Good News from A Great City Haverhill, MA
DID YOU GO TO THE HAPPENSTANCE HORROR FILM FEST? WHAT DID YOU LIKE? WHAT MADE YOU SQUIRM? The Heartbeat of Haverhill was torn – let my husband choose how he wanted to spend his decade altering birthday or go to the Happenstance Independent Horror Film Festival in Haverhill. After a ton of internal debate, we went on vacation…. but as luck would have it, our house/pet sitter called to say the basement was flooding and one rabbit had an injury. We drove home for the day and we had a best of all worlds experience, flooding was less than expected, rabbit was on the mend, dinner switched to our home town favorite Keons with enough time to spend 15 minutes at the festival en route back to vacation. I loved what I saw but didn’t see enough. But not to worry, I left my eyes and ears behind in the theater.
THOH’s special guest blogger and horror aficionado, Nate Robertson, reports……
New England has a long and rich history of producing some of the greatest artists in horror – Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, and Rob Zombie (from Haverhill!) are a few of these artistic monsters. The reasons for horror’s success in New England are a mystery. Perhaps it’s the history, maybe it’s the long winters, or it could just be something in the water. The horror community is alive and well to this day. It was on full display at this year’s Happenstance Horror Film Festival hosted at Chunky’s Cinema Pub right here in Haverhill.
The Happenstance Horror Festival started last year and was such a success that this year’s event space had to be upgraded to accommodate the crowds. Folks from all over the Northeast came to see their films debut and partake in the festivities. The event organizer, George Fraser, was eager to talk to me about this year’s submissions, “We had anywhere from 50-70 total submissions from all over the world”. From these his team picked 16 films to show in three different geographic categories – local, national, and international.
While getting my seat for the featured presentations, I had a great chat with Pete Yagmin whose film Planchette was one of the chosen few. Pete is from Boston and told me that the New England horror scene was a “small and tight knit community”. Pete provided introductions to several of the actors and actresses involved in the films whose excitement and candor were palpable despite everyone being dressed in black.
After a beautiful welcome from Hakk Wylde, of Plattsburg NY, the films started. The films were all pretty short, which was great for my wandering mind. It allowed for a constant back-to-back flow of horror delights. In reality I found myself laughing as much as feeling scared. The comedic flare in many of the films provided a nice foil to the more serious bloodcurdling options.
The crowd got to pick their favorites of the night. Best film went too Balloon-Horror Film by Mitchell Vincent Slan out of Los Angeles. The film centered around a woman confronting her phobia of balloons with her therapist when things take an unexpected turn. Best score went to Hobo by Boston Film Family and best FX went to Eldritch Code by Ivan Radovic.
The judges chose the winners of the local, national, and international awards. The judge panel was made up of Manchester, NH’s own Scott McMullen from Rock 101, New York Times best-selling author Christopher Golden, and Paul Michael McAlarney of production company Ungovernable Force. The winner for best international submission was Madame in Black by Jarno Lee Vinsencius of Sweden. The winner for best national submission was Balloon-Horror Film. The winner for best local film was Ave Maria by Skip Shea.
All in all the night was an absolute scream. The people in attendance were friendly, enthusiastic, and the sense of community was obvious. Haverhill is lucky to host a film festival that continues the legacy of New England as a horror hot-spot. A big thanks to all those who participated and I look forward to attending next year, dead or alive.
Guest Blogger Nate Robertson is a new resident of Haverhill. Before choosing Haverhill, he explored much of the disparate geography of New England – born in Boston, raised in Rhode Island, educated in Vermont, and several years on Cape Cod. Nate’s New England roots are strong with a checkered professional history as a florist, a documentary filmmaker, a public health worker, and now an economic developer. Nate loves coffee, history, small communities, and flying drones.
(c)The Heartbeat of Haverhill/Alison Colby-Campbell