Homegrown Horror

By Beacon Staff

Flathead Valley residents looking to scare themselves silly, and support local artists, have an ideal outlet this Halloween: a double feature of indie horror films by two Whitefish filmmakers screening at the O’Shaughnessy Center. And, frankly, is there any better time of year to take in a scary movie?

“Roulette,” the first feature by Badfritter Films will be screened at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 31. Shortly afterward, Badfritter’s second movie, “Paper Dolls,” will screen at 5 p.m., making for a Sunday afternoon grindhouse movie marathon that will wrap up with enough time for viewers to don their costumes and partake in Whitefish’s legendary Halloween celebration that evening. Tickets cost $8 each or $10 for both.

As of last week, Adam Pitman, a Whitefish filmmaker and one of three partners in Badfritter Films, was scrambling to finish a new short film, “Cliff Lake,” in time to premiere it on Halloween alongside the other two movies. Shot at Cliff Lake, in West Valley, Pitman described the film as set in a kind of “post-Apocalyptic America,” with “three guys trying to survive in the woods, running from something.”

“We wanted to tackle some interesting ideas about survival and cannibalism,” he said, adding that if the film isn’t finished in time, they will show a preview. “That’s going to be something no one has seen.”

Like Badfritter’s first two films, “Cliff Lake,” derives its tension from supernatural, psychological drama, as opposed to the blood and guts of slasher films.

“We’re not into the gore,” Pitman said. “We feel like psychological things that are unseen are far scarier than the blatant, graphic violence that is shoved down our throats these days.”

“Roulette,” which Pitman describes as a ghost story and supernatural thriller, was shot in 2005 on a budget of $500 by Pitman and his Badfritter partners Adam Stilwell, also a Whitefish native, and David Blair, who hails from Idaho. At the time, all three were working and living in North Hollywood, and enlisted friends in the effort to make the film.

“By the end of doing that movie we probably had about 50 or 60 people involved, just working for fun,” Pitman said. “We were all working our day jobs and when we had a few seconds we’d go and film.”

Demonstrating what they could accomplish with a few hundred dollars, Badfritter was able to garner investments from Flathead donors to make their second film, “Paper Dolls,” which tells the story of two young men driving north to Canada when they are attacked by a family of sasquatches, the creature also known as Bigfoot. Shot in 2006 at locations including the Stillwater State Forest, a cave near Lincoln and other parts of the Flathead, “Paper Dolls” was assembled by a crew based in Hollywood and Whitefish. The film has since garnered 10 awards at film festivals around the country, including Best Feature, Best Director and Best Actor at the 2007 Eerie Fest in Erie, Penn.

But since then, due partly to the economy and partly to the remaining expenses of securing music rights and printing the movie from film to video, several distributors have passed on “Paper Dolls.”

“Because of the recession, some companies just weren’t buying movies,” Pitman said. “The whole industry has been in trouble down there in Hollywood.”

Pitman is now back in Whitefish, where he recently completed a documentary about the Winter Carnival. He and his partners, however, are still focused on finishing “Paper Dolls” and hope screening the films again might entice another investor to come on board, allowing them to wrap it up and sell it.

“It’s not a lot of money to reap a lot of reward for this investment,” Pitman said. “Things are picking up now and we’re hoping that with another investor and a finished film, we’ll find a bite.”

But beyond the business prospects, the Halloween screenings are also a celebration of the scary, independent movie. For Pitman, who spent many hours growing up watching the USA Network’s “Up All Night,” horror marathons, the genre has always been less about fear than fun.

Pitman’s favorites include classics like “Alien” and “Jaws,” where the monster remains out of sight for much of the film, heightening the suspense. He also mentioned the horror-comedy, “Slither,” as well as the “Blair Witch Project,” where “filmmakers with ingenuity and no money made something that was really freaky.” Several shots in “Paper Dolls,” he added, reference scenes from “Blair Witch.” “The Shining” and Rosemary’s Baby” also top his list. While not a horror movie, Pitman cites “Requiem for a Dream” as a key inspiration for its disturbing look at addiction, calling it “as real as it gets for a monster.”

“I’ve never really been scared by horror movies, I always look at them as being fun,” Pitman said. “It’s an escape for me.”

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