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Horror film festival shifts to drive-in format

CHOCOWINITY — Local horror fans can look forward to a spooky treat this coming October, as Haunted Pamlico revamps its annual Carnival of Darkness Film Festival as a drive-in movie experience. The festival will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 8 at Raised in a Barn Farm in Chocowinity.

While countless other festivals and community events have been canceled or postponed due to the effects of COVID-19, board members of Alternative Stage, the local arts nonprofit under which Haunted Pamlico operates, decided to press on with the event, adapting it in a way that ensures the safety of participants.

“We made the decision to go to the drive-in option because we did already have access to a lot of that technology,” said Alternative Stage President Stuart Lannon. “With Will and Mandie Boahn letting us use the farm out there, we have the space for a drive-in, as well. Having the technology and the space, it made sense that we could actually make this happen while still maintaining good social distancing standards and following every safety precaution possible.”

Garnering 128 entries from 25 countries, judges for the festival have spent months rating and selecting films to be screened during the festival, which is now in its second year.

“This year our festival will honor about 35 horror and science-fiction films from all over the world,” said S. Kruger, host of Carnival of Darkness. “Though not all of these films will be screened on the night, we’re finding ways to recognize selected entries online.”

According to Lannon, who specializes in sound and lighting for stage productions, organizers are exploring a variety of ways to present the films to viewers in the comfort of their vehicles. From setting up speakers to possibly using a low-power FM transmitter to broadcast audio directly to vehicle radios, the goal is to offer an experience reminiscent of the golden days of the drive-in cinema.

MONSTER MASH: Dancers from Le Moulin Rouge de Danse perform for spectators during the 2019 film festival. The dancers will return once more for this year’s festival, along with a variety of other special performances. (Julia Stephenson Furlough/Rock Hobbyt Photography)

Aside from the main presentation, the event will also feature a variety of additional macabre attractions, including performances by vocalist Leah Moore, dancing from the Le Moulin Rouge de Danse’s Haunted Pamlico Dancers, livestreamed interviews with local celebrities and a troupe of costumed horror personalities recognizable from Haunted Pamlico photo shoots and films. The only thing missing will be the snacks.

“We had to cancel our food and craft vendors because of the virus,” explained Kruger. “Yet, the show we developed will be immersive and exciting for the audience.”

Tickets for the festival cost $10 per vehicle, and will be available starting Sept. 1 at www.filmfreeway.com/CarnivalofDarkness. Tickets may be purchased at the gate as well, but attendees must have exact change. Lannon says that proceeds from the festival will be cycled back into the community via Alternative Stage, benefiting local artists in their endeavors.

Based in Washington, Haunted Pamlico is a Halloween-centered entity that produces horror films and public events. To learn more, visit www.hauntedpamlico.com or find them on Facebook @HauntedPamlico.