Telluride Horror Show, back in person! If I can accurately stalk my own social media posts or count my own souvenir badges correctly, this was our fifth Telluride Horror Show attendance (inclusive of last year’s virtual rendition). I was thrilled to back in Telluride this year.

For the past two years and pandemic, the festival itself managed to go on largely unchanged. There were masks indoors and wristbands to verify vaccination or negative test status. Some events were held outside. Otherwise, all the things happened.

However, this won’t be my typical Horror Show write up because this was not my typical Horror Show experience. Not due to the fest–the fest itself was as normal as it possibly could be. The call was coming from inside the house. The trip to Telluride afforded me the time to finally take a breath, and when I did, many things surfaced in my mind. Horror has always been a coping mechanism for me, so I supposed it was an apt time for some processing.

In all cases, it was much needed.

Bridal Veil Falls

Sure, three days of horror movies and events is enough to fill a weekend. However, considering we have to drive across the state to get to Telluride, we decided to cram more into the trip. Plus there is always that masochistic outdoor streak.

My father has been scolding me yearly for being in Telluride and not doing the Bridal Veil Falls hike, so this year, we finally got it together and did the thing.

The weather was amazing. My Viking heart was singing through the frigid snow contrasted with the blazing fall colors on the trees. I was euphoric and zen, in my total happy hiking place. We took the long walk through town to the trailhead to truly absorb it.

When we got to the trailhead, there was even more snow on the mountain and we were the first on the trail, so there was no trail. We had to trailblaze through the untouched powder the entire way up. It was an adventure. And a slog. Lots of slipping and sliding. For just over a mile, it was a journey.

Totally worth it. Gorgeous frozen falls times three. It was the perfect way to kick off the weekend and get the blood pumping before sitting in theaters for three days.

Author Stalking

One of the highlights of Telluride Horror Show for me this year was all the author events. Telluride always hosts an enviable set of author activities. I have seen Paul Tremblay and Jeremy Robert Johnson in previous years. Yet this year included Stephen Graham Jones.

I was introduced to Jones’s work this year when a beta reader suggested The Only Good Indians as a comparable title to my WIP novel. I read it and fell in love with that book and Jones’s style in general. I immediately devoured My Heart is a Chainsaw and Mongrels. I was hooked and so excited to see him in person.

Jones and Tremblay both read (and Johnson riffed) at the Creepy Campfire Tales. Then, prior to a book signing, the three held a Horror Summit to discuss writing and horror genre topics.

This all hit at a strange time for me. I find myself a bit lost in my writing career, and I’m not entirely sure why. I just released my fifth book (Followers) with Crystal Lake Publishing. I have wanted to work with Crystal Lake for a long time, and releasing a book is always a success, so I should feel happy and accomplished. I already have another novel drafted and ready to submit. Though it has garnered a bunch of agent rejections, I still love it.

So, why am I questioning my writing career? Why is my resolve weakening now? Listening to these professional authors speak somehow left me feeling even more conflicted, made the real dream seem even farther away. I left the events full of admiration… and increased self-doubt, which is uncharacteristic for me.

The Movies

The Telluride Horror show is really all about THE MOVIES! So what did I see?

Admittedly, I saw less this year than I usually do. My social stamina was not where it used to be, so I did not have the drive to attend every round of every day. We also had a baby in our party, so I took several child care shifts. Then I devoted a good portion of my time to the other events (authors and trivia). Plenty of horror movies still happened.

The viewing experience was somewhat off for me this year too. At first, being in a full theater was bizarre. It had been two years since I was in a packed theater. The first time I was seated directly next to a stranger, I found myself curling toward my husband, as if I was going to crawl into his lap like a cat. But I got over that quickly and reacclimated to being social.

More than that, my triggers were misaligned. Movies that were hyped up to upset me passed over my mind smoothly, while others that seemed inane stirred unexpected responses. Ghosts were moving beneath the surface of my mind that I could not identify. The horror called to them.

The Sadness

HOLY SHIT this movie. The Sadness gets every trigger warning. Graphic, gory, disturbing, fucked… but brilliant.

The movie is unsettling enough with its COVID parallels. The news reports sound all too familiar. Then it takes a swan dive off into horrific. Yet it is not splatter or shock gore. While traumatizing, it is all calculated. The despicable things depicted contribute to the story, drive the plot points.

The movie is about showing what terrible things are right below our surface, right under our thin veil of control or civilization. The Sadness renders a sublimely sickening vision of what is behind that veil. Yet it maintains lines where the camera pulls away and leaves even worse things for the imagination of the audience. That control made what is deliberate on screen all the more effective.

