I wanted to be in Telluride this weekend. I wanted to be up in the mountains surrounded by aspens ignited in golden leaves, walking through the crisp air to shiver in queue after queue for horror movie screenings at my fourth straight year at the Telluride Horror Show.

Yet, as with just about everything in recent days, the Telluride Horror Show went virtual this year. And, as with just about everything in recent days, it was better than nothing, but it was just not what I wanted. There is only so much that you can emulate online, especially when everything is now forced online into a distanced echo of what it used to be.

We do what we can under the current constraints. Telluride Horror Show definitely made every effort to virtualize the festival experience and offerings, so rather than spend another blog post analyzing my pandemic fatigue and depression, I will strive to stay on topic.

For the Shelter-in-Place Edition, the Telluride Horror Show endeavored to provide the variety of their programming and the sense of community in the usual experience online. Beyond feature films, the offerings included recorded campfire tales, director and/or cast commentaries, horror trivia, a virtual lounge, and other events I didn’t even get to sample.

However, it was all that: online. All that flat, glowing screen of the television or the smartphone. It was all socially distant. With all of life filtered through these damned screens lately, it felt so reductive. For me, rather than bringing me closer to the experience, it called attention to everything I was missing and could not currently have.

But that is just how my brain works in this pandemic.

We did the best we could, as we have been for months, with the situation. We gathered our cohort together to put on our own miniature horror fest. At times, it included children milling around in other rooms or yelling at uncooperative dogs. We employed a couple different venues for variety.

To be entirely honest, our viewing started out quite rough. The first few features we attempted were disappointing and seemed to amplify the bitterness of not being in Telluride itself. We really struggled with the film descriptions. We were misled multiple times over the weekend and found that, ultimately, we were missing the festival chatter, the reviews we would hear in lines between movies and at the bar from other movie-goers.

However, I do not enjoy writing bad reviews. As an indie artist, I do not like to rip apart something I know people put themselves into or truly loved. So, this festival recap is not going to be about how a virtual festival flirted with zoom burnout or which movies did not suit my particular palate. Rather, I am going to focus on everything the Shelter-in-Place Edition of the Telluride Horror Show did right.

Perks of watching from home:

  • Comfort: While the Sheridan and the Nugget theaters may be beautiful and storied (if not haunted) venues, they are not the most ergonomic after compound hours. Sheltering at home, it could be the couch or the floor or the bathtub or the backyard or all of the above! While I missed the long walks between screenings, some in our party who were relieved to be skipping them. And there was no shivering outside in line and zero waiting.
  • Convenience: In Telluride, we often encountered the dilemma of two conflicting screenings. However, at home, we were the film programmers. We watched the on demand movies, shorts, and events when we wanted and in the order we wanted. Had to pee? Pause! Needed a snack? Pause! Wanted to start early or run late? We could do whatever we wanted.
  • Concessions: While a normal Telluride includes sandwiches shoved in a bag, popcorn, candy, and booze, the home part of sheltering opened the door to much more elaborate snacks and meals. We could eat and drink whatever we wanted. Hell, we could have it delivered. The bar and the kitchen were inside our theater.
  • Conversation: A festival may be more of a communal viewing than a typical movie, with laughter and banter encouraged. However, it would still be disrespectful for a group of assholes (us) to chatter through an entire film. Yet, when that group of assholes is the entire audience, we could do what we wanted. Especially when we were not entirely enjoying the movie, rowdy joking was exactly what we needed to elevate the experience.
  • Cost: Holy cost effective! The Shelter-in-Place Edition included SO MUCH content for the price. And with the convenience of the format, we were able to consume so much more of it in the timeframe. Much more horror for each dollar spent.

Our viewing may have started rocky, and we may have missed a scheduled screening due to not fully understanding how those were working. Yet, we still found plenty of horror to enjoy in this year’s programming. I have never been able to watch so many shorts at a fest before!

My favorite films (in no particular order):

  • The Columnist: A horror comedy that reminded me of two of my books (clearly, the themes speak to me) where trolls on the internet push one writer too far
  • Bloodthirsty: A refreshing rendition of a neglected subgenre that finds a vegan singer struggling against all kinds of hunger as she works on her new album
  • Dark Stories: A clever anthology of spooky stories a mother tells a possessed doll to keep it distracted
  • Butchers: A rare exception to my distaste of the hillbilly subgenre with teenagers breaking down in the middle of nowhere and encountering a family of sadistic butchers
  • Possessor (honorable mention): A sci-fi mingling including an assassin who possesses others to execute her jobs until she finds herself trapped in the last host

My favorite shorts (in a very particular order):

  1. Keith: A little girl meets the monster under her bed
  2. We All Scream: A little boy is tempted by a clown in an ice cream truck
  3. Oh Deer!: A father teaches his son what to do when they hit a deer with their car
  4. Carmentis: A injured miner struggles to survive on a harsh planet
  5. There’s a Ghost in the House: A couple bickers over the appearance of an apparition in their living room
  6. Face Your Fears: A woman faces a challenge to concur her fear of the dark

In Review

This is going to sound fucking ridiculous and corny, but the truth is the truth.

<cheesyTruth>Horror festivals have always been about more than the movies for us. My husband took me to my first for my birthday (Stanley Film Festival). We made some great friends there, and they told us about the Telluride Horror Show. So we brought some friends and started attending. The next year, we brought more friends. Then we met more people, brought more people. It became its own thing.

The horror movies are always what we go for but are not what the experience is about. It is the trip and the experience–but mostly the people. This year, we could not have the trip and we had to cram the experience into the screen, but we still had (some of) the people. So we still had the part of our horror show that mattered. </cheesyTruth>

So cheers to more horror and more horror shows and to being able to bring it all back in person again in the future years!

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Comments
  1. I am glad so many fans are keeping the genre alive and “feeding” that inner monster! Thank you for proving Horror can survive anything — even virtual exile!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Telluride Horror Show: In Virtual Review […]

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