TGIF and the midnight hour is close at hand. In the weeks since I started summarizing these HorrorFest films, I’ve been going back and watching the few hadn’t seen. Filling in the gaps, if you will. Had a chance to see Dark Ride. Either my expectations were ridiculously low or I enjoyed it in spite of myself. Also got Reincarnation from Netflix. Unfortunately I’ve still got no opinion since the DVD was so damaged it wouldn’t play.
More importantly, I’ve been taking in the 2010 HorrorFest films that are finally trickling out on DVD. I won’t be able to see them all before next week, but I’ll at least be able to run down a few of them: Husk, Fertile Ground, and Seconds Apart.
Tonight, I’ve got a DVD called Dark Mirror in my possession. It’s one of those films that’s been in my Netflix queue for so long, I can’t even remember why I wanted to see it in the first place. Another one to go into with low expectations, I guess.
So in addition to filling my head with disturbing stories and images, Saucy Josh just got himself a jobby-job. We’ll see how much full-time employment affects my writing output. I’ll still be doing my damndest to give you a daily nugget on Film Sponge, and we’ll see you here every Friday at midnight. That’s a promise.
Now without further delay, please enjoy…
A SOMEWHAT-COMPLETE HISTORY OF AFTER DARK HORRORFEST – AKA 8 FILMS TO DIE FOR
Since 2006, After Dark Films has held their annual HorrorFest, honoring 8 Horror Movies that never made it into the mainstream, due to a low budget perhaps, or an unknown director. After Dark would have us believe that these films are underground for one reason only: They’re too graphic, terrifying, controversial, and sadistic for the public-at-large. I am happy to say, however, that this is not the case.
And it’s not because I have anything against gore, terror, controversy, or sadism (okay, maybe sadism) per say. I’m happy because these collections contain a plethora of delights for the more discriminating Horror aficionado like you and me. I can’t say every selection I’ve seen is a gem or that some HorrorFest films aren’t excessively bloody, but there is a great balance with foreign films and indie films that really do deserve more attention than they ever got.
I’d like to thank After Dark for the 8 Films to Die For collections and for making truly great underground Horror accessible to the average Joe (or Josh). While I have not seen every single one, I’ve seen enough of these movies to have opinions—and most of them are positive. See last week’s post for an overview of 2008’s HorrorFest where I reviewed: Autopsy, The Broken, The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations, Dying Breed, From Within, Perkins’ 14, Slaughter, and Voices.
Dread: Holy HorrorFest, this is some sick shit right here! Based on a short story by Horror Master Clive Barker (Hellraiser), Dread will take you places most people don’t want to go. It starts as a college film/sociology project with a trio of co-eds video taping peers talking about their greatest fears. But Quaid wants to take things to another level, and forces some unwitting participants into reenactments of extreme terror. Quaid is fascinated by fear and, as a victim of intense dread himself, wants to see what happens when people are forced to endure the things that scare them most. Finally, the other members of the trio become pawns in Quaid’s disgusting game. The acting is top-notch and the actors deliver real emotional intensity. Side characters are compelling as well, most specifically Abby, the beautiful bookstore clerk with a dark birthmark that covers half of her body. This is not a movie for someone wanting a good scare every minute as Dread takes its time and the violence and gore is relatively sparse. But even mature, intelligent Horror Movie aficionados can expect to be rattled. Meat-eaters may be turned to vegetarianism. Vegetarians may go vegan. Dread is fantastic and so original I can’t even think of another film to compare it to.
The Final: A film that might have carried more weight and social significance had it been released in the aftermath of the Columbine massacre of 1999, TF follows a group of misfit, bullied teens who plan to exact an elaborate vengeance on their enemies (i.e. the “popular kids”). And while this elaborate vengeance is the film’s center, it’s also its undoing. The sheer logistical preparation needed to execute such a plot would have been staggering, so the fact that 6 teens pull it off without a hitch takes me out of reality. I mean, this plot is so elaborate and includes so many people, even Jigsaw couldn’t pull it off. For example, our anti-heroes manage to: Get a large group of teens to arrive at a party in the middle of nowhere at the same time, they get everyone to drink a drugged cocktail at the same time causing everyone pass out at the same time, and then their victims all wake up—at the same time! It’s torture time boys and girls! TF follows a long tradition of teenage retribution movies that started with Carrie in 1978; a morality tale for bullies and stuck-up homecoming queens to be careful who they torment. Unfortunately, this film’s wild premise undermines the serious message beneath it all. Props to the freaky banjo-playing Scarecrow kid and his final line (before killing himself): “There are more of us.” Consider yourselves warned.
