Through the years, Halloween has essentially been split into two camps. One camp is comprised of kids and families out in the neighborhoods and shopping establishments that host trick or treating events. The other camp booms with loud music and costume contests as the hundreds of bars up and down the Grand Strand throw adult-flavored Halloween parties.
But what about the other crowd – the crowd that just wants to dress up and gather to watch a few scary movies? These are the crowds that yearn for the days of yore, where drive-in movies existed with triple features of horror films on Halloween. A place where employees dressed as serial killers in ski masks and roamed around to scare the shit out of you.
Well drive-ins are no more in these parts, but someone is trying to harness that Halloween spirit. Michael Ivy and Dustin Ivy, the owner and president of Ivy Leaf Productions, are attempting to host the first-ever Shock-Shiver Film Festival on Halloween (Oct. 31) at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, from 6 p.m. until midnight – six hours of non-stop terror on the screen.
Shock, Shiver, Shift and Shout
The path this festival has taken has been wrought with snags, and the Ivy boys have been tripped up and had to struggle to stand along the way. Originally, Michael Ivy scheduled Frank Theatres at Inlet Square in Murrells Inlet to house the festival.
Everything seemed to be going fine. Ivy even arranged a concert to raise funds for the film festival at Suck Bang Blow in Murrells Inlet back in August. The concert was an assortment of local and regional bands (mostly metal) – Driven Under, The Day of Night, Black Hand Throne, Wormboy, Manbearpig, Open Wire, Rabble N Rebellion, Ocean’s Orange, among others. Michael Ivy served as the opening act.
“It was a resounding success, event wise,” says Michael Ivy. “But monetarily, we fell greatly short of required fees for Frank Theatres, so I thought, how about the Myrtle Beach Convention Center?”
The convention center welcomed the festival with open arms and for significantly less money. “It just seemed to make more sense all around,” says Michael Ivy. “The space works better for our purposes, and it’s centrally located on the Strand.”
As of press time, there are eleven films in the lineup. “We have films all the way from the U.K. and France and Austria, so I guess that makes us an international film festival now,” says Michael Ivy. “We also have films from Seattle and North Carolina and some local films. There will be tastes for all palates.”
The lineup hasn’t been confirmed yet, but films are still rolling in. Ivy Leaf Productions will be running its own short film, “Willies’ BBQ Pig Palace.” And Michael Ivy rattles off a list of titles that made the festival’s cut – titles like “Whispers Behind the Wall,” “The Fear Box,” “Black Night” and “Run the Ground.”
Dwayne King, the founder of Myrtle Beach horror studio Kluckin Films, is still in the process of choosing his contribution to the festival. Since 1999, Kluckin Films has been a projector of low budget bloody fare, using the Grand Strand as a brutal backdrop.
“As of right now, I'm not exactly sure which film we will submit,” says King. “But I can definitely say that it will be a short film, something full of blood and gore of course.”
In between films, Killa Bytz (local DJ Van Davis) will add an eerie musical atmosphere to the festival. Michael Ivy plans to serve popcorn, soda and orange and black cotton candy. People are encouraged to wear costumes, to the point of free admission if they choose to dress up. There will also be a costume contest, to go along with Horror Oscars that’ll be given out for the best films.
In the past, Kluckin Films has hosted several Day of The Dead Bashes. “But over the past few years, we’ve actually been busy collaborating with and supporting others in the horror community,” says King.
King expects the festival to have “lots of blood, gore and scares.” He adds, “I hope this blows up and becomes a huge event. It's exactly what this town needs. This way we’ll have X-Con and the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival in the spring, Shock Shiver Film Festival in the fall, and maybe, Kluckin Films will put together something big for the winter.”
Is there enough interest for another film festival?
“Yes, we have a film festival in Myrtle Beach, but it's not a horror film festival,” says Michael Ivy. “People desire and demand something different.”
The Spirits Behind the Scenes
Ivy Leaf Productions is heading into its third year as a film company. “We would love to be filming our own films, but bills need to be paid,” says Michael Ivy. “We have found a lucrative market providing virtual tours for local motels as well as commercials. Some are on local TV, and we’ve made some for social media outlets like Facebook and Google Ads.”
The Ivy family has a system. “Dustin is the technical wizard,” says Michael Ivy. “He is also a lover of all things scary and horror.” Dustin Ivy is a graduate of the University of North Carolina – Wilmington with a degree in film. He also works as an editor at WMBF News.
King tells us he first met a young Dustin Ivy back in 2002. “Dustin approached us about doing makeup on ‘Welcome to Blood Beach,’” says King. “We gave him a chance, which led to working with him on several more short films together. He caught the filmmaking bug and went on to film school. I feel kind of like a proud papa.”
If Dustin Ivy is in charge of all the filmmaking aspects of Ivy Leaf Productions, what does Dustin’s real papa Michael Ivy do?
“I do all the paper work, marketing and phone calls.” But he adds, “I write all the stories and screenplays as well. I’ve written four screenplays and have more in the wings. I also do all the music for the films, virtual tours, commercials, and whatever else needs a tune, from jingles to full movie scores.”
Michael Ivy has become a true renaissance man over the years. He toured as a professional musician opening for Charlie Daniels and Nantucket in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He also worked as a registered nurse for more than 20 years before starting up Ivy Leaf Productions.
“This is what it’s all about,” says Michael Ivy. “I’m old now, so it’s nice to be able to just be creative and give others a place to share their creativity.”
In 2010, Michael Ivy was diagnosed with kidney cancer. The cancer is now renal cell cancer, stage three. While organizing the Shock-Shiver Film Festival, Michael Ivy discovered a lump under his right arm. By the time he got to his doctor, the lump had grown to the size of a baseball. A few weeks before the festival, he was hospitalized, and the lump was removed.
When his son, Dustin Ivy, suggested they postpone the event, Michael said, “When will we get this chance again? Halloween is on a Friday. This is the perfect time for this festival, and there’s no way we’re canceling. The show will go on. I just want this festival to keep going, to become something that people can enjoy year after year, to be my legacy after I'm gone.”
Michael Ivy has gotten used to moving on. “There are ups and downs with this sickness,” he tells us over the phone, recuperating at home from the surgery, a drainage tube still extending from the wound under his arm. “You learn to manage and live with it. I may be asleep in the corner, but I’ll be there on Halloween night, enjoying every minute of it,” he says.