GUEST POST: Zach Jenkins

If you are a movie buff, chances are that you have attended or intended to attend a film festival. Whether it’s a theater experience or from the comfort of your own home, it is a very enjoyable time. My fiancée (Paige)  and I co-operate a horror film festival called Thrills, Chills, and Kills Film Festival. This year will be our last fully virtual event, as we are planning a physical event next year. Our growth has been eye opening to say the least. Our first year (2020) we had a tiny festival with only 15 films with one of them being feature length. In 2021 we had a massive jump in attendance and in submissions. With a jump from 15 to 76 films accepted, we knew this was taking off a little bit. This year (October 20th-23rd) we had an even larger jump in submissions. We had 290 films submitted to us across every continent and we narrowed it down to 84.

I encourage anyone with a love of film regardless of genre to attempt a virtual festival, it’s rewarding watching Directors, cast, and crew grow after their film gets screened. I will explain the process behind running a film fest using TCK as an example.

  1. Selecting the best site to manage submissions. We use FilmFreeway, it offers everything from email forms, ad creators, laurel creators to marketing options, and direct downloading of materials.
  1. Choosing your name and branding is very important in terms of standing out.
  1. Using Facebook groups and other areas to post for submission calling. It is very important to use this alongside any marketing the website provides. All you have to do is make a post with a picture of deadline dates and explain what your festival is and why filmmakers would submit their films.
  1. When the films start rolling in, it can be overwhelming at first but use any tools when it comes to sorting the films. We use built in flags on FilmFreeway and we also use Google Sheets and Trello for keeping everything together.
  1. When the final deadline is over with, it is time to make your final selections. We have judges that select awards for us. We provide nominees and they pick their favorites based on criteria. You can do this any way you would like.
  1. It is important to provide information to the selected directors, this can be done in the notification section on FilmFreeway. Provide everything you see as important.
  1. Find the perfect destination to stream the films. We use BingeWave, we can embed it into our website or we can direct viewers to watch on their site. There are many ways but be mindful of privacy first because most of the films are for festivals only at the time and are unreleased. You always want the security of knowing the films won’t be pirated.
  1. During festival time, make sure you are watching as well. It can be extremely fun to use the chat function to chat with actors, directors, and anyone else apart from the films. We have a blast hearing stories and connecting filmmakers to their audience.
  1. After the festival has concluded, you should announce winners of awards and send their winner laurels. The laurels can provide credibility for future years.

I hope you learned something or maybe got inspired. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to either me or Paige.

Hello everyone, my name is Zach and I am a co-founder of Thrills, Chills, and Kills. I am the goofiest one of the bunch yet least likely to get injured from inanimate objects. I may have the least experience in writing (as you can probably tell) I make up for it in creative vision (most of the time). Horror has been in my veins for as long as I have been alive.  Having watched Halloween around a million times by now, I could probably quote every scene. 

I am also an aspiring filmmaker. I have completed 2 short films already and have ideas for several more films in this warped brain of mine. My first film The Mind’s Window is a 13 minute short about being locked in a space not knowing what is lurking on the outside. You can watch it on YouTube for the time being. I have always wanted to make a film that I’m proud of and I told myself this is the time to start. I have another film that is fully shot but is in editing purgatory at the moment. 

GUEST POST: Christina Bergling

What Scares You?

What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?

This should be an easy question to answer. Considering the amount of horror movies I watch, I should have a scrolling list in my mind from which to choose. However, as I roll through that list, I can’t settle on one I consider scary.

I have a long list of ones that have disturbed and upset me. The Sadness (2021) that I saw at Telluride Horror Show. The Treatment (2014) that I saw at the Stanley Film Festival. Martyrs (2008) and Inside (2007), French movies. The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (2004) by Asia Argento, Dario Argento’s daughter. The Human Centipede (2009-2015), all three obviously.

I can even think of ones that creeped me out or unnerved me. The Conjuring (2013) was “creepy as balls” to quote my husband. Antebellum (2020) and Get Out (2017) for the other horrors they capture. Se7en (1995) for the lust murder.

I could keep going on either list, yet I still don’t land on scary. That begs the inevitable question, what is scary? What do I think makes a movie scary? What scares me, onscreen and off?

I have had vivid, graphic nightmares my entire life. When I was a child, anything and everything I watched would reappear twisted in my nightmares. I had a sheltered childhood, so that would result in the ghosts from the Ghostbusters cartoon haunting me or something equally benign. In short, I was scared of just about everything.

One night, while I was babysitting, I found Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995) on the family’s HBO or Cinemax or something. I was never allowed to watch anything violent at home, so when I flipped the movie mid-way through, I decided to sneakily watch it at someone else’s house. After all, it was just a movie, and I so wanted to watch horror.

