If you love Halloween, and you love zombies, and you love having the living bejeezus scared out of you, don’t miss Morey’s Fears, on the Wildwood boardwalk between now and October 27
Lights, Camera, Action!
THIS year, the 12th annual Cape May Film Festival hit a few snags. The folks who organize the event, members of the Cape May Film Society, had wanted to show the American fantasy drama Beasts of the Southern Wild, but they don’t have the resources to screen a movie not yet out on DVD, for example. Then there was the speaker who was going to lecture on the life of Marilyn Monroe; he fell through, too. We asked Film Society President Dottie Knapp what causes such difficulties, and she said it boils down to problems of cost and equipment. “If we make any money on this festival, it gets channeled back into the film camps we sponsor,” she told us. In other words, it’s not about turning a profit… it’s about giving back to the community. “The festival is a way to connect people,” she said. “Since we don’t have a theater any more, this is the one time we can all come together and watch a movie right down the street. It’s our way of giving Cape May something.” And when the goal is such a worthy one, things sometimes have a way of falling in to place beautifully… even despite a few snafus.
“I’m going to quote Shakespeare in Love by saying, ‘It’s a mystery,’” Dottie explained. “This is one of the years where it’s all come together.” With short films, documentaries, and independent features taken from Jersey City’s acclaimed Black Mariah festival on tap, this year’s festival — held the weekend before Thanksgiving — promises to be impactful for both the seasoned filmmaker and that guy who tags along only for the free popcorn.
And what makes it such a must-attend event? “For us,” Dottie said, “the festival is all about making it personal. We want films that have some connection to New Jersey, or else we want to bring someone in who can enthuse us about the particular project.” It’s this personalization, perhaps, that has earned the little Cape May Film Festival a reputation in its own right… guests of honor have included the likes of Susan Sarandon, and Stefan Prosky — son of acclaimed actor Robert Prosky, whose pedigree includes films like Miracle on 34th Street and Rudy — acts as curator.
We gave Stefan a ring, and he told us that he started out as a microbiologist, then a “tissue engineer” working to develop skin for burn victims. (“The tissue is really alive,” he said, because we couldn’t help but ask about it, no matter how off-the topic of movies. “You have to feed it and take care of it… it’s kind of crazy.”) But Stefan eventually decided to earn his MFA in 3D animation in Manhattan and now he teaches video editing and 3D animation at the Art Institute of Washington. “My only claim to fame is that I used to edit Spongebob,” he told us, “and a character called Face on Nickelodeon”… a character also edited, it turns out, by the man responsible for Popeye and Betty Boop.
But no matter how big-time he may be, Stefan still loves Cape May — he’s owned a house in the Point with his two brothers since the 70s — and he loves working on the Cape May Film Festival. “I can get upwards of 600 or 700 submissions from all over New Jersey,” he told us. “And we sift through them, choosing only about one of every three.”
This year, you can expect to see a wide variety of topics covered, especially in the documentaries. We’re talking about everything from “crazy stunts with airplanes” (a film about the world’s shortest landing strip, the top of an old 1940 Sudan), to dance films (the one about the two Cuban sisters, one of whom will be speaking at the festival, who were reunited after nearly forty years), to flicks about hitchhiking. “A lot of our shorts are about courage,” Stefan told us. “That’s the theme this year. I think it’s really about taking chances and facing your fears and feel ing more alive. Even a thing like hitch-hiking takes guts, you know?”
We can’t say we’ve tried hitchiking recently, but we can say how much we’re looking forward to this year’s festival, and we hope to see you there. It will be held at the Chalfonte Hotel which, Dottie told us, provides several smaller rooms very conducive to watching movies and then discussing them in an intimate setting afteward. The hotel is providing the food (“Definitely popcorn,” Dottie said) at no charge, and the booze, at a charge. For the official program, simply flip over this issue of Exit Zero. See you there, Cape May!
It’s A Scream!
LAST Saturday night, we left Cape May (gasp) and headed for the second annual Morey’s Fears: Terror on the Boardwalk in Wildwood. We paid our meter (25 cents gets you only 10 minutes… that’s frightening in itself), and hit the boards. “Head scare guy,” our own Terry O’Brien of Undertow fame, waited to greet us.
Terry, who oversees all of the willie-inducing happenings, led us through an eerie haze (120 rented fog machines currently line Morey’ Piers), past the creepy music coming from a cob-webbed carousel, and beyond a blood-streaked ticket booth. The people behind the chilling decorations have gone all out; Terry wouldn’t tell us what his budget was, just that it’s “somewhere between $100 and $1 million” and that he used it all.
We made our way into the prep room, where seven teams of make-up artists had been painting the faces of about 100 actors since 2:30pm. There were half-dressed zombies, carnivorous clowns, and other members of the undead roaming about. It was a freak show, and that’s saying something considering it’s the Wildwood boardwalk we’re talking about (we kid, we kid).
It was about this time some of us got just a bit queasy… probably because it was also about this time that Terry mentioned the “codes” which need to be called “about once a week”: code 40 for when a Fears-goer vomits, 41 for when someone urinates, and 42 for when some poor soul does a number two in one of the attraction’s five haunts… a fine thing to learn just as the sun has sunk below the horizon and blood-curdling zombie screams begin echoing through the pier. Waiting to enter is about as frightening as the thought of Mayor Ed Mahaney being elected for another term (sorry, couldn’t resist). The machete-carrying ghouls who warn folks standing in line not to expect all members of one’s party to exit alive don’t exactly help.
What kind of person would want to spend their days surrounded by such horror? “You have to be just a little bit weird,” Terry told us. That, or just up for a really good time. The actors — among them, accountants, maintenance folks and other Morey’s workers — enjoy what they do, and you can tell. Some of the zombies are actually friendly… they even wish you good luck before you enter the Ghost Ship which, complete with an undead crew, is the scariest of the haunts. As much as these people want to freak you out, they want you to have a good time, too… which your reporter did, despite the fact that Exit Zero honcho Jack Wright kept pushing her into the zombies, some of whom can really pull off the fake pus look.
Then there was the Cornstalkers exhibit, in which we made our way through a maze on the beach made of 30,000 cornstalks… as well as the chainsaw-wielding inhabitants of this maze. Let’s just say we heard the the 300-pound (give or take… we didn’t ask) biker dude in front of us let out a yelp more than once.
By this point, we’d worked up quite an appetite, so we decided to head back to Cape May for dinner at The Ebbitt Room (a refreshingly civilized and very unscary end to the evening), and we never made it to the other three haunts: Carnevil, The Other Side, and the Terror Trench. But we did stop a group of police officers on our way out to ask if they were expecting any fatalities at any of the above. They said they wouldn’t talk to the press because they were afraid they’d get into trouble for it. So there you have it, folks… even the cops are afraid at Morey’s Fears! Check it out for yourself on October 19, 20, 26 and 27, from 7 to 11pm. Just don’t wear a costume; they won’t let you in… and make sure you hit the restroom beforehand, just to be safe.
CONGRATULATIONS to Cape May City Elementary School, which has been approved by the state’s Department of Education for the Public School Choice Program. “That means that students from other county schools may choose to attend our school for the 2013-14 school year. That seems like a year away— however, parents have to apply this fall,” said Victoria Zelenak, Superintendent of Cape May City School District.
The island’s other school, West Cape May Elementary, is already in the program.