Arts

Monster Pool: Chapter Two aims to challenge censorship in the horror film genre. Photo: Courtesy of Curtis Gough.

U of O student stars in anthology horror film Monster Pool: Chapter Two

A cast of local zombies, serial killers, and demons will be hitting the screen in Monster Pool: Chapter Two, premiering at Ottawa’s Mayfair Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 23.

This anthology film, produced by Vincent Valentino and Randy Smith, features nine different stories from nine different Ottawa-based filmmakers. Each filmmaker was invited to choose from a list of monsters to focus on—hence the title, Monster Pool—and given three months to produce an original short.

Valentino, who has experienced censorship in the past with his movie making efforts, aims to create an opportunity for local filmmakers to express themselves freely.

“I wanted to do something where the filmmakers could have a safe place to be as creative as they want, without fear of shame and ridicule.”

Smith and Valentino also lent technical support to many of the directors, helping them out with filming and sound editing.

“We guide them through the whole thing,” says Valentino.

“We want them to push themselves in every facet, whether it’s storytelling or content or techniques,” Smith adds.

While the first edition of Monster Pool accepted any filmmaker who applied, this year the producers opted to include fewer films to ensure a more consistent level of quality. They’re also enforcing an overarching “wraparound” story structure (“Cryptkeeper segments,” jokes Smith) this time around, making Chapter Two a more unified feature overall.

“I want to see if we can make a proper go with this—if we can get somebody to distribute it and do something (with it) as a proper film,” says Smith.

The project’s overall goal is to provide Ottawa’s filmmakers and actors with another opportunity to display their talents on the big screen.

“It encourages the acting community to blossom, as well as the filmmaking community,” says Valentino.

His segment, “Prisoner”, stars Curtis Gough, who graduated from the University of Ottawa last year with a bilingual honours bachelor of arts in theatre and a minor in psychology, and who is currently completing an honours bachelor of arts in psychology. The short, filmed in a 150-year-old haunted house in Pembroke, Ont., was Gough’s first time working in the horror genre.

“It was a lot of fun, especially for an emerging actor (such as) myself,” says Gough. “I think people are going to be terrified of it, but also enjoy it.”

Gough appreciates the difficult themes addressed in many of the shorts. “They’re commenting on important issues and making actual messages out of their movies.”

Valentino feels that too many horror filmmakers fail to take advantage of the genre’s ability to address complex issues, partly due to lack of resources.

“Filmmakers are only producing what they have access to (in terms of) location and content and type of special effects,” he explains. “Because we’re stuck in this really no-budget thing, we always explore the same themes … We always play it safe and do the same tacky type of horror.”

Smith disputes the idea that horror films are inherently tacky.

“There is a perception, I think, where people are like, ‘Ugh, it’s horror, it’s gonna be dumb,’” he says, believing that Chapter Two challenges these perceptions. “I think we actually have (a) surprising amount of smarter, slower-burn psychological ones this time.”

He adds, “Now, there are (also) some straight-up, in-your-face blood and gore ones, which have their place.”

Monster Pool: Chapter Two plays at the Mayfair Theatre at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23. Tickets can be purchased for $10 at the door. All revenue will be split between the featured filmmakers