Hometown horror: Bloomington's Diabolique Film Festival

Alexia Rasmussen stars in the domestic thriller, Proxy, which kicks off Bloomington's Diabolique Film Festival on Thursday.

It's being billed as the first Diabolique International Film Festival, launching this weekend at IU Cinema. But the team behind it has screened 250-plus films in Bloomington since 2007 in its previous incarnation, the Dark Carnival Film Festival. The name changed when Diabolique Magazine, an every-other-month glossy devoted to “genre cinema, literature and art,” came on board earlier this year.

Add in the move to the state's best screening room, the IU Cinema, which comes fully equipped with a THX-certified sound system and high-end digital projectors, and you have festival that's making its mark in the world of genre film.

Diabolique opens Thursday with Proxy, an Indiana-made film that's more grounded in mundane reality than your average Diabolique selection. “I don't make movies about monsters or anything supernatural. Human beings are terrifying enough,” says its director, Zack Parker.

A thriller about the pains of parenthood filmed in Parker’s hometown of Richmond, Proxy premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival, was distributed by IFC Midnight and is now available on home video.

The 36-year-old Parker started making movies at age 11, and has never held a job that wasn’t related to them — tearing tickets at a movie theater, shelving videos at Blockbuster, writing a film column for his local paper. He studied film production at Ball State and UCLA and worked for legendary B-movie filmmaker Roger Corman.

Parker has three feature films under his belt, and is now married with three movie-loving children. His fourth feature, Proxy, is partly inspired by his experiences as a stay-at-home parent. Alexia Rasmussen stars as a quiet young woman named Esther who suffers a miscarriage after being brutally beaten outside her doctor’s office. She then finds herself tangling with two fellow grieving parents (Alexa Havins and Joe Swanberg) who grow violent after their son's death. Proxy is ultimately about this sort of identity change people experience when they have children.   

Parker didn't intend to make a horror film from this subject matter. But he found he could “push the themes and audience further” by working within the trappings of the genre, doing what any effective horror film does — holding a funhouse mirror up to everyday issues.

Other films showing at Diabolique do much the same thing, reflecting our world while transporting us to another. The French short film Entity taps into a universal fear of isolation with its story of an astronaut stranded in space. In the midst of a bleak futuristic world, the Canadian short The Last Halloween captures the relatable childlike wonder and fear involved with wandering around at night. M.O.T.H explores the pain of growing up through its apocalyptic story.

Parker will participate in an academic symposium Saturday morning with fellow burgeoning filmmaker Ti West to discuss this world of indie horror — and how to break into it. West will speak Friday at 3 p.m., then present three of his films — The Sacrament, The Innkeepers, and The House of the Devil — from 6:30 p.m. to midnight.

This year, Diabolique will present awards in 11 categories, including Best Feature, Short, Actor, Actress, Director, and Screenplay. And there's one more first at this year's fest: the festival’s inaugural screenplay competition. The winning feature and short screenplays will be chosen by Emmy and WGA award-winning writer Victor Miller, who penned the seminal slasher film Friday the 13th. In addition to cash and other prizes, the winning screenwriters will receive written feedback from Miller.


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