It's a relief to discover that when William Mahaffey says he keeps "an eye out" for films to bring to the Knoxville Horror Film Fest, he doesn't mean that literally.
Mahaffey, the festival's director, says he likes suspense probably even more than gore, but there'll be plenty of both at the fest, which kicks off next Thursday night at Downtown West with a program of shorts and a special screening of Don Coscarelli's surrealist horror comedy "John Dies at the End."
Next Friday and Saturday, the fourth annual fest moves over to the Relix Variety Theater in Happy Holler. In addition to shorts, the fest will offer director Richard Bates Jr.'s "Excision" on Friday night and the found-footage anthology "V/H/S" after the awards presentation on Saturday.
Friday's feature is "the one I'm probably most excited about," says Mahaffey, "because the first year we did the festival, that director submitted his short film version of 'Excision,' and that was probably the most popular film we showed that year."
Showing out-of-competition features is one thing that sets the horror fest apart from other local film festivals, he believes.
"I think that our festival's pretty different from all the others in town because we're definitely local-minded, but I'm interested in bringing in bigger films," says Mahaffey. "The three features we have, to me, they're really big films — not everybody knows genre films — but they all premiered at Sundance this year.
"I think it's a shame that a lot of these films are really good films, and they're not going to come here to a theater."
The horror fest offers monthly screenings of genre films at the Relix so that horror fans have a chance to watch them on a big screen.
The horror fest started when Mahaffey, who works in production at Jewelry Television, was invited to screen a film he'd made at the Pilot Light in the Old City, and he asked a couple of other filmmakers to show their work, too. The next year, 2010, the event moved to the larger Relix and has made its home there since.
With the kick-off at Downtown West and an unofficial pre-fest gathering at the Casual Pint on Wednesday, the festival seems to be taking over the town. Each year it has gotten bigger, which is very satisfying to Mahaffey.
"This year has actually been the year we've had the most local submissions by far," he says. "Last year, we had more submissions from Spain than we had from Tennessee, which is really bizarre.
"This year, it's been better for local and regional stuff. It's our fourth year, so people are starting to know about us more. Part of the reason I started doing (the fest) is to try to encourage people who are into horror films or genre films to have an outlet to show their stuff locally."
Knoxville Horror Film Fest
What: Festival of short and feature-length genre films
When: 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 25-27
Where: Thursday, Downtown West; Friday-Saturday, Relix Variety Theater
Cost: $10 per night; $25 all-fest pass
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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