SCAD Savannah Film Festival: Welcome to the Blumhouse panel discusses horror with young directors

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With Halloween lurking around the corner, the SCAD Savannah Film Festival has placed some of its focus on the horror genre.

The “After Dark” series has been screening some all-time classics of horror cinema including “Psycho,” “The Shining,” and of course, John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” However, outside of the live screenings, there are also opportunities to discover some fresh finds by young, talented directors, thanks to the “Welcome to the Blumhouse: Step Back Inside” panel.

Blumhouse Televison, in partnership with Amazon, is currently streaming four exciting new horror films on Amazon Prime. “The Manor” directed by Axelle Carolyn, “Bingo Hell” directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, “Madre” directed by Ryan Zaragoza, and “Black as Night” directed by Maritte Lee Go, are all available right now for Amazon Prime subscribers, but festival ticket holders will get the added opportunity to enjoy a panel discussion with three of the filmmakers. The panel is hosted by Clarke Wolfe of “Wolfe’s Call” on FearHQ, and will discuss the process, inspiration, and challenges of creating horror films.

Gigi Saul Guerrero’s hilarious, slime-ridden “Bingo Hell” was inspired by her Mexican grandmother’s love for bingo.

“I was just stoked to make a genre film with old people kicking ass, that’s really it,” said Guerrero. “My longtime co-writer Shane [McKenzie], he called me one day and was like, ‘Yo, you won’t believe where I just was. I went to my mother-in-law’s bingo hall last night and it was [expletive] up! Gigi, these old people are crazy. They’re so competitive, they’re so wild, they’re so into the game bingo. It was nuts.’.”

The inspiration for the film came when Guerrero asked herself what would happen if bingo was taken away from her grandmother and her friends.

“We wanted to break the stereotype of the weak and the old and have them be so boss and so cool,” said Guerrero. “We really didn’t try for something scary, just something fun.”

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Guerrero is also a voice actor when she isn’t directing horror films, but her family prefers to watch the animated children’s films she voices, over her scarier movies.

“I wasn’t allowed to watch horror movies,” explained Guerrero. “I come from a very Catholic, very superstitious house, so this is a fun way to, not rebel, but ‘kind of’ against la familia. I think also, being Mexican, we have other sensibilities as well through our culture...We’re very spiritual people, we have a lot of folklore and legends, so it’s always really fun to stay close to the things that make us scared. It’s a very good time to be a filmmaker right now because we’re embracing authenticity and diversity. It’s a really good time to be close to your roots and embrace them.”

“Black as Night” director, Maritte Lee Go, was drawn to horror for similar reasons to Guerrero.

“I’m very similar to Gigi in that we’re super Catholic and Filipinos are very superstitious and believe in monsters, and that's what I grew up with, so I love, love, love horror.”

“Black as Night” is about a resourceful teenager who spends the summer battling vampires with her friends in post-Katrina New Orleans. Since the release of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” Blumhouse films have combined entertainment with socially conscious messages and “Black as Night” continues to follow that mission.

“My hope for the movies were that people were truly entertained and had a really fun, good time, and then hopefully by the end of our movies, had something to think about,” said Lee Go.

Guerrero points out that horror movies have been socially conscious from the very beginning, but now there is more room to make the messaging more explicit.

“I think it’s a great space for it because you really can give people escapism from real horror in the world by having some fun, throwing some blood, and exaggerating things, bringing monsters if you will,” said Guerrero. “Once you bring social commentary into such dramatic films, which are still very good, you suffer with them a little bit. I think horror allows us to escape the real, real horrific things we go through every day.”

Ryan Zaragoza’s “Madres” was inspired by real life horrors perpetrated on women, but largely ignored. Without giving away too much of the plot, “Madres” is a 70s style slow-burn thriller about a Mexican-American couple who are expecting their first child. The couple move to a migrant farming community in California where they are subjected to strange medical symptoms and supernatural visions.

When asked if the horror genre is a useful way to bring real life horrors to light, Zaragoza replied, “There’s been criticism that it’s not the right way to do it, and it’s not the right way to bring it to public attention, and that a documentary would be more appropriate, which is really fascinating because people who say that don’t know that a documentary exists about it and that’s what started this film to even get made.”

“The writers, they found the story through a documentary and it has no attention. No one has watched it. I try to stay attuned to this type of stuff and I had no idea what was happening. So when we get into ‘Should this be a horror film?’, yeah, for sure. The reason why I’m here talking about it, the reason we’re here talking about it in general, is because Blumhouse greenlit a horror film about this subject. So, yeah, it’s the right way to make it.”

IF YOU GO

What: Welcome to the Blumhouse- Step Back Inside Panel

When: Available virtually through 11:59 p.m. Oct.30

Info: filmfest.scad.edu/schedule/welcome-blumhouse-step-back-inside-panel

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: SCAD Savannah Film Festival: Welcome to the Blumhouse panel discusses horror with young directors