2012 Thriller! Chiller! film festival weekend approaches

By Anya Zentmeyer | 10/10/12 5:15pm


GVL / Anya Zentmeyer
Anthony Griffin

Boasting 62 movies from 17 countries around the world, genre movie fanatics in West Michigan are gearing up for the 2012 Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival, hosted by the Wealthy Theatre in East Grand Rapids Oct. 18-20.

The festival, which initially launched in Muskegon in 2006 before moving to Wealthy Theatre the following year, was the brainchild of Grand Valley State University alumni Anthony Griffin and Chris Randall.

“(Chris) and I were talking on the phone – I think it was in March or April of 2006 – and we were lamenting the state of film, if you will, in Michigan,” said Griffin, who along with Randall, wanted to create something that showcased more genre-oriented, underground films that were hard to see on any commercial big screen.

“The idea was to have a film festival that would celebrate the story of genre films – including the genres of action, sci-fi, suspense and horror – because those films a lot of times get dismissed as being the B-movie,” Griffin said. “But, a lot of times, there’s a lot of great adventure in them, the old mythos of Greek and Roman times.”

In the genres of sci-fi, action, suspense, horror and a few western films, this year’s lineup welcomes filmmakers both old and new, with highlights including 2011 Best Chill! Award winner, production company Gotta/Enk, with a short film called “Anniversary Dinner,” which has already been nominated for six Maverick Movie Awards, an organization of filmmakers honoring other filmmakers.

“The best films in Michigan right now are being made in West Michigan, and we have three of the top filmmakers to watch,” Clemens said, referencing work from festival veterans like Ryan Lieske with a new short film titled “Abed,” 2010 Boomstick Award! Winner Dan Falicki with “Relief Keeper” and Scott Baisden’s and Tod Lewis’ home invasion thriller “Low End.”

“We play the world’s most popular genres for an audience starving for cinema who may not know – or have ever seen – a movie that wasn’t made to fit a demographic model; a movie made of love for the art form over commerce,” Griffin said.

The bulk of the films screened at T are true independents, but for fans of the Hollywood cult classics, the festival’s 2012 titles include “Terminator 2” and “Night of the Living Dead.”

Griffin called T “Halloween for grown-ups,” referring to the frantic feeling of being a kid and going door-to-door, or in this case film-to-film. He said it’s not just the independent nature of the films that make it that way, either, but the feeling that goes along with going to the movies – a phenomena totally unique to the big screen.

“There’s something really different about watching (movies) in a dark theater with a crowd as opposed to sitting out home – even if it’s dark and you have a great Hi-Def television, there’s a difference,” he said. “You can really feel it.”

It’s that “sitting around the campfire” feeling that Griffin said he and festival organizers have tried to get close to.

“We love that about this film festival. It makes that come alive for people when they watch it. Whether there’s one other person in the theater or 100,” Griffin said. “We hope hundreds.”

Though the festival is still working to gain public recognition, it’s made enormous strides since its creation, and Shirley Clemens, Griffin’s wife and T!C!’s marketing director, said the festival has seen a 15-20 percent growth in its audience base over the past few years.

“We always hope for a larger core audience, but we have to build that one person at a time,” Griffin said. “We want people to be there who love movies and love adventure. We hope that more people can come and experience that this year than ever before.”

This year, T added a blog to its website, which features interviews from filmmakers that offer a little more perspective on the films the festival will screen, in hopes that it will help build momentum throughout the year, and not just in the few months prior.

All access festival passes, which will get you into any film, any event, any time throughout the three-day festival, are available to the general public for $40 ($35 for Grand Rapids Community Media Center and West Michigan Film Video Alliance members) and can only be purchased online at www.thrillerchiller.com. Day passes are $15 general admission and $10 for members, and individual movie and movie event tickets are $8 flat; both will be available for purchase during the festival at the box office.

Griffin said he hopes Thriller! Chiller! stays in Grand Rapids, and builds its reputation as a festival that brings credibility and recognition to genre movies.

“I feel like we’ve reached a point in our culture where we can both appreciate and admire those kinds of things – the beer mugs, not just the wine glasses – and say man, they all work, they’re a vessel and they carry something,” Griffin said. “Some people prefer wine and some people prefer beer, but we can appreciate that.”


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