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The poster for the festival, which features events all week.
The poster for the festival, which features events all week. Photo supplied

One ‘horrific’ movie fest to scare them all

Phnom Penh’s first horror film festival – a five-day spree celebrating the spooky, haunted and otherworldly – is underway, with a handful of events throughout the weekend, and three days of short films beginning on Tuesday.

The Horrific Film Festival, a collaboration between movie distribution company Westec Media Limited and the marketing company The Idea, officially kicked off last night with a workshop led by Thai horror film director Sopon Sukdapisit. The first edition is modest but the organisers have big hopes for it in the not-so-distant future.

“Our goal down the line is to make it the biggest horror film festival in Asia,” said Maria Sher, the festival director. “That’s something like the five-year goal.”

For its first edition, the festival called for submissions from amateur filmmakers around the world of short horror movies from two to five minutes in length. The guidelines were intentionally vague. In response, they received more than 300 submissions, said Deka Nine, an executive in Westec’s marketing department.

“We were very surprised by the quality we saw because we didn’t expect much because of the short notice [of two weeks],” Nine said.

The organisers are intentionally keeping the filmmakers and the titles of the shorts a secret until the eve of the screenings, but they did say nine are from Cambodia. While there are genres of all types, the jury made sure that the shorts don’t violate social mores and religious beliefs.

The films will screen for free over three mornings beginning on Tuesday, with a new batch playing each day. The audience will also be given a scorecard to rate the movies in a number of categories, including in “Best Death Onscreen” and “Best Jump Scare”.

Also throughout the week will be other events surrounding horror films, such as a cosplay competition on Saturday – in which participants will be graded on their scary costumes – to kick off a street party on Street 174, with DJs, food, drinks and more.

There will also be workshops throughout the weekend, including one with Battambang horror makeup artist “White Rose”, and a haunted tour of Phnom Penh, in which a bus will be taking participants to the sites of some of the city’s spookiest legends. Needless to say, sites related to Khmer Rouge atrocities will not be on the itinerary.

Sher and Nine say that the festival is intended to bridge a gap between foreigners and locals, and to tap into Southeast Asia’s booming horror film industry.

“We see it as an opportunity to blend the culture between expats and locals, because every culture likes horror films,” Nine said. “Why not create a horror festival where everybody can see different sides of horror films?”

For a full schedule and more information, visit the Horrific Film Festival Facebook page. The street party will be on Street 174 from 6pm-2am on Saturday night. Screenings begin on Tuesday morning at 9:15am at Legend Cinema in City Mall.

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