The movie scared the hell out of me. The scene where Matthew McConaughey crushes someone’s head with his mechanical leg embedded in my brain. I can conjure it even now, these decades later. I was so terrified that when the parents came home and I left, I ran home because walking in the dark was too fraught with terrors.

It has been a lot of nightmares and horror movies since that night. Perhaps I have become desensitized. Or perhaps the things that scare me have changed. Or how I define scary itself.

When I muse on what scares me, “adult” or “real” fears are what bubble to the surface of my brain. No supernatural elements or phobias. Family members dying or getting hurt, financial devastation that leads to not being able to take care of my family, failure, myself, being stranded alone in the dark, being trapped. Not all of them are rational, and the scenarios concocted in my mind inflate to being outrageous. Ultimately, I think I would classify these as anxieties rather than full on fears.

When a strange noise creaks from upstairs in a dark and empty house, I definitely startle (I also startle constantly in a haunted house). However, fear does not cinch around my heart. Rather, I resign myself to wait. I’ll find out what it is when it comes to kill me. That behavior might be from overdosing on horror. Never investigate the strange noise.

I’m not proposing that I am fearless. When I’m hiking a mountain and there is a sheer drop off, my pulse surely reminds me that I am a fragile mortal. And the fall would kill me. Yet I find my fears mundane in their everyday origins. Who doesn’t fear these things? It feels like highlights of the human condition.

I have been obsessed with horror so long that any tickle of fear it elicits is exciting. It’s fun, and it’s safe. I can feel the thrill and the injection of adrenaline, knowing nothing is really going to happen. As a creator of horror, I appreciate the manufacturing of terrifying circumstances—events and things that exist beyond our plane.

So, for the sake of this article and to make it more than my subconscious rambling, let’s redefine fear in this context. If movies and books don’t scare me but rather upset and traumatize me, let’s talk about recent times I have been afraid in real life. Skin tingling, fight or flight fear.

I recently lost my daughter in a Target for ten minutes. She wanted to walk down the aisle and swap out some pants. Since the children’s department was in sight from the wide aisle, I figured it would be fine. After all, she has wandered off to look around in a store before. My son and I finished what we were doing and went to find her in that section.

She was not there. Nothing.

Suddenly, no one seemed to be in the area. I hurried through the section, looking behind racks for her curly head and whirling my sight for any hint of movement at the right height. I jogged up and down the aisle, yelling at my son to keep up.

Still nothing.

My mind swelled and filled with worst case scenarios. I saw her finding something interesting and just wandering off. I pictured a stranger snatching her hand and dragging her out the front door. I kept telling myself it was fine, she had to be there somewhere, she would appear any moment; but that frantic mantra did nothing to soothe the pulse raging through my veins.

I could feel every cell in my body. They twitched and vibrated in time with the repeating panic. Every turn with no glimpse of her felt like walking off a precipice, a jump that meant nothing could ever be the same. Even my hands seemed to have vanished.

Fear, cold and consuming, draped over me.

Then she appeared, and all that adrenaline left me trembling as I nearly cried with relief.

As vivid as it was, this is a pretty mundane fear, something to which I think most parents can relate. There is nothing fantastical or irrational about it, which are hallmarks for horror fear for me.

Maternal fear is an instinctual fear. I have also experience primal fear. One summer, I was at Girl Scouts camp with my daughter. Everyone was around the fire, singing and making s’mores. My daughter needed a blanket, so I volunteered to walk down to the cabin. My brain needed a break from the sound.

I meandered down the gravel road, enjoying the pale moonlight painting the ground through the trees and my footsteps as the only sound. The chill of the night air licked at my cheeks, and the calm of solitude flattened over me.

As I approached the cabin, a smell smashed into my face like a wall, hard enough to pack my nostrils and wriggle into my sinuses. The odor was foreign yet distinctly wild. I could taste it. Shaking it off, I continued on the gravel. As the cabin lights came into view, I heard rustling and digging ahead. Squinting against my weak night vision, I made out a hulking black shape.

My mind clicked around the realization: a bear.

Terror flooded through me, independent below my mind. There were no thoughts, no panicked monologue. My body reacted without bothering with evaluation or ratinalization. It knew there was real danger ahead, and it knew down to my marrow that it was time to flee.

With strained effort, I applied my thoughts back into the situation. My legs wanted to run, but I held them fast, reduced the urge to slow backwards steps. Once I was far enough away for my breathing to slow, I turned and hurried back to the fire.

