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NYC Film Festivals

"Horror 2.0" Invades Queens

Down to the bone: Head Trauma director Lance Weiler (Photo: Martin M. Pepe and Jack Bromiley)

By Chris Willard

Independent filmmaker Lance Weiler challenged the conventions of self-distribution in 1998 when he released The Last Broadcast via satellite, making it the first film released in a fully digital format. The writer-director continues to push boundaries with his latest release, Head Trauma, by making the film an interactive experience dubbed an "Alternate Reality Game." In Head Trauma, which screens Saturday as a part of the Museum of the Moving Image's ongoing It's Only a Movie horror film series, drifter George Walker returns to his childhood home after his grandmother’s death only to find the house has fallen into a state of squalor and disrepair. When he sets out to clean up the mess, he strikes his head, leading to a series of horrific dreams and visions that cause George to believe that the resulting paranoia is not completely unfounded.

The idea for the film occurred to Weiler after suffering head trauma in a car collision 12 years ago that left him in intensive care for five days. “After the accident I was plagued by crazy nightmares and lucid dreams, and I filed that away thinking it would be good material later on,” Weiler told The Reeler in a recent interview.

Weiler premiered the film at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2006 before screening it throughout 15 U.S. cities last summer and releasing the DVD in September. He added interactive aspects to a Philadelphia screening in March, when a group of musicians re-scored the film live and the action spread into the theater, with actors situated among the crowd and the audience using its cell phones to become part of the plot. Weiler will expand these interactive aspects at the film’s New York screening by allowing the action to haunt the audience even as they head home. Weiler said audience members could be contacted by phone days or weeks after viewing the film with clues that will lead them to an online game version of the film.

“I‘m very interested in the idea I like to call Horror 2.0 -- the connection of being able to tell stories across multiple mediums and multiple devices,” Weiler said. “In a lot of ways with horror you kind of know what to expect if you’re a fan: the music cues; timing cues. There’s a certain construction to horror so you know really well [what’s coming]. This idea is expanding that feeling by creating a new level of creepiness. Scares come across your mobile phone or through the Internet or a pay phone on the corner of the street or from a weird prop in the back of a taxicab. It’s the idea of watching a movie and interacting with the story -- the idea of how a story can be passed across mediums.”

Weiler will be present at the screening to discuss interactivity and the remixing concept of Horror 2.0 with the audience. “I’m hoping for a kind of combination of both [a discussion and a Q&A],” Weiler said.” I’ll talk a little bit about the concept for this particular event, what I’m trying to do with it, the experiment of it all and then take a series of questions. I’m a big fan of interactivity, so I would hope to have [a chance for] feedback or questions.”

After its screening this weekend in Queens, Head Trauma embarks on a world tour with stops throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. Visit Weiler’s Web site for more information, and check Moving Image's site for ticket and program details.

Posted at July 12, 2007 9:26 AM

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