The Graves: I wish I could tell you that each HorrorFest is better than the last and that the overall quality of films is on an upward swing towards perfection. Too bad TG is such a God-awful wreck! Another for my list of Horror Movies that are so same I quit watching. Yet another female fronted film clearly penned by a man, because real life women don’t talk or act anything like Megan and Abby. Guys (more specifically “dudes”) talk and act like they do. So I’m asking myself, “Why didn’t the writer just make them brothers?” Well duh! He wants his film to star pretty girls, so he can work with pretty girls, and his fans will see pretty girls in his movie. Besides being a film made by (and for) the lowest common denominator, TG is low budget juvenile junk. The entire situation is just ridiculous and the bad guys are silly. But once again, I am opened to the opinions of those who actually sat through the entire movie. If I’m wrong I’m wrong, but I doubt it.
Kill Theory: The heavily-tattooed antagonist sets out to prove his theory: Even the best of friends will kill one another to save themselves. This theory, however, is flawed because the heavily-tattooed antagonist is insane. He’s got some pretty cool tattoos, though. If it sounds like a watered-down version of Saw, that’s because it pretty much is (only there seems to be little, if any connection between the killer and his prey). We’ve all seen it before: Trapped in a controlled environment, paranoia sets in, friends become enemies, enemies become friends, alliances are forged and broken. At best, it’s an entertaining 3-star flick and it’s definitely more fun than, say, cleaning up the bathroom. If watching with friends, try and guess who the lone survivor will be (because it’s not an obvious pick). For a truly great friend-becomes-my-enemy Horror experience, you can’t go wrong with Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever.
Lake Mungo: Mad respect to the After Dark crew and the entire continent of Australia for another absolutely amazing cinematic experience. One of my all-time favorites, LM is arguably not a Horror movie at all. That being said, it is also one of the creepiest films I’ve ever seen. Fools will call it an Australian Blair Witch Project which is both misleading and unfortunate. LM is a “mockumentary” of the highest caliber, acted and shot so well it’s easy to completely fall into the movie’s reality. Lot’s of grown up themes like “Knowledge of Impending Death” and “Dying with Unfinished Business”. LM centers on a family reeling from the accidental death of 16-year-old Alice, and the seemingly supernatural occurrences of the following year. And it’s better than Shutter (or any movie I can think of) in its exploration of Spirit Photography. Completely compelling throughout, be sure to watch the entire film as the most shocking twist is revealed during the end credits. A-Plus, 5 out of 5 stars, LM is more than a must-see.
The Reeds: I like this movie before I even start watching it because it’s from the UK and the title has a literary ring to it: The Reeds. Like the misty moors of Beowulf and Wuthering Heights, I’m ready for a spooky, supernatural saga. And at the film’s conclusion, I like The Reeds even more. 6 friends on a weekend boating trip find themselves hopelessly lost in a reedy river delta. The dangers are copious, including submerged debris, cultish teenagers, and a real life killer. The main female protagonist also discovers a deeper, family connection to the geography, making us wonder if the events are just happenstance. With great acting and atmosphere and an underlying mystery, TR is definitely a film for the more discerning Horror fan. And while there are plenty of films that end at the same place where they began, this one will knock your socks off.
Hidden: I haven’t seen a lot of Horror movies from Scandinavia, but the ones I have seen are awesome, and Hidden is no exception. Our protagonist, KK, returns to his hometown (after running away as a youth 19 years earlier) to attend to his mother’s estate after her death. The difficult process is compounded by confusing memories about the night he ran away when he inadvertently caused a fatal car accident that left another young boy orphaned. As KK comes to terms with both the pain he caused and endured (his mother, turns out, was hideously abusive), a young local couple goes missing under mysterious circumstances. Suspicion falls on KK whose behavior becomes increasingly bizarre; he is unable to account for his whereabouts and begins obsessively searching the surrounding forest for a mysterious man in a red hoodie. This is a very complex and subtle movie for grown ups, definitely a treat for the intelligent Horror coinsure. While KK achieves a sense of closure regarding his past, we are left to decide for ourselves if he is damaged but innocent—or a deranged murderer with a split personality.
ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction: ZMD is as terrible as its title suggests: Low-budget, poorly acted, trite, and immature. If this was a film student’s Senior Thesis, I’d fail him. I wonder who the writer slept with in order to have this piece of crap included in such an illustrious collection. After Dark, you know how much I love you guys, but come on! There must have been some more deserving contenders than ZMD and The Graves. Seriously. WTF?
Come back next week for my take on a few films from HorrorFest 2010.