Matzke’s ‘Orchestra’ to screen at Cinepocalypse

Gillian Butcher in 'The Orchestra'

Gillian Butcher in ‘The Orchestra’

With virtually
no dialogue and
a cast of one,
the five-minute film
rides a mysterious
symphony into a
frightening climax

Chicago filmmaker Curtis Matzke’s short horror film, The Orchestra, will screen Sunday night and Monday afternoon during Cinepocalypse 2019 at the Music Box Theater.

The Orchestra is a six-minute, one-act thriller set in a grandiose concert hall that resonates with eerie drama. Featuring virtually no dialogue and a cast of one, it rides a mysterious symphony into a frightening climax.



Matzke hatched the concept for The Orchestra with his brother and sister-in-law one afternoon at the University of Michigan campus.

“We saw a girl who was dressed kind of unusually carrying an instrument across the street,” he recalls. “We wrote a concept for a feature about a young woman who is into music and who is haunted by an orchestra.”

Although he intends to expand the idea into a feature, the abbreviated precursor plays like a self-contained short.

'The Orchestra'
‘The Orchestra’

“I’m about halfway done with the full-length script, which I pitch as Whiplash meets Insidious,” he explains. “But I’m not a big fan of proof-of-concept or teaser films that cannot stand alone.”

Chicago actor Gillian Butcher plays the clarinetist, who practices alone on the auditorium’s immense stage. Cut with glimpses of nearby instruments and notes from an anoynomous symphony, she blends right into the sights and sounds at the heart of the story.

Matzke shot The Orchestra in the auditorium of suburban Benet Academy with a RED Epic Dragon provided by Camera Ambassador. He captured the action in 6K for “a clean look” to enhance the details of the medium-lit drama.

ALSO READ: Cinepocalypse unveils 2019 lineup

Chicago composer Tony Scott Green wrote the accompanying music. Per the director’s preference, he created subtle layers of warmth that belie the climax.

Curtis Matzke
Curtis Matzke

“I wanted the viewer to forget for a second that they were watching a horror movie,” says Matzke. “I knew the whole thing was going to be anchored by the sound, and he understood the story well.”

Noisefloor’s sound design, the final touch, enhances the narrative without getting in the way. Formatted into a 5.1 surround sound mix, it will play for the first time in theaters at Cinepocalypse.

Described as “Chicago’s premiere festival for electrifying and provocative genre cinema,” Cinepocalypse has been terrorizing audiences since 2017.

The event’s screening of The Orchestra will mark the first of Matzke’s films to light up the Music Box Theatre, but his work has found its way into an impressive list of other fests and venues.

The Michigan State grad created a short film based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth titled, King, Hereafter, that will screen at the Windy City Film Festival in July. His vampire-centric short, Splinter, is set to be released by the horror distribution company Alter later this month.

Curtis Matzke is a Chicago-based screenwriter and director who also works as a producer and cinematographer. ​As the founder of the media production company ​Unfurnished Films​, Curtis has contributed to dozens of short films and produced four micro-budget features. His work has been included as part of the Austin Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Cinequest Film & VR Film Festival, and more. In 2018, Curtis was named “Most Diabolical” by the National Academy of Sciences and the Austin Film Festival. He is the recipient of a professional development grant from the Illinois Arts Council and in 2019 founded ​The Chicago Cinema Collective​, a comprehensive compendium of the Chicago film scene. Curtis holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Media Arts and Technology from Michigan State University with a concentration in Television, Cinema, and Radio, a Minor in Film Studies, and a Specialization in Design.

Gillian Butcher – Woman
Daniel McEvilley – Conductor

Curtis Matzke – Writer/Director/Producer
Michael Weldon – Director of Photography
Justin Reifert – Producer
Christopher Biewer – Producer
Tony Scott-Green – Music
Noise Floor Ltd. – Sound Mixer
Color – Zachary Korpi

Send your indie updates to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton,