Thursday, April 25, 2013
Mulberry St. (2006) d. Mickle, Jim (USA)
Shot on a budget that wouldn’t cover a Hollywood production’s craft services, Mulberry St. takes an outlandish premise (infected rodent attacks result in hordes of bloodthirsty mutant man/rat creatures) and firmly anchors it through realistic human drama and fully fleshed out characters. It ain't rocket science, but I'm consistently shocked how many independent horror filmmakers fail to grasp this simple equation of thrills, blood spills and emotional investment. Take note, folks - this is how it's done.
Stake Land (2010) d. Mickle, Jim (USA)
The minds behind 2006’s Mulberry St. are back, revisiting the same apocalyptic themes with roving bands of mutated vampires standing in for their debut feature’s bloodthirsty man/rat creations. Infused with superlative camerawork, astonishing makeup effects and remarkably well-drawn characters, the result is one of the finest horror features of recent years.
Room 237 (2012) d. Ascher, Rodney (USA)
Listening and observing devotees point out quirky details and idiosyncrasies within Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining is an intriguing prospect unto itself. Unfortunately, it’s when they start ascribing these details to flimsy conspiracy theories regarding hidden messages the notoriously measured director was supposedly inserting into the film that things get really hokey.
We Are What We Are (2010) d. Grau, Jorge Michel (Mexico)
Intriguing ideas-a-go-go but with more questions raised than answers in this kitchen sink drama surrounding an urban family of cannibals whose lives are thrown into turmoil when their patriarch keels over in the opening scenes, leaving them without a bread-winner (or fresh meat-procurer). All of the characters are interesting unto themselves and the relationships provide chewy material, but it’s both too much and too little for the central story.
Stepfather, The (2009) d. McCormick, Nelson (USA)
Inane remake with Dylan Walsh as a serial killer who insinuates himself into pre-existing families, then wipes them out when they disappoint him. Since it was already done to low budget perfection back in 1987, with Terry O’ Quinn unforgettably charming and chilling in the title role, one has to wonder what could have been gained by attempting a redux. No surprise, the affair falls flat.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Crawlspace (2012) d. Dix, Justin (Australia)
I’ll be honest: I’m not sure why they didn’t just call it “Aliens in the Outback...minus the xenomorphs,” because that’s pretty much what we’re dealing with here, right down to its derivative tagline: “In this space, everyone can hear you scream.” The level of appropriation from James Cameron’s 1986 instant classic borders on outright theft, with design elements and characters lifted nearly wholesale...except in this case, we’re not out among the stars but rather miles underground in one of those top secret research facilities governments are always setting up in which to conduct nefarious unethical goings-on.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Thompsons, The (2012) d. Altieri, Mitchell / Flores, Phil (aka The Butcher Brothers) (USA)
With the vampiric cat out of the bag, this follow-up falls short of its far more interesting (but still flawed) predecessor, The Hamiltons. Mopeytown pretty boy Cory Knauf (who also co-wrote the script with Altieri and Flores) has emigrated to jolly ol’ England in order to track down others of his own kind...only to find that the Brit bloodsuckers don’t take too kindly to outsiders even of the same ilk.
Hellgate (2012) d. Penney, John (Thailand)
Sappy spiritualist ghost story featuring a typically lame Cary Elwes as a victim of a car crash haunted by visions from beyond and William Hurt slumming as some kind of hoodoo guru. So completely meh, I can't even manage to finish this revie...
Thale (2012) d. Aleksander L. Nordaas (Norway)
Sad sack Elvis (Erlend Nervold) is given the opportunity to earn a little cash by longtime pal Leo (Jon Sigve Skard), although it soon becomes clear that the forensic crime scene clean-up detail is a scene not well suited to our sensitive soul. Between bouts of puking, Elvis stumbles onto a hidden room filled with old audiotape recordings, scribbled notes, decades-old canned goods and a bathtub containing a mysterious milky substance and something far more mysterious below the surface...
