It was a night like any other night. Grey clouds loomed over a near forgotten movie theatre not far from Telegraph Street.
Despite its tucked-away location behind the Red Cliffs Mall, the lobby at the Megaplex Theatres at Washington Red Cliffs radiated electric energy Saturday night. A community of filmmakers, actors and fans gathered there for this year’s Horror-Fest, a guerrilla film making challenge and festival which just celebrated its 15th anniversary.
Filmmakers were challenged to create a film under six minutes in length that included a red ball or balloon and the phrase “the circus is in town.” The theme for the challenge was clowns, a subject that has caused community members some alarm in recent months.
Adam Mast, Horror-Fest creator and programmer, said the audience chooses three winning films at the close of the night, but he doesn’t like to make it about competition. The goal was to have filmmakers challenge themselves creatively, he said.
“We are a community of filmmakers encouraging each other,” Mast said. “That’s really what [Horror-Fest is] about.”
Several Dixie State University students and alumni took part in Horror-Fest, including Carlee Whalen, a junior communication major from Las Vegas.
Whalen played the lead in a short film called “Sasha’s Birthday,” directed by Jeremiah Holt. In the story, Whalen’s character, Sasha, arrives home on her birthday to find a creepy robotic clown sitting in her living room. The robot-clown begins following her and Sasha discovers a creative way to defeat the unexpected birthday guest, only to realize the robotic clown was a gift from her mother.
Another audience favorite was “Silly Willy,” directed by Dan Bringhurst. In the film, a man unintentionally summons a malicious clown from another dimension, reminiscent of the well-known Netflix TV show “Stranger Things.” Crowd members laughed aloud as a giggling clown pulled his victim back through a hole in the drywall and exited through a tree trunk into what some might call the clown upside-down.
After attendees from all age groups cast their votes, filmmaker Cragun Clayburn snatched first place for his stop motion animation film called “2 For the Show.” The film tells the story of a clash between a clown and two otherworldly beings disguised as humans and definitely did not skimp on blood and guts. Of all 18 films, “2 For the Show” was easily the goriest of them all.
“I’m a gore fan,” Clayburn said. “I love the art of well-done gore.”
Clayburn revealed that no script was written for his film, and there were a few alternate endings. Normally focusing on special effects, Clayburn said he is relatively new to stop motion animation.
Horror-Fest newcomer Tanner Lund took second place for “Laughing Matter.” There was a tie for third place between “The Circus is Coming to Town” directed by Lonie Black and Brandon Tippetts and Dan Bringhurst for “Silly Willy.”
It was a bittersweet night for longtime patrons of Horror-Fest. The Red Cliffs theatre, where Horror-Fest was hosted for multiple years, closed its doors permanently to the public after the last showing on Saturday.
“It’s sad because a lot of people have a lot of memories here,” said Brandy Jacobs, general manager of the Red Cliffs and Main Street locations. “It’s a nostalgic thing.”
The film festival has taken place at other venues, and Mast said the Red Cliffs’ closure won’t put a stop to Horror-Fest. In fact, he is planning another festival to happen during the Christmas season.
“We love filmmakers of all ages and skill sets to be involved,” Mast said. “If anyone at DSU wants to take part, we’d love that.”
If you’d like to take part in the Christmas guerrilla film challenge, contact Adam Mast through Facebook message.