Tuesday, July 2, 2019

CINEPOCALYPSE 2019 RECAP!!! (Part 4 of 4)

As we headed into the final stretch, the giddy boost added by the previous evening’s screening of Tammy and the T-Rex was still lingering in the air, with people finally talking about something other than Glenn Danzig and VEROTIKA. Tuesday got rolling with the second block of short films, listed below in alphabetical order:

BUDFOOT - Dir. Tim Reis and James Sizemore
CRITICAL HIT! - Dir. Briac Ragot
DEEP TISSUE - Dir. Meredith Alloway
KILLER OF KILLERS - Dir. Don Swaynos
ROAD TRASH - Dir. Natasha Pascetta
STARLETS - Dir. Marten Carlson
SWITCH - Dir. Marion Renard
THE THIRD HAND. - Dir. Yoni Weisberg
WOMXN - Dir. Adrien Gystere Peskine and Eden Tinto Collins

“Budfoot” ended up taking home the “Best Short” award while “Switch” landed Marion Renard a Best Director win (with Nora Dolmans also receiving an award for her performance, shared with “Deep Tissue”’s Meredith Alloway). Other winners included “The Third Hand” (Best Cinematography), “The Only Thing I Love More Than You Is Ranch Dressing” (Best Editing), “Road Trash” (Best Creature), and “Womxn” (Best Film with a Social Message).

Next up was the Polish historical drama with horror overtones, The Mute (d. Bartosz Konopka, 2018). Jon Kitley (Kitley’s Krypt) and Jay Kay (Horror Happens Radio) had opted to watch it Friday night (while I took in Villains), both concluding that it was beautifully shot but lacked a strong narrative drive. While I agree that the onscreen action hardly proceeds at a breakneck pace, I was completely enraptured from start to finish with the story of two Polish knights, the elder Willibrord (Krzysztof Pieczynski) and younger Noname (Karol Bernacki, sent to “civilize” a small island village populated by pagans.

The script by Konopka, Przemyslaw Nowakowski, and Anna Wydra tackles numerous heavy subjects (the compulsion to convert anyone who thinks differently, mob mentality, the cult of personality) by pitting these two “enlightened” men against one another, and while the scales are certainly tipped in favor of Noname in terms of audience sympathy as he attempts to relate and engage with the natives on their own terms, the scene where the charismatic Willibrord challenges the local shaman to a trial by fire is devastating in its implications. Who is the true man of God?

When the elder knight wins the favor of the strongest warriors in the community – the women and gentler souls ally with Noname – one quickly learns that “might makes right” and unconditional compassion is no match for the sharp end of a sword. But a great leader is still just a man, and men are mortal; when the leader falls, the crowd usually follows the victor. Konopka and cinematographer Jacek Podgórski conjure a wealth of imagery that sears deep into the gray matter, while the haunting musical score by Jerzy Rogiewicz perfectly matches the visuals.

The Mute deservedly received the Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Actor (Pieczynski) awards from the Cinepocalypse jury.

The Tuesday night slot was originally slated for a 35mm screening of Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down, but when the director was unable to attend due to personal matters, the Cinepocalypse programmers reached out to the one and only Joe Bob Briggs (aka John Bloom) to see if he could bring his multimedia presentation, “How Rednecks Saved Hollywood” to the festival. Apparently it all came together, because come 7pm, there was Joe Bob standing tall on the Music Box stage and for the next 2.5 hours, he regaled us with a fascinating account of the origins and habits of that stalwart cinematic presence, The Redneck, originating with the Cumberland Presbyterians in 16th-century Scotland who migrated to the Appalachians and eventually spread throughout the South.

Using slides, posters, and movie clips from all manner of film, ranging from mainstream efforts to the barest-of-bones independents, Briggs guided the audience through a wide variety of redneck staples, including fast cars, illegal alcohol, sexually aggressive women, hard-fighting men, and the existential difference between Forrest Gump and Sling Blade. Another decided highlight for the festival and here’s hoping that “America’s Drive-In Critic” makes his way back to Chicago sooner than later.


NOTE: Due to pre-existing evening obligations, my sterling attendance record was broken on Wednesday. As such, I was unable to witness either the screening of Culture Shock, the latest installment from Blumhouse and Hulu’s Into the Dark anthology series, or the sneak preview of Annabelle Comes Home. (Considering I’ve only seen the two Conjuring movies, I don’t know if I was the target audience anyway.) Word on the street was that it was the best “Annabelle” movie to date, so take that for what you will.

I did, however, make time to secure a couple of screening links for the Italian feature The Last to See Them and Achoura. The latter is a fairly straightforward and efficient ghost story concerning a malignant spirit that escapes its bonds and sets about haunting a foursome of Moroccan kids, traumatizing them in their youth and then returning to finish the job 25 years later.

