“There are things in these woods,” agonizes Travis, “and they are as real as you and me. And they are taking people!” Travis speaks of Bigfoot – the legendary monster of the mountains.
It’s a legend retold with suspenseful twists in the local-made film “Paper Dolls,” one of 500 movies submitted to the annual international Eerie Horror Film Festival. This past weekend during the festival’s awards, Whitefish filmmakers raked in top honors for the chilling movie.
The festival celebrates the best gore and terror in films, screenplays, and video games. The annual Eerie Fest held in Erie, Pennsylvania honored “Paper Dolls” with three awards: Best Feature, Best Director, and Best Actor. “The awards are a much needed pick me up,” confesses filmmaker Adam Pitman, co-owner of BadFritter Films with Adam Stilwell and David Blair. Both Pitman and Stilwell graduated from Whitefish High School.
“The president of the festival, who actually watched our movie nine times, told us not to get our hopes up,” laughs Pitman. After being rejected by other film festivals and distributors, the trio craved a break. Their film was one of 50 chosen to premiere at the festival. “The competition was fierce,” he says. “It was just an honor to be there.” On Saturday, two hours before their film premiered, they nabbed success.
Horror celebrities from “The Omen” 2006, “From Dusk Till Dawn,” and “Day of the Dead” announced the Eerie awards. When Best Actor went to Adam Pitman for the lead role of Travis in “Paper Dolls,” Pitman recalls momentary panic at not knowing what to say to the crowd. “Then I was humbled,” he says, realizing the size of the competition.
But that wasn’t all. As the awards ceremony ensued, Best Director went to both Pitman and Blair, and the film also won Best Feature. Two hours later, an audience of 300 packed in to see “Paper Dolls” premier.
In classic horror genre, the 98-minute film begins on a dark, foggy night. Entering holding hands like paper dolls, four sasquatches attack two high school friends, Travis and Nate, who are driving to Canada on a lonely forest road. The camera, and hence the audience, views the attack trapped in the back seat of a 1979 Ford station wagon. After the monsters abduct Nate, the story weaves psychological plot twists with a high corpse count as Travis attempts to rescue his friend.
The opening scene required a complex, technical camera movement as the lens first scanned the pair of terrified teens rolling up the car windows before it slid into the back seat for the audience to view the sasquatch attack. At the film’s end, the audience hangs in psychological limbo. The credits roll; then an alternate ending plays. Both endings present a theory of what happened, but no definitive answer. At the premiere, they both garnered ovations.
With a low budget, the filmmakers shot scenes with local actors, extras, and crews while Hollywood talent worked the cameras, lights, makeup, and sound. Locations included Stillwater State Forest, a cave near Lincoln, and recognizable places in the Flathead.
Yesterday, the success at the Eerie Festival hit Pitman. “It’s pretty surreal,” he muses. Now, Badfritter Films hopes to parlay their accolades into selling the movie and to develop a horror television show.
Related: Watch the Paper Dolls Trailer
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