This past weekend of February 16th to 18th, the third annual Silver Scream Fest took place at the Roxy 14 theater in Santa Rosa, California. An offshoot of the Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and events, Silver Scream Fest served up niche Horror film screenings, short film blocks, celebrity appearances, vendors, live makeup and prosthetic creation by special effects gurus, and a lot more.
Genre icons that appeared at the event included actress Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond), writer John A. Russo (Night of the Living Dead), and writer/director Bill Lustig (Maniac, Maniac Cop). Speaking with organizers, they stressed that this was a festival and not a convention — while modern conventions have turned into pop culture merchandise flea markets with expensive meet-and-greets, this festival’s focus was the films being shown, with their accompanying Q&A sessions and directing and writing workshops coming a close second.
However, that’s not to say consumerism was completely absent — I was blown away by a particular vendor’s selection of obscure horror film t-shirts and found myself grabbing some classic ‘Cemetery Man’ and ‘Frankenhooker’ tees. Several tables down, I picked up a Zombi 2 patch and some stickers, agonized over whether to buy some vintage horror magazines or retro video game swag, and then opted to have Night of the Living Dead writer John A Russo sign a copy of the horror punk rock classic, ‘Return of the Living Dead’.
The selection of films screened was smart, with relatively obscure gems like Blood Diner and Night of the Comet being shown, then also a three-film block of Creature of the Black Lagoon films with an accompanying Q&A. While the schedule was generally organized well, I did run into a couple situations where I had to make some difficult choices — such as when showings of Blood Diner and Maniac partially overlapped. Interestingly, a late showing of the more Science Fiction-leaning 1978 Superman film served as a refreshing palate cleanser amidst all the gore.
New indie flicks such as the crude and humorous ‘My Uncle John is a Zombie!’ were screened, and each day several blocks of short films were shown, repeating across days for those that may have missed out. Q&As provided fans even more opportunity to interact with the filmmakers, and “Heroine of Horror” Barbara Crampton was given a lifetime achievement award for her lengthy career in some enduring films.
Portions of both ticket and autograph sales went to help fund the Santa Rosa Wildfire Storm Fund, and the event’s partnership with local hotels, restaurants, and other establishments helped to boost tourism in the area after the recent devastations.