A cast of local zombies, serial killers, and demons will be hitting the screen in Monster Pool: Chapter Two, premiering at the Mayfair next week.
The anthology film, produced by Vincent Valentino and Randy Smith, features “nine different stories” from nine Ottawa-based filmmakers. Each filmmaker was invited to choose from a list of monsters to focus on (hence the title, MonsterPool) and given three months to produce an original short.
Valentino, who has experienced censorship in the past, wanted to create an opportunity for local filmmakers to express themselves freely. “I wanted to do something where the filmmakers could have a safe place to be as creative as they want, without fear of shame and ridicule.”
Smith and Valentino also lent technical support to many of the directors, helping out with filming and sound editing. “We guide them through the whole thing,” says Valentino.
“We want them to push themselves in every facet, whether its storytelling or content or techniques,” Smith adds.
While the first edition of Monster Pool accepted any filmmaker who applied, this year the producers opted to include fewer films to ensure a more consistent level of quality. They also added an overarching “wraparound” story (“Cryptkeepersegments,” jokes Smith), making Chapter Two a more unified feature.
“I want to see if we can make a proper go with this – if we can get somebody to distribute it and do something [with it] as a proper film,” Smith says.
The project’s overall goal is to provide Ottawa’s filmmakers and actors with another opportunity to display their talents.
“It encourages the acting community to blossom, as well as the filmmaking community,” Valentino says. His segment, Prisoner, stars Curtis Gough, a U of O Theatre grad and Psychology student. The short, filmed in a 150-year-old haunted house in Pembroke, was Gough’s first time working in the horror genre.
“It was a lot of fun, especially for an emerging actor [such as] myself,” Gough says. “I think people are going to be terrified of it, but also enjoy it.”
Gough appreciated the difficult themes addressed in many of the shorts. “They’re commenting on important issues and making actual messages out of their movies.”
Valentino feels that too many horror filmmakers fail to take advantage of the genre’s ability to address complex issues, partly due to lack of resources.
“Filmmakers are only producing what they have access to [in terms of] location and content and type of special effects,” he explains. “Because we’re stuck in this really no-budget thing, we always explore the same themes…We always play it safe and do the same tacky type of horror.”
Smith disputes the idea that horror films are inherently tacky. “There is a perception I think where people are like, ‘Ugh, it’s horror, it’s gonna be dumb,’” he says, saying that Chapter Two challenges these perceptions. “I think we actually have [a] surprising amount of smarter, slower-burn psychological ones this time.”
He adds, “Now, there are [also] some straight-up, in-your-face blood-and-gore ones, which have their place.”
Monster Pool: Chapter 2 plays at the Mayfair Theatre at 6:00 PM on October 23. Tickets can be purchased for $10 at the door. All revenue will be split between the featured filmmakers.
Originally published in The Fulcrum as Ottawa’s horror film festival returns for its second year at Mayfair Theatre; Oct. 20, 2016