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Here are the results of the 2013 BIFFF Awards ceremony, for those keeping track of such things:
International Jury (Marina Anna Eich, Roland Joffé, Iain Softley and Frédéric Fonteyne)
The Golden Raven (Gran Prix): Ghost Graduation, d. Javier Ruiz Caldera
Just a quick mention of the winners of the 2013 BIFFF makeup (30th annual) and body painting (26th annual) contests. All makeups were performed on site throughout the festival in front of lookers-on, and impressive doesn't begin to cover the talents on display. Heartiest congratulations to all who participated and especially to the select winners!
All Photographs: BIFFF/Paul Janssens
All Photographs: BIFFF/Paul Janssens
Makeup - Amateur Division
1st Prize - Julie Van Gaans
After (2012) (1st viewing) d. Smith, Ryan (USA)
Following a serious bus accident, passengers Steven Strait and Karolina Wydra find themselves alone in a deserted town with a large black wall of mist progressively advancing toward the city limits. Are they in an alternative universe? Are they dead? Are they ghosts? And what is that hellish creature howling in the darkness, the one that keeps getting closer and closer...
Fresh Meat (2012) d. Mulheron, Danny (New Zealand)
A terrific Kiwi horror/comedy mash-up of dysfunctional family values and second tier career criminals, with a solid stripe of meat-munching right down the middle. Before coming home during school semester break, luscious Hanna Tevita is introduced in the girls shower room borrowing her stall-mate’s soap and all that this entails. Cooking show TV star mom Nicola Kawana and Maori studies professor dad Temeura Morrison are unaware of their little girl’s Sapphic tendencies, but they’ve got bigger problems on their plate, er, bigger fish to fry, um, they like to have their neighbors for dinner... Oh, hell, they’re cannibals, a fact that Tevita discovers just before a ragtag band of wackadoo crooks fresh from a jailbreak come banging on the door looking for a place to hold up until the heat dies down.
Don't Click (2012) d. Kim, Tae-kyeong (South Korea)
They may have finally upgraded from VHS cassettes to thumb drives, but for nosy teens seeking cheap thrills, mysterious and inexplicable K-horror hauntings continue unabated. A sinister video file installs itself on a victim’s hard drive, mutating, morphing and evolving until it ultimately turns its malevolent gaze upon the subject him-or-herself.
Dracula 3D (2012) d. Argento, Dario (Italy)
When settling in to watch the latest opus from Artist Formerly Known As The Italian Hitchcock, it’s best to pay close attention to the full onscreen title. Make no mistake, this is Dario Argento’s Dracula and comparisons to either the Stoker source novel or any of the myriad screen versions that have gone before are beside the point. Recognizable character names and traits exist, but only as the most perfunctory of placeholders so that Argento and his team of screenwriters can gussy things up good and messy. The results are howlingly hilarious or damned depressing, depending on one’s state of mind and surroundings.
End, The (2012) d. Torregrossa, Jorge (Spain)
Equal parts Return of the Secaucus Seven and The Rapture, Torregrossa’s muted apocalyptic drama kicks off with a reunion of a group of formerly inseparable college friends and concludes with, well, the end of the world. After a strange phenomenon in the night sky disrupts all electricity, the group wakes up to find that 99% of humanity has simply…disappeared. With autos, houses, shops and streets all abandoned, the friends head out in search of answers. What happened? Where is everyone? Why are we still here? How long before what happened to others happens to us?
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Ghost Graduation (2012) d. Caldera, Javier Ruiz (Spain)
When sixth sense-endowed teacher Raul Arevalo secures a new Monforte high school position, run by the luminous Alexandra Jimenez, his curious curse of seeing lingering residents from beyond proves useful in lifting the curse that has the administration and student body shaking in their collective zapatos.
Inhuman Resources (aka Redd Inc.) (2012) d. Krige, Daniel (Australia)
Kelly Paterniti (a dead ringer for Danielle Harris) finds herself abducted by escaped killer Nicholas Hope and ensconced, along with five other unfortunate souls, in a sinister office drone environment. Literally chained to their desks, the hapless “employees” (all of whom played a part in Hope’s conviction for the “Head Hunter” murders) are instructed to review the facts in their captor’s legal case in order to catch the real culprit...with serious repercussions for lax results or proper etiquette.
