure that we retain the Kimberley in it and we retain the decor and the fun and the gala and the costumes and the photos.”
They’ve considered applying for grants for next year so that they can form a committee, in order to help expand the Horror Fest team from just being Delaney and Skokan, and grow the event without losing any of its original spirit.
They’ve also thought about the possibility of putting on events in neighbouring Kootenay communities, potentially on the same night, as the event continues to grow its cult following around Kimberley and the surrounding area.