Because of the younger/older time-frame, it’s being compared to Stephen King’s IT, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I can’t say that it blew my mind, but it definitely passed the time.

Ah, but then there’s The Last to See Them (d. Sara Summa, 2019), which opens with the following text:

“On a Saturday night in late summer 2012, the Durati family was killed during the robbery of their house. The children were found in their beds, husband and wife had been tied up to chairs.”

Shocking stuff, right? However, what follows is a bucolic, mundane detailing of the last day of the Durati family’s lives, as they interact with one another, make and share meals, text potential boyfriends, build wooden chests, discuss insurance policies, and watch television. In other words, there is no inherent horror to the events we are witnessing. The horror comes in knowing that these are the last acts these particular individuals will ever engage in, and wondering if we, the viewers, will see any clues as to how their fate could have been avoided.

It’s a particularly unique approach to traditional “genre” cinema, and as I watched (and especially once the final credits rolled), I found myself wondering how this would play with a festival crowd whose expectations would certainly be geared toward explicit frights and suspense than an extended slow burn with NO, I REPEAT, NO PAYOFF. Watching it at home, despite the fact that I thought it was an extremely well-executed project with an unusual dramatic twist, I was legitimately surprised that the Cinepocalypse programmers opted to include it in their line-up. But this was a festival, where chances are meant to be taken, so why not take chances, right?

That said, you can only imagine my surprise when The Last to See Them was awarded “Best Film” from the Cinepocalypse jury, as well as Best Director for Summa. Here’s a movie that I wasn’t even sure should be playing in the festival and it takes home the top prize? (Oddly enough, I know it will stay with me, but I don’t know that I’ll ever watch it again and I’ll only be recommending it with huge qualifications.) Again, to be clear, I think it’s a great little art-house movie, but I don’t know that it’s a great genre offering. It’s a genre experiment, at best, and I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed unless they are really up for having their expectations challenged. Even then, I gotta wonder.


Thursday marked the final day of the fest, with our festival staff visibly running on fumes as they mumbled their way through the delayed introduction (projection difficulties) of the penultimate feature, Brazil’s Ghost Killers vs. Bloody Mary (d. Fabricio Bittar, 2018), which had already screened on Saturday opposite The Lodge. However, the technical bugs were soon addressed and the afternoon audience sat back and let the decidedly un-PC story of a quartet of paranormal investigators seeking internet stardom wash over us like a warm bath of barnyard slop, complete with extra chunks.

A high school is beset by an evil spirit released from a bathroom mirror, possessing various members of the team and faculty with exceedingly messy results. Comparisons to Peter Jackson’s early work are easy to make, especially during the scene where a security guard faces off against his own bowel movement in a restroom stall. It’s exceedingly (knowingly?) sexist, and none of our characters are “nice” in the traditional sense, but somehow we were still rooting for them in the end. Snaps for the closing credits, which basically undo the entire onscreen ending!

Then it was time to wrap things up with a 25th anniversary screening of Michael Lehman’s (Heathers, Hudson Hawk) rock and roll rebel yell, 1994's Airheads, starring Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, and Adam Sandler as a trio of heavy metal knuckleheads who take a radio station hostage in order to get their demo played on the air. I had never seen the film before, so I was not riding the same wave of nostalgia that perhaps the majority of the assembled crowd were enjoying, but it proved entertaining enough, with Buscemi clearly winning top acting honors over the sweet but befuddled Fraser. I was also surprised at how NOT annoying Sandler could be in a supporting role when kept under supervision.

Michael McKean, Joe Mantegna, Judd Nelson, Ernie Hudson, David Arquette, Chris Farley, Marshall Bell, and Michael Richards flesh out the mostly male ensemble, with Nina Siemaszko and Amy Locane relegated to eye-candy supporting roles. (Bechtel Test? What Bechtel Test?) Lehman was also on hand to introduce the film and by all reports gave a lively Q&A session afterwards. (I had an early morning training session and had to blaze.)

And that, my friends, is that! Chalk up another spectacular year for the Cinepocalypse crew. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Dr. AC’s Cinepocalypse 2019 Top Five Memorable Moments, in chronological order:

VEROTIKA screening

GWAR’s Phallus in Wonderland screening and Q&A



JOE BOB BRIGGS "How Rednecks Saved Hollywood" 

Top 10 Films Screened in Competition:



In closing, special thanks go out to Ryan Oestreich, Steve Prokopy, and the Music Box Theatre staff for their generosity, assistance, and enthusiasm throughout. It’s also worth taking a moment to thank the Cinepocalypse sponsors: Alter, Bloody Disgusting.com, Fangoria, Shudder, 3 Floyds Brewing, Vinegar Syndrom, Jeppson’s Malort Liqueur, CreepyCompany.com, and The Music Box Theatre.

Until next year!


No comments:

Post a Comment