The spectre of costumed crowds taking over downtown is still three months away, but one fan of the scariest of seasons is already planning a new addition to the city's renowned Halloween revelry: the Madison Horror Film Festival. "It's my favorite time of year," says Rich Peterson, who is busy organizing a one-day showcase of independent short and feature-length horror movies this autumn.
Horror film fests have spread across the country over the last few years faster than an out-of-control zombie contagion, as this most malleable of cinematic genres continues to thrive in the world of low-budget indie filmmaking. So what better time is there to bring a collection of scares to the screen in a place long notorious for its Halloween celebrations?
"We've got everything else here," says Peterson, pointing to the increasing number of t film fests in town as well as the strength of the local filmmaking community. "I think it's time we had a horror film festival in Madison." In the time-honored local fashion, he decided to get one started himself. In the works for over a year, the Madison Horror Film Festival is scheduled to debut at the Orpheum Theatre on the final Saturday before Halloween.
Peterson is currently seeking submissions of both short and feature films, and will work with a trio of collaborators to select a varied mix of works based their qualities of script, special effects, sound, and overall style. Shorts must run between 4-22 minutes long, while features be 50-120 minutes in length; more information about submission guidelines and entry fees are provided online by the festival. Films that are not accepted, meanwhile, may be screened at a special kickoff party on the evening before the event.
"If the production value and entertainment value are good, the film will more than likely make it into the festival," Peterson says. "I'm also hoping to get as many local films as possible." Awards will be given for Best Feature Film, Best Short Film, Best Cinematography, and Best Special Effects, as well as for an Audience Choice selection.
Peterson has plenty of experience with putting on shows, having worked as a booking agent at Luther's Blues and the Annex as well as an independent promoter for the last ten years. He has helped put on the Maximum Ink Spooktacular for the last six years, too, and envisions his new project as an annual event. "I hope to do this every year from here on out," he says.
The Madison Horror Film Festival will take over the Orpheum Stage Door from midday on Saturday, October 25 through the witching hours of the following morning. More information about ticket sales will be released in early September.