In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Come On In, The Water's Fine!

Last weekend was the inaugural edition of the Fright Night Theatre Film Festival in Hamilton. Organizers Aaron Allen & Darrell Marsh have been screening films out of the cozy Staircase Theatre for years, but this was their first stab at a full-fledged weekend event. Featuring a programme that ranged from the nostalgic to post-modern, Fright brought forth a mix of shocks and absurdity.

My main reason for being there was the world premiere of Scott Schrimer's new flick, Harvest Lake. You've heard me talk about his previous film Found at length, so I was elated when I heard that his latest effort would be screening two towns over.

Four friends visiting a lakeside cottage come across a lascivious entity that threatens to consume them.

I, perhaps not surprisingly, dug this movie. It kind of reminded me of that old X-Files episode with the mushroom spores, if instead of hallucinating, Mulder & Scully got freaky. In some ways, Harvest Lake was exactly what I was expecting, but in others it was much more. I feel Schirmer elevated this simple story, which could've just been cheap exploitation, to something deeply visceral and, dare I say, erotic. This shows real growth from Schrimer as a filmmaker because as much as I love Found, it is a little rough around the edges. Harvest Lake was beautiful to look at for more than the obvious reasons. In addition to the copious amounts of skin – I don't think I've seen bikinis worn better than they were by fetching leads Tristan Risk and Ellie Church – cinematographer Brian Williams filmed the surrounding forest and lake as if they were living, breathing beings.

Ellie Church as Jennifer in Harvest Lake.

But it was not just the look of the film that grabbed me, but also the music. Schrimer commissioned the musical duo of Adam Robl & Shawn Sutta and the result is incredibly hypnotic. It's one of the best instances of a score representing the subject matter onscreen I've witnessed in quite some time. Once again delivering on the special effects was longtime collaborator Arthur Cullipher. Not only were they incredibly tactile (oh the slime) but the creature designs were also distinct and memorable.

Schrimer, Williams and Church were on hand for the screening and humble as per usual. Among other things, they talked a bit about their funding strategy. The film itself was self-funded, for the incredibly impressive sum of eight grand, and they only turned to the Internet for post-production costs.

“We took pre-orders for a limited edition Blu-ray and if we sold enough of them, they would pay for cost of having them made. We didn't want to fund the movie with Kickstarter or Indiegogo if we could do that ourselves. Too often people just pocket the money that is donated and never deliver. That ruins it for everyone. If you get screwed over, you'll be less likely to donate to something else in the future. We wanted to make sure we had something to offer first.”

Director Scott Schirmer, star Ellie Church & producer/DOP Brian Williams.

Harvest Lake might not appeal to some, but there's no denying that it is unique. And that is a good word to describe Scott Schirmer. In the indie landscape, a supposed haven for creative freedom, most genre filmmakers are content to just ape their influences. Schrimer however, is carving out stories that, thematically and visually, go beyond where many are willing to go.

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