From the Vaults: HorrorFest 2008

Remember how I said that I’ve known Paul and Sonja from the HorrorFest for a long time? Well, here’s proof! The following article was originally posted on channel24.co.za (when they still paid freelancers for articles), in October 2008.

I co-wrote this with a friend of mine (full credit at the end of the article), but we also posted the full interview elsewhere. If I can find it somewhere, I’ll add it as a bonus update sometime before the end of the festival.

Photo courtesy of the SA HorrorFest

Creatures of the Night, Unite!

Paul Blom and Sonja Ruppersberg are creative creatures working outside the mainstream, but they are creating a space in which similar “outsiders” can get together in a shared spirit of community – through horror films and the hardcore music of their band, Terminatryx.

We met them at the Labia Theatre on Orange Street in Cape Town, where in 2006 they started Horrorfest, South Africa’s only horror movie festival. Subsequently, they released their debut album in June this year. It seems fusing music and cinema is where their passions lie. “That’s what we like, so it’s the natural progression,” said Paul.

This fusion of extreme music and film has not only driven Horrorfest through two successful years; it recently spawned the X-Fest, another festival which screens controversial movies that would otherwise be subject to censorship.

Asked what drives them to do this, Paul said, “I guess I’ve always leaned towards the other side of things, horror movies and alternative music.” Sonja added, “Because when I was growing up, there was nothing I could identify with. You used what you had at your disposal, but it wasn’t enough.”

This preference for non-commercial fare is matched by a do-it-yourself attitude, something shared by makers of horror movies and alternative music.

It’s not only about their self-expression. There are many communities outside the mainstream that are sometimes in conflict with each other, but are united in their opposition to prevailing fashions. As Paul puts it, “One group or clique isn’t necessarily better than the other. Why not give them all a platform to express themselves?”

But there is a double edge to promoting an underground scene: people who don’t follow trends are always wary of joining a movement. Then again, as Paul explains, “Unfortunately that’s just the way it works. Someone can like a horror movie and be Christian, Muslim, or anything else. That’s why it’s easier to narrow it down to knowing what you like and not having to convince yourself otherwise. And you know that there are similar people out there, whether it’s ten or ten thousand or ten million and you just do what you do because you feel it’s true.”

And Paul should know. His musical career started at 16, playing drums for a garage band called Moral Decay, which led him to join two of South Africa’s hardest-rocking bands. Together with his brother Francois, he helped forge the identity of local metal with Voice of Destruction, better known as V.O.D, and also played drums for Afrikaans metal band KOBUS!

One of the big draws of Horrorfest is the opportunity to enjoy seldom-seen movies in the company of like-minded people while supporting the cause of independent enterprise.

Photo credit: Killkenny Photography

[The festival ran from 30 October to 6 November 2008.] As usual the line-up includes new and classic films, including:

  • Horror movies from Spain, Italy, and Denmark
  • The Canadian film Things, billed as “hilariously tacky”
  • Wes Craven’s original shocker, Last House On the Left
  • A documentary about the legendary Vampira actress Maila Nurmi, made shortly before her recent death
  • The Shadow Realm Short Film Collection – a showcase of the best of local and international horror short films.

This year’s Halloween performance also features the launch of the new Terminatryx DVD, which includes a short film, imperfection.

But the main event of the festival will be a Halloween screening of Häxan, the 1922 classic silent horror movie, with a live soundtrack performance by Terminatryx and special guests, including members of Lark and Dawn Treader. This synthesis of a horror classic with live music gives cinemagoers a rare glimpse into the silent movie experience in a modern musical context.

Last year’s high point, the screening of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari with live soundtrack, was sold out hours before the show, and the Labia was overflowing with horror fans in outrageous costumes. This is a good omen for the local underground scene. As Sonja puts it, “Even if you’re off-centre, we’re all human and we do have a sense of community. It’s nice if there are like-minded people out there you can connect to.”

-Jacques van Heerden & Francis Bryan (2008)

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