“And the first ever King of Horror is…. a Queen! Lauren Graham wins with Hagridden.”
That was the announcement after the very first Heavy Hitting HorrorFest back in 2002. Held Halloween night at Whistler’s GLC bar, a few hundred costumed horror fans had sat through just over two hours of really random shit (one film included a four-minute scene where a guy dumps milk on himself and voice-over narrates some kind of forlorn love poem) but in the end there could be only one.
And that one was Hagridden, a nightmarish time-bender slasher flick directed by a totally unknown filmmaker who’d just arrived in town. Lauren Graham, then 21, came to accept the skull trophy in a prom dress with blood pouring down her face (Carrie) and the rest is history.
“I was drunk,” Lauren recalls. “I was nervous, that was my first time really showing anything I had made to an actual audience. No one knew who I was so I kept asking (event co-creator) Chili, ‘when are you gonna play the backwards movie?’ He just said, ‘Later.’ Then when we won you guys made me do shots of Crown Royal out of the trophy and I remember running to the bathroom and puking.”
“The backwards movie” kicked off a string of victories for Lauren. “The next spring I made finalist in the 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown then won it the year after that. I feel like winning Horrorfest really gave me confidence. I was brand new to town, fresh out of film school and so excited to just be there. I didn’t even think of winning, but afterwards all the bros were coming to me all like, “Who are you? How did you do it?” and it felt like I got to skip to the front of the line a bit. I came to Whistler to do something, not work my way up from lifty. And HorrorFest kickstarted that.”
Lauren went on to direct a few snowboard films in Whistler and now lives in Los Angeles where she works on everything from skateboard and art webisodes to fashion and music videos to feature documentaries. All while constantly writing and filming and working on getting back to her horror roots. Last week, with some time off, Lauren watched 14 horror films.
“My brothers and I would watch horror movies with my mom when we were kids,” Lauren says. “Like six years old and my mom would sit there and explain every shot to us and how the music worked with the moods. She really taught us the technical aspects. Then when any sex came on she’d change the channel or fast-forward. It was uncomfortable because it’s your mom and I was like, ‘I hope we get back to the killing.’ Halloween was a family favourite.”
The version of Hagridden presented here contains previously unseen Super 8 clips whereas the original version was all Hi-8. “I shot both formats but I don't think I could afford to develop the Super 8 when I first submitted,” Lauren explains. “Then when I did see the Super 8 footage it seemed awesomer. I do like looking back at this movie– the backwards editing is pretty on-point and I see how that helped me develop my style. It’s good that it sucks. How could it not suck? I think I had the last digital Hi-8 they ever made…”
Throughout her time in Whistler, Heavy Hitting Horrorfest held a special place in Lauren’s heart. “It felt like being a part of something. You just knew everyone was killing themselves and working so hard to put out crazy original and fucked up videos to show it just that one night, just to be weird. And you knew there would be so many ridiculous and hilarious movies that you could go as dark as you wanted.”
“Hagridden still plays a huge part in my mind though, even with stuff I am working on now. It’s still living inside me. Twelve years later and I’ll be at a casting call for a Microsoft ad or something and I’ll catch myself thinking, ‘this is stupid. Why aren't you at home working on a horror script?’”
– Feet Banks
Posted: Nov. 08, 2015