Sacramento Horror Film Festival has three days of screams

After visiting several horror film festivals that didn’t deliver enough scream for the buck, Sacramento Horror Film Festival founder Tim Meunier decided he could do a better job.

As the SHFF reaches its seventh year, Meunier believes he has achieved that goal. His aim these days is to simply make each installment better than the previous one.

“I expect it to be a spectacle, people in costumes, horror hosts, that kind of thing,” Meunier said of his festival. “It became a mission and goal where people in Sacramento wouldn’t have to go to other cities and give their tourism dollars to other places. The challenge (now) is to best what I did the year before to give people something new and fresh.”

Meunier holds the three-day festival, which kicks off tonight, in the historic 580-seat Colonial Theatre on Stockton Boulevard, and attendees can expect much more than simply screenings of scary films.

“We do things before a program like games or contests with the hosts,” Meunier said. “You might see some twisted form of ballet and you don’t exactly know what you watched, but you were glad you were there to see it.”

This year’s opening night includes a performance by The Shadow Circus Creature Theatre (with burlesque queen Jay Siren billed as a special guest) and the seventh annual Zombie Beauty Pageant before the screening of “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon,” a highly regarded 2006 American horror-film satire.

The film’s lead actor, Nathan Baesel, is scheduled to be on hand for the screening and a post-film Q&A.

A raucous screening of cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” caps Saturday’s events. As the poster teases: “Costumes strongly encouraged.”

The festival also offers a Sunday morning “family program” designed specifically for children. This year’s presentation is the 2012 animated-adventure film “ParaNorman.”

The SHFF has an international reach and this year’s program will include films from Europe, England as well as the United States, Meunier said.

“Hundreds of filmmakers internationally send in their entries – I can get anywhere from 200 to 600 entries a year,” Meunier said, adding that submissions are a mix of feature and short films.

More than 40 films will be screened over the festival’s three-day run, including six features.

Meunier’s love of horror films started in his youth when he first watched Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (featuring a baby-faced Johnny Depp) with his mother.

As he grew older, Meunier, 34, gained an appreciation of the genre’s classics, including Vincent Price movies and more contemporary films such as “Rosemary’s Baby” with Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, “The Changeling” with George C. Scott, “The Entity” with Barbara Hershey, and director Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead.”

“I had exposure to lots of different genres,” he said. “I love the blood and guts, but I also love the movies without the blood and guts. I think that’s helped me with the film festival because I don’t really have any sway one way or the other. If it’s entertaining to me, then I think it will be entertaining to somebody else, regardless of the subgenre it lies in.”

Meunier said horror films in general and the SHFF in particular are “fun ways to go to the theater. Everyone’s jumping, everyone’s screaming. It’s that collective hands-in-the-air roller-coaster experience.

“Sometimes it’s just about a thrill from the safety of a seat while you’re shoveling a bunch of popcorn into your mouth.”


When: Today through Sunday

Where: Colonial Theatre, 3522 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento

Cost: $50 for three-day VIP pass; $40 for three-day festival pass; $10 for individual events; $25 for “Rocky Horror Picture Show” VIP; $15 for “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”