The impetus for NOLA Horror Film Fest was sort of a reverse of that famous justification for climbing Mt. Everest. J.T. Seaton launched New Orleans’ annual celebration of genre films back in 2011 because it wasn’t there.
The film industry veteran and Los Angeles theater director joined up with fellow filmmaker Ryan Blake George to put a horror fest in one of the spookiest cities in the U.S.
“We were shocked,” Seaton said of the discovery that this Southern City of the Dead didn’t have a place for filmmakers to share their best zombie, ghost and monster flicks. “New Orleans should be at the top of the list.”
After several years on Bourbon Street and a nomadic series of festivals at art spaces and venues throughout the city, the eighth edition of the NOLA Horror Film Fest has found a home in the city’s oldest movie theater.
“I’ve been wanting to try and get the festival into the Prytania from the very beginning,” Seaton explained of this year’s locale. Seaton said that he’s poured sweat into the festival every year to get it to its current stature and he does it all for the love of the genre and the people that make it.
Seaton has remained fascinated by the genre throughout his life, both for the way that the films “effect [the audience] on an emotional, raw level” and the relatively low bar for entry that allows green filmmakers to try their hand.
“Horror is one of the very few genres of filmmaking where the genre itself is the star,” Seaton explained. “You don’t need a big name to get a film made. You don’t need a star. You just need to tell a good story and make a good film.”
Because of its status as a breeding ground for young talent and lack of focus on big names, a horror film festival is perhaps one of the best movie industry events to see something entirely new.
“You can get away with things [in horror] that you can’t get away with in other films,” Seaton said. “You can be very stylish. You can interweave social commentary in a way that is allegorical. You can talk about what you want to talk about without making a preachy film.”
Seaton’s long-running festival has even allowed him to see filmmakers grow within horror. He noted that one of the featured films on this year’s slate was created by a filmmaker who won their top prize for Best Short Film several years ago.
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And just as the people who make the movies have seen their star rise, so has the genre’s status within the wider world of movies. With the release of critical and commercial successes like The Babadook, A Quiet Place and Get Out, horror is no longer regarded as an afterthought.
“These movies are starting to be looked at as art, as opposed to the bastard stepchild of the movie industry,” Seaton said. “They aren’t shunned or sleazy or B-movies anymore.”
With more eyes than ever, horror will just have to bring its A Game. And NOLA Horror Film Fest plans to, kicking off September 20 with a slate of horror shorts capped off by a screening of the locally created freakout feature The God Inside My Ear.
The rest of the week offers blocks of short films ranging from splatter to sci-fi as well as tons of feature screenings. Take a look at the festival’s website for a full lineup.