Austin Judd Tastes Success With Cannibal Comedian

Arts & Culture

Pictured: Mis Sadistic and Austin Judd in Cannibal Comedian. Photo by Andrea Davoren.

When a man calls out of the blue and invites you to cross the country and spend two weeks with him in The Murder House, most people say No. But if that man is writer/director Sean Haitz and you’re Sarasota-based actress Austin Judd, you ask for the address.

“It’s Leatherface meets Jerry Seinfeld,” Judd says of Cannibal Comedian, her latest cinematic collaboration with Haitz, the Sarasota-born filmmaker behind Florida horror flicks Mangrove Slasher 2 and Big Top Evil (also starring Judd). A blood-soaked but otherwise unconventional horror-comedy, the story follows a cannibal named Charlie with stand-up comedy dreams and the depths he’ll go to for a captive audience. Judd stars as Chrystal—one such lucky audience member who may be more than she seems. “They do crazy things with our characters that you don’t normally see in horror movies,” Judd says. “But I don’t want to reveal too much.”

Filmed in early 2020, just before the pandemic brought film production to a halt across the country, Cannibal Comedian was largely shot over the course of just two weeks in California at an abandoned cabin in the Morongo Valley known locally (and one hopes non-literally) as “The Murder House.” All told, a strange place to find the shy child who used to watch scary movies through her fingers. “But horror is so much fun to make because it’s so theatrical,” Judd says. “Also, when you have the blood on you and it’s corn syrup and it’s sweet and sticky, you don’t feel like it’s blood.” That’s not to say there weren’t challenging moments for Judd. “This required me to go to some really dark places,” she says. “I wanted to bring enough intensity and seriousness to my character.”

Released this summer with a world premiere at the Marina Del Rey Film Festival in Los Angeles, where it won Best Horror Feature, Cannibal Comedian has since been lighting up the horror festival circuit, including winning Best Feature at Days of the Dead Indianapolis, where it played to sold out theaters. As for Judd, she nabbed her first award nomination for Best Actress at the Houston Horror Film Festival and a win for Best Supporting Performance at the HorrorHound Film Festival in Indianapolis this month. Still on the circuit, the film will play in a handful of festivals in Los Angeles over the next couple weeks before coming to Florida, where it will screen at the Fantasm Film Festival in Orlando, September 15-17.

In the meantime, Judd recently completed shooting on an arthouse film about environmental awareness at Ringling College of Art and Design and is gearing up for her third feature-length film, Occult Detective, to be filmed in the Sarasota area. And while many follow their film dreams to LA or elsewhere, Judd, also a figure model at Ringling College and the Miano Academy of Art, and whose husband works at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, has no intentions of leaving. “Sarasota has amazing opportunities for film,” she says. “And we hold our art to a certain standard.”

Pictured: Mis Sadistic and Austin Judd in Cannibal Comedian. Photo by Andrea Davoren.

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