Thursday, December 20, 2012

BLOOD IN THE SNOW: Kelly Michael Stewart talks Horror from Canada's Newest Genre Film Festival

Canada's a pretty scary place, eh?

Sure, people think we're all nice and polite up here, sipping our Tim Horton's and watching our hockey, but if you look at the genre films that are steadily sneaking out of Canada, it's hard to deny that there's something wonderfully macabre happening in the independent Canadian film community. And there's no better proof of Canada's claim on the creepy than the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival.

Festival Director: Kelly Michael Stewart
Earlier this month, Toronto's The Projection Booth theatre played host to the first annual Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival -- a three-day showcase of some of the best new horror and genre films to come from our home and native land. Horror in the Hammer was able wrangle festival director and Fangoria writer Kelly Michael Stewart for a little post-festival chat and a run-down of what's hot in Canadian horror.

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HORROR IN THE HAMMER: So, now that the first year of Blood in the Snow has ended, let's go back to the beginning. What was your inspiration for starting the festival?

KELLY MICHAEL STEWART: Well I have been writing for Fangoria and more recently for Planet Fury, which led to me hosting my own monthly movie night at the Projection Booth theatre in Toronto called Fright Nights. That has been going on for about a year now, and during that time I would get submissions for content from all walks of life, but much of it was Canadian content. I had so much great content on my plate for the fall season it occurred to me that I would need to expand it to an entire weekend to show all the films on my plate. So that led things organically to making it into a film festival. Thus Blood in the Snow was born.

HITH: For decades, Canada has been a simmering birthing ground for cinematic horror. Why do you think that is, and what does Canadian horror bring to the table that we don't see in other genre offerings?

KMS: In Canada it tends to come in waves, but overall it's a good breeding ground for it because horror films aren't really expensive to make compared to other genres.

What has happened in the past few years to help nurture this local talent is that two of the four major horror publications are produced mainly out of Canada. First of course Rue Morgue but since Chris Alexander took over Fangoria magazine three years ago he has been making the magazine out of his underground lab in Oakville. The magazine is still published out of New York but he has also brought on a number of more local writers like myself, Lianne Spiderbaby and Dave Pace that have given some more attention to emerging Canadian content. Other festivals have certainly paved the way as well like Fantasia and Toronto After Dark.

L-R:  Gabriel Carrer, Chad Archibald, Kelly Michael Stewart,
Robert Nolan, Navin Ramaswaran and Ryan M. Andrews.

HITH: Independent Canadian films produce their fair share of bloody and disturbing movies. In your opinion, who are some of the indie creators and talent in Canada that horror fans should be keeping their eyes on?

Fangoria editor-in-chief and
Blood for Irina director Chris Alexander
KMS: Well obviously I need to mention the filmmakers in my festival like Gabriel Carrer, Christopher Harrison, Chris Alexander, Ryan Nicholson and Ryan M. Andrews, but what is amazing is that Blood in the Snow 2012 really just scratches the surface. Justin McConnell (The Collapsed) is working a major feature with Michael Biehn that I am excited about. The Foresight team (Monster Brawl/Exit Humanity) up in Collingwood of Jesse Cook, John Geddes, and Matthew Wiele has no less than three features in the can that will be out in 2013. Also I can't forget the Astron-6 boys (Father's Day/Manborg) who are like nothing else out there right now. It’s an exciting time in Canadian cinema and things are just getting started.

HITH: Of all the films that you screened, which do you think shocked the audience most? Which do you think were the most surprising?

KMS: Well, planning a festival, you never know what is going to hit and what is going to miss. Both Sick and In the House of Flies were expected to debut to packed houses and they both delivered. Once and a while you get a film that might be a little more dangerous though. In dangerous I mean the audience just might not get it. The risky choice for me this year, hands down, was Blood for Irina. This European-styled art film was done completely without dialogue and shot in an intentionally deliberate and static way. It has either has won awards or had walkouts depending on the audience. In our case the audience really embraced it. People packed the theatre and it got an excellent reaction (winning Best Music Score), so it was a relief to end the festival on such a high note.

HITH: It's never too early to think about the future. Any plans or machinations you can let us in on for BLOOD IN THE SNOW 2013?

Plans are in the works for BITS 2013 for sure. The festival was too successful to make it a one-time event. We are just going over ideas right now and we should have some news to announce likely in early 2013, but it would be safe to say that you'll hear more from us really soon. The blood has just hit the snow.


Click for more Fright Nights events at The Projection Booth.

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