Alright, vacation’s over. It’s time for the Son of Celluloid to get back in the saddle, gas up the chainsaw, and return to my dark little corner of cyberspace. Yes folks, October kicked my ass. Between Netherworld, the Horror Movie Darwin Awards, and THE MADNESS competition, I was in serious need of some recharging, so I took a little time off. Luckily, this weekend is the Buried Alive Horror Fest at the historic Plaza Theatre, which seems like the perfect heart-shot of adrenaline to bring me back from my coma.
Tonight was the first night, and we were treated to six shorts and a feature. Here’s my analysis in the order they were shown. If any of these intrigue you, google them and find out where you might be able to see them. Some of them you can actually watch online. I’m just too lazy tonight to gather the links. Deal with it. If none of these sound like your cup of tea, what the hell are you reading this blog for? Viva la Independent Horror!
Cabine of the Dead – This 9 minute French short about a man trapped in a phone booth surrounded by the living dead, desperately calling his friends and family. Not an enviable position at all. The acting was good, the zombie makeup was very good, some of the shots of him in the phone booth with the zombies looking through the glass were killer, and some moments were downright hilarious…I think. See, the problem here was that the subtitles were screwed up. Whole lines were skipped, and when they were there, only the tops of the letters were visible on the screen. I’m pretty sure there was some good stuff going on that I missed. If they’d fix the subtitle issue, this would be a top-notch bite sized zombie flick.
Enter the Dark – I’ve seen some glowing reviews of this one, but it just didn’t do it for me. How many times do I have to watch people ghost hunting in night vision? Yes the climactic scare is pretty cool even if it is telegraphed, and I laughed at the “Tim the drunken Irish dude” line, but this didn’t really do anything to differentiate it from the POV pack. Not bad, just kinda blah. I’d say how I would have handled the “post climactic scare” moment differently, but that would be spoilerific, and that’s not how I roll. If you’re not sick of ghost adventuring yet, you might dig it.
Inside Ned’s Home – What the f**k was that? Something about a missing cat, the flying sound effect from Defender for the Atari, murder, lots of blood, otherworldly voices on a red phone, and..um…I dunno man. Whatever it was, it was pretty cool. At first I was wondering if it was going anywhere, then as the weirdness began to pile up, I realized that this is an avant garde little bizarro trip into madness. Jack Lorentz (writer and director), you officially have me intrigued.
Do Not Disturb – A killer checks into a hotel where he starts receiving strange, disturbing messages. This one created a cool mood, had some unique creepy visuals, and presented an interesting, vaguely EC comics-esque central idea. I wish this had been about 10 minutes longer. I get the “leaving the ending ambiguous” thing, but a little more explanation and a little more time to let it play out would have been nice. Then again, I’d much rather be left wanting more than have a thin idea stretched until it wears out its welcome, like certain major motion pictures I’ve seen recently.
Alice Jacobs is Dead – This bittersweet zombie love story is short on the usual zombie mayhem (although there is a bit of enthusiastic gut munching), but long on real emotional drama. A scientist has found a way to delay the “Z-virus” and is hailed as a hero, but can he save those he loves? This well written short is carried by expert performances by vets John La Zar and Adrienne Barbeau. Its theme of “when is it time to let go” makes this a rarity among rarities, thought provoking zombie cinema. On a less serious note, Adrienne voraciously stuffing her face with raw meat as Bela Lugosi looks on approvingly is a brilliant moment. Wait, Bela Lugosi? Yes indeed. No, I won’t explain. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.
An Evening With My Comatose Mother – When Dorothy takes a job watching a house for a couple going to a costume party, she finds out that caring for the titular elderly vegetable is part of the deal. Seems easy enough, until the real creepy Halloween fun starts. This flick is dripping with atmosphere, and the cinematography makes great use of the mansion. I’m not sure what that whole Tiny Tim thing was all about though. Mother is pretty frightening, but nowhere near as nightmare inducing as that harlequin doll. Dolls don’t usually strike me as scary, but this thing puts even the Poltergeist clown to shame. Good effects too. The flick doesn’t take itself too seriously though, keeping its tongue firmly in cheek without being too jokey to be effective. If Tales From the Crypt was still around, this would make a great episode.
I Didn’t Come Here To Die – When six young people head into the woods for a little volunteer work building a campground, things go horribly, horribly wrong. Content-wise, this movie was excellent. The story, while predictable, was creative, unconventional, and fresh in a lot of ways. Some of the concepts come completely out of nowhere, but generally they work. The cast did a good job. There are some laugh out loud moments, as well as some pretty juicy practical effects; often packaged together. The chainsaw scene is in my top three favorite cinematic moments of the year. We got some gratuitous boobs, which are always welcome. Like I said, the actual content of this flick is first class.
Stylistically, it’s a whole different story. I believe they were going for the “faux-grindhouse” thing based on the logo and a “burned film” gag at the end. Therefore I suppose the completely washed out colors were supposed to make it look like aged film. It doesn’t. It looks like digital footage that’s got a filter on it to remove all vibrant color from the beautiful forest locations. The constant use of my old pet peeve, needless and annoying camera shaking and wobbling, also betrays the grindhouse thing. If you want it to look old, don’t use the worst feature of modern horror cinema. The fake grain looks awful too.
I Didn’t Come Here To Die didn’t need the faux-grindhouse thing at all. It would have been much better without it to tell the truth. I would have loved, and I do mean loved, this flick if it had just been left as a “shot on digital, kids dying in the woods” flick. Well, that and if the camera man was sober. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that was the problem and that the constant swaying and weaving of the frame wasn’t intentional. This is a really enjoyable, well written, creative, bloody flick that’s unfortunately marred by some stylistic choices that mirror some of the more odious trends currently plaguing today’s horror flicks.
Two severed thumbs up: Alice Jacobs is Dead, An Evening With My Comatose Mother,
One and a half severed thumbs up: Cabine of the Dead, Inside Ned’s Home, Do Not Disturb
One severed thumb up: I Didn’t Come Here To Die, Enter the Dark
No matter what I rated them; Nathan says support indy horror and check all of them out. I’ll be back with a report on the remainder of the festival (there’s some really cool stuff coming up) early next week.