The Spooky Fun of FOGFEST

Reviewed by Xaiver Michael Campbell
The Majestic Theatre.

Like the fog that swallows our seaside city, the third installment of FOGFEST was dense with entertainment. For those who are unaware, like I was before being thrown into the world of reviews, FOGFEST is Newfoundland and Labrador’s celebration of horror. This year, a tidal wave of terror washed on shore from November 15th to 20th. There were various events: industry panels, short films, features, drag performances, and pop-ups. FogFest shows that the horror genre in all its forms is thriving in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I had the privilege of spending some time engrossed in the festival’s lineup. First on my slate was Atlantic Apparitions: The Atlantic Canadian Short Film Block, a segment showcasing a slew of promising talent. Atlantic Canadian filmmakers presented their short films in front of a live audience. It was beautiful to learn that some shorts featured exceptional young talent, children included. Ms. Harvey, a short about a child on the run from his eerie neighbour, Ms. Harvey, championed the child’s point of view. Focusing on the child’s perspective was genius, and the audience fell in love with the film’s young hero. Bad Carbs, shot in the creepy basement of the Arts and Culture center, tells the story of a group of children who set out to find their missing teacher. What they found was something no one expected. It stars a group of profound young actors and the often-villainized carbohydrate, the potato. In this short film, the potato, dubbed a bad carb by a student’s mom, is out to get them. One by one, each student falls victim to the evil root vegetable. The cast and crew did an excellent job, and the last shot of the victorious potato took everyone by surprise. The Atlantic Shorts segment had such varied content. From animation to gore, all things uncomfortable and gross, the stories had us sit with sexual assault, loss, and grief. These short films were filled with haunting soundtracks, moving storylines, sea myths, urban legends, fairies, and vengeful ghosts.

Later that day, hosts Brianna Follett (Bri) and Cordelia Richards (Cord) premiered an episode of their road trip-style reality series, Sites Unseen. Bri and Cord are best friends fascinated with true crime and horror. Sites Unseen follows the pair as they travel across Newfoundland, searching for the spookiest stories and uncovering hidden mysteries of the island. In this episode, Bri and Cord took us to Quirpon Island, once known as the Isle of Demons, off the northeastern tip of Newfoundland. Quirpon was once thought to be haunted by the ghost of a wailing woman of French nobility, Marguerite de La Rocque. The episode offered a captivating history lesson, many laughs, and ridiculous hijinks. Find their show on FibeTv!

My night ended with the premier of the Grind Mind documentary series, A Newfoundland Nightmare: The Hag. Based on Newfoundland cultural supernatural phenomena, The Old Hag. While known worldwide as sleep paralysis, a medical disorder affecting millions of people, in Newfoundland, the Old Hag takes on more otherworldly characteristics. This expertly shot and produced documentary series blended science and folklore as people recounted their Old Hag experiences. The documentary showed us that the Hag takes many forms, and everyone’s encounter is unique, but there are some shared characteristics of every Old Hag dream. Notably, the victimized soul is neither wholly asleep nor awake. Instead, you are stuck, frozen in your body, but your mind is sharp, your eyes are open, and often, when the chilling terror is over, the memory of the Hag experience stays with you forever. The Hag does not discriminate against age or whether someone is from the island, as a pair of sisters from Ontario were among those who shared their story of the Old Hag – experienced on their first night in Newfoundland.

After the documentary, the audience was offered a chance to hear about the inner workings of the production from the Grind Mind team. Seeing their passion for sharing Newfoundland culture and stories with the world was inspiring. A Newfoundland Nightmare: The Hag is a high-caliber local production. All four episodes of the documentary were shown, and I recommend seeing every episode if you get a chance – also on FibeTV!

FOGFEST was spooky, it was gross, it was uncomfortable, it was gory. This small film festival delivered everything for everyone, no matter what level of horror you are into. I’m in awe of the community this festival brought together and the new generation of talented filmmakers, actors, producers, and directors in the province.

Born and raised in Jamaica, Xaiver has considered Newfoundland and Labrador home for over a decade. Xaiver feels that living in Jamaica, prepared him for life on the Rock. Minus the snow, sleet and lack of sun – the people are equally warm and friendly.

His short fiction has been published in literary journals and several anthologies. His second play, “One Name” was produced by Halifax Theatre for Young People. Xaiver’s non-fiction work concerns the lives of enslaved and freed Black people in early Newfoundland settlements. His first non-fiction book, Black Harbour, co-authored with Heather Barrett was published in Fall 2023 by Boulder Books.