Film festival attracts horror movie buffs and guest celebrities

Wilson College hosted its first Horror Film Festival from Fri, Nov. 1 to Sun, Nov. 3, offering horror movie buffs the chance to view several independent horror films in Thompson Hall Alumnae Chapel and meet some guest actors and celebrities in a convention in Patterson Lounge.

SAGE Dining Services Director of Conferences and Special Events Joel Pagliaro envisioned and orchestrated the Horror Film Festival and welcomed students, faculty and members of the community to participate in the fun.

Independent horror films featured at the event included Zombiegirl Diary, directed by Pennsylvania native Mike Pine. Other films featured at the festival included Cary Hill’s Scream Park and Conrad Brooks’s Zombies on the Loose.

Three audience members judged the film festival and awarded several different films. Michael Merino’s The Haunting of Pearson Place won Best Overall Film and Best Special Effects. Tommy Faircloth’s The Cabin received Best Short Film; Mara Katria won Best Director for her film Please, Talk to Me. Charles Dawson of Dead Woman’s Hollow won Best Lead Male while Wendy Wygnat of Scream Park won Best Lead Female.

Many of the film festival’s actors and directors spent the weekend talking with visitors, answering questions, and offering advice to aspiring actors and directors.

These guest celebrities and vendors enthusiastically shared their acting and directing experiences. Established actors shared their failures and successes, while up-and-coming stars conveyed palpable excitement about the opportunity to showcase and expand their creative work.

Up-and-coming actress Vanessa Braebent, who played a lead role in Zombiegirl Diary, noted that the Wilson College Horror Film Festival marked the debut of the film.

“Seeing it finished was fun. It was the first time I played a brunette. Watching the film allowed me to get into the story line without seeing myself,” said Braebent.

The film festival also included such well-known stars as Jim Krut, who starred in the 1978 film Dawn of the Dead. Krut, who has extensive experience directing and acting in horror films, offered some advice for aspiring actors and directors.

“Directors are looking for a particular type of actor. The more you come out, the more chance you have. Take the chance. Go to every audition you can,” said Krut.

Krut also encouraged up-and-coming actors to audition for multiple types of roles.

“Take risks. Be willing to fill roles you are not used to doing. Be willing to put yourself in someone else’s shoes,” said Krut.

Brian O’Halloran, who played a leading role in Mr. Hush and is best-known for his role as Dante in Clerks and Clerks 2, also attended the event and shared his experiences with visitors.

O’Halloran, who has starred in films alongside actors Matt Damon and Rosario Dawson, also plays a leading role in the series Comic Book Men, on air on AMC this season. O’Halloran mentioned fond memories of all his acting experiences, including some of his lesser-known roles.

“Asking me to pick my favorite is like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. They are all special to me,” said O’Halloran.

Actor and Director Conrad Brooks, who has played a leading role in more than 200 films and wrote, directed and produced the 1953 film Plan 9 from Outer Space, also offered his acting and directing experiences over the course of the weekend.

Brooks, who now resides in West Virginia, still performs live theatre in both New York and Baltimore. Ever charismatic, Brooks joked that the film community did not always commend his acting and directing.

“Everything was bad in Plan 9 from Outer Space! I couldn’t do anything right!” said Brooks.

Participating vendors included representatives from Chambersburg’s Sunrise Computers, which offers video production equipment, and Mercersburg’s Thomas J. Anderson Photography, whose owner Thomas J. Anderson expressed a passion for producing dark film and photography.

Wilson College’s first Horror Film Festival allowed all participants a chance to bond over a love of independent film and the horror film genre.

For more information about the recent Wilson College Horror Film Festival, contact Joel Pagliaro at

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