Q&A with Mitchell Wells of The Horror Society

By Heather Wixson

Recently, The Horror Chick had time to catch up with Mitchell Wells, the maestro behind www.horrorsociety.com based out of Chicago.

The Horror Society is hosting its Women of Horror Film Festival on April 25th at the Portage Theater in Chicago at 4050 N. Milwaukee.  You can pick up tickets here.

HW: When did you get involved with the Horror Society?

I started Horror Society about 4 years ago. It started out as a forum and message board for just my friends and whoever wanted to talk about horror. For the first couple of years it was just a forum and I started to notice that everyone was talking about indie horror more than anything else. After a few classes in web design, I figured why not make this some sort of website and devote it to what we all loved and talked about 90% of the time… indie horror. So I got the name, got some hosting, and it took off from there. After a while and a slow start, people started to take us seriously and traffic grew along with the word of mouth, and now it is what it is. Just a website devoted to the indie and low budget movies.

HW:  What’s your role with the organization?

I started this little site a while ago and basically its me doing all of the hard work. It was only myself for a long time with a few people coming in and out helping out with review and news. I took care of all the back end stuff, web design, and maintenance of the site. I went to all of the conventions, film festival, movie premiers, etc.. and passed out flyers for the site, talked to people about it, and tried to spread the word as much as I could by myself.  Since I moved to Chicago a couple of years ago, I have met some great people and now there is a staff of 7 that help with the site, news, post reviews, help to sponsor shows, festivals, etc.

I still take care of all the back end work and post news and reviews, but with the help of everyone else, it has turned into a great place for people to hear about the smaller budget films.

HW:  What types of activities does The Horror Society do?

Other than posting news, reviews, features, and general info on the site, we have started doing film festivals. HS started out doing a film festival in Cincinnati with the help of a fan who wanted to bring horror to the big screen there. I had no idea what I was doing, and just went by what I have always seen elsewhere. That was in June of 08, and now we are on our 4th festival. We just wanted to bring indie horror to the big screen and give people a chance that they wouldn’t ever have to show their films. Many of these films may never bee seen like they should be, in a real theater with an audience that would appreciate them. So we just wanted to bring what we write about and post about on the site to the people in the theater. Its one thing to read a review of a movie, but its even better to see that on the big screen. I think we are offering something different that your regular film festival. Instead of doing one big festival once a year, we are doing smaller shows every 3 months. Each one with a different theme to the films and different gimmicks to get the crowd involved. For the festival back in October of 08 in Chicago, we offered barf bags to all of the audience. The theme was extreme – underground horror so for some of the films, you might need that bag. We just try to bring the festivities back to the film festivals and create a sense of community when you get to our fests. It’s all about hanging out and watching some great films. I think it’s a bit different than the other film festivals here in Chicago and so far it has worked out well. There is plenty of horror to go around!

HW: Can you discuss the Women in Horror event that is coming up later this month?

We have a great theme for this festival on April 25th. We want to celebrate and showcase women in horror with a different view than what has been the norm. Meaning in most horror films the women is looked at as a victim, sex-crazed chick, and usually the one to be killed off or tortured throughout the film. Yes some films usually have the women win in the end, and usually win by default. She is the last one there and catches the main character by surprise, kills him, then everything is fine.

But for this fest we wanted to show women in a different role on the big screen. We wanted to show them being the villain throughout the film instead of the victim. With that said we also wanted to show what women can do behind the camera as well. Most of the films that we will be screening have been written, directed, and/or produced by women. Many people don’t know that these films are out there and that women are doing some amazing work in the genre.

We wanted to showcase a wide variety of films for this one. From women as the villains, to a girl getting the last word in after her death,  a documentary showing what women are capable of doing in mainstream horror, to an all out assault on men in general and more of a feminist film.  We also have some great short films from the AFI Directors Workshop for women. It’s just a chance to see what women in horror, specifically independent horror, are doing and what the future holds for horror.

We will be having several guests, trailers, giveaways, and a raffle and silent auction with the proceeds going to The Lynn Sage Foundation for breast cancer research. This festival is also personal to me in the fact that my sister passed away from breast cancer a few years back, and really the worst horror is the horror of real life and death. I wanted to try and give back and help out as best as I could, so this disease can be stopped. So this is not just part of the theme, but it is a real thing for me being able to help others out.

HW: What other events are you guys planning in the future?

After this festival in April, we will be having another on in July called Summer Slaughter. This will feature some great slashers, serial killers, sickos, and psychos!! It’s going to be featuring some of the best underground and extreme indie horror we can find. 12 hours of it to be exact! I think you may need another barf bag for this one! After that we will be having 12 hours of Zombie films in November…. called “Zombies, Zombies, Zombies” Everyone likes a good zombie film! From then its back to the beginning of the year in January and we will start the whole process over again. Same themes.. B-Movie Madness, Women of Horror, Summer Slaughter, and Zombies.. but with different movies. There is so much great stuff out there and it all falls into one of these categories, so why not just keep showing everything all year long. Always new films coming out and old ones you have never heard of, so we want to bring them to you and show you what indie horror is all about!

Other than the film festivals, we will be sponsoring some local Chicago shows, events and screenings as well. We are now going to be vendors at all of the local conventions, Fango, Flashback, and anything else that comes our way. We will also be starting an online store with some great horror themed jewelry, shirts, and some indie horror flicks as well. We gotta pay the bills somehow! :) Just anything to get our name out there while helping the people get there films out there as well.

That’s what its all about really. With all of these festivals and events.. its not just to make Horror Society bigger and better than the rest, but its to show people that we are out there and what we have to offer is news about indie horror and the filmmakers that make these films. If we can get out
there and promote our site, then we are promoting the films on our site, and it’s a win-win situation for everyone! We do this for the love of these films and for not much other than that.

HW: What is it about horror that appeals to you? You obviously have to love the genre to work in it. :)

I love the rush these films can give you. The feeling of being scared is almost like riding a roller-coaster. The movies build up then hit you with some great stuff, then it builds back up again and does it all over! Its just the feeling I get from being involved in a movie then getting the crap scared out of me. I love it. Some people bungee jump, some take drugs for their kicks, but I watch horror films!

And it’s the fact that this horror community is filled with some of the most outstanding and well grounded people you will ever meet. For all of us that watch people getting their heads chopped off, stabbed, run over, or whatever.. we are some of the nicest people you will ever meet!!! You would think that we are a bunch of crazed people, and yeah I’m sure some are, but for the most part we are normal.

It’s just that sense of community that I love with horror. People can make their jobs, hobbies, and lifestyle out of the horror genre and it’s amazing. I don’t think you can really do that with any other type of film. There is just something about horror that draws everyone in and keeps them there. Once you get hooked on these films and the horror community, you are hooked for life.

Plus I love some good special effects! There’s nothing better than watching some great FX work on the big screen. I can’t stand the site of real blood, and if I cut myself, even a little paper cut, I freak out. Yeah I’m a wimp when it comes to that…. but seeing it on the screen… I want more!