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The Terror Film Festival Claw Awards

The Terror Film Festival Claw Awards (popularly known as "The Oscars of Horror"), took place in all of its austerity on October 24, 2009 at the historic Ethical Society Building on the famous Rittenhouse Square of Philadelphia.


The 4th season brought in the most astounding talent from all over the USA, as well as, the world. The assemblage of fans, filmmakers, screenwriters, and industry professionals, waited in anticipation, and all bets were on, as the illustrious Claw and the beautiful Princess Horror stood onstage, envelopes in hand, to present the coveted awards.


And the winners are...


EVIL ANGEL - A steamy and heart-pounding story based on the ancient myth of Lilith, the first wife of Adam, who has roamed the Earth for centuries as a sexy and seductive villainous, and proudly holds the title of the world's first serial killer. Written and directed by the iconoclastic Richard Dutcher of Utah, the film garnered several awards, such as, Best Feature Film, Best Original Music Score (John Frizzell of Alien Resurrection, Ghost Ship, 13 Ghosts), and Best Supporting Actress (Marie Westbrook of 100 Million B.C., Ghost Whisperer, Dracula's Curse). The multi-faceted and talented Richard Dutcher (with the reminiscent genius and mystique of Orson Welles as writer, actor, director, and producer), and his film Evil Angel, both received thunderous applause and a standing ovation.


Known for his keen intellect and cinematic artifice, Richard has made several evocative and critically acclaimed films (States of Grace, God's Army, Falling) all stamped with his intensely personal and spiritual signature.


Akin to the aesthetics in movies like The Exorcist and The Omen, Evil Angel, Richard's first jaunt into the realm of horror, presents itself with more Hollywood style, commerciality and marketability, but only in the sense of the film being immensely satisfying and entertaining. Above all else, Richard Dutcher is a gifted and sublime storyteller. With an innate and discerning movie sense, he has constructed a pleasing horror film in Evil Angel, infused with his own whimsy and satire. An enchanting example of this sound/image manipulation is apparent in the showdown confrontation between Detective Carruthers (Ving Rhames) and Lilith (Ava Gaudet). Dutcher executes the scene with the eloquence of a bullfight, using the camera with the same elegance and artistry as that of a matador with his muleta and sword.


The technically superb film also showcases the many talents of Bill Butler as Director of Photography (Jaws, Grease, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest), Digiscope FX (Van Helsing, Terminator, The Mummy Returns), and a commanding performance by Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible, Pulp Fiction, Dawn of the Dead) as the tough private eye, exuding the same anschauung as the subtle Detective Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) from The Exorcist.


Fast paced and action packed, Evil Angel is thrilling from beginning to end, and this film is a glimpse into the Richard Dutcher narrative journey, which is a roller coaster ride into the future.


SCARE ZONE - Written and directed by Florida native Jon Binkowski, captured Audience Favorite, Best Editing (Oliver Peters), and Best Actress (Arian Waring Ash of Phone Booth and Broken Records). A well-crafted concoction of horror and humor, it is a clever spin on the horror movie formulae, with twists and turns that keep us guessing until the very end.


Jon Binkowski, in his directorial debut, pulled amazing performances from all of his actors, with notable mention to Simon Needham (Ghost Hunters, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector) and Neil Brown Jr. (Fast & the Furious, Never Back Down, South Beach). Jon smartly blends his creativity with an astute business sense to make a fun film that is both entertaining and extremely marketable, proven by the standing ovation received at its Terror Film Festival screening.


DEAD CREEK - Best Director awarded to Mike Turner of New Hampshire. A pristine, precise, and visually stunning work of art that borders on masterpiece. Mike is defining his style with elements of elegance and romanticism, and is ready to join the ranks of Francis Ford Coppola, Joel Schumacher, Ron Howard, and Guy Madden. Personally, I feel that Mike, as a film director, has reached a level where he is now poised for Hollywood A-List representation and a full blown Hollywood career, as a groundbreaking motion picture director.


DOWNRIVER - Best Director of Photography awarded to Chris Freilich. Downriver was shot on glorious 35mm film and is one of the most intelligent, apocalyptic zombie films to come along since Night of the Living Dead and Zombi 2. Written and directed by Joseph J. Greenberg of New Jersey, Downriver is scary, humorous, and inspiring all at the same time, with a philosophical take on the human existence.


THE CURSE OF MICAH ROOD - Best Drama Short Film awarded to Alec Asten, with a five star rating in writing, technicality, and most especially, five stars to Ron Palillo (Welcome Back, Kotter) for an incredible dramatic performance involving obsession and tragedy.


FROM A PLACE OF DARKNESS - Best Supporting Actor awarded to John Savage (The Deer Hunter, The Godfather, The Onion Field, Hair) for a chilling and unsettling performance in this disturbing, noirish film written and directed by Douglas A. Raine. And an honorable mention also must go to Bronson Pinchot (The Langoliers, Beverly Hills Cop, True Romance, Perfect Strangers) for a very creepy character portrayal.


THE INSTITUTE OF SÉANCE - Best Horror Short Film, written and directed by Kevin Corcoran. Not new to Terror Film Festival, Kevin pays full tribute to the silent film era with pure genius, and he has raised the art form of editing to a new level. To see his evolution and progression in craft is both gratifying, and a privilege.