Horror Stories (2012) d. Hong / Lim / Jeong / Kim / Kim / Min (South Korea)
A young student is kidnapped by a wordless serial killer who requests scary stories to help him slumber. (“I can only sleep when my blood is chilled.”) This quaintly spine-tingling version of 1001 Arabian Nights teams six versatile South Korean directors in the ongoing omnibus sweepstakes, with a wraparound devise helmed by Gyoo-dong Min just old-fashioned enough to conjure fond Amicus memories.
Hansel and Gretel Get Baked (2013) d. Journey, Duane (USA)
More preoccupied with brownies than gingerbread houses, budding screenwriting talent David Tillman fires up the blunts and bongs in a finely rolled spliff-riff on the classic fairy tale. Little old lady from Pasadena Lara Flynn Boyle cultivates a strain of uber-mellow Black Forest herb in her basement greenhouse, using the leafy lure to procure bumbling potheads for her bubbling cooking pot.
Modus Anomali (2012) d. Anwar, Joko (Indonesia)
Awakening alarmed and confused in a shallow forest dirt pit, Rio Dewanto finds himself in a deadly game of survival against an unseen, malevolent foe, one who has calculated every move to delight in the misery invoked by hidden messages and recorded wrongdoings. Writer/director Anwar distills an intriguing concept which pays off tremendously in its final act; unfortunately we’re forced to follow a very long road of misdirection and alienation to get there.
Paura 3D (2012) d. Manetti, Antonio / Manetti, Marco (Italy)
Three juvenile pals (Claudio Di Biagio, Domenico Diele, Lorenzo Pedrotti) learn that local rich muckity muck Peppe Servillo is going to be out of town for the weekend, leaving his palatial country home unsupervised. Seeing a perfect party locale opportunity, the trio head to the hills and through the locked gates to splash about in the fat cat’s pool, guzzle his champagne, ogle his prized vintage guitar collection and use the massive flat screen telly to jam out on Rock Band. (Wait, what? Rock Band???) Things take a predictably turn for the nasty when Pedrotti’s sensitive lad discovers fair damsel Francesca Cuttica chained up in the basement in undressed distress…just around the time Mr. Monopoly Man’s plans fall through and he returns home to discover the interlopers.
Sawney: Flesh of Man (2012) d. Wood Jr., Ricky (UK)
Seriously, how do you screw up a perfectly solid real-life horror legend like that of the 16th century Scottish cannibal clan led by Alexander “Sawney” Bean, one that directly inspired Wes Craven’s mid-70s drive-in classic The Hills Have Eyes?
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Afterparty (2012) d. Larraya, Miguel (Spain)
Callow TV star and heartbreaker Lucho Fernandez fully exploits the benefits of his celebrity, casual sex and illicit substances the order of the day while the tabloids and legions of female fans celebrate his bad boy status. But after a particularly nasty public break-up with the co-star of his horror-themed soap opera, the ladykiller attends a party at a secluded country home and wakes up locked in with three of the previous evening’s conquests (Alicia Sanz, Andrea Dueso, Eva Ugarte) and their mousy doormat friend Ursula Corbero. As the quintet attempt to discover the cause of their plight and an escape from it, a masked figure begins picking them off one by one.
May I Kill U? (2012) d. Urban, Stuart (UK)
Set against the backdrop of the 2011 riots, writer/director Urban doles out a sharply satirical look at righteous vigilantism, an exaggerated Dirty Harry for the social media age. British bike bobby Kevin Bishop struggles mightily to retain his cool within a world gone slightly mad; his battle-axe mother criticizing his every move while criminals elude justice through technicalities or pure establishment apathy. But after receiving a nasty crack on the cranium during a local hoodlum’s sneak attack, the two-wheeled lawman’s moral stripe fades to a blue steeled gaze of street justice.