Primal fears might be the most consistent for humans. I don’t think I know anyone who would remain calm and unaffected when faced with a predator that could kill them without much effort. The base reaction in the moment does not even need a brain to identify the threat.

In life and reality, I think it is clear that I have fears, from maternal panic to instinctual flight. When it comes to horror movies and Halloween though, I’m still searching for nightmare fuel to quicken my heart and bleed into my days.

Boo-graphy: Christina Bergling has been writing since childhood. She has written a variety of styles. A blog from Iraq, software user guides, articles for a numismatist magazine. More than anything, she is a horror author.

Crystal Lake released her latest novel, Followers. Limitless Publishing published her novel The Rest Will Come. HellBound Books published her two novellas, Savages and The Waning. She co-wrote Screechers with Kevin J. Kennedy. She is also featured in numerous anthologies, including Collected Christmas Horror Shorts
(1 and 2), Demonic Wildlife, Colorado’s Emerging Authors, and Graveyard Girls.

Bergling lives with her family in Colorado and spends her non-writing time working in IT, hiking mountains, dancing, and sucking all the marrow out of life.

CHARACTER INTERVIEW: Sidney (Followers by Christina Bergling)

Sidney, a single mother with a menial day job, has big dreams of becoming a full-time horror reviewer and risqué gore model. She’s determined to make her website a success, and if her growing pool of online followers is any indication, things are looking good for her Elvira-esque aspirations. In fact, Sidney has so many followers that chatting with them is getting to be a job in itself. More than a job, it might be getting a risky….

When Sidney is attacked on a dark trail late one night, it becomes clear that the horror she loves is bleeding into her real life. She learns that real-life horror is not a game, and being stalked isn’t flattering—it’s terrifying, and it could get her killed.

Sidney—and her loved ones—are now in serious danger. This follower isn’t just another online fan: he knows her movements, and he knows her routine. In fact, he’s right behind her… and when he gets close enough, he won’t take no for an answer.

Meghan: Hey, Sidney. Thanks for agreeing to sit down and talk with me today. What is one word you would use to define yourself?

Sidney: I think maybe “damaged”. Since my divorce, I’ve been sort of lost. The divorce was my fault, and ex hates me. Maybe he should. I try to be a good mother, but I don’t think I’m doing good enough for my son. The only place I seem to any good or I like myself is online. I can find people who make me feel good online.

Meghan: Do you see yourself as the “good guy” or the “bad guy”?

Sidney: I try to be a good guy. I never asked for what happened to me, but maybe it is my fault. Maybe I did this to myself. And to them.

Meghan: What does the plot require you to be? How does this requirement limit you?

Sidney: I have to be naïve, maybe a bit self-deluded. This causes a lot of mistakes and bad decisions.

Meghan: What is your quest?

Sidney: My quest starts as trying to find a new and better life. I want to go from a wounded divorcee working a terrible job to someone better. I want to find a career I love, creating horror content, and I want to find someone(s) who will make me feel better about myself.

Meghan: What do you hope to accomplish, find, or become during the course of your book/series?

Sidney: I want to be that better person with that better life. And I want to be safe, from all the mistakes I’ve made.

Meghan: What do you like about the other main characters? What do you least like about the other main characters?

Sidney: I have the best friends. Kendra is my best friend and is always there for me. We live together and have a Divorced Wives Club for drinking wine and commiserating. Then Brady is my partner in horror art. He takes bloody pictures of me that we use for promotion online. Plus, he and his husband are always there for me. Not to mention all the people I’ve connected to online.

Meghan: When was the last time you lied What made you do it?

Sidney: I lie a lot. Big lies and little lies. My big lie was when I cheated on my ex. However, now my lies are more omissions because I don’t want everyone to see who I am or how much I’m struggling.

Meghan: Who have you betrayed lately? What happened?

Sidney: I betrayed my ex when I cheated on him. I am still paying for that. Since then, I have tried hard not to betray anyone else, even though I hide myself sometimes.

Meghan: Would you say that you are an optimist or a pessimist?

Sidney: I’m somewhere in the middle. Sometimes, I should be more optimistic. Other times, I need to be more pessimistic and realistic.

Meghan: What is your superpower?

Sidney: I love horror. I create content and maintain a blog and website to share that love of horror.

Meghan: What is your biggest secret?

Sidney: My biggest secret is how guilty and how bad I feel about myself. I don’t want to admit everything I’m doing on the internet to make me feel better.

Meghan: Do you live in the right world? (I mean, are you at home in your setting?) How necessary are you to your world?

Sidney: I have two worlds. The real, 3D world and the online one. I think I have a foot equally in each.

