Photograph courtesy of Cinephile Film Arts

Ari Lehman says he enjoys playing off his screen persona as the original Jason in the Friday the 13th movies. He will be in Bloomington for the Dark Carnival Film Festival, Aug. 23-25.

Camp counselors, beware: Jason is coming.

Seriously. Ari Lehman, who played the original Jason from the Friday the 13th movies, is coming to Bloomington. And he's psyched.

"It will be scary and brutal," he said.

But don't worry; he's just getting into character. As a special guest at the Dark Carnival Film Festival, he's going to "kill" the winner of the costume contest at the horror-themed dance party, just one of the events featured during the weekend of August 23-25.

Presented by Cinephile Film Arts, a local nonprofit media arts organization, the festival will feature independent horror films from local, national and international filmmakers, along with a live carnival sideshow, and the dance party and live performance from FirstJason, a horror-rock band led by Lehman.

The festival officially kicks off at the Starlight Drive-In on Thursday, Aug. 23, with the Midwest premier of Unearthed, a sci-fi/horror thriller that was recently featured at the Tribeca and Cannes film festivals, according to the event's press release.

Friday and Saturday's events at the Buskirk-Chumley include more screenings of independent horror films, filmmaker panel discussions and the carnival sideshow.

The dance party and FirstJason's performance - along with the onstage mock murder - will end the festival on Saturday night.


Lehman said for some fans, it's hard to separate "Jason" from his true persona, but he likes to point out that he was only 12 when he played the role - not to mention he was, of course, just acting.

Photograph courtesy of Cinephile Film Arts

"B movie scream queen" Brenna Lee Roth will lead a late-night, adults-only screening during the Dark Carnival festival. Her father, David Lee of Van Halen fame, was born in Bloomington.

"I have fun with it," Lehman said.

FirstJason is a great example of how he plays up his "Jason" persona. He describes the sound as hard-core punk, "with a metal feeling to it."

Though he just sticks to singing and on-stage horror antics with FirstJason, Lehman is actually a classically trained jazz musician who studied piano at NYU. Before he started FirstJason, he performed reggae and world music.

FirstJason's performance will include a mix of original songs, such as "Sink or Swim" and "Jason Is Watching," and covers from bands such as the Misfits.


Dave Pruett, festival director and the executive director of Cinephile, is hopeful about the festival's success.

"It really took off from an idea to start a festival with local films," he said. "The project has evolved in unexpected ways. There are actually very few local films now and a lot of international ones."

The festival will serve as a fundraiser for Cinephile to give grants to filmmakers, he said. Although a common perception about Cinephile is that it's geared only toward horror films, Pruett says his goal is to give independent filmmakers as much exposure as possible.

In fact, Pruett said since Cinephile received too many submissions for the two-day screenings, free mini-screenings will be shown at the Cinemat Monday through Wednesday the week of the festival (Aug. 20-22), starting at 7:30 each night. These screenings will include a variety of shorts, feature-length films and trailers, according to the press release.


Pruett is excited about the special guests appearing at the festival. Along with Lehman, actress Brenna Lee Roth (Spiderman 3, CSI Miami) and local horror actor Marv Blauvelt will make appearances.

Photograph courtesy of Cinephile Film Arts

Sledge hammers and beds of nails are but small parts of the Blue Monkey Sideshow. The four-man troupe is based in Indianapolis.

Blauvelt stars in Beef: You Are What You Eat, one of the featured films. A horror film buff and body builder who works for a biotech pharmaceutical firm, he found that his role as a psychotic, bodybuilder doctor was a good fit.

"Although I'm not psychotic," he said with a laugh.

Blauvelt also helped with the screening process for the festival and has been involved with recruiting sponsors.

"It was an honor to be included," he said. "This festival is different because it's really about the movies. These independent filmmakers have really put their heart and soul into this."


The kick-off at the Starlight Drive-In is particularly exciting for Blauvelt, who recalls going to drive-ins as a kid to watch horror movies.

"It's going to be really cool," he said. "I don't want to give anything away, but there will be some theatrical, scary surprises."

Above all, the mixture of film screenings and other events is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Pruett said many of the featured filmmakers will be coming in from other cities, but there should be a good local and general audience as well.

"I think we offer something others don't," he said.

Let's just hope he's referring to the wide range of independent films featured, not the onstage murder.

Alison Hamm can be reached at .