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Halloween comes early for Haligonians with....Hellifax

Just days ahead of Halloween, the third annual genre festival is thrilled to showcase more than 45 horror films at Halifax's Bus Stop Theatre
Filmmaker Jason Eisener's Kids vs. Aliens will be spotlighted at Hellifax this year

It may be the third year for Hellifax but Walter Forsyth is particularly excited about this year’s launch of Halifax's horror-themed film festival.

“The first year, we just did it online and there was a lot of interest,” notes the co-founder of the annual genre festival that originated in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. “But we missed the in-person part of course (and) that’s the fun part — just getting together with friends and colleagues and people that are into it.”

Started in 2020 while increasing COVID-19 cases were still creating widespread restrictions on public gatherings, Hellifax quietly launched as Halifax’s sole festival dedicated to the genre of horror films.

“There’s been little bits off-and-on in Halifax but we just thought maybe we’ll just try a festival that’s a little more consistent and that is a celebration of that genre,” notes Forsyth, who created Hellifax with Angus Swantee. “We open it up to sci-fi and fantasy as well so it’s not just horror but there are a lot of films like this made around the world and we thought it’d be great to show them here in Halifax.”

The third incarnation of Hellifax — launching just days before Halloween — will spotlight six feature-length horror films as well as 40 short films spanning three days, starting Friday, October 21.

As well, for the first time, the genre festival is thrilled to announce a partnership with its latest in-person venue — the Bus Stop Theatre.

“We had tried to book it last year but it just didn’t work,” says Forsyth, recalling the festival featured some in-person screenings last year at Saint Mary’s University. “It was a well-executed event — just not super well-attended. People weren’t ready to go out yet so we thought we’d do it again and there’s definitely more interest this year.”

There is good reason for the boost of interest in Hellifax as well. After all, as Forsyth notes, this year they have lined up an impressive array of films, including the award-winning Spanish feature, Everyone Will Burn as the opening night feature.

“It’s pretty intense,” admits Forsyth, adding the movie was selected as the opening night film among several other potential submissions. “It’s a story of this cursed town and then forty years later, this curse comes back and it just sort of takes over the town and its just mayhem really.”

Co-written and directed by Los Angeles-based auteur David Hebrero, Everyone Will Burn follows the story of a suicidal woman who receives a visit by a strange little girl who may have a connection to a local legend about stopping an impending apocalypse.

“This little kid just shows up and this woman sort of takes her in,” notes Forsyth. “(But) this kid is sort of the devil incarnate.”

Other highlights of Hellifax include an award-winning festival favourite from Halifax filmmaker Colin MacDonald called Stitches, in which a woman must deal with a wound that will not heal.

“Last year I screened a film at Hellifax and I had the best time,” notes MacDonald in a news release. “I’m incredibly excited to screen my latest short film this year! There’s no feeling like coming home for a screening.”

Hellifax also offers a short film script contest that will wrap-up with a free live table read at the Bus Stop on Sunday morning. There will also be an opening reception Friday evening at Propeller Brewing on Gottingen Street from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Hellifax is also hosting a special premiere of the family feature Kids vs. Aliens from Canadian filmmaker Jason Eisener that will take place a week later on October 29 at Park Lane Cinemas but the festival will wrap its weekend festivities on Sunday with the closing feature film, Cult Hero, from director Jesse Thomas Cook.

“It’s Canadian — I love that,” says Forsyth of the Fantasia International Film Festival Silver Award-winning film. 

The hit horror comedy focuses on a one-time reality TV star-turned-“cult-buster” who helps a realtor break her husband out of what is supposed to be a new-age health spa.

“They are just over the top characters,” adds Forsyth of the closing night film. “And it’s a very funny film so it’s a nice way to end (Hellifax) — on a funny horror comedy.”

For more information or the full line-up of Hellifax films, visit the website.

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