Saturday, March 23, 2013
Well, after 9 days of madness and a week of recovery, here's the brief recap of my South by Southwest (SXSW) experience.
All in all, I'd say the biggest challenges lay in the way things were scheduled regarding my viewing proclivities. Many of the films I was interested in seeing were slotted in the "Midnighter" series which, appropriately enough, lived up to its name by playing late into the night. I was not overly alarmed by this, having gotten used to seeing the wrong side of sunrise at both BIFFF and Fantasia. However, I was completely unprepared for the fact that I also needed to get up early in order to secure a spot in the SXXPress passes line (which more or less insure getting one into a film by granting priority to pass holders).
The other hitch was that the Midnighter films all seemed to be programmed against one another, which meant that I needed to stay out after midnight every ... single ... night. And get up ... every ... single ... morning. In a word, yack.
But I survived and lived to tell the tale, which I've done to the best of my abilities — and which you can enjoy by clicking on the links to the longer-than-usual reviews that ensued.
As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth - we'll make sure you get some change back.
Big Ass Spider! (2013) (1st viewing) d. Mendez, Mike (USA)
One could argue that any giant spider flick (with an exclamation point in its title, for crying out loud) ought to exist outside a world of conventional criticism. Clearly, expectations are set pretty low, suspension of disbelief is double-stuffed at the door, and all cinematic standards regarding such commonplace elements as acting, directing, cinematography, dialogue, etc. should be lowered accordingly. Why even bother putting digits to keyboard, when those who want oversized arachnids invading their retinas will be thrilled if the thing has five legs and a thorax, while more “discriminating” viewers will never venture near the marquee (video shelf, Netflix subsection, etc.) anyway?
Thursday, March 21, 2013
You're Next (2011) d. Wingard, Adam (USA)
I’m sure 90% of the folks who strolled into that SXSW midnight screening had the same thought on their mind: “Please let this be worth the wait.” Following its buzztastic September debut at the Toronto International Film Festival followed by an equally enthusiastic bow at Austin’s Fantastic Fest two weeks later, You’re Next has been THE film on horror fans’ wish lists for what seems like ages. Lionsgate promptly scooped it up for distribution...and then proceeded to quietly hold all bets for over a year, parceling it out to a few select festivals before finally announcing a big screen bow in August of 2013. How could any scrappy little indie flick, especially one that lives solidly in the “home invasion” subgenre (don’t they know that's yesterday’s news?), hold up under such immense hype?
By being pretty f**king awesome, that’s how.
Kiss of the Damned (2012) (1st viewing) d. Cassavetes, Xan (USA)
Stymied screenwriter Milo Ventimiglia hooks up with sultry ginger Josephine de La Baume one night, only to discover that she’s a bit older than she looks—like, a lot older and looking g-o-o-d. Being the considerate sort, she doesn’t want things to get all hot n’ heavy too soon, knowing her proclivities for toothy shenanigans, but her latest paramour is up for anything.
Holy Ghost People (2013) (1st viewing) d. Altieri, Mitchell (USA)
Troubled small town gal Emma Greenwell recruits alcoholic ex-Marine Brendan McCarthy to help track down her missing sister, whom she fears has been indoctrinated into a mountain-dwelling religious cult. The two attempt to infiltrate the snake-handling order by posing as father and daughter, but charismatic leader Joe Egender and flunkies Laurence Harvey and James Lowe have their suspicions and don’t seem too willing to let the pair into the fold...or out of the camp.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Cheap Thrills (2013) (1st viewing) d. Katz, E.L. (USA)
Struggling schmoe Pat Healy can’t seem to catch a break. The same day an eviction notice shows up on his crummy apartment’s door, he is let go from his grease monkey job at the local auto lube pit. Oh, and did I mention the crying baby with Amanda Fuller at home? Drowning sorrow in a well-earned glass of brew, he runs into childhood buddy-turned-legbreaker Ethan Embry; while catching up on old times and cursing the new, the mismatched pair is joined by rich mystery couple David Koechner and Sara Paxton. Games of derring do and straight-up foolishness are slyly introduced into the proceedings...with the almighty dollar the stick-end carrot leading the asses to the slaughter.
Snap (2013) d. Youseff Delara / Victor Teran (USA)
Mentally unstable but musically adept Jake Hoffman shields himself from the outside world, interacting only through his downloadable dub-step dance tracks. Yet there is no reprieve from sinister alter-ego Thomas Dekker who antagonizes and belittles his every move, especially when it comes to interaction with the opposite sex. Upon visiting former therapist Scott Bakula, Hoffman meets the friendly and attractive Nikki Reed, a chance encounter that leads to a dangerous two-way obsession for both.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Vamp U (2013) (1st viewing) d. Jesperson, Matt / Nelson, Maclain (USA)
Don’t let the generic title (a considerable improvement over original moniker Dr. Limptooth) and poster art scare you off; this modest horror/comedy boasts bountiful bloodsucking rewards to be reaped.
