Allen Baldwin bridles a bit at the characterization of “Damnationland” as a horror film. It’s not that horror is a bad thing, it’s more that, according to Baldwin, the annual all-Maine anthology film (which has its world premiere at the State Theatre on Friday) has, in its six years of existence, proven far more ambitious than that one label indicates.
“It’s a challenge and a boon,” concedes Portland filmmaker and “Damnationland” co-creator Baldwin. “There’s always a problem with branding it one way or another. I don’t like to call it a horror showcase, but more a collection of dark short films. Calling it horror might drive some people away who don’t like horror, but a big horror fan might be disappointed that they’re not all horror films. I’d say our movies are all dark and thoughtful,” he explains, before conceding, “But a few this year are really viciously bloody. There are some things… that people haven’t seen on film yet.”
“Damnationland” has become a pretty big deal on the Maine film scene, a sentiment with which Baldwin readily but humbly agrees. The 29 short films that have made up every “Damnationland” to date have drawn Maine’s most talented, eclectic directors, writers and actors, their contributions ranging from the darkest, bloodiest terrors to the merely strange and eerie and thought-provoking. For Baldwin, one of six co-producers this time out, the 2015 installment represents a major tipping point in this cinematic experiment he helped start – one that he hopes will bring the franchise, and the Maine film scene as a whole, wider recognition.
“I feel like this year at the State is going to blow up,” says Baldwin enthusiastically. “We’ve been doing so many things this year to improve our visibility.” In addition to a trailer contest, which has seen filmmakers from all over the country send in short previews of their prospective “Damnationland” films, the brand has also expanded to the music scene, with local bands such as Covered In Bees, Brzowski, Phantom Buffalo, and others contributing 12 all-local songs for as CD of songs inspired by “Damnationland.” Recorded by Todd Hutchinson of Acadia Recording Company, the album will be available at the premiere and at Bull Moose Music. And that’s not even mentioning the upcoming “Damnationland” screening in Singapore. “Yeah, we’re screening on October 29th as part of an American cult cinema series,” laughs Baldwin, who credits co-producer and past contributor Corey Norman for getting the word out to the horror community.
Closer to home, Baldwin says that this is the year that “Damnationland” takes its next big step – something that can be as scary as a “Damnationland” film itself. “As of November of this year, ‘Damnationland’ will be a full-year thing. We’re all broken,” laughs Baldwin, “And we need to firm it up and find some resources to get someone on it year-round. We have enough of a brand to garner support at the local level – the question is pushing it outside of Maine. Once this year is done, we have to see how we can move this thing out of its parents’ basement. Charlotte Warren’s done an amazing job this year taking over running the show – it’s been a very organic growth, mostly because we’ve never really had the resources to push it in one direction or another. As its own beast, I think it’s a wonderful thing that we’ve started. Now it’s sort of a coming-of-age situation – we’ve reared it and we need to let it loose on the world to a degree.”
So head out to this year’s “Damnationland” at the State Theater on Friday for the newest installment of this uniquely living Maine movie tradition. But watch out – as Baldwin states, “Damnationland” is getting hungry.
“Damnationland 2015″ will have its world premiere on Friday at 8 p.m. at the State Theatre. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. See statetheatreportland.com for details. And check out www.damnationland.com for future screenings.
NICKELODEON CINEMA, Portland (patriotcinemas.com)
Tuesday: “Attack On Titan: Part 2.” The biggest (in all senses) Japanese movie event of the year concludes with the second part of this sci-fi extravaganza about teenagers fighting mammoth, teenager-eating monsters in post-apocalyptic Tokyo. This is really what the movies were made for, people.
SPACE GALLERY, Portland (space538.org)
Sunday: “The Forbidden Room.” Anyone who knows the surreal world of Canadian filmmakers Guy Maddin knows that no bare-bones description such as “A submarine crew, a feared pack of forest bandits, a famous surgeon, and a battalion of child soldiers all get more than they bargained for as they wend their way toward progressive ideas on life and love” can adequately sum up the filmmaker’s uniquely unnerving, often moving vision.