Utah-made horror movie will finally get its local premiere at SLC’s Davey Fest

The vampire film “My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To” was shot at several Salt Lake City locations.

(Courtesy of Jonathan Cuartas) Thomas sits at the dinner table in "My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To." This scene was shot in a house near the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

When a Utah-made horror movie is screened at an independent film festival this week, locals — including the cast and crew that worked on it — will get to see it in a theater for the first time.

“My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To” is scheduled to screen at Davey Fest, the annual independent film showcase happening June 23-26 at Brewvies Cinema Pub and other downtown Salt Lake City venues. The horror movie will be the opening night feature film, and will be followed by three evenings of local and national short films.

Shot in a whirlwind 20 days in 2019, “My Heart Can’t Beat Unless ...” is about Dwight — played by Patrick Fugit, who is originally from Salt Lake City — and his sister Jessie (Ingrid Sophie Schram), who are trapped in a never-ending nightmare as they care for their younger brother, a vampire named Thomas (Owen Campbell).

“My Heart Can’t Beat Unless ...,” directed by Florida native Jonathan Cuartas, features several locations in and around Salt Lake City, including the Great Salt Lake, Amber Restaurant and Big Cottonwood Canyon. A lot of the crew is from Salt Lake City, as well as much of the supporting cast (one of Fisher Brewing Company’s brewers plays a minor role as a customer at the diner).

(Courtesy of Jonathan Cuartas) Dwight stands at the water's edge in "My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To." This scene was shot at the Great Salt Lake.

Cuartas has been “urging and pushing” for a Salt Lake City premiere for the film, he told The Salt Lake Tribune, ever since his hopes for a crowded opening night in Salt Lake City were shut down along with theaters in 2020 due to the pandemic.

But with restrictions now easing and people slowly becoming more comfortable with seeing movies in theaters, that local premiere is finally happening. “It’s great to show [the film] to the people who worked on it,” said Cuartas.

Cuartas’ first experience with Davey Fest was in 2019, when he showed his short film “The Horse and the Stag.” He said the festival “attracted a lot of filmmakers from the community, and it just felt very local and genuine like that.”

Davey Fest is put on by The Davey Foundation, formed in honor of Utah actor, director, producer, musician and community activist David Ross Fetzer, who died in 2012 at age 30 from an accidental prescription painkiller overdose.

In addition to Brewvies, festival films will also be shown at Fisher Brewing Company (320 W. 800 South), SLC Eatery (1017 S. Main St.) and Sunset Studios (1400 S. Main St.), all in Salt Lake City. To see the full schedule and get tickets, visit DaveyFilm.org and follow the festival on Instagram @thedaveyfoundation.

Other local films at Davey Fest:

“The Ferryman,” by Taylor Mott: When The Ferryman arrives to take Charlie across the river Styx into the land of the dead, she has to decide whether to leave her family and old life behind.

“Lowlifes,” by Chase Ford: Three bandmates go on the run after a plan to get rich and famous goes off the rails.

“Together Forever,” by Kass McLaws: Two high school students reach a new level in their relationship when Liam asks Ethan to come over.

Music video for The Backseat Lovers’ “Heavy,” by Gianfranco Fernandez-Ruiz and Joshua Harmon.

Music video for The Mellons’ “What a Time to Be Alive,” by Andrew Colin Beck.

“CD-Trip” by Michael Biggs: In 1997, a young woman gets sucked into a “cryptic game involving computer programming and the early Internet,” according to DaveyFilm.org.

“Memory Map” by Amanda Madden: This experimental piece creates a map that “becomes a fragmented portrait, a page in an atlas of place, body and time,” according to the film description.

“Sausage” by Kristina Lynae Barksdale: A man’s meet-up with an escort takes an unexpected turn.

“No Rain nor Dew” by Gianfranco Fernández-Ruiz and Derek Wride: For a Chinese immigrant family in the 1980s, their past is painful and their future is murky.

“I Have No Tears, and I Must Cry,” by Luis Fernando Puente: Maria Luisa has been waiting almost two years for the Department of Homeland Security to approve her green card, and she’s ready to start her new life with her husband in the United States. But then an immigration officer says there’s an error in her paperwork. “I Have No Tears, and I Must Cry” was a 2021 Davey Film Grant awardee.