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Salt City Horror Fest to showcase all-day horror movie marathon

Emmy Gnat | Head Illustrator

A horror film festival in middle of April may seem poorly timed, as the genre usually dominates Halloween times. But the Salt City Horror Fest, Upstate New York’s premiere 35mm horror film festival, was founded on a good cause.

The festival started out as a fundraiser for the American Cancer society, in memory of local musician Shaun Luu. Luu, who loved horror movies, died at the age of 22 from brain cancer. The festival, originally called the Shaun Luu Horror Fest, brought horror films and heavy metal bands together, raising more than $25,000 for the cancer society and Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, Meyers said.

“From there, the Luu family decided we did enough good,” Jay Meyers, the festival’s producer said. “We still wanted to do a festival but instead of making a charity event, we just made an event for horror film festivals in Syracuse, and we’ve been doing that ever since.”

In 2010, five years after Luu’s passing, it turned into the Salt City Horror Fest. The 12th annual edition will take place at the Palace Theatre this Saturday at 11 a.m., featuring eight films in an all-day horror movie marathon.

This year’s festival lineup includes “Critters,” “The Mutilator,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Belly Timber,” “An American Werewolf in London,” “Creepers,” “Re-Animator” and “From Beyond.” Past films include classics like “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Birds” and “The Shining.”

While they typically showcase classic horror movies, Meyers said he’ll play a new movie once in a while — “something that’s hit the film fest circuit recently.”

Excluding “Belly Timber,” all the films will be screened on 35mm film.

“What you’re actually seeing is the stuff you would’ve seen when the movie was officially released, like an original film print,” Meyers said. “So it’s got that nostalgia feel to it rather than watching something on a Blu-ray, DVD, or video projector.”

The movie lineup varies every year, but with a special appearance from John Dugan, who acted in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Meyers is bringing back the movie even though it showed at the festival three years ago.

The special attendee list this year has expanded past its usual one or two invitees. There will be six total, with at least one person from six of the eight movies featured during the festival.

In addition to Dugan, also attending are actor David Naughton from “An American Werewolf in London,” director Buddy Cooper of “The Mutilator,” effects specialist Edmund Ferrell of “The Mutilator,” and from the films “From Beyond” and “Re-Animator,” composer Richard Band and producer Brian Yuzna.

“That’s what we did to make it different for the 12th year anniversary, to bring in more guests,” Meyers said. “It’s sort of like a mini convention — a horror film convention.”

The guests will also be holding an open panel discussion, autograph signings, and introductions for each of their films. After viewing the films, audience members are welcome to speak with the guests in the theater’s lobby and ask some questions.

“It’s a very one-on-one experience that we like to provide for our fans and the spectators there with our film guests,” Meyers said.

The festival will also be featuring a virtual reality system demonstrating horror movie scenarios. There will also be horror vendors selling local items from crafts to Halloween masks, and larger vendors selling comic books and movie posters.

In addition to an outdoor food truck and a bar, interactive characters from different haunted houses in Syracuse will be there to entertain fans between movies. Vintage vehicles, like old hearses will be parked outside the theater for a photo op, Meyers said.

To kick off the festival, there will be a pre-party the night before with a Prince tribute event. The theater will be screening “Purple Rain” and “The Big Lebowski” on its original 35mm print.

While there isn’t one specific film he’s looking forward to over the others, Meyers is excited to see the 35mm print films on the big screens. The Salt City Horror Fest, Meyers said, sticks out among film festivals because it’s hosted in a small city like Syracuse, where film festivals are usually a big city thing.

“In Syracuse, you don’t have a lot of options to do anything cool like you would in larger cities such as Chicago, New York, or even Cleveland, where these events are done on a regular basis,” Meyers said. “So this festival is for SU students who are used to doing these kind of events in bigger cities, but feel that Syracuse doesn’t provide something like that for them.”

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