Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Yes, this is about 