2015 was the 20th anniversary of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. It’s been an annual part of my life for over a decade and has spawned a a great deal of art. I’ve made some great friends through the festival, and had a lot of great opportunities arise from connections formed in and around the historic Hollywood Theatre. This is why in addition to being a guest of the festival and creating a Kickstarter reward print, I volunteered to help put together Kickstarter backer reward bags. Due to my unique skills as a printmaker, I was set to work hand-numbering the limited edition Miskatonic Expedition log books. All 250 of them. It went surprisingly fast. Numbering an edition is easy when you don’t also have to write a title and sign it! Afterwards, I helped make vault rubbings with gravestone wax. No idea how many; they were being added to the kits almost as soon as they were done. I didn’t even get a chance to examine my own Expedition Kit until well after the festival, and when I did I was surprised by some very familiar names on the R’lyeh map. Brian Callahan really did an amazing job designing the map and other rewards. The log book (authored by Adam Scott Glancy) proved to be an entertaining read in addition to being beautifully arranged!
Though the film festival didn’t start until Friday night, events started Thursday night with a book launch and party at the Lovecraft Bar, as well as a small speakeasy party for festival backers and guests of honor. I spent most of my day preparing my vending gear and art for set-up Friday afternoon, and just managed to get my work done in time for the speakeasy party. Glad I did, too, because it isn’t every day I have to give a bartender a pass phrase to find out how to get through the bookcase in back and into the event. Once past the hostess and bouncer, I encountered HPLFF founder Andrew Migliori, who immediately introduced me to guest of honor Jeffery Combs. We chatted for a bit before I set out to acquire a Barn Burner and mingle. Many festival regulars were in attendance as well as several folks who had never before attended. They’d heard about the festival and were excited enough to purchase VIP tickets. I didn’t happen to follow up with any of the new folks at the end of the festival, but I do hope they enjoyed the entire experience!
HPLHS Call of Cthulhu screening
Friday started early for us so we could stuff the car with gear and arrive at the theatre at noon. My husband Mike has been volunteering with the festival and took charge of getting the theatre prepared for the arrival of vendors. With Caitlin’s assistance, we managed to get our work done in time for the meet and greet at Sam’s Billiard’s. Theatre doors opened at 6pm to give folks time to browse the Mall of Cthulhu and mingle before events started at 7pm. We opted to leave Caitlin in charge of the table so we could attend the opening remarks and the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s Special 10th Anniversary Screening of The Call of Cthulhu. The HPLHS went all out with live performances including the Cirque Macabre, surviving members of The Miskatonic University Glee Club Alumni, burlesque dancer Nina Nightshade, and a collection of shorts and trailers ahead of the feature film. Cigarette girls roamed the aisles with candy versions of their traditional wares.
After The Call of Cthulhu, I slipped back upstairs to tend to my table. By about 10pm I was so exhausted speaking had become a challenge. Suffice to say, we passed on the after-party.
Saturday was a full day starting with the Carb-load for Cthulhu group author signing. Publishers, editors, and authors were present in abundance with books for sale and pens to sign with. Jim Smiley presented me with a copy of Girl’s Night In: The Definitive Edition. Scott Nicolay was there with a handful of the few remaining copies of his glorious tale After. After is now sold out, but I highly recommend taking a look at the publisher, Dim Shores. Dim Shores has been offering very high quality stories paired with excellent art in small production runs. I dropped by the Word Horde table to pick up Molly Tanzer’s Vermillion and Orrin Grey’s Painted Monsters and Other Strange Beasts. I also brought along my personal copy of The Starry Wisdom Library: The Catalogue of the Greatest Occult Book Auction of All Time for Mz. Tanzer to sign. That’s when, to my great surprise, I found out that we have a mutual appreciation for each other’s work. (Later in the weekend she bought some prints from me!)
Once the theatre opened, my husband was kind enough to grab a seat for me in the last screening of Final Prayer a.k.a. The Borderlands. This found footage film wouldn’t have attracted my attention, except Scott Glancy was recommending it as a film that left him uncomfortable. I am not a big fan of the found footage genre because I get motion sick easily from shaky films, but I gave it a chance and was not let down. I’ve been a fan of scary movies for as long as I can remember, and these days very few actually manage to evoke true tension and shock. Final Prayer did. It’s not widely available in the United States, but can be digitally acquired via Amazon. If you decide to give it a try, I highly recommend avoiding reviews so the ending isn’t spoiled, the trailer online is also subpar, don’t bother with it. Watch Final Prayer with the sound turned up, lights down, and no distractions (I noticed a theme with the 1 star reviews — they were from people who didn’t pay attention and missed a great deal of the plot.) The first few minutes are the roughest visually if you get motion sick like I do, but after that the film is smoother. This isn’t a slasher film, there’s character development and a slow tension build. Enjoy it.
Once Final Prayer was over I unclenched my limbs and stumbled out to see Leeman Kessler’s Ask Lovecraft Live! I’ve been enjoying his videos on YouTube since CthulhuCon earlier this year, but I didn’t get the chance to see him perform live there, or at NecronomiCon Providence. It’s amazing how often you can cross paths with someone at an event and never really get to see them do their thing. I’m glad I’ve remedied the issue. Kessler is amazing as H.P. Lovecraft and handles questions of all stripes quite deftly. Check out his YouTube Channel (updated 3 times a week!) and if you really enjoy what you see, consider supporting Ask Lovecraft on Patreon.
Medium of Madness panel
Saturday night I was a panelist alongside John Donald Carlucci, Lee Moyer, Mike Dubisch, and Toren Atkinson (yes, of Darkest of the Hillside Thickets). It was a lively discussion about our artistic mediums and how they mesh well with Lovecraftian horror. Even though I’ve known most of the panelists for years, I think we all learned a few things about each other’s process that we didn’t know before. Carlucci was encouraged to try his hand at scratchboard, and has begun experimenting with the medium already. It appears to suit him well and I look forward to seeing what new works may arise from the clayboard. Artists, if you ever had the opportunity to be a panelist on a group discussion like this, but you’re not sure you can handle public speaking — give it a try! It really isn’t as difficult as you’d think, and it can be a very fruitful experience. Also, if you have the opportunity to just attend one — do it! There is also audience Q&A and depending on the size of the audience, you might get some quality discussion with the pros.
Though I wish we had stayed for the after party (Toren Atkinson played a Darkest of the Hillside Thickets acoustic set!), we desperately needed sleep and Sunday was going to start early with the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast. I also had to get up a bit extra early since I had promised Leeman Kessler some Blue Star Donuts so his only Portland doughnut experience wouldn’t be Voodoo Donuts. (Don’t get me wrong, Voodoo Donuts are fun, but when it comes to flavor, Blue Star is the place to go!) Breakfast was buffet style and once everyone had a full plate, Festival Founder introduced Robert Price, whose “sermon” was followed by the astounding Cody Goodfellow. Goodfellow was on quite a tear regarding the racist aspects of Lovecraft’s work, when who should come charging from the back of the room but H.P. Lovecraft himself, frothing with indignation over the treatment of his works. Goodfellow administered a Bladerunner-esque series of questions to Mr. Lovecraft before it became obvious an exorcism was in order. The results are debatable, but at least Mr. Lovecraft survived the lively rendition of “Baby Got Bass” (complete with Deep One and Cthulhu Girl backup dancers) which followed. It was worth the early rising to see.
I spent most of the rest of Sunday at or near my vendor booth, though I did sneak away for a chunk of Shorts Block 5 and was happy to catch Reber Clark’s amusing Derleth’s Brain, Skinner’s animated silent tale, This Horror Most Unreal, and Frank Woodward’s quirky horror, Balloon. After tear down ended we headed to the nearby Moon and Sixpence pub for a bite to eat and just a little more time with other guests and attendees.
I wish I could have seen more of the films (and caught some of the readings) during the weekend, but I’ve yet to figure out how to be in four places at once. Really, it is my only regret about the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival (and many other fine events): It’s simply impossible to take in every event! On the bright side, I am left with a nice pile of new books, an imp skull from Catalyst Studio, and a lot fewer prints than I started the weekend with.