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V/H/S' schlockbuster success

Indie horror continues to coagulate in and around Atlanta with the release of the latest local thriller

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SHAKEUP IN SCARETOWN: Tecosky (left) and Bruckner channel their inner demons to create V/H/S' "Amatuer Night." - DUSTIN CHAMBERS
  • Dustin Chambers
  • SHAKEUP IN SCARETOWN: Tecosky (left) and Bruckner channel their inner demons to create V/H/S' "Amatuer Night."

Smith points out that despite Atlanta's ample pool of strong actors, "There is a finite number of working professional crew with the expertise necessary to take a production to the next level. Indie filmmakers are left to the mercy of the schedules of people who are paid handsomely by studio projects coming into town. Often the quality of a production may suffer or it can simply come unraveled in post-production, which is the most difficult and tedious part of the entire moviemaking process." Smith has launched an Indiegogo account to raise $15,000 for visual effects, post-sound, and post-mixing to complete Prosper.

Prosper's example indicates that the influx of better-paying Hollywood productions can siphon resources from local filmmakers' projects. "When people get involved in the films of others, they don't have time to make their own," says Myers, who provides a showcase for local and national horror movies as director of the Buried Alive Film Festival, scheduled this year for Nov. 9-11.

Myers tries to use the festival to expand the Atlanta audience's genre expectations. "Every city has its own horror film festival, and we don't want to confine ourselves to horror. We want to show Atlanta the most demented, weird, and fucked-up cinema in the world," he says. Myers will book bizarro films from around the world, but last year's Buried Alive Film Festival included a program of "Georgia Fever Dreams," featuring such horrific shorts as Andrew Shearer's Freddy Krueger parody "A Wet Dream on Elm Street" and Chris Ethridge's "Survivor Type," an adaptation of a seemingly unfilmable Stephen King short story involving self-cannibalization.

As a designer of violent visions in his own right — Bruckner calls him "the dark prince himself" — Myers belongs to Atlanta's brotherhood of gore effects experts, including puppeteer Chris Brown, Silver Scream Spook Show host Shane Morton, and creature creator Toby Sells. Thanks to their ghastly labors of love, the city will never run short of homicidal clowns, charismatic ghouls, and other graveyard escapees.

Sometimes it seems as though you can't swing a dead cat in this town without hitting the undead in various states of decomposition. Charles Judson, head of programming for the Atlanta Film Festival, wishes local filmmakers would take more advantage of the Southeast's sinister storytelling traditions. "What better place to have a strong Gothic horror story, between the number of mansions, the number of abandoned farms, and all the other secret family legacies? If you hear 'There's been a curse on my family for 200 years ...' in the South, you believe it."

"I don't have a clear vision for where horror should go," Bruckner says. "While we were making The Signal and then V/H/S, we were never talking about the state of horror." Bruckner's interest in science-fiction horror, however, provides a means for the genre to keep pace with societal changes. Bruckner and Tecosky are currently working on a chiller involving social media.

V/H/S provides a signpost for another possible direction for scary fare through West's "Second Honeymoon." "Second Honeymoon" at first subtly conveys the emotional distance between its young couple, and then their tourist activities become increasingly colored by suspicion and dread. As a filmmaker, West leads the quietly compelling "alt-horror" subgenre, and his films such as the 1980s throwback House of the Devil minimize gross-outs and cheap jolts in favor of atmosphere and subtle characterizations.

At times, the overall Atlanta horror scene seems to put too much of a premium on gore, as if there's a constant competition to see who can engineer the most outlandish kill or stomach-churning zombie prosthetic. West sets an example that horror can establish multidimensional characters and believable situations, then open the floodgates of fake blood. You can have your believable, well-rounded characters and eat them, too. And in V/H/S, "Amateur Night" serves the dessert first.

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