Festival Review: Melbourne Monster Fest

Zombies and Cannibals and Ghouls, Oh My!

Based between Melbourne’s Cinema Nova and surrounding venues every November, Monster Fest brings horror fans together for a united celebration of the latest and greatest in underground horror and macabre cinema. Offering an array of film-making workshops, sessions with industry experts, mingling events, depravity and freshly served film releases it’s establishing itself as a must for the gore-inclined.

First launched as a standalone event back in 2011 the festival has enjoyed doubling crowds every year since it’s inception and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing. Organiser Neil Foley takes little credit for the exponential success, instead pointing to an organic expansion from humble beginnings as a spin-off from an Asian Film exposé back in 2010. There’s no master plan at work here, Foley says, just a void in the film-going landscape he’s managed to fill.

One question remains though: what is it about horror that brings people together with such an insatiable eagerness? As a genre its box office receipts are a tiny fraction of action or comedy, yet they’ve got nothing going in the form of a dedicated gathering. Cult-followings are typically reserved for singular works rather than genres on the whole.

So what is it about horror that’s so different?

At the Monster Fest launch party finding an answer was a difficult task. Insights ranged from it allowing an outlet for imagined acts we’re unable to commit in real life, to it being a representation of mankind’s existential quandaries and obsession with pathos, fear and suffering. At the very least it’s hard to deny we have a degree of mutual curiosity with the morbid and provocative.

Thinking in more psychological terms, studies have shown a component to the cinematic experience whereby a viewer is partially ‘transported’ into any scene they’re viewing. This is why we tend to be picky about what we watch depending on the mood we’re in as movies can bring about a clear change to our emotional state. On that basis it’s obvious horror (and thriller for that matter) would be a big calling card for anyone inclined to rushes of adrenaline. This may not explain an interest in campy gore devoid of fear, but it goes a long way to explaining how a person can find themselves initiated into the horror ecosystem.

From a better vantage point Foley’s perspective was more business-like and diplomatic, acknowledging the gap he’s been able to bridge over a personal passion. He’s an aficionado of cinema in general and views horror fans as being generally well-adjusted and good natured people, a sentiment I couldn’t fault based on a number of conversations I had at the launch party. There’s no real sub-culture here, just a gathering of people with a refined sense of the darker side of humanity we’ve all taken a fleeting interest in at some point or another.

Set for further expansion in the years to come, Monster Fest is a hugely important addition to the Melbourne film scene. If you’re looking for an opportunity to delve into the minds behind the things that keep us up at night, or you’re just a gore junkie out to satisfy a craving for the grotesque, you know where to be next November.

For more info visit www.monsterfest.com.au 

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