Hammond Horror Fest celebrated Halloween through alternative arts earlier this month with its 48-hour film festival and 24-hour theater event.
The annual festival began on Oct. 14 with the Macabre Showcase at Gnarly Barley Brewery, featuring an array of art forms ranging from film to dance. The next evening saw the return of the festival’s theater event at Pottle Auditorium on Southeastern’s campus.
“It was probably, in my opinion, the most successful Hammond Horror Fest we’ve had yet,” said Kelsey Hymel, president of Alpha Psi Omega. APO, Southeastern’s theater organization, produces the 24-hour theater event which requires participants to write and rehearse a stage production within 24 hours.
In a similar vein, the 48-hour film festival required participating teams to produce a movie within two days. Professionals judged and awarded the nine qualifying entries, choosing a best overall film and best films within subcategories.
“Recipe for a King,” a film helmed by Santiago Rodriguez, took the award for best picture and best in the monster/science fiction genre. The award for best occult/haunting film went to “harVest,” by Bob Krieger, while “Stench” by Zachary Boudreaux won the award for best slasher movie.
The Macabre Showcase featured a screening of all nine competing films, as well as two films from the NOLA Horror Film Fest and a completed but disqualified film produced for Hammond Horror Fest. An audience choice award went to Ryan and Cody LeBoeuf’s “The Thrill Can Kill.”
“The idea is to be a platform,” said Taylor McLellan, one of the co-founders of Hammond Horror Fest. “We want to be there to help local filmmakers.”
The Macabre Showcase offered a variety of entertainment, including the debut performance of the dance group The Wicked Little Voodoo Dolls as well as a dance performance by La LA Tribal Belly Dance. A dance party followed the film festival and performances.
McLellan said that he reached out in February to Zac and Cari Caramonta, owners and operators of the Hammond-based Gnarly Barley craft beer company, about hosting part of this year’s event. They provided the beer and bartenders at the showcase. The Caramontas were recently named Southeastern Louisiana University 2016 Young Alumni of the Year.
The brewery space also played host to a variety of vendors and artists, including Covington-based tarot card reader Madame Nightmare. NOLA Horror Film Fest promoted their film festival, and artist Brett Charlet sold his work at another table.
“It’s kind of what Taylor and I always dreamed this would be,” Jim Winter, also a Hammond Horror Fest co-founder, said.
Some involved in the Macabre Showcase went straight from the film festival into preparations for Saturday’s theater event. “There’s a good handful of people that are involved in both of the projects,” festival board member Chad Winters said after the film festival. “I’m getting up at four in the morning to get the ball rolling.”
This year’s theater event, “7 Tales from the Labyrinth,” paid homage to the Jim Henson film “Labyrinth” to celebrate the movie’s 30th anniversary. Winters worked as a coordinator for the 24-hour event and directed the segment “Her Master’s Voice,” a story that featured a sentient smartphone artificial intelligence with a bloodlust.
Other segments in the production such as “The Right Decision,” directed by Anne-Liese Fox, and “The Power,” directed by Elisabeth Odom, implemented satirical perspectives on the presidential election and American society. “Usher’s Fall,” directed by Erick Wolfe, ended the production with a comically melodramatic take on Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
“It’s such an intense day,” said Winters. “It’s fun, man. It’s such a blast.”
According to Hymel, different members of the production team perform their duties throughout the 24-hour period. The writers first have to complete the scripts during the night; the stage manager then assigns actors and directors to the various scenes.
“It’s so much of a team effort,” said Shelly Sneed, a junior communication major and theater minor. Sneed, an APO member and second-time Hammond Horror Fest participant, acted in the segment “The Right Decision.”
McLellan said that through the community’s support, Hammond Horror Fest has grown and now requires the production team to meet year-round to plan.
“At the heart of it, we are an arts festival,” said Winters. “We’re always looking for ways to bring other artists into it. It’s always evolving.”