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The ScreamFest '07 Experience †by Chris Woods
The Halloween Horror Picture Show '07 †by C. A. Passinault
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Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our eighth calendar year!
Number 396  (Vol. 8, No. 43). This edition is for the week of October 22--28, 2007.

The Halloween Horror Picture Show '07

The Halloweenapalooza Event & Film Festival
October 19-20, 2007
Tampa Bay, Florida

by C. A. Passinault



The drive to Channelside is, for me, filled with dread. It is a very, very busy place, and traffic there is usually hectic. Add pricey parking, and you now know why I rarely go there, and the reason why I have not done a shoot there since doing a photography session with actress and model Jane Park in 2002.

Tonight, however, was a different story. I was looking forward to attending a film festival event called Hallaweenapalooza, which was the new shell around the ongoing annual film festival, the Halloween Horror Picture Show, series. Keep in mind that I missed last year's Halloween Horror Picture Show held at the Cuban Club venue, and the last time that I attended Rick Danford's festival was at USF in 2005. I had fun then, and I wondered what the night would have in store.

Upon arriving at Channelside a few minutes after the 6PM start, admittedly because I had to spend time back at the studio calibrating my speed light on my trusty Canon 10D, I noticed what a nice evening that it was. The air was slightly warm, the sun was out, and there was a slight haze over the Tampa skyline. I gathered up my camera and my computer and bolted across the street from the parking garage, passing up three attractive 19-year-old girls en route, but pausing just enough to notice that they were there. I made a mental note that I would have to resume shooting models in the Channelside and the downtown Tampa areas soon, and continued to walk, adjusting the sling of my computer case on my shoulder. God, it was heavy.

Channelside was not too crowded, however, and I made it up to the Channelside Cinemas 10 IMAX in short order. Before going into the theater, I looked around for signs, and noting that there weren't any, I asked a college guy if he knew anything about the festival. I had half-expected a crowd at the entrance and stages with bands, and it was a bit empty outside. The guy motioned toward the theater with a bony finger which was not unlike that of a skeleton's, acknowledging that the event was, in fact, there. I thanked him, took out my camera, and snapped off a few shots of the Tampa skyline before going in.

Walking in, I noticed two main tables set in the area to the left, and saw event organizer Rick Danford talking with some people. I approached Rick, talked to him for a few minutes, and then proceeded to break out my camera, quietly cursing myself because the film lineup was good and, well, I only had three hours to spend covering the event. This meant that I would have to loiter in the lobby area and talk to people, with next to no time to see any actual movies. If I did have time to attend both full-days, in fact, I might have had time to catch all of the films, take all of my pictures, and conclude my coverage. In this case, it was interview overdrive.

I wandered over to the tables. First, I was met by the pretty faces of Krista Grotte and Tiffany Shepis. Krista I already knew, first meeting her back in 2003 when she went to one of my auditions when I was a casting director for one of my film projects. I didn't catch up to her again until Andy Lalino's awesome Horror and Hotties film festival at USF back in March of this year. Speaking of Andy, I was pleasantly surprised to see him arrive, dressed Neo-like in black. What was next- Terence Nuzum showing up dressed as General Zod? Paul Guzzo dressed up as a bipedal, land-roving guppy- didnít Rick plan a costume contest? All kidding aside, Andy looked much sharper than I did, as I had elected, at the last minute, to dress down for comfort, as I had to haul around a lot of gear. I was only in jeans and a blue shirt, and didn't look all-there as it wasn't as comfortable as it was supposed to be. I took some pictures of Andy, and he took a few of me (which reminds me to ask Andy for copies of those image files). They came out good.

I spent a bit of time taking pictures of Krista and Tiffany. As soon as I aimed a camera in her direction from across the room, Ms. Shepis immediately noticed, which in retrospect was a bit hard to not notice due to the size of the camera and the flash, and she played up to the camera. After taking pictures, I spent some time talking with her, and I immediately noticed that she had the brains and the personality to match those model-shattering good looks. This woman, my friends, is one of the coolest people who I have met in a good while, and Krista was equally as cool.

I'll admit it. I didn't know too much about Tiffany Shepis. I am not much of a horror fan, and have not spent a lot of time watching horror films. As a matter of fact, other than knowing that she was an actress and a model. the only fact that I knew about her was that she did a Conker's Bad Fur Day commercial for Nintendo back in the day, helping them to advertise the controversial video game made by Rare. At any rate, after conversing for a while, I would learn a lot more about her.

Tiffany was cool. Krista and I talked about modeling, photography, and photographers that we both knew. We also talked about doing a shoot together. Andy and I talked -- well, actually, we were laughing about the controversy behind my latest TFR film reviews, killing pumpkins, and also discussed the planning of the next Horror and Hotties film festival. I told Andy that I could get him as many swimsuit models as he needed for his cool event, had some ideas, and we pondered about doing it around February or March of next year.

