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Claw Awards of Terror Film Festival : the Oscars of Horror

Yes, they have! The Oscars of Horror, that is. With all the magic, razzle-dazzle, and heart-pounding excitement of Hollywood’s Academy Awards. And it all happened this year at the one and only Claw Awards of Terror Film Festival.

The spectacular third season of Terror Film Festival took place in October 2008 at the distinctive and creepy Ethical Society Building, across from beautiful Rittenhouse Square in center city Philadelphia. The five day event, hosted by the lovely "Princess Horror" and Festival Director "Claw", featured 62 stellar films from the USA and around the globe, and culminated with the prestigious Claw Awards, also now nicknamed, "The Oscars of Horror".

Shawn Cain of BlogTalkRadio's “Independent Film United” flew in from Seattle to present the awards along with Princess Horror. You could actually feel the anticipation and excitement in the air as the attendees eagerly moved through the week of films and finally gathered for the Claw Award ceremony on Saturday night. “It was all very electric, kinetic", states Marketing Director Peters, and as one guest remarked, "I was at the American Music Awards and this was better!”

Receiving a Claw Award has become a life changing experience for many creative artists, with recipients literally coming to tears as they accepted their accolades onstage. The high point of the ceremony, however, was the first Terror Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Claw Award bestowed to Hollywood's very own Alan Howarth, two-time Academy Award winning composer with a string of box office hits to his credit (Halloween 2-6, Escape from New York, Star Trek 1-5, The Thing, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Army of Darkness). Howarth also received Best Original Music Score for the movie "Basement Jack" and his acceptance speech, which included a surprise onstage telephone call from Bruce Campbell (Spiderman 1-3, My Name Is Bruce, Bubba Hotep, Evil Dead 1-2, Army of Darkness) brought the entire audience to a standing ovation. "It was so heart-warming to see this kind of response and it truly was a memorable experience", states Peters. Terror Film Festival was also chosen as the Philadelphia promotional provider for Campbell's new film "My Name Is Bruce" (currently in theaters) with a special sneak peek at the movie trailer.

Winning a Claw Award has clout and can often be the catalyst for an unknown filmmaker or screenwriter to start their careers and find distribution for their film or a green light for their script. Indeed, Terror Film Festival can boast that all three of their Best Feature Film winners for the last three years have acquired distribution ("Alien Raiders" Warner Home Video 2008, "Side Sho" Lionsgate Films 2007, and "The Murder Game" Warner Home Video 2006), with several screenwriting winners closing script option deals.

"As an independent film festival, we're noticing a growing number of studio films being submitted to us which already have DVD distribution in place. They're choosing the festival pre-release run as a strategy to gain international exposure and to get the buzz started before the DVD street date hits. Savvy filmmakers know that film festivals are sometimes the only opportunity the public will have to see these films on a big-screen and in a theatrical release type of setting, without spending incredible amounts of ad dollars", states Peters.

Another case in point, Terror Film Festival was happy to partner with Summit Entertainment (Twilight, Michael Clayton, Disaster Movie) this year in presenting the international release of "Trailer Park of Terror", a "killer" new horror flick with a rocking southern-fried soundtrack and a devilish sense of humor.

The Best Feature Film winner this year, "Alien Raiders", a creative fusion of horror and sci-fi, is a powerful testament to the Hollywood art of sci-fi/action films. Shot in 15 days, Director Ben Rock of Los Angeles whips up a masterful blend of suspense and imagination in a clever and action-packed story, and instead of relying on expensive, time-consuming special effects, shows his cinematic prowess with technical skills through smart cinematography, inventive sound and lighting designs, and strong performances from his actors. The film stars Carlos Bernard (“24”) and Matthew St. Patrick (“Six Feet Under”), and “Alien Raiders” is slated for a February 2009 release by Warner Home Video's “Raw Feed” division.

