SUBURBAN SCREAMS A scene from Trash Day.
A Canadian short film called Attack of the Brain Sucker. A Kuwaiti screen adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. An American movie musical about teens who are zombiefied after drinking punch spiked with neon blue pipe-cleaning gel. These are just a few of the 63 films on the roster for the Flickers Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival, which screams, bleeds, and gurgles its way into theaters across the state October 25.
The festival — now in its lucky 13th year — is programmed partially as an answer to torture orgies like Hollywood's Saw and Hostel franchises, says director of programming Shawn Quirk. Classic horror is more about intrigue than intestines, he explains. "A perfect horror film really just exposes you to something that you're not sure about . . . it leads you to imagine why it's scary, which is why it's scary."
This isn't to say that the festival's menu is entirely bloodless. FRIIHFF attendees can still buy tickets — $10 for one, six-packs for $40 — for screenings of films like Eagle Walk, where a Sasquatch goes on a murderous rampage through a summer camp, or Plush, where a teddy bear filets a nighttime burglar in his owner's house.
Among other things, the festival is a showcase for two of Rhode Island's hungriest young filmmakers. For three months in the spring of 2011, Derek Dubois spent weekends in his mother's basement in Cumberland, building a mock-fallout shelter and filming menacing scenes for his 15-minute thriller, Fallout. In the film, two brothers slurp meals out of metal cans and tap out distress calls on a telegraph machine as ominous, unseen creatures rumble outside. Dubois — a 26-year-old financial analyst for CVS who moonlights as a film studies lecturer at his alma mater, Rhode Island College — proudly reports that the "no-budget" film uses mostly silent-era special effects. "Flicking lights? That's somebody playing with wires," he says. "Shaking walls? That's somebody pushing it from behind."
Another spokesman for the state's DIY screen-thrills scene is East Providence native Mike Frazier, 23. After watching his short, Todd Solondzian flick Trash Day — filmed on a $500 budget in Providence and East Providence, using a borrowed trash truck — you may never look at a baby bottle the same way again.
Though Frazier and Dubois have never met, they share the same urge to strum an audience's nerve strings like a harp.
"It's about getting a reaction out of people," Frazier says. "I like to fuck with people and I like to rattle people's cages, but I also like to make people feel things, whether I make them angry or I make them really happy."
"If the projectionist is doing his job and the sound is good and loud," Dubois says, "there is a particular moment towards the end [of Fallout] where everything's really kind of going to pot and the room's shaking and then it stops for a second. And then the characters look at each other and they go, 'Are we OK? What's going on?' "
Then, the sound returns louder than ever, he says. "And when it comes back, if you're sitting in the back row of a movie theater that happens to have 50, 60 people in it, and you can physically see them jump, it's the greatest thing in the world."
The Flickers Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival runs through Sunday, October 28. Head to film-festival.org/Horror_ri.php for details.