Festival turns Port Hope into Port Horror

By Cecilia Nasmith

From Sept. 5 to 7, Port Hope will turn into Port Horror for the first-ever Port Horror Festival.

The town's creepy cred is solid, having served as a major filming hub for the two-part remake of Stephen King's It. During the filming of both parts, artist and costume designer (and former child actor) Miranda Lukaniuk got a good close-up look as the personal dresser for Pennywise The Clown (played to horrendous perfection by Bill Skarsgard).

Inspired by the rich haunted history of films shot in Port Hope, Likaniuk joined forces with Aaron Peacock and Aidan Kennedy of 2 Blue Shirts Productions to celebrate the macabre with what they hope will be an annual event.

For its premier year, much of the action is centred at the Skeena squadron at 15 Mill St.

Starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Kount Krackula will emcee the entries they received for the Five-Minute Film Festival. The Wizard (also known as Lukaniuk's father Gerald) will give a special-effects demonstration, while Robyn Potter does vampire makeup and Freddie Groover (aka Nelson Dennis) provides Moody Music. There will also be a Gallery of Horrors with various vendors and exhibits, Lukaniuk said, as well as some really cool items from horror films and local artists' collections.

Friday is the official release date of It Part 2, and odds are it might be tough to get a ticket at the Capitol Theatre. The Port Horror terror team has arranged for what they're calling an orphan screening mere steps away for what they promise as an even more horror-fun evening. Fangoria magazine's Chris Alexander will welcome you for the 1960s classic Circus of Horrors. The Wizard and Freddie Groover return with more special effects and moody music, and a real literary classic – local artists pooling their talents for a live theatrical-musical rendition of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven.

As a bonus, there will be door prizes, as well as a silent auction in support of the 116 Royal Canadian Sea Cadets and their upcoming trip to Iceland.

Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Kount Krackula hosts the wrap party, with a return visit from The Wizard and Kasket Karaoke by Freddie Groover. One highlight of the day is the panel of local and celebrity judges making their picks from the films screened Thursday – there will be first-place, second-place and people's-choice prizes. First-, second- and third-place prizes are also up for grabs for the best horror costume, and special recognition will be accorded the winner in the Queen of Scream contest.

Admission to the wrap party is $20, also in support of the Sea Cadets.

That's a lot to enjoy, and the terrible trio of organizers bring a lot to the planning.

Peacock and Kennedy are both Port Hope-born and -raised writers and producers, Lukaniuk said, with high-calibre videography skills and excellent taste in films.

“They have often been called the hardest-working guys in Port Hope,” she added.

Lukaniuk is a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts, who has done costume and special-effects work on Suicide Squad, Shazam and The Strain.

They are aided in their efforts by a wonderful team of various local horror-film fans and friends who have added much to the mix.

“They will hopefully shine more as this event grows,” Lukaniuk predicted.

Kount Krackula, for example – the first filmmaker to respond when they issued their call for films. They rejected all of his submissions, but this did not faze him, she said.

“He proudly holds the title of the world's worst horror-film maker and usually makes films about vampires.”

Lukaniuk also gives props to Port Hope Tourism and so many Port Hope businesses that have supported the event with sponsorships.

“I am extremely supportive of small local business, tourism and sustainable economy,” she said.

As such, she finds film production in Port Hope a positive force.

“It's inspiring, it does not take up permanent space that needs to be cleaned up, it leaves no trace except for stuff that attracts tourism, it is creative and leads to more opportunities for people,” she listed.

“I am all about encouraging more creative, positive, eco-friendly and map-marking industry to flourish in Port Hope.”

As an artist, costume designer, event planner and art curator herself, she loves being part of that force.

“I'm very inspired to do cultural projects in Port Hope because of this wonderfully well-connected community.”

Tickets for the whole three-day extravaganza, as well as for individual events, are available at and in person at Furby House Books.