We don't suggest inviting filmmaker Patrick Rea over on Halloween - the guy's got way too many scary stories to tell. Thankfully, Rea turns most of his horror tales into short films, five of which will be making their Houston debuts during the Comicpalooza Film Festival hosted by Splatterfest this weekend. The quintet of films - Do Not Distrub, Get Off My Porch, Next Caller, Now That You're Dead and Paint Shaker - range from dark and creepy to funny and creepy.
The first film on the schedule is Do Not Disturb, a psychological thriller about a mysterious man who's being haunted by an invisible entity in his hotel room. All of the action takes place in the hotel room and adjoining hall, adding a claustrophobic feeling to the already tense situation.
Rea made Do Not Disturb as a test run for a new camera he was going to be using on a feature. "We had the camera for just three days and I knew if we had all these different locations, we wouldn't be able to complete the film. With Do Not Disturb, I just paid for a hotel room for three days and we shot it. I tried to make it a creepy, interesting Twilight Zone, Outer Limits type story, with all of the action in one place.
While gloomy and intense, Do Not Disturb also has a bit of dark comedy. "I like to infuse humor into everything. Of course, some of the films are a little more funny than others. Do Not Disturb isn't so much funny as it's just disturbing."
Rea says his mix of comedy and horror is more a reflection of his personality that any attempt to capture a wider audience. "I have a kind of sick sense of humor. I'm usually the one that make jokes about things that other people don't think aren't appropriate to make fun of; I typically find amusing aspects to every situation. I was just at the DMV for four hours and, believe me, I can easily make a horror film about the DMV - it was terrifying in there, and funny, too.
Next up is Get Off My Porch, a cautionary tale about being nice to little girls selling cookies. The lead character refuses to buy cookies from two little girls that come to his door but they don't take no for an answer. The girls keep coming back throughout the night, ever cheerful and insistant that the cookies are delicious. "Who in the hell buys cookies at 10:30 at night?" the man screams to a sheriff over the phone when he calls to make a complaint. "Well, they are pretty delicious," comes the answer.
Soon, he's the only one who hasn't bought the cookies and the whole neighborhood, full of cookie munching zombies is starting to turn against him. "I told the composer when he was scoring, 'Start off like it's Home Alone and then slowly go into Gremlins.' Everything looks innocent at first glance, but it all gets much scarier as the night goes on."
Next Caller takes place entirely in a radio station. "There's this guy who's an arrogant radio host doing a talk show on the supernatural," says Rea. "He's skeptic. Some weird things start happening while he's on the air. It's a nice mishmash of comedy and horror. And again, it was one of those films that I wanted to do in just one location. We shot in a working radio station. We'd get in there when they'd go to automated [programming] about 6 o'clock every night and we'd shoot until they came back in the morning."
The story of a man, his wife and his mistress in a deadly triangle. Suffice it to say everybody isn't going to be alive the next morning. Actually alive might not be the right word, the three characters are vampires.
"Each character is unlikable and there's no one you're really rooting for, they just keep one-upping each other," Rea tells us. "I wanted it to be three twists in one movie, so you never know who's on what side or who's plotting what exactly. Some of the Tales of the Crypt episodes were like that, where none of the characters were really likeable. In the end, they all got what was coming to them. And of course, I just wanted to make a vampire movie."
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Paint Shaker rounds out the screening. Set in a hardware store, it's probably the darkest of the five films showing.
"That piece is definitely darker. It takes place in a hardware store, and it has some black comedy on top of a situation that really isn't funny. A guy comes to kill his boss and these people get caught up in the situation. It's not a real horror movie, but there is a lot of creepy stuff going on."
See Patrick Rea's shorts and other horror movies during Comicpalooza's Film Festival hosted by Splatterfest, screening today through Sunday at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Check out a full schedule here.