Thursday, 25 September 2014 11:26

October Indie Film: Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival Takes Over Downtown GR

Written by  Josh Spanninga
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The crowd at a Thriller! Chiller! event The crowd at a Thriller! Chiller! event COURTESY PHOTO

If you haven't heard by now, Thriller! Chiller! made some pretty big changes this year by moving locations from Wealthy Theatre to Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, as well as extending the fest by an extra day – but that's only the tip of the iceberg.

This year's festival, which is scheduled for Oct. 22-25, is full of surprises. These include guest filmmaker seminars and special events taking place all over downtown Grand Rapids.

Anthony Griffin, co-founder and director of the Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival, admits the shift to downtown wasn't always easy, but the payoff has been well worth it.

To go from one venue to say, four, five venues isn't just five times the work, it's one hundred times more work,” Griffin said. “It's still just primarily the three of us (Chris Randall and Shirley Clemens Griffin) running it, and we have a great group of friends and volunteers who have helped out. There have been some growing pains, but the experience has been fantastic. Everyone's been coming out to lend a hand, and it's been very humbling.”

In addition to the main festival at the UICA, other area businesses will be screening films as well. The Pyramid Scheme will be hosting the Friday Night Freakout on Oct. 24, which features a variety of grindhouse and cult drive-in inspired cinema. Stella's Lounge will be installing big screen TVs in its back room, effectively turning it into a micro-cinema for the fest. The Grand Rapids Art Museum will offer a free screening on H.G. Wells' Things to Come, with a discussion afterward led by GVSU film professor Toni Perrine. There will also be a variety of workshops held at Grand Rapids Brewing Company, as well as film screenings with live commentary from comics, à la MST3K. The added venues were included on this year's roster to give festivalgoers more variety, and to turn the fest into a more immersive downtown community event.

I really love the fact that all of downtown is just becoming more aware and supercharged, and people are willing to go out and have these kinds of adventures and have fun,” Griffin said. “I really feel like this is the year that Thriller! Chiller! can step in there and be an addition to many of the other things [going on downtown].”

Of course, UICA still remains the headquarters of the festival, and will be showing a generous mixture of the best in horror, sci-fi, thrillers and other genre films, both old and new. But Griffin wants to let audiences know the short films they will be showing are particularly enticing.

This year the short films have been absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “It's amazing. The amount of quality and the execution in the short film format has been incredible, and to see those movies on a big screen is a real treat because you usually don't get to see them anywhere else except perhaps for online. ... These are filmmakers who are looking to break into the industry or to gain a foothold, and these are their calling cards.”

In addition to short and feature-length films, Thriller! Chiller! plans on paying homage to some of the classics as well. In honor of the 40th anniversary of the slasher-horror masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there will be a special screening of the film at the UICA on Oct. 23. If that's too gory for your tastes, check out the fest's closing event, a screening of Carnival of Souls, complete with a live score performed by the Andrew Alden Ensemble.

Whether you're only able to make it to a few events or want to take in the full festival experience, there are a variety of ticket options available for the fest. Many of the events will have tickets available for single showings and full-access festival passes will be available. As an added bonus, the Thriller! Chiller! festival pass will give ticket buyers access to Halloween on Ionia the following week, as well as various other events leading up to Halloween.

For those bold souls courageous enough to brave the festival this year, here's a piece of advice – get your tickets early. Thriller! Chiller!'s last collaboration with UICA, a screening of David Lynch's Fire Walk With Me, completely sold out of tickets, and they're expecting the festival won't be much different.

For more info, or to snatch up tickets while they last, visit

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