I browsed over to the far table, where actress Debbie D and her companion were seated with their wares. After hearing about the array of characters which she portrayed, I paused on Destiny-Vampire Mermaid. Thinking the combination a bit of an incompatible mix, I asked how that worked. Did her character act as a Siren to lure sailors in so she could feed on them? How could a Vampire be around water, anyway? I suppose that I had been playing too many games of ďBlood Omen: Legacy Of KainĒ on the Playstation, where rain smoked with impact on the character and you lost health as long as you were exposed to water. At any rate, any fan of the genre needs to obtain and play this game, even if you donít play games. Going back to the scene, however, I did ask Debbie D about Vampires and water, trying not to sound like a detail-egghead and trying not to be annoying. A question to Rick came with my answer: It was holy water which hurt Vampires. Um, ok. I guess the rules varied with the interpretation. Debbie D and I did get into a good conversation about the horror and science fiction genres being closely related, parallel, and sometimes intertwined. Hey, I get Sci Fi, as I write it, but Iím still a newbie with the horror genre and horror movies in general. This is why you ask questions, too, as there is no such thing as a stupid question. I may even hook up one of my Playstations in the studio and play through Kain again.

I talked to Danford some more, discussing some of the movie lineup, indie film downloads as a business model, past projects such as the film Web Of Darkness and my ill-fated Reverence feature film, and two actresses/ models which we mutually knew by the names of Lowie and Roxy. Lowie... does a good job acting like Lowie, and was a far better model than an actress. Roxanne Kowalska..... one of the best models whom I have ever worked with and a brilliant actress. Since moving to Los Angeles, Roxy has been missed here in the Tampa Bay indie film community. Ah, those two were so long ago. It seems like an entire life has passed.

Catching up and taking pictures passed the time well since I didnít have the time to watch anything. At one point, I even took a breather and played a quick game of Frogger on my Gameboy Micro, keeping the idle Tekken 5 arcade coin-op in the lobby in mind, but never getting around to putting a few quarters in it. That done, Krista told me that her movie was about to start, so I followed her and Rick into the Cinema.

The location that Rick chose for this film festival is one of the best that I have seen for any Tampa film festival. How could you get any better than a new movie theater; one of the nicest cinemas in the Tampa Bay area? The venue was perfect, and I obtained some really good pictures of the screen and the seating. Krista and Danford introduced Death On Demand to the audience, I took some pictures, then I looked up into the rows. There were only two people there. Slow start or not, this festival certainly deserved much more attention than it was getting.

After the introduction, I decided to take a break and watch a little of the film. Death On Demand was a little pixelated blown-up to the big screen, with jaggy edges apparent, but was well-shot and proved to be very watchable. Actually, this was a very good movie, and it didnít take long for me to settle in and lose my sense of time to it. I noticed that Andy Lalino had wandered into the theater, clutching a huge bag of buttered pop corn and a massive soda, and I called him over to my row. He sat down by me, and we continued to watch. I also noticed that more people had filtered in and had taken up seats. Among them were Krista Grotte and her boyfriend, who seated themselves toward the front of the theater.

At this point, I became very unhappy. The reason for the turn in mood was that my time was running out, and I had to get ready to go. Death On Demand was very good, and I wanted to watch the rest of it. I told both Andy and Krista goodnight, and began to make my way out of the film festival. I took out my camera and resolved to leave the venue shooting.

Steven Shea, who had been seated at a table with his people from Abyssmal Entertainment just outside the theater, was no longer there. I suppose that they were there for their earlier feature, Hoodoo For Voodoo (what a catchy, and odd, title).

I returned to the lobby, and asked Danford where Tiffany Shepis was so I could say goodbye. She had gone to dinner. I noticed Steven Shea and his group had returned, this time with guitars and musical instruments. The music part was about to start, I surmised, but unfortunately, I would not be around to hear it. I talked to the group, which was assembling in the central lobby area, and took pictures of them setting up and tuning their instruments. At this time, it was time to leave. I told everyone goodbye and exited the building.

Well, I tried to leave. As soon as I exited the building, Tiffany Shepis and her friend, Trent Haaga, came up to me. We talked for a few minutes, and I snapped some of the best pictures of them that I had taken the entire night. We walked inside, I said goodbye to everyone again, and then I finally left for the night.

Hereís the lowdown on the Halloweenapalooza event and its Halloween Horror Picture Show 2007 film festival. Did I have fun? Yes, yes, yes. It was well worth my time to attend. Also, the film lineup, which is covered in detail in a message board post by Jeff Strand, is the best of any horror film festival ever in the Tampa Bay area.

Although the event has been criticized by the vocal minority for its low attendance, I found out later that the second day had a decent turnout. Those who dismissed the event and missed it ultimately lost out, however, because this was an event which was well worth attending. In my opinion, the Screamfest horror convention in Orlando hurt this event a lot as far as attendance goes, and I do not believe that the majority attended the best event. The best event was here.

Hallaweenapalooza Event Scorecard          
Please note that a score of 5 is average.
Concept (1-10): 8
Venue (1-10): 10
Vendors (1-10): 7
Organization (1-10): 8
Entertainment (1-10): 10
Attendance (1-10): 3
Features (1-10): 9
Admission Value (1-10): 9

Overall Event Score (1-10): 8 - Excellent time spent, and very highly recommended. This even deserves a much higher attendance, and should get it in 2008.



"The Halloween Horror Picture Show '07" is ©2007 by Chris Passinault. The HHPS07 pagetop banner is a creation of Chris Passinault. All photographs taken by Chris Passinault, ©2007, used with permission.

All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.

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