Ah, yes, another Halloweeen and another Shriekfest Horror/SciFi Film Festival! I look forward to it every year, and this year was no different. And there were some particular stand-outs in the features this year, and even a few in the Shorts.
It's always a challenge to me to find really unique films in this genre. As we all know, horror can get really repetitious really fast. Showing us something new is harder and harder to do. But even if you give us something familiar but put a new twist on it, I'll settle for that. So you better give me something extra than your same old slasher film.
There were a lot of interesting ghost story films this year. Fortunately the stories had enough weight to make them worth watching. We can start with Muirhouse, an Australian film about Philip Muirhouse, a ghost hunter that, after his crew is late, decides to explore the world reknown Monte Cristo homestead - alone. This movie is pretty much full bore tension all the way through. You're going to know how to sit on the least amount of seat possible after this one. The main actor, Ian P. F. McDonald, manages to hold the whole film mostly on his own to surprising success.
Also a kind of ghost story, Devoured offers some excellent mood, creepy scenes, and some fine directing and acting. As an immigrant mother desperately tries to make enough money to save her ill child, evil forces stalk her incessantly. Though it's a bit heavy-handed with the emotional aspects, it's still a well-crafted and creepy film. i'd say it's worth seeing if you get the chance.
The one Sci-fi feature is Found In Time, which follows Chris, a psychic who experiences life out of order, as he attempts to rearrange his present and past to prevent him committing murder in the future. I know, sounds like a lot doesn't it? But it's a smart film, and that's always a plus. The acting is great, and the idea is, too. Honestly, I liked it, but I think I need a second viewing. With all the discussion of Looper and its' time-travel conundrums, Found In Time can't hurt from a second viewing. In fact, it might benefit from it. Take that how you want.
One of my faves - and highlights of the fest was... The House With 100 Eyes! This is indeed a grim portrait of what happens when a snuff film goes awry. Wait, how does a snuff film go awry, you ask? does everyone live? Do they all go out for ice cream after? No, no, they mean when the snuff film doesn't go as the film makers planned. So, you can get the idea. A couple lure young people to their home and torture them horribly. but things don't really go their way when they pick up their latest trio of teens.
Now, I've expressed my feelings about torture porn these days - the whole Saw and Hostel type of film. It's not my bag. It never has any deeper purpose than to disgust the viewer, and they are completely humourless. However, with this film, the couple is so engaging and so entertaining, that they balance out the really horrible bloody stuff you see on screen. Their characters are a demented delight and they create humour when it's needed most. Jim Roof wrote and co-directed as well as starred as the husband of the couple and after meeting him I can honestly say his performance was a total transformation. In reality he is a soft-spoken, seemingly shy person. His on screen character? Oh, very much the opposite. Shannon Malone stars as his wife and is equalling wonderful as a very proper, almost 1950's type of wife with a penchant for being a little impatient with poisons. This is one film I recommend to horror fans as soon as it gets distribution.
The next two films, I really enjoyed. First, Last Kind Words is a rather wonderful Southern Gothic. When Eli returns to the farm of his parents' youth, he discovers that within it's forests a different line is drawn between the living and the dead. This film is beautifully shot and maintains a haunting mood throughout. And with qulaity actors like spencer Daniels, Clay Wilcox and Brad Dourif, you already have a leg up. This is a beautiful, moody film about young love. Totally recommend this as well whenever you get a chance.
Lastly, a film called It's In The Blood. When a father and son become stranded in the wild, thye must confront the horrors of their past to escape with their lives. Now, granted, I'll see almost anything with Lance Henrickson in it, so I'm a little biased. But this horror/thriller/drama about a father and son with some dark past issues to resolve is still worth your time. I think it was said that this has distribution and will be out this month.
That highlights the features for me. There were some Shorts that also stood out for me throughout the weekend. Blackout is a fun entry from the UK, and I always love their style of humor, whcih this shot has enough of to keep me amused. when a mysterious blackout strikes the nation, a small group of robbers decide to use this to their advantage. Unfortunately, something else does, too. Some fun creatures int he dark stuff, with Brit humor thrown in? How can you say 'no'? :)
Survivor Type is based on a Stephen King story. A disgraced surgeon stranded on a desert island with no food and only a handful of supplies must go to great lengths to survive. It's all about actor Gideon Emery in this virtually one man short. His performance, and some macabre wit, kept this entertaining, and wince-inducing.
Ah, The Sleepover. Short and sweet. At 5 minutes and a great, funny premise, this was easily in my faves. Eric spends the night at his neighbors house and discovers the horrible truth about his new town. You might find it online somewhere.
The Dump was really fun, too. Two seperate serial killers inconveniently bump into each other at the site they both happen to use for dumping bodies. Awkward serial killers! Yay!
Honorable mention to Stay At Home Dad. An out of work father undergoes a bizarre experimental treratment. Yeah, this one is kinda weird, but hey, I like weird. It's also funny, so that helps. :)
There are surely others that were fairly good, too, like Burn, Night Of the Devil, Firelight, but I only have so much space. those specifically mentioned above are my faves and hope we'll be able to see them on our site. Who knows. Don't forget to listen to the Shriekfest podcast REAL soon - Chris and Graham got to talk to Michael Berryman! Yay! He was the nicest guy ever.
As always, HUGE thanks goes to Denise Gossett, Founder and Director of Shriekfest! I hope it this festival lasts far beyond it's current 12 years! Keep an eye out for these films! And I hope your Halloween season has been full of classic horror films new and old.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, if I could only pick two features, The House with 100 Eyes, and Last Kind Words, are probably my favorites. Shrots? Look for The Sleepover and The Dump!