While a challenging and one-time watch, The Sadness is my favorite from the fest and a movie I needed to see.

Sinister Stories Shorts

The “Sinister Stories” shorts block included some creepy and interesting offerings.

Koreatown Ghost Story was my favorite short of the fest. Extremely succinct and unnerving, it offers just enough to draw you in and deliver the right impact. I loved it.

Face Not Recognized. Try Again has an interesting concept that left me with numerous questions. You’re Family Now delivered a creepy interpretation of grief.

Let the Wrong One In

Horror comedy is always a solid bet for our group. We love it, and even when it goes wrong, it is usually ridiculous enough to keep us entertained. Let the Wrong One In brings Irish vampires. One junkie brother shows up bitten instead of strung out, and things unravel from there. The movie is funny and entertaining as long as the brothers fumble in their own house. Once the story left that structure, it sort of lost cohesion.

Antlers

The big budget, mainstream closing night movie. I have very mixed feelings on Antlers. On the surface, it is a formulaic, highly produced, entertaining horror movie with a very good monster.

Yet the formula is also a bit tired. As the story borrowed the wendigo from Native culture, it felt like another instance of white characters telling a not white story. It could have been more interesting with a couple steps out of the typical box.

The ending is also pretty weak.

When the Screaming Starts

More horror comedy. When the Screaming Starts is a pseudo mockumentary about an aspiring serial killer starting a cult. The story has a lot of potential, yet much of the comedy does not land as strong as it should.

Broadcast Signal Intrusion

To be honest, I slept through part of this movie, so I’m not sure how inclusive my opinion can be. I was well schooled on the inspirations for the movie, which definitely made it more interesting. I found the first half very intriguing, a solid mystery. Then the movie lost steam. When I woke up for the ending, I was left confused and wanting (more so than from being unconscious).

Black Friday

I was potentially the most excited about Black Friday. Holiday horror comedy with Bruce Campbell? Yes please! I was expecting something in the vein of perhaps Krampus. I’m not sure what the fuck I got. I don’t know that the movie knew what it was.

I think I was expecting the commercial commentary to be foundational, a la Dawn of the Dead. Instead, it was more sprinkled like salt as random references. Then the threat shifts from zombie-like shoppers to some sort of amalgamation monster, and that transition is poorly portrayed. All the characters are extremely cliché, but it is not pushed far enough to be caricature. Ultimately, just so disappointing.

“Folked Up Horror” Shorts

Folk horror is not my preferred genre. I definitely have selections I enjoy, but I am in no way an expert. The shorts in the “Folked Up Horror” block were bizarre. The musical taxidermist in Stuffed is fantastic and more entertaining than I usually find musicals. Then The Wet Nurse personally traumatized me with breastfeeding flashbacks and horrifying potential. The others fell relatively flat or outright confusing.

Trivia

We always attend Fright or Wrong trivia and muddle our way through. By some miracle of betting on the right question last (in person) year, we won. We managed to pull it off again this year. This time, the feat was accomplished by the combination of having two experts in 80s horror combined with two strangers joining us more fluent in filmmakers and modern horror.

Win or lose, it is always a fun time. And ridiculously hard questions.

In the End

Despite whatever cycles or processing I had percolating under my surface, the breath this trip afforded me to acknowledge them was so needed. Vacations or breaks of any kind have been scarce since the pandemic, and I am glad that we used it for Telluride Horror Show. The fest managed to preserve itself and return post lockdown with the same level of horror, community, and events.

Can’t wait until next year!

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Comments
  1. “My Viking heart was singing through the frigid snow…” it sounds like you had a splendid time. In fact, your stunning photos bear witness. And trailblazing through the untouched powder snow is definitely an adventure. For some reason, I never knew that you were a hiking enthusiast as well!? 🙂

    Well, you got me intrigued with Stephen Graham Jones being your comp author. From the title of his book, I can already imagine the parallels. Perhaps, one day I’ll read this book.

    But about questioning your writing career, you had me sit up straight. Because I’m always interested to hear how other writers deal with self-doubt, but also because you mention it’s uncharacteristic for you. I hope there will be a follow up post on this…no pressure!

    Wow, so many horror movies! I have to be honest, I can only take only a small dose (as in a pinch) of horror, nowadays. But it was lovely reading your reviews.

    Overall, I think yours was a well-deserved break, more especially after the publication of your recent. The promotion part can be extremely exhausting… But thank you so much for taking time to write this post and share your wonderful experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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