As Damnationland, the all-Maine horror anthology, approaches for its sixth installment, it’s interesting (and, as ever, a little frightening) to look back on how it’s evolved.
Always an eclectic, nasty thrill, Damnationland has introduced a new element in the past few years, with linking, interstitial short-shorts between the horror shorts. (Last year’s “A Collection of Psychopaths” was an especially ghoulish and funny addition to the Damnationland formula.)
This time, it’s up to Maine filmmakers Ian Carlsen and Jeff Greicci of Mint Films to tie all of this year’s varied horrors together with a framing device of a young woman ill-advisedly popping in the dusty VHS tape she finds in an isolated northern Maine cabin and being led through the films by the fiendish horror host therein.
Carlsen fills us in on the delicate art of providing the veins through which Damnationland flows.
How did you come up with the concept for this year’s, let’s call it connective tissue?
There’s this great tradition of horror anthology series to draw from, from “Tales from the Darkside” to “The Twilight Zone.” Having a host character is the audience’s guide through Damnationland, and Jeff and I decided to give it a comedic, fun spin. “Damnationland is a massive experience this year – the films are great and more concise, and we thought up a short story that focuses on this very creepy, kooky horror show host (Mariah Bergeron). Like if Elvira hosted “Creepshow” – that’s the elevator pitch.
How did you approach the host’s commentary on each film?
All the famous horror hosts – Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock, even the Crypt Keeper – there’s tended to be a heavy default to a male host. We wanted to open that up a little more and see Mariah’s take on it. Plus, since it’s always sort of a mad dash for people to complete their films each year, we only had rough outlines from people in some cases, so we didn’t know the music, the tone of each movie. The idea was to create something resilient enough, a small plot line that develops between the host and the girl – who is actually watching a VHS tape of this year’s Damnationland.
So does your story take place in the future?
We loved the idea that, if there are darker forces at work, then maybe that’s played with the timeline.
As someone deeply involved in the Maine film scene, what do you think Damnationland brings to the community?
I really don’t know of any other fest that is so rich in a sense of place. There are so many very good horror film fests around this country, but no other one is doing films about a place, made in a place and using local people. That’s really such an amazing thing – it opens up this amazing portal of people – professionals, semi-professionals, even people you might call amateur or weekend filmmakers. If you’re from Maine and you can create a good, Maine-based horror story, there’s a place for that. I have visions in my head of Damnationland being a bonfire that Maine filmmakers have created to gather around every Halloween and tell stories.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
NICKELODEON CINEMAS, Portland | patriotcinemas.com
Friday: “He Named Me Malala.” Stirring documentary portrait of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, 18, who, after being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen, devoted her young life to the rights of women and children around the world. Get ready to get inspired, people.
BAR HARBOR FILM FESTIVAL, Bar Harbor | barharborfilmfestival.com
Friday-Sunday: Sure, you might get distracted by the scenery (this Maine film fest takes place on lovely Mount Desert Island), but that’s the risk film fans take. Especially when this festival offers an impressive roster of features and shorts from around the world.