Scaring is caring. When the inaugural Death By Festival splatters the walls and shakes the foundations at the North Door this weekend, this hybrid horror film/heavy music festival will raise funds for Austin Pets Alive! and the Greater Houston Community Foundation. But make no mistake, that big heart is still full of entertaining evil.
It will be a sealed room of mayhem, with 13 hours of ghoulish cinematic creations, interwoven with music from the darker side. Fest co-founder Susie Winfield said, "We went back and forth on, 'Do we even call this a festival? Is the concept of a festival that there are multiple things happening at the same time, at different places?' We said, 'You know what? It is a festival. It's a full day.'"
There's a historic resonance here. Back in 2012, local true-crime author Corey Mitchell announced he wanted to run a small fest fusing extreme films and extreme metal: He would call it Housecore Horror, and it would be at the ND Austin on East Fifth. Winfield and fellow founder Nic Brown were his right and left hands as Housecore expanded into a three-day event, and they stayed with the fest after his tragic passing in 2014. Yet even with Housecore now on hiatus, Winfield said, "We're addicted to the metal and horror fest concept. It's dominated our lives for the last four years, so we just went, 'Oh God, we have to do something of our own.'"
So the duo circled back to that same vision of one intimate, crazy night. The fact that they're finally at the ND, now called the North Door? A happy coincidence. Winfield said, "We're doing this with Corey's memory on our shoulders."
But this is not Housecore redux. This is Death By, goddammit, a no-holds-barred extravaganza of guts, gore, grue, and heavy, heavy sounds. Nothing sums that up more than the headliner film, the latest in the American Guinea Pig series. If that title sounds a little familiar, it's because this is the third installment in the American revamp of the notorious Japanese Ginī Piggu franchise, notorious for its extreme and graphic body horror. If the response from the world premiere of American Guinea Pig: Song of Solomon at the prestigious Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival is any gauge – walkouts, even a mid-screening fainting – then the latest addition will live up to the legacy. "It takes somebody to tackle that, and that's definitely [director] Stephen Biro," said Winfield.
The founder of underground extreme horror Unearthed Films, Biro has plunged the sharp dagger of the franchise into the possession genre, even pulling the real rite of exorcism out of the Catholic Church's demon-busting tome, De Exorcismus et Supplicationibus. Winfield said, "We're so excited to be the first venue in Texas showing this film. I think it's going to ruffle a few feathers, unsettle a few folks in the room. Some of the scenes are so shocking, so intense, which is of course right up our alley."
That's just one bloody fingerprint on a schedule packed with 17 films, including the world premiere of the latest conjuration for Brazilian horror innovator Coffin Joe. But the audience will get five sharp whacks with one axe from 10/31, the latest in the new wave of horror anthologies. Winfield credits her fest co-founder Brown with bringing this monster to the party: They had talked with producer P.J. Starks about bringing one of his earlier films, Volumes of Blood, to Housecore 2015, but that fell through. "Then he and Nic connected separately, and started talking," she said. Drawing on the rising crowd of low-budget, splatterific directors like Brett DeJager (Bonejangles) and Justin Seaman (creator of underground retro-smash The Barn), Winfield said, "It's going to be a crowd pleaser."
Death By presents “Come and Give It: A Metal & Horror Film Fest Benefit for Hurricane Harvey.” Sat., Oct. 28, 10am, the North Door, 501 Brushy. Tickets range from $20-30. See www.deathbyfestival.com for tickets and full schedule.
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