Tan Tolga Demirci's Turkish fantasy film "Gomeda" was another monster hit at Terror Film Festival, as well. The stunning and idiosyncratic composition, brilliantly scored with the eerie and hauntingly alluring music of Seattle composer, Semih Tareen, is an adventurous exploration in surrealism. The film is mesmerizing, capturing the viewer in a chimerical dreamscape that brings them face-to-face with their hidden, unconscious fears. "Gomeda" could easily be classified as art-horror, stylistic, with dark, moody Freudian undercurrents. Tareen won Best Original Music Theme and the film garnered Best Sound Design.

"Basement Jack", from director Michael Shelton and screenwriter Brian O'Toole (Los Angeles), was another crowd pleaser that gathered five awards (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best DP, and Best Music Score). Eric Peter-Kaiser portrays the lead role of “Jack Riley” in a hip, young and brilliantly charismatic way, while still managing to bring us a deeply scary character. Set around the Necropolitan Hotel, “Basement Jack” is what every great horror film should be - frightening, believable, and presenting a main character that can continue to grow legs throughout any amount of sequels.

“With such a diverse melange of films, and being a genre arts film festival (horror, fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, drama), there was something for everyone’s taste, and each and every film screened was outstanding", states Princess Horror. Terror Film Festival has gained a rapid notoriety in the festival community presenting a programme that highlights the best of the best. Also included on the winners list were: Best Director Tony Swansey of Chicago for "Squeal", a truly scary and exciting horror film; Best Supporting Actor Bruce Dern in David Winning's "Swamp Devil", proving once again the sheer power of Dern’s abilities; Best Screenplay for "Excision" by Richard Bates Jr. out of Bruckheimer's camp; Best Actress Mary Ann Biewener for her role as Mrs. Temple in "Absent"; Best Drama Short Film “All For Love” by Ron E. Harris of Irving, Texas; Best Thriller Short Film "Nothing Face" by Quakertown's Mitch Csanadi; Best Sci-fi Short Film "ATTACKAZOIDS!" by Brian Lonano of Staten Island; and, Philadelphia native Norman Macera's "Lunicidal", a biting dark comedy similar to the early works of John Waters.

Terror Film Festival 2008 also hosted Claw Award winning screenwriters Ron Albury of Cincinnati, Bo Ransdall of Tennessee, Aaron Granlund of New York, and Ron Podell of Michigan.

So what is unique about Terror Film Festival and why do so many creative artists attend each year? "We've established a very good reputation of integrity and have a clear focus on serving our clients and fans. Our number one goal is to provide a sublime film festival experience and extremely personalized service. We literally get to know each filmmaker and fan on an intimately personal level", states Peters. "What a fantastic festival which just oozed intimacy, warmth, and intelligence. I was amazed and it was truly incredible. I urge anyone to get down there next year. It's a really, really cool fest", stated Australian filmmaker Victoria Waghorn, who flew in just for her 9 minute screening of her film, "When Sally Met Frank", an incredibly well-executed short film.

"We knew we wouldn't become a leading industry film festival overnight, and as a small grass roots company, we work diligently to create innovative ideas in our marketing initiatives to differentiate ourselves from other film festivals - hence, our original concepts: Princess Horror, the first film festival icon; The Claw Awards, the first full-blown genre awards ceremony; and listing our submitted films on our website as an additional promotional vehicle for our creative artists. We also originated video interviews of festival attendees and posted them onto our website. These are unique marketing ideas and no other film festival in the world had ever explored them before us”, states Peters.

So what does the future hold for Terror Film Festival? Expansion. We are finding that there are changes in the wind and we’re primed for the new opportunities that are now presenting themselves to us. One of our goals is to bring more awareness of what film festivals and independent films are to the public. Terror Film Festival provides a great opportunity to see movies from around the world, network with industry people, and make new friends in a fantastic social environment that brings international attention, visitors, tourists, and creative artists to the great city of Philadelphia.

Imagine...a cold, eerie night. The wind is howling. The clock strikes midnight. There’s a knock at the door. Carefully...cautiously...you open the door to find, it’s Terror Film Festival calling! There’s a new scary in town, Philly’s very own international “Terror Film Festival”. Live your dreams...or at least, YOUR NIGHTMARES.

Terror Film Festival takes place each year in October, and film and screenplay submissions re-open each year on January 01 at 12:01 AM.

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