‘The Eyeslicer’ brings DIY filmmaking to RagTag Cinema

An online film anthology brings a unique sense of Halloween charm to Ragtag Cinema.

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On Oct. 21, Ragtag Cinema hosted Producer Dan Schoenbrun as he displayed his and Vanessa McDowell’s latest work of DIY terror, “The Eyeslicer Halloween Special.” The special was the first completed episode of the second season of the duo’s online anthology TV show, “The Eyeslicer,” and was shown for one night only as part of a national tour.

Before the show, Schoenbrun introduced himself and expressed his gratitude at being back at the Ragtag. He and McDowell had previously hosted a show to promote the first season of “The Eyeslicer” last year.

“‘The Eyeslicer” was born out of a desire to create an audience for generally experimental, transgressive, exciting stuff,” Schoenbrun said. “We wanted to not just highlight but build a home for that kind of cinema.”

After this brief introduction, the film began, or the first one at least. Every episode of “The Eyeslicer” is an anthology composed of multiple short films by various directors intermixed with wraparound segments, meaning you could be watching a person’s hand transform into a crow, and then a documentary on the use of bathtubs in horror films. The only thing connecting these two shorts together is another short, or wraparound, featuring a den of witches warning you to watch your back.

While it sounds a bit chaotic, “The Eyeslicer” Halloween Special worked because the shorts themselves were expressions of morbid creativity and because many of them focused on the same two themes. Either they were critical of women’s typical roles in horror films or they investigated the idea of escaping repeating spaces, with characters literally being stuck in the same old stories over and over again.

The crowd loved it, and were at different times laughing and clutching each other in terror. Afterwords, Schoenbrun hosted a Q&A and showcased “The Eyeslicer” merch, which included a DIY magazine that contained links to secret online short films as well as a few copies of the special on VHS.

Many of the viewers were curious about the future of “The Eyeslicer.”

“We’re currently working on season two and we’ve commisioned about 15-20 original pieces, which we’re now reviewing,” Schoenbrun said. “What’s different is that now, instead of funding a few new works and asking a few directors to showcase existing works for exposure, we are able to pay everyone who makes a movie for Eyeslicer.”

This funding has come both through successful Kickstarter campaigns, where fans fund the eventual release, and through Meow Wolf, a DIY art collective in New Mexico.

“[Meow Wolf] found us on Kickstarter and gave us $10,000, which at the time I was convinced it was fraud,” Schoenbrun said. “They’re sort of our Big Brother now.”

After the showing, the crowd was abuzz with admiration for “The Eyeslicer.” Only about four of the 25 people who saw the film had watched any of “The Eyeslicer” before. These new viewers became a part of this new “home” for indie filmmaking and proved that if you give most filmmakers a chance, they can make something that people enjoy.

Edited by Alexandra Sharp | asharp@themaneater.com

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