Back in February, we told you about Shudder Labs, a new program from the horror-specific streaming service—which is still quite new itself, having launched last summer—designed to help up-and-coming horror filmmakers launch their careers by introducing them to mentors with experience serving in the horror trenches. Since then, the Masters-In-Residence for the program have been announced—Habit director and ubiquitous indie-horror actor Larry Fessenden, The Boy writer Clay McLeod Chapman, Darling producer Jenn Wexler, SFX artists Josh and Sierra Russell, and more—but we’ve yet to hear about the lucky fellows themselves.
Well, out of more than 300 applicants, 11 have been selected as the inaugural class of Shudder Labs Fellows. They’ll participate in a five-day retreat at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York next week, followed by a year of mentorship from a Master-In-Residence and a $5,000 grant to get started on their projects. Let’s meet them, shall we?:
As The Dust Settles / Mike Olenick
An asteroid carrying the seeds of alien life crashes down in the neighborhood where a young couple is buying a house from a dishonest realtor. When the couple settles into their new home, they unpack a secret that will change the lives of everyone in the neighborhood: the truth about what happened to the home’s previous owner.
Mike Olenick is an experienced editor who’s worked with directors like Guy Maddin, the Quay Brothers, Kelly Reichardt, Sadie Benning, and Jennifer Reeder. He’s made a handful of short films which have screened—and won awards—at festivals across the U.S., as well as streaming on MUBI and airing on Ducth TV. You can watch the trailer for his most recent short, Red Luck, below.
Beyond The Darkness / Shane Wheeler
A modern sorcerer must save his friends from a dark dimension, but to succeed he must overcome his own suicidal depression.
Shane Wheeler’s path to filmmaking has been an interesting one: He was trained as a biologist, and wrote his first screenplay while working on a fishing boat. Since then, he’s made several short films; you can watch the trailer for his latest, Stabbing With Frank, below.
Black Bats / Rick Spears
Feeling cast out from society, two teens begin a relationship under the belief that they’re transforming into monsters. What begins as fantasy ends with horrific consequences as they both lose touch with reality.
Comics fans may know Rick Spears from his work in that medium, which includes the graphic novels Teenager From Mars and Dead West. He’s also written and directed a handful of short films, like last year’s Black Eyes, which you can watch part of here.
In The Night / Joshua Erkman
A 24-year-old running from his past starts a new job picking up the dead for a mortuary and begins to suspect powerful sinister forces are closing in on him.
Like Rick Spears, Joshua Erkman is best known for his work in another creative field—namely, as the drummer for Los Angeles-based punk band LAMPS. But he’s also directed two short films, including 2015’s In The Night, which will serve as the basis for his first feature. You can watch it below.
Lovespell / Courtney and Hillary Andujar
A teenage girl in Hawaii casts a dark spell that unlocks something sinister within herself.
Texas twins Courtney and Hillary Andujar grew up in their local punk scene and have gone on to exciting creative careers—Courtney as a writer who has worked with artists and activists such as Yoko Ono, Paul Chan, and Julian Assange, and Hillary as an an art director. (She also worked in the art department on Tim Burton’s Big Eyes and The Wachowskis’ Sense8.) You can see some of Hillary’s art department work on her website.
Polybius / Hunter Stephenson
It’s the summer of 1984 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The only thing booming louder than the arcades is the aircraft over Fort Bragg. A hip babysitter named Tiffany is determined to show the brothers Carmack the parent-free weekend of their lives. But her reality is bleeped when the younger brother, a vidiot ‘sperger named Palmer, is snatched after encountering a pylon-like arcade cabinet. Joined by a skeleton crüe, it’s up to Tiffany to kick ass, chew bubblegum and forevs destroy this trippy gamer-gateway to hell.
Although he came up in the Scottish punk scene, Hunter Stephenson is now a writer and producer based “east of the Rockies.” He recently produced the Noisey docu-series Hot Sugar’s Cold World, which received the Honorable Mention at Hot Docs 2015 and was executive produced by David Gordon Green, Jody Hill, and Danny McBride. The trailer is below.
The Eyes / Will Forbes
In 1970’s Upstate New York, there is a local legend of The Eyes, a spirit in the woods of the Catskill Mountains that consumes the souls of the lost and weary. When the favorite uncle of three local kids dies suddenly and under mysterious circumstances at the edge of those woods, the kids set out on a mission to discover the horrifying truth.
In sort of a reverse John Carpenter move, Will Forbes composed and produced music for TV and short films for nearly a decade before “he realized the best way to achieve his goal of scoring horror films was to start making them himself.” The Eyes will be his directorial debut.
The Sound of Darkness / Melody Cooper
A blind musician and a deaf sculptor are haunted by a woman only they can see and hear, who leads them to take on an epic battle against a terrifying legacy of racial violence and evil.
Melody Cooper is a playwright, screenwriter, director, producer, and the founder of Origins, a group that helps create and support Black Visionary work. She won the Women in Cinema International Screenplay Competition for her horror script Monstrous, which also won third place at the Slamdance film festival. The Sound Of Darkness will be her first film; you can see a teaser trailer below, and read more about it here.
Un-Seen / Lucy Cruell
Some things once seen, cannot be unseen.
Although she graduated from law school, Lucy Cruell decided to give up the legal world and now works as a “full-time writer, director, and starving artist.” She’s written short stories, film criticism, and a number of award-winning screenplays and pilots, created the “internet horror serial” 31, and directed four short films, including 2014’s I Need You, the trailer for which is below.
What Happens Next Will Scare You / Chris LaMartina
On the verge of losing their jobs, a group of click-bait journalists struggle to compile their scariest viral videos for a Halloween listicle, but when a cursed entry brings malevolent forces into their reality, our social media junkies must figure out they’re sharing harmful content before they become victims of their own monsters.
One of the more experienced filmmakers in this year’s Shudder Labs program, Baltimore-based Chris LaMartina has several DIY horror-comedy features under his belt, including 2014’s Call Girl Of Cthulhu and 2013’s WNUF Halloween Special (which this writer has seen and recommends). The trailer for the latter is below.
You can read more about this year’s class of Shudder Labs fellows at the Shudder Labs website.