Our friends over at Other Worlds Austin have done something wonderful for us. The festival has enjoyed quite a bit of success in just its first two years, and they have decided to add some purely Horror content, with their addition of Under Worlds Austin to the festival this year. We here at Blood Over Texas are of course incredibly excited about this, and I had the privilege to ask Other Worlds Austin Founder and Artistic Director Bears Fonté a few questions about his new venture, Under Worlds Austin.
“When I started OWA, as you know, I was really inspired by Corey Mitchell, who had founded Housecore Horror Festival the year before,” Bears told me. With Fantastic Fest bringing in so many big names in genre film, Housecore was more about retrospectives and smaller independent films along with the music. Bears thought he could fill a gap bringing more independent Sci-Fi to Austin with Other Worlds, and he has been more than successful in his endeavor.
Unfortunately, we lost Corey Mitchell in 2014, and the Housecore Horror Festival restructured and moved to San Antonio. “I would never even have thought of doing Under Worlds Austin if Housecore was still a thing in town,” Bears said. “However, every year we had horror filmmakers asking if their film might qualify as somewhat Sci-Fi enough to screen at Other Worlds, and every year we found great Sci-Fi Horror that we could play without thinking twice.” With the obvious crossover between Sci-Fi and Horror, the Other Worlds Austin team thought the time was right to bring in some purely horror programming and make it an official part of the festival.
I asked Bears if the inclusion of more Horror films would change the complexion of festival. “I don’t think so,” he said, “and I’ll tell you why. We are not programming just any Horror. We are looking for those same story-first films that we’ve programmed in Sci-Fi.” He went on to say the festival wouldn’t be programming gore-filled slasher/kill-focused type of films. “I am really excited to shine a spotlight on a sub-section of a genre that I feel gets too often over shadowed by flashy franchises and gore. True Horror is just as much a struggle for the mind as Science Fiction.”
So what is it about Sci-Fi and Horror that make them such great bedfellows? There is so much crossover between the two genres, and so many thematic similarities not only with Sci-Fi and Horror but also genre film in general. I asked Bears if those similarities are what draw him these films. “I think both genres take us out of our everyday lives and ask us to imagine possibilities,” he said. Bears went on to explain that Science Fiction asks us to believe in fantastic technologies or extreme conditions, such as world wide drought or nuclear war. Horror asks us to accept something we fear as real and immediate, such as demons or ghosts. “ I think in both there is a sense that we are just a few steps removed from a world we understand and in which we feel safe.” There is a difference, though between the worlds of Science Fiction and Horror and the worlds of Fantasy, he points out. “I might be crucified for this but I find Alien to be a far more effective Sci-Fi film than Star Wars,” he says. He explains that in Alien, the audience is only asked to accept a couple small things that throw the world into chaos. A mining mission in space is easily accepted, the biggest leap is that the crew run across an alien life form, the Xenomorph. Whereas in Star Wars, there is a complex galactic government with a multitude of alien races, ancient religions and The Force, which is basically just magic. The Fantasy world of Star Wars completely removes the audience from the world around them, whereas Sci-Fi and Horror are more grounded in real life. Bears explained, “a Sci-Fi film makes you look at your world, and wonder will it/could it become the world of the film. What can I do to prevent that (or make that happen)? A Horror film makes you look at your world and wonder is the world of the film already true. How can I possibly even get by another minute without fearing for me life?”
That lead me to wonder what was Bears’ favorite Horror sub-genre. “ I think my favorite films are always the ones where there is something to solve, like Saw or Cabin In The Woods,” he responded “rather than just something/one chasing the heroes and killing them off.” He explained that those themes can extend across any of the sub-genres. “I do find possession and supernatural stories a bit more frightening because I believe in all that stuff,” he added. “I believe there are ghosts, I saw one several times when I was a child. Vampires and werewolves seem a bit far-fetched; although, I’m down with becoming a werebear if such a thing exists!”
The film industry, and quite frankly the story-telling industry at large tend to move in cycles and trends, and I was curious about which trends he liked, those he disliked, and if there were any he would like to see make a return. He told me he was vehemently against remakes in all genres, but it seems to be more of a trend in Horror than elsewhere. “I think you have to do a totally new take to make it worthwhile. Reboot rather than revisit. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is so much better than the entirely unnecessary 2010 Samuel Bayer remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street. There are so many things out there that frighten us, why play somewhere safe?” He went on to say that he really liked films such as Lights Out, which began its life as a short film. “There are so many original voices working in the short medium, I love when they get the chance to make the nightmares public in a feature form.” He went on to say that he would really like to see more Horror films as period pieces. “Unless it’s an adaptation of a Gothic novel, everything is full of teens and millennials or (and here is another thing I’m really tired of) some sort of nostalgia for the eighties. I love The Others, From Hell and Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer.”
I was already incredibly excited to take part in Other Worlds Austin this year, and with the addition of Under Worlds Austin and more Horror content it’s going to be tough to wait until December. Which evidently Bears anticipated, and has programmed monthly screenings leading up to the festival! The next of which is Capsule which will screen at Flix Brewhouse this Wednesday — September 21st. So make sure you grab tickets to that, and keep up with Other Worlds Austin dot com for more screenings and festival info.
— Eric Harrelson
*Note: OWA is still accepting film submissions (shorts and full features) until September 30th for this year’s 2016 festival. The festival will take place in Austin on December 1-4th. Awards are given out for Audience Award and the Mary Shelly Award. Check the site for all of the details. In addition, badges are on sale now for the festival. GET YOUR BADGES
Listen to our interview with Jordan Brown and Dan Repp of OWA on our podcast episode, “Sci-Fi & Horror: Blood Brothers” HERE.