A FAR CRY FROM HOME - Written and directed by Alan Rowe Kelly, and also winning Best Actor (Kelly) for his strong and engaging performance as the lead, and Best Special Effects (Benzy, Michael T. Schneider, Anthony G. Sumner) for some of the most exquisite, realistic and mind-blowing creations I have seen in a long, long time.


LET ME GO - Best Thriller Short Film awarded to writer and director Alex Raskin, for a deliciously wicked and sardonic tale of the incessant proclamation of love from an obsessive, fatalistic one-night stand, even after death.


WADE - Best Sound Design awarded to Haynze Whitmore for this spectacular blend of horror and science fiction, a nostalgic salute to the 1960 b-movies. Authenticated with grainy imagery and shot on 16mm film, Wade is a charmer and quickly became my personal pet this year. A gem of a performance by Andy Whitmore (Wade) made this film a hit at the festival, and Haynze delivered a project representing, as the Greeks say, teleios pneuvma, or perfect spirit, with an entire Whitmore clan from several different states throughout the country flying in to attend the screening and show their support.


These were some of the highlights at Terror Film Festival this year, and of course, there were many more. Such as, X-Mess Detritus by Aurelio Voltaire (Best Fantasy Short Film), Two Miles Below The Surface of the Earth by Blake Houston (Best Science Fiction Short Film), The Baby Shredder Song by Mark Nutter (Best Original Music Theme), Marcello and Sofia by Heather Henderson (Best Cinematography), The Rocking Horse by Keith Pillow (Notable Distinction for script and actor), and Cold October by Andrew Gilbert and Mikel J. Wisler (Best Screenplay).


And for the screenplay competition component of Terror Film Festival, the winners are...


In the Feature Length Screenplay category, 1st Place was awarded to Brood 19 (David Altman), 2nd Place to Stand Up & Die (Dominic Pereira, Demetri Panayotopoulos), and 3rd Place to Dead Winter Run (Jake Hart, Mike Brown, Raven Solomon).


In the Short Length Screenplay category, 1st Place was awarded to Fourth Floor Seige (John Riddlebaugh), 2nd Place to Love's a Drag (Kirk Bierbauer), and 3rd Place to Investment (Rick Tobin).


Notable Distinctions were bestowed upon Couchsurfing (Jenny Krumrine), Shadow People (Fernando Ortiz), and Shadow War (Jerome A. Dolan).


The 2009 Claw Awards were also heightened by an inspiring and theatrical rendition of the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, performed by veteran opera singer John Rudolph and Princess Horror. Their presentation served as a metaphor of transformation, transition, and transcendence of Terror Film Festival, its filmmakers and screenwriters, and the entertainment industry as a whole.


Here are the thoughts of Claw, TFF Festival Director.


"Each year, Terror Film Festival screens great films. However, not everyone agrees that an independent film can be considered great, without basing that decision on faculties such as star elements, production budget amount, production location, or tenure in the industry. But, I don't consider those elements to be the formula for a great film. While those elements can certainly have a positive impact on a project, "entertainment experience to the audience" is really what Terror Film Festival strives for most. Proper execution (or lack thereof) is the sole element that determines a hit or a miss. But, even proper execution is filled with every staff position and nuance of creativity involved in a film production. And yet, proper execution is still critical for delivering brilliance. However, there is no magic pill that stamps a project as great. It is a culmination of many, many, MANY things that lead to its final state, which is the only true moment when a project can be evaluated and deemed great. And the producer/director dynamic is crucial to reaching that moment. In other words, a poor script, lack luster acting, weak editing, or misdirected marketing are just some of the potential decisive components that can drag a film down from great to good. And when a filmmaker is able to skillfully maneuver around those potential chinks to a perfect armor, that is when they wind up with a great film. As a result, every filmmaker has the same chance as any other filmmaker when it comes to Terror Film Festival.


Our grading system is based on critical analysis, including academics and technique, however, it is most unique in its ability to spot powerful work. Our selection criteria is such that every film has the same fair shot at being selected, regardless of star power, budget or industry connection. And each of our films has true moments of brilliance within their portrayal of the story. Which is why we select them, and why Terror Film Festival is so protective of our filmmakers and screenwriters. We know what they go through in bringing these projects to completion. They trust us with their babies and we do everything possible to keep that trust intact. It is a huge responsibility to deliver the goods from the filmmaker to the audience. And after all in said and done, in the end, all that matters is, did the audience goes nuts for it. And that is where Terror Film Festival is an expert. We are able to spot talent."


In conclusion, each year we pour our heart and soul into Terror Film Festival, and each year the attendees make a point of pulling us aside and telling us that this is the best event they have ever attended. And it is true. No one does what we do. We design and create each edition to make it so theatrical that nothing compares to it, not even the Academy Awards. We have been told time and time again how phenomenal our event is, how passionate we are, how much spirit and energy there is, and how much we enjoy it. If you Google us, or even better, just Google the general term "Film Festival", our festival comes up on the FIRST PAGE along with Sundance, Tribeca, Telluride, and Los Angeles. These are the festivals that WE respect, so it is quite an honor. How could these results possibly happen, if people did not LOVE what we bring. And they let us know it year after year by repeatedly thanking us. Even six months down the road we still receive correspondences about how much they love the festival. However, it is Terror Film Festival who should thank them for supporting the effort that we give in the name of art. So...


Terror Film Festival collectively says THANK YOU to all of our fans, submitters, presenters, sponsors, volunteers, staff, press, and every other attendee. YOU are the reason we love what we do.

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