Something Northern this way comes

ArctiCulture | Watch out Nordic noir, polar horror is right behind you

Coming to you from a territory far, far away

Kevin McGwin

On the one hand, audiences at the fourth annual Dead North Film Festival, which begins on Friday in Yellowknife, have no idea what is in store for them. Such is the nature of film, particularly the horror genre the festival seeks to cultivate.

On the other hand, audiences shouldn’t be surprised if the 18 ten-minute films being screened over two days have a lot in common with each other and with the films of festivals past, according to Meagan Wohlberg, the festival’s director.

That, she explains, is partly by design and partly due to the nature of the North.

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Amongst the festival’s two most important rules are, one, that filmmakers (most of whom hve day jobs) must come from above the 60th parallel, and, two, that all films must be written, shot and edited over a nine-week period, ending this year on February 21.

The requirements, according to Ms Wohlberg, all but guarantee the Northern winter will take at least a supporting role in the productions.

“People are making horror films. The extreme weather at this time of year lends itself to that aesthetic,” she says. “As far as the participants go, the dark and the cold are such a big part of our lives that it would be odd if their films didn’t take advantage of them.”

Placing horror films in a climate the audience is familiar with adds to the sense of unease. So too, Ms Wohlberg reckons, does the likelihood that places and people the audiences know are, in all likelihood, going to appear on the screen.

“These are local films, made by local people. You’re going to see someone you recognise, but they will probably be in a situation that you don’t expect. That’s part of the fun of something like this.”

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Audience involvement is also a key word. Getting a film made in nine weeks takes hard work, but some of the horror is more serious than others. “The point is to get people going,” Ms Wholberg says. “Sometimes that is by making them scream out of them. Sometimes that is by making them groan. This type of festival attracts the campy sort of filmmaker.”

In the past, the festival has accepted only Canadian films. This year, however, the organisers opened up the competition to anyone from the circumpolar North. No foreign films were submitted, but a number of people made inquiries, and Ms Wohlberg expects that next year they will see the first foreign films entered.

Although this year’s slate of participants remains all Canadian, with films from Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, several horror films from other polar regions will be shown. These will not be a part of the competition, but Ms Wohlberg hopes that the can offer a different perspective on the the genre.

Doing so could inspire some of those in the audience to enter the competition next year. That would give the film festival a third hand. Just what any campy horror film needs.

See this year’s trailers and previous years’ films on Dead North’s Vimeo channel.

The Rasmussen’s ArctiCulture articles offer a closer look at the arts and culture of the region.

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