When a bout of unbridled passion with lady love Julie Gonzalo leads to a fatal hickey, undead Adam Johnson swears off his vampy ways for centuries, now existing as a mild mannered, well-liked college professor. This arrangement works out fine, aided by the occasional therapy session with dubious doc Gary Cole, until Gonzalo reappears on campus as a new student. Is she resurrected, reincarnated or something else? Either way, her presence stokes (or perhaps Stokers) Johnson’s bloodlust back to full flower, leading to afterschool specials of the hot and hungry kind.
Friday, March 15, 2013
Plus One (2013) (1st viewing) d. Iliadis, Dennis (USA)
A renegade meteorite lands on Earth, its impact initiating a jarring schism in the time/space continuum such that the populace of a small community find themselves witnessing dopplegangers from 40 minutes prior, going through the same actions and interactions they’ve just experienced. The hitch is that these twins are just as human and confused to be facing off with their “elder” counterparts, unease leading to terror leading to panic-fueled violence.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Haunter (2013) (1st viewing) d. Natali, Vincenzo (Canada)
When surly teen Abigail Breslin starts rebelling against her parents, it proves to be a literally timeless story as director Natali and screenwriter Brian King turn the ghost story on its head, showing us life on the other side of the spooking glass. Trapped in a same-day endless loop, this is the haunted house version of Source Code, with Breslin slowly discovering her lot in the afterlife and trying to “wake up” her other family members to the same.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Bad Milo (2013) (1st viewing) d. Vaughn, Jacob (USA)
For a movie whose synopsis more or less boils down to “carnivorous demon living in our protagonist’s lower digestive tract escapes from backside in search of fresh meat,” there’s an incredible sense of sweetness and gentle humor amidst the slapstick and the scatological. Ken Marino is delightful as the owner of the unwanted titular intestinal tenant, struggling to avoid stressful scenarios for fear of prompting a bout of explosive (and lethal) demonic expulsion; he carries off the potentially cartoony premise with a surprisingly grounded and relatable performance.
Lords of Salem, The (2012) (1st viewing) d. Zombie, Rob (USA)
Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie), one third of a local late night heavy rock radio DJ triptych, receives an unsolicited wooden box containing a mysterious vinyl record. Believing it to be some independent artists’ novel attempt at promotion, Heidi and her cohorts (played by Ken Foree and Jeff Daniel Phillips) give “The Lords” disc an on-air spin, unwittingly releasing dark forces that slowly, inexorably descend upon our fair protagonist. Roused by the 33 1/3 chant, the spirits of a coven of executed Salem witches – aided by a trio of weird sisters (Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson) – vie for Heidi’s soul, while an aging historian (Bruce Davison) attempts to halt the onslaught.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
V/H/S/2 (2013) (1st viewing) d. Barrett, Eisener, Evans, Tjahjanto, Sanchez, Hale, Wingard (USA)
In the ongoing anthology sweepstakes spawned by 2011’s The Theatre Bizarre, wherein skilled independent directors pool their talents by tying individually created short films together with a central conceit, last year’s V/H/S was certainly one of the more successful examples of the realized portmanteau. Assembling a dream team of Ti West, Adam Wingard, Joe Swanberg, Glenn McQuaid and film collective Radio Silence to each create a first person POV “found footage” piece, it served as both a commentary on the subgenre as well as an opportunity for filmmakers to unite their efforts toward a common artistic – and financially rewarding – goal. (Shorts generally don’t generate income for their creators. Here they do.)
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Evil Dead (2013) (1st viewing) d. Alvarez, Fede (USA)
I have seen the new EVIL DEAD...and it is good.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) (1st viewing) d. Adamson, Al (USA)
Oh man, I had no idea I was signing on for an Adamson flick when I popped this one in based on its awesome poster art and fairly generic title. Truth be told, it’s relatively harmless; a modern vampire flick (a year before Count Yorga, Vampire) that has no great aspirations and doesn’t take itself too seriously in the process.
Santo vs. the Vampire Women (1962) d. Blake, Alfonso Corona (Mexico)
Yes, it’s a Mexican wrestling flick, one of the better known according to the wizards at Wikipedia, but seeing as how I’ve only seen one other Santo flick (Santo y Blue Demon Contra los Monstros), this seemed like a swell opportunity to stretch my cinematic knowledge and experience. Well, folks, I’m here to tell you these Santo films will reach right into your soul, pull that inner 10-year-old right out and sit him down on the couch next to you. This stuff is fun.
Eaters (2011) d. Boni, Luca / Ristori, Marco (Italy)
Approaching Eaters, it’s all too easy to fall into the “it’s just another zombie movie” fatigue style of critique, especially since on many levels, it is just another zombie movie. But the fact remains it’s a pretty darn good one and in a world full of lousy, incompetent, lazy, generic, uninspired, amateurish and forgettable gutmunching efforts, that’s enough to make me sit up and take notice.