Cult classics hit the big screen

GVL / Courtesy
From left to right: Festival Director Anthony Griffin, 2012 winner of best feature and director of Empty Rooms Adam Lamas, and Festival Director Chris Randall

GVL / Courtesy From left to right: Festival Director Anthony Griffin, 2012 winner of best feature and director of “Empty Rooms” Adam Lamas, and Festival Director Chris Randall

Chanon Cummings

In the spirit of Halloween, Wealthy Theatre filled its seats on Oct. 24-26 with horror, action, and sci-fi fans, all ready to watch films from all the around the world. Over the 3-day festival, 64 films were shown, 19 of which were Michigan-made movies.

For seven years and counting, the Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival has screened some of the best in world-class genre movies with bold determination and wild imagination, according to Public Relations Director, Shirley Clemens.

Anthony Griffin and Chris Randall, co-founders of the Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival, both studied filmmaking at Grand Valley State University.

Griffin, a GVSU student from 1990-1993, was in the film program before GVSU even had a film program.

“GVSU was instrumental to my professional development and the success I’ve had in the world,” he said.

In the spring of 2006, Griffin and Randall were concerned that they couldn’t find their favorite movie genres at regional film festivals, or that they couldn’t watch cult classics on the big screen anywhere in the West Michigan area around Halloween, Griffin said.

Taking all of 15 minutes for the idea to be produced and turned into a mode of action, and eight years (and counting) of development and polishing, the Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival has become one of the top 20 coolest film festivals operating on the genre movie film festival circuit, according to Moviemaker Magazine.

“The community has such an immense amount of interest for cinema, so Randall and I solved the problem,” he said.

The festival aims to give people the feeling of watching a movie in which they recognize absolutely no one in it and then the story turns on a dime to do something they’d never expect, Griffin said.

“These are true independent artists, operating with a determined spirit and passion; and not necessarily a slave to the mercurial weekend box office as much as their own imagination and how they come up with inventive ways to express themselves,” he said

Through their festival, they have been able to raise an awareness of the importance of genre movies to a larger audience because of their international platform, Griffin said.

“Everyone is different, and we felt we could acknowledge that essential human element best as a film festival by simply playing movies from all over the world in our own backyard,” Griffin said

The festival has a variety of films for all audiences. Griffin said there are movies in the festival that he adores because they mirror his own style and sensibility as a filmmaker and others that are not his taste.

“The only risk on our part as the audience is whether or not we want to be the ones who discovered something new or have someone else tell you what’s suppose to be important,” Griffin said. “I can’t answer that for anyone else, but I want that Christmas morning feeling of tearing down the stairs and finding the boxes wrapped under the tree. Does it really get any better than that, as an adventurer?”

Although they did not discover genre movies, Griffin said his and Randall’s job is to remind people that there are art house movies with grindhouse style out there that have earned a place in the discussion about art in West Michigan.
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