Screamfest LA 2011 is Off to a Strong Start - Review of Opening Night

Now entering its second decade of bringing together the next wave in horror films and filmmakers for a week-plus of unadulterated, gory goodness, Screamfest LA 2011 opened yesterday to thunderous applause, and the dulcet sounds of an oil monster destroying an offshore derrick. Last night’s premiere of the Korean action/monster flick Sector 7 at Mann’s Chinese, and the after-party at Twist, showed exactly why, from now until the 23rd, Hollywood & Highland is the only place to be. For fans of the genre, and seekers of fare that hasn’t been over-sanitized in pursuit of the under-17 crowd’s money, well kids, the circus is in town!

Screamfest LA returns to Mann's Chinese Theaters

Though not a flawless film, Sector 7 is an entertaining action picture, and a perfect example of what festival director, Rachel Belofsky and the other judges do best - in the same way a more conventional film festival brings to the forefront, a broad selection intriguing films that, generally speaking, have little or no studio backing, Screamfest LA does the same thing - only with horror (and to a lesser extent, action and scifi). Or, more simply put, they go the extra mile to mix things up. In addition to international films that might otherwise never see an American theatrical release, the festival’s schedule is packed with independents looking for distribution, shorts from the best new filmmakers, and even some higher profile films with recognizable names. It’s been nicknamed “The Sundance of Horror” for a good reason.

Cast and crew for Vamperifica

The after-party at Twist in the Renaissance Hotel (also at Hollywood & Highland) was also not only a good reason to go, but represented what Screamfest is at its core: a hell of a party. Sometimes, film fests feel less like a celebration of the medium, and more like part of the promotional push for an Oscar™ campaign. Screamfest is more like Comic-Con in that it really is all about the fans - only without being trapped in San Diego’s biggest fire code violation with tens of thousands of people. So in a way - and perhaps ironically so - it’s the least frightening fan experience of the two.

Gift bags courtest of Amoeba Music

As a rule, I don’t review things like gift bags, the food, or the hosted bar because a lot of the time, they’re available only to staff in press - so there’d be no point in talking about something that isn’t available to the general public. However, anybody with the $40 for a ticket could mingle with other fest attendees, the filmmakers, and celebs from the world of horror. Included in was a generous gift bag (including 4 DVDs from festival co-sponsor Amoeba Music) and hosted Stella Artois and Shock Top ales, and Sino Tequila cocktails.

The infamous Mary Carey

The 11th annual Screamfest LA runs now through October 23rd. Individual tickets are extremely reasonable at $10 per film - festival passes are also still available, and still well worth the money. Go to the Screamfest LA website for schedule information, as well as trailers for the films. Last night’s opening shindig was the only official party on the schedule (but those attending later shows should keep their ear to the ground), however, Screamfest holds monthly mixers at different bars around LA - information is also available on the Screamfest site.

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