Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

The horror movie community in N.L. is bigger — and scarier — than you think

Horror is the most fun genre, contributor Andie Bulman writes, and Newfoundland and Labrador is filled with filmmakers.

Andie Bulman profiles 5 N.L. filmmakers to watch

Benjamin Noah directed and produced the short New Woman, which has been doing well on the local and international film circuit. (Submitted)

I love horror movies.

I love the ominous music, the campy set design, and the candle that gets snuffed out in the dark. I love the low-budget scrappiness of early zombie films, but I'm also down with a big-budget monster like Steven Spielberg's giant man-eating shark.

I'm into the jump scares and the aliens and going to see the afternoon matinee because I'm too chicken to make it through the late showing.

Horror is the most fun genre, a place where actors get to make big choices with their characters, and filmmakers are allowed to pepper spooky music and eerie lighting into every shot.

Budgets and money also matter less. Paranormal Activity cost only $15,000 to make — but it grossed over $65 million. This financial potential inspires a do-it-yourself ethos that you just don't see in a spy thriller.

I'm into horror movies, but it's the scares made here in Newfoundland and Labrador that really capture my attention.

This place has long been home to a vibrant filmmaking community, but in recent years, local horror enthusiasts have been churning out excellent spine-chilling content. To me, this development makes sense. Newfoundland — with its weather, ghosts, and shipwrecks — is the perfect setting for scary movies.

Here are five local filmmakers to keep your eye on!

Benjamin Noah

From central Newfoundland, Benjamin Noah recently directed and produced the short New Woman.

The film premiered at the Bonavista Film Festival, and I was mesmerized by the cinematography.

Every scene is punctuated by angry seas, steep cliffs, and stony grey churches. His film has a very Byronesque feeling that wouldn't have been captured if it had been shot anywhere else.

New Woman is doing very well on the festival circuit. It will be shown at the Marina del Rey Film Festival in L.A., Weird Film Festival in San Francisco, Wallachia International Film Festival in Bucharest, and the Lisbon Film Rendezvous in Portugal.

New Woman will also be featured at the famous Blood in the Snow Film Festival in Toronto — the first Newfoundland film to premiere at this event.

Grind Mind

I could not, in good faith, write a list of Newfoundland horror filmmakers without mentioning Grind Mind.

The group of friends challenged themselves to make one horror short a month for an entire year in 2017. Now, in 2019, Grind Mind is still cranking out the hits, and they were recently selected to produce a short through the NIFCO Picture Start program.

Grind Mind films are a lot of fun. The special effects and monsters are all created by hand, the actors are free to improvise lines and play around with the dialogue, and most of their tales revolve around traditional Newfoundland folk tales. There's a whole catalogue to discover, but my favourite is their mini-doc featuring storyteller Clifford George.

Grind Mind has new content almost every month, and you can keep tabs on them through their YouTube Channel.

Wanda Nolan

Wanda Nolan is a well-known Newfoundland filmmaker. I adore her animated short The Secret Room — but Always Going, Never Gone is her first foray into spooky films. It's a tale of a banshee that clings to the last living resident of a rural Newfoundland community.

Wanda uses the sounds of the island in a beautiful way. Tension is heightened by wind howling, waves crashing, and in one memorable scene she uses a tea kettle to great effect.

Check out the trailer for Always Going, Never Gone.

Mike Hickey

No stranger to the horror scene, Mike Hickey is the creative brain behind Fright Hype, a web show with Crypt TV. He's also working on an anthology called Terror Nova, which will showcase stories inspired by the cultural and physical landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Hickey also recently produced Kerrin Rafuse's film False Light, a campy, spooky short based on the legends of Chance Cove on the Avalon Peninsula's Southern Shore.

Hickey's got some big projects in the works, so keep an eye out for him.

Fright Hype is the brainchild of local filmmaker Mike Hickey. (Fright Hype Facebook page)

Krissy Breen

Krissy Breen likes arthouse movies and it shows.

Breen is a graphic designer, artist, musician, and filmmaker living and working in downtown St. John's. Her creepy shorts are weird and wacky and I love them so much. She never has a budget — but she does have the soul of a very pure weirdo and that translates on screen.

I'd love to see what she could do with some financial backing, and I hope someone gives her some money because I think we'd all be in for a treat.

Breen's films haven't made it to the festival circuit, but if you want to watch something wacky you can find Krissy's most recent scary short, Devil Music, here.

Listen in … if you dare

Andie Bulman spoke with several people involved in the local horror film community while researching this article.

Listen to her conversations: 

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Andie Bulman

Freelance contributor

Andie Bulman is a chef, writer and comedian in St. John's. She is the author of the book Salt Beef Buckets: A Love Story and writes frequently for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.