Flushing, MI — In the basement of Chris Ringler’s Flushing home, walls are covered with posters from horror conventions of the past. His shelves showcase a collection of horror movies, books and characters including a “Scare Bear” whose makeshift fur is peeling away from its body, exposing a bloody skeleton underneath.
Ringler’s podcasting table has a box of assorted fake teeth and red Play-Doh — a project he is working on in hopes of making his teeth look like they are falling out.
While the imagery may be off-putting to some, Ringler said the horror-themed films and artifacts don’t scare him. After all, he’s the organizer behind the Flint Horror Convention and the founder of its host organization, the Flint Horror Collective.
Ringler launched both the collective and convention in 2011, after receiving $700 from his tax returns. He said he weighed the option of going to an out-of-state convention but decided to start his own instead.
From there, the Flint Horror Convention took place every year from 2011 to 2014, when Ringler said the collective lost about $13,000 on the convention.
“It just wasn’t economical to do them, which is a huge bummer,” he said. So, the collective began doing smaller shows and events.
Ringler remained with the Flint Horror Collective until 2021, when he instead began working on his own. He now has a podcast, The Spooky Chris Podcast, and runs his own events, like horror-themed art shows and the Flint Short Film Freak Out, which will take place on Oct. 29, 2023.
The film festival, in its second year, is free to attend and runs from noon to 7 p.m. at Flint Local 432.
Multiple horror films will be shown over the seven-hour festival, with short breaks between each viewing. Ringler said the venue has around 30 metal folding chairs but recommended attendees bring their own more comfortable chairs for the best experience.
Ringler has worked with about 10 to 15 local filmmakers over the years, including Flint native Tyler Zickafoose.
In the early 2000s, Zickafoose and his sister could most commonly be found in their family home on the east side of Flint with a massive Sony video camera in hand, creating home movies from skits or “stupid stuff” in the backyard.
Now, Zickafoose has been filmmaking for almost 20 years and runs his own production company, Atomic Swan Films. All of his films are made in Flint, he said, near where he grew up or around downtown.
For Zickafoose, meeting Ringler was just what he needed to branch out and share his films and interest in the horror genre with the world. At the first Flint Horror Convention in 2011, Zickafoose premiered one of his films for the first time, Among Thieves.
“I’d get comfortable with talking to the guests and stuff like that,” Zickafoose said. “Chris kind of got me out of my shell, if you will.”
Zickafoose’s films fall into horror and action genres. One of his favorite films he’s made is a monster movie called Killer Raccoon Fish in 3D.
Even though he started out his film career by burning DVDs to sell at smaller events, he said he didn’t have a place or a community to appreciate them until he met Ringler in 2010.
Zickafoose entered his film, Taste Tester, into this year’s film festival.
“The premise of the movie is how far would you go to make $100,” he said. “It’s more comedy than anything else.”
Ringler said diversity is one of his favorite things about horror films.
“You can do anything in the world with them. You can have romantic horror films, you can have, like, absolutely bleak horror films, you can have funny horror films,” he said. “It is a great way to discuss social issues and cultural issues that you can’t really easily fit into other movies without kind of getting into deep, deep gray areas.”
Cash prizes are available for the top three films at Flint Short Film Freak Out, and Ringler noted the winners will be announced at the festival by Flint Bigfoot (who’s just Ringler in a bigfoot costume but don’t spoil it).