Meghan: What is your role in this setting? Are you okay with this role or would you like it to change?

Sidney: In the real world, I am a mom, an ex-wife, a friend, a manager at a cell phone store. I don’t think I’m doing any of these that well. Online, I am horror lover and a social butterfly. I feel like I can hide from my real life online. I like myself better on the internet.

Meghan: Did you turn out the way you expected?

Sidney: Neither my life nor myself turned out how I expected. I thought I would be with my husband still, but I messed that all up.

Meghan: What, if anything, would you change about your life?

Sidney: I would change a lot of my decisions. Clearly, I should not have stayed with my husband, but I wish I had ended things differently. Without the cheating. I also wish I had made different decisions online, specifically who I connected with and what I told them. I did not realize how dangerous it was out there.

Meghan: How do you feel about your author?

Sidney: She’s kind of mean. She makes me pretty unsympathetic and unlikeable person by putting all my flaws and bad decisions on display. I wish she didn’t tell everyone everything about me.

Meghan: If the two of you got together for coffee, what would you want to say to them?

Sidney: I would ask her if writing books is a better career than hosting horror blogs and websites.

Boo-graphy: Christina Bergling has been writing since childhood. She has written a variety of styles. A blog from Iraq, software user guides, articles for a numismatist magazine. More than anything, she is a horror author.

Crystal Lake released her latest novel, Followers. Limitless Publishing published her novel The Rest Will Come. HellBound Books published her two novellas, Savages and The Waning. She co-wrote Screechers with Kevin J. Kennedy. She is also featured in numerous anthologies, including Collected Christmas Horror Shorts
(1 and 2), Demonic Wildlife, Colorado’s Emerging Authors, and Graveyard Girls.

Bergling lives with her family in Colorado and spends her non-writing time working in IT, hiking mountains, dancing, and sucking all the marrow out of life.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Christina Bergling

Meghan: Hey Christina. Welcome back, and thanks for joining us today on Meghan’s Haunted House of Books, New Year’s Day Edition. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Christina: It’s hard to pick because I love everything. I gravitated to Halloween as a young child, before I ever knew how dark my mind was. I think the costumes drew me in first, maybe the candy too. I still love costumes (and try not to love candy). I used to write Halloween stories the entire season. Now, I write horror all the time.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Christina: No. Admittedly, I’m a bit desensitized. Besides a steady diet of horror, I am prone to very brutal nightmares. Ever since I was a child. It’s challenging for media to rattle me. The last time I was truly scared is when I was a contractor in Iraq. And the one time I lost my daughter in a store for about ten minutes.

Meghan: What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen and why?

Christina: I don’t get scared much by movies anymore. Disturbed, traumatized, sure. However, when it comes to real fear, I remember watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Next Generation when I was babysitting alone. I hadn’t watched any horror before, and it scared the hell out of me. When the parents got home, I ran all the way home in the dark. Watching that movie now, I severely judge myself.

Meghan: Which horror movie murder did you find the most disturbing?

Christina: Human Centipede was pretty traumatic. The skinning in Martyrs also has always stuck with me. Then there’s also when a woman gets sawed in half in Terrifier. And the entire movie The Sadness, end to end. Those are the grisliest I can think of.

Meghan: Is there a horror movie you refused to watch because the commercials scared you too much?

Christina: Never. Though there are ones I avoid because they appear too lackluster in the commercial.

Meghan: If you got trapped in one scary movie, which would you choose?

Christina: Trick ‘r Treat. I love that world. It’s so completely Halloween, and you only get hurt if you need to be punished for violating the rules.

Meghan: If you were stuck as the protagonist in any horror movie, which would you choose?

Christina: I would be Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. I find Hannibal Lecter fascinating, and would like to play the mental game with him.

Meghan: What is your all-time favorite scary monster or creature of the night?

Christina: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is/are my favorite. I can relate to feeling like there are two opposing personalities trapped within you. Plus double the character for one body.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Christina: Again, everything. I watch a horror movie every night in October, which I have dubbed Horror Movie Bingo. Each square is a horror movie element or trope, and I spend the month filling that in. Attending the Telluride Horror Show helps. Then we usually have a costume party. It gives me a good excuse to dress up as an adult when I’m not on stage.

Meghan: What is your favorite horror or Halloween-themed song?

Christina: This year, I’m going with Spooky Scary Skeletons. I like to dance to it.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Christina: Last year, I said The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. Since then, I would say Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca. The novella is so visceral and gets under your skin. It is written as online correspondence between two people in a unique relationship. It is a throwback to the internet in the 90s. And it is amazing what LaRocca can communicate in those brief entries.

Meghan: What is the creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone?

Christina: When I took my daughter to girl scout camp, I walked back to the cabin in the dark while she was making s’mores. As I was ambling down the path, I heard some rustling and banging. When I got closer, I smelled something distinctly… wild. In my weak night vision, I saw the blurred shape of a bear. Convincing myself to retreat slow, I hurried right back to the fire.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Christina: Last year, I said Jack the Ripper. That is still true. However, this year, I will say the mysteries from Netflix’s reboot of Unsolved Mysteries. I want them solved! After an entire episode investment, I was always left itching for answers.

Meghan: What is the spookiest ghost story that you have ever heard?

Christina: Bloody Mary messed me up as a child. I was genuinely terrified she would appear in a dark mirror and snatch me through the glass. Then I stopped believing in ghosts, and the stories became more interesting that spooky.

Meghan: In a zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?

Christina: Machete. It needs to be able to cut through or off a head but also be quiet to not rouse the other zombies.

Meghan: Okay, Christina. Let’s have some fun… Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf? Vampire. Give me blood, immortality, and largely inherent bisexuality, please.

Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion? Alien invasion. I do not want to deal with humans when they come back a second time. They are rough enough the first.

Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard? Maybe dead bodies? I don’t want to become a zombie, and I can always cook the “meat.”

Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week? Amityville house. Maybe if I stay alone, things won’t be so bad.

Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese? I’ll take the melon. I would choose a lot over anything with maggots.

Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs? Witch cauldron. I hate spiders! I can’t even type this answer without shuddering.

Boo-graphy: Christina Bergling has been writing since childhood. She has written a variety of styles. A blog from Iraq, software user guides, articles for a numismatist magazine. More than anything, she is a horror author.

Crystal Lake released her latest novel, Followers. Limitless Publishing published her novel The Rest Will Come. HellBound Books published her two novellas, Savages and The Waning. She co-wrote Screechers with Kevin J. Kennedy. She is also featured in numerous anthologies, including Collected Christmas Horror Shorts
(1 and 2), Demonic Wildlife, Colorado’s Emerging Authors, and Graveyard Girls.

Bergling lives with her family in Colorado and spends her non-writing time working in IT, hiking mountains, dancing, and sucking all the marrow out of life.



Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Director: Parker Finn
Stars: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T Usher, Kyle Gallner
Year: 2022
Rating: R
Run-Time: 1 hour 55 minutes

After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain. Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.

I went to the movie Smile with my teenager at the theaters the first weekend it came out, and I went in blindly. I hadn’t seen a single preview. All I knew going in was that it was a horror movie with people who had creepy smiles. Sold. I was in.

The movie starts with Rose Cotter, a therapist who works at an emergency in-patient facility. A patient arrives at the facility and she stays to help despite already being there well past her shift and sleep seems to be something she’s postponed for some time. This is where the real inciting incident of the movie kicks off, and from that point on, we spiral down a whirlwind of suicide, ancient lore, and of course those creepy smiles.

As the movie progresses, the protagonist of the story slips into a psychotic break that keeps us guessing about what’s really happening. Her clothes, habits, and constant fidgeting make it clear that she’s not okay. And let’s not forget the ominous backstory of family mental health problems snuck in. The cinematography doubles down on the theme with artistic swirling angles and views, reminding you that perception is everything.

Despite all the reasons not to, I was #TeamRose, and I believed her. Rose teams up with an ex-boyfriend to track down a pattern of what happens to the long line of others who encountered the same triggering event. The lore they uncover had me on the edge of my seat, I had to see what happened! I needed to know more.

And then we get to the final leg of the movie, the big showdown, the face off with the monster, and this is where the movie lost me. To be honest, it’s probably my beef with a lot of monster movies. The monster was so underdeveloped and so clearly didn’t fit into the world introduced that I lost all concern or tension over what would happen next. Womp womp.

Despite a lack-luster reveal of the real monster, I’d give Smile a solid four out of five popcorn tubs. The entirety of the movie was filled with well-woven details to make us question what we thought we knew, the acting for every smile was fantastic, and of course those swoon-worthy camera angles.

When we left the theater, my teenage son said, “No, Mom. Just no. That was creepy.” Any movie that can give my teenager the heebie-jeebies is a win in my book.

Boo-graphy: Cass started her writing career as a journalist in college who moonlighted as an actress. Now at home with her husband, two sons, and two dogs, she’s discovered that fiction novel writing combines her love of the written word with her love of creating compelling characters. When she’s not staring at a computer screen, she can be found planting bulbs in the garden, her nose in a book, or watching Smallville with her family. Cass’s debut novel, Legacy Witches, was released in October of 2022.