It's been about a month since the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon, and I'm STILL going through withdrawl. I love this festival. I look forward to it every year, and I'm already looking forward to the 2013 event (it's going to be long year!).
My Thirteen favorite things about this year's H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon are (in no particular order, except for the final entry):
1. The Hollywood Theatre. I know the festival didn't begin life at the Hollywood, but it's always been there as long as I've been going, and the staff has always worked to make the festival a pleasant experience. This year was one of the best years for the festival - they were well-stocked w/ their concessions, the theater was clean, everyone was friendly and made us feel welcome. (They also did a great job promoting their own upcoming events - I went back to the Hollywood for a fourth night in a row for a screening of Juan of the Dead because it was hard to miss the one-sheet hanging in the lobby!) And, let's be honest, the topsy curvy non-Euclidean hallway leading upstairs feels like something straight out of a Lovecraft short story!
2. The poster. I'm an Indiana Jones fan. I don't make any apologies about it (or about ...Crystal Skull for that matter - that responsibility sits with someoneGEORGELUCASelse). And it doesn't hurt that I've long wanted to experience some sort of Mythos-flavored fiction blended with the serial adventure stylings of the Indiana Jones films. I loved this poster design, and while I've never bought a t-shirt or poster at the festival before, this year I found myself (thanks to a good friend!) walking away from the festival with both a poster and t-shirt sporting this look.
3. The Shorts Blocks. I've said it before - the best thing about some of these film festivals are the short film collections. Over the years, it's gotten a little easier to track down some of these shorts online after the festival, but for the most part, you're only going to see some of these movies in a film festival setting. Stand out shorts this year included Doctor Glamour (for all the beautifully wrong reasons), The Curse of Yig (this is one of my favorite Lovecraft stories, and I've been looking forward to this short for a long time) and Stay at Home Dad (mythos + bizarro = AWESOME).
4. The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. If I remember right, in my years of attending the show, there was only one year in which the HPLHS didn't attend the festival (but they were filming The Whisperer in Darkness, so I think everyone forgave them!). The enthusiasm of these guys is infectious, and I meant it when I walked up to their table, looked at everything they had for sale, and told them that they didn't have anything new that I haven't already picked up over the years. I love what they release, and watching the presentation detailing the origins of the HPLHS wsa a lot of fun. (Renting a helicopter for a live-action role-playing game? To see a symbol drawn on the desert floor that can only be seen from above?!)
5. The popcorn. I don't know what it is about that popcorn, but it was SUPER addictive that weekend . . . and every time I've gone back to the Hollywood since the festival (like for Juan of the Dead or the Portland Grindhouse screening of Squirm), I've looked forward to that popcorn as part of the experience! (And you know a bag of popcorn is in the cards when I go back for the upcoming screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark!)
6. The readings. When I first started going to the festival, there wasn't much more than just the movies, but over the years, more and more literary events have been added to the mix. The addition of and increased attention to the readings and author appearances has paralleled my own creative drives, and I've been walking away from the event feeling energized and ready to throw some words down with Lovecraftian FORCE. I especially enjoyed W. H. Pugmire's reading, and I found another writer (Jay Lake) to add to my To-Read list.
7. No Poe. Now, I know . . . Lovecraft looked up to Poe. I respect Poe. I get Poe. I've got nothing against Poe. But I didn't miss Poe at the festival this year. It's just not my bag as much as Lovecraft and his contemporaries are.
8. Hellbender Media. Like the HPLHS, this is another vendor that I've always looked forward to seeing at the festival (even if Edward Martin III only recently started going by the Hellbender Media name). Edward is a fountain of excitement, a good friend, and a joy to watch as he interacts with other fans and potential customers. The few years he's not been at the festival have been a bit dimmer with his absence. (And I canNOT WAIT for Flesh of my Flesh to be completed! Every time I see him, he's made just a bit more progress, and I'm looking forward to the day when I can ask him, "How's Flesh of my Flesh?" and he answers back by showing me the completed DVD.)
9. The House in the Port. A few years ago, I met J. R. Torina at the festival. He was talking with another friend (Bryan Moore, another guy who's presence is always missed), and I saw that he had some CDs of his original music with him. We chatted a little about music, and then I saw he had some packets of paper stapled together in tow. He told me it was his novel The House in the Port, and he gave me a copy of it. I really enjoyed it, so when I saw him again this year and he gave me a book version of the novel, I was thrilled!
10. The festival volunteer staff. Everyone knew what they were doing. Things went super smooth, and no one let on if they were stressed or overworked or any of that. Granted, I'm used to seeing cool-under-pressure on display at the festival, and it's nice to see that over the years, volunteers keep coming back to help out and help out in the best ways possible.
11. The festival directors. I first knew Brian and Gwen Callahan as the folks behind Sigh Co. Graphics, which was another always present table in the vendors' room, and when I heard they were taking over the festival directing duties, I honestly didn't know what to think. I shouldn't have been concerned. Last year's October "mini-fest" was a blast, and the 2012 festival was FANTASTIC. Andrew Migliore birthed a great thing when he launched the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, and Brian and Gwen have taken the ball and not only run with it, but already scored a touchdown or two. Last October, Brian apologized for being nervous in front of people when he took to the stage (he did great!), and this year, he seemed like he'd been doing this for YEARS. And Gwen is one of the sweetest people I've ever met while still rocking every event she presented. She even followed up with me personally when there was some concern over the t-shirts (she didn't need to - there was no problem). The festival's in good hands, gang . . .
12. The panels. I regret that I didn't attend more because these are always a lot of fun. As with the the readings, I found new artists and creators to follow (like Thomas Phinney), and it's always good to hear Robert Price speak about anything Lovecraft. The highlight of the panels for me? Getting to ask people like Price and my friends Jarred Wallace and Scott Glancy if we're all "a bunch of damned hipsters because we liked Cthulhu before it was COOL" during a Lovecraft in Pop Culture panel.
13. Barbarian Days. I only watched one feature film this year at the festival, and this was it. While I might tilt my head a bit at seeing Poe represented at the HPL Film Festival, I always look forward to seeing more Mythos-flavored work from Lovecraft contemporaries. And because I'm such a fan of Robert E. Howard, as soon as I saw that this documentary was playing this year, I knew I had to see it. And I ended up watching it twice. This documentary had quite an effect on me, and while it's been almost a month, this film is still resonating in my head. I'm looking forward to an opportunity to buy this on DVD or Blu-ray as it's something I'm going to go back and watch again. It was a powerful experience, and to have this played at this festival was oh-so-fitting. As Brian pointed out when he presented the film, while the folks in this documentary may not dress the way most of us do at the HPL Festival, the attendees of Barbarain Days are very much like the Lurkers in their fandom and appreciation of Robert E. Howard.
(I'll likely revisit this film again here at Plan D later this year.)
HUGE thanks to Brian, Gwen, Andrew, the vendors, the guests, the panelists, the writers, the filmmakers, etc., etc., etc. for putting on such a great show this year. It's going to be a long 11 months until the next one . . .