When Tommy Faircloth thinks of film festivals, he imagines cocktail parties and ladies wearing big hats. It's not his scene.
If you go
What: Crimson Screen Horror Film Festival
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, doors open at 9 a.m. both days
Where: Sterett Hall Auditorium, 1530 7th St., North Charleston
Price: Daily tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door; VIP all-access passes are $25 in advance, $30 at the door
For more info: www.crimsonscreenfilmfest.com
That's part of the reason behind Faircloth's decision to start the Crimson Screen Horror Film Festival, which will run Saturday and Sunday at Sterett Hall Auditorium in North Charleston.
The festival, which is the first of its kind in South Carolina and will screen 39 independent horror shorts and features, has been a dream of Faircloth's ever since he first noticed the chilly reception that genre movies, like his most recent short film "The Cabin," often received at traditional film events.
" 'The Cabin' was accepted to a nongenre festival in Athens, Ga., but when we met the director of the festival, the first thing he says was that he hated horror films," recalls Faircloth. "That really ruined the rest of the festival for us."
Not surprisingly, "The Cabin" and Faircloth's other films found much more enthusiastic acceptance among fellow horror fans at genre festivals. "It's like a ballet versus a rock show," he says. So after months of attending festivals around the country, Faircloth is bringing the rock show closer to home.
A Columbia native, Faircloth's interest in film started towards the end of high school. He originally wanted to be an actor, but after working as an extra and snagging a small role on the TV show "In the Heat of the Night," he realized he was more interested in what went on behind the camera.
In 1995, while studying at the University of South Carolina, Faircloth shot his first feature film using the school's equipment. That movie, "Crinoline Head," was a tongue-in-cheek homage to the horror films that inspired Faircloth as a kid.
"There weren't any horror festivals at the time," says Faircloth, who sent out VHS screeners to media outlets hoping for a response. Fangoria magazine liked the film and interviewed Faircloth for an article, which helped him jump-start his second feature, a slasher film called "Generation Ax."
Though both directorial efforts were well-received in the horror community, there weren't many opportunities to screen independent genre films for a wider audience, so Faircloth spent the next few years working on a variety of documentaries and dabbling in digital filmmaking techniques.
Last year, Faircloth received a call from a man offering to re-release his earlier films on VHS, a format undergoing a minor resurgence as an analog alternative to DVDs and streaming services. His interest piqued, Faircloth found that videotape copies of "Crinoline Head" and "Generation Ax" were selling for more than $100 on eBay.
"I had no idea they were going for that much, so I decided I'd test some new camera equipment and shoot a short film," Faircloth says.
Twelve years after the release of "Generation Ax," Faircloth shot "The Cabin," a short film about a woman who gets more than she bargains for on a romantic trip to a remote cabin with a man she met online.
The movie was partly inspired by "The Strangers," an atmospheric slasher with a minimalist storyline filmed in upstate South Carolina and starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman.
Faircloth submitted "The Cabin" to a handful of genre festivals and it started picking up awards, which inspired him to take the movie to events around the country.
"I noticed how hard it was to get a genre film into a regular festival," says Faircloth, pointing out that other directors had expressed a similar frustration. "It seemed like everyone except for South Carolina had a horror film festival."
So Faircloth put out a call for submissions for what would become the state's first horror film festival.
"Within three months, we were flooded with submissions, and I was shocked by how good the films were," says Faircloth, who watched every film that was submitted. "We have everything from zombie films to slashers to thrillers. There are even a couple of claymation films by a guy in Mount Pleasant."
Faircloth originally planned to host Crimson Screen at Cinebarre, but he says that it quickly became apparent that they would need a larger venue when more and more filmmakers started making arrangements to attend the festival.
"Out-of-town guests tell me they can't wait to see Charleston," Faircloth adds, who says that the decision to base the festival in Charleston rather than his hometown was a good way to boost interest.
But even Faircloth didn't expect to receive such a positive response from horror filmmakers as far away as Colombia, Australia and the Netherlands. The festival will feature screenings shot in 15 states and nine countries.
While Crimson Screen is an international festival, Faircloth wanted to make sure that South Carolina filmmakers had a chance to shine, so he created a "Homegrown Horror" category featuring films produced in-state. Four Charleston-area shorts will be screened.
A novice to the world of film festival organizing, Faircloth admits that finding sponsors and funding was challenging, but says he is already thinking about next year. He wants the second Crimson Screen to be longer in order to accommodate more films.
Faircloth has also recently started shooting a sequel to "Crinoline Head," which will star independent horror veteran Debbie Rochon and will be filmed primarily in Meggett. He hopes to wrap up shooting in May and host a premiere in Charleston sometime in June.
Until then, Faircloth hopes that horror fans, casual viewers and adrenaline junkies will join him in North Charleston.
"At horror festivals, audiences want to scream. They want to see blood," says Faircloth, who promises that Crimson Screen will offer plenty of both. "Plus, you could get the chance to see the next huge movie. You never know."
The disappearances of a college student’s dates becomes a cause for concern in “Blood Alcohol Content” by College of Charleston student Thomas Horton.×
Mount Pleasant-based filmmaker Trent Shy will screen two claymation shorts at Crimson Screen. He also created a promotional video for the festival.×