[Courtesy Photo]

Dark shadows twist their way across the red rocks of Moab, the only light coming from the waxing moon. The dry grasses shush together, sounding like footsteps. Wait, footsteps? You check behind your back—but nothing’s there. Wait, do rocks make shadows that look like that? Wait, are you hearing things? Seeing things? Is that—could it be? Is there something evil brewing in the hills?

This year, the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission partnered with Filmulate to host a film-making challenge: The Moab Monster Movie Mash. Registration opens Sept. 6, and films are due Oct. 18. There will be a screening at Star Hall on October 30, just in time for Halloween.

The Monster Movie Mash has five genres that filmmakers can pick from: “Cursed Treasure in Them Hills,” “Ghosts of the West,” “The Devil Went Down to Moab,” “The Beast from the Red Rocks,” and “The Dark Desert.”

Each film will also be required to include an “enigma,” an individual element challenge such as a prop or a line of dialogue. Films have to be under 10 minutes and there’s no limit on team size.

“The fun thing about [horror] is it doesn’t have to be scary,” Bega Metzner, director of the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission, said. “It can be campy, or tongue and cheeky, or super scary.”

The Film Commission has hosted film-making challenges before—anyone remember the Moab Showdown? In 2019, the film commission hosted a 49-hour competition, in which filmmakers had 49 hours to write, shoot and edit an original film. The event culminated in a sold-out showing of all the films at Star Hall.

Due to the popularity of the Showdown, the city decided to host another challenge, Metzner said. For the Monster Movie Mash, she’s partnering with Filmulate, which hosts genre specific film festivals like this one. Filmulate is run by Salt Lake City-based filmmaker Brian Higgins, who has experience hosting larger challenges and film festivals.

“He’s a very talented producer of film challenges,” Metzner said, adding that Higgins is helping to figure out the logistics.

This challenge is open to professionals, amateurs, and students alike. Anyone can make a movie, even just using their phone, Metzner said, so anyone who wants to make a movie at all is encouraged to register. Grand County students can get the registration fee waived.

Films can be shot anywhere. Metzner has special recreation permits for a number of locations on Bureau of Land Management land around Moab for filmmakers to use—individuals just have to pay a $6 fee.

Filmmakers who participate will also have access to two virtual film classes: “How to Filmulate? An overview of Filmulate fests including tips and clips to help you make the best film for the fest,” and “History of Desert Horror Films,” joined by Higgins, who will be the horror host. There will also be opportunities for films to be screened internationally or included in a feature film anthology.

The challenge isn’t strictly locals-only—Metzner wants to bring in anyone from the rest of the state, or even other states, who want to make a film.

“The more the merrier,” she said.

Registration is $50 and opens September 6. Filmmakers will have six weeks to make a film that falls into one of the five genres. Films are due October 18, and will show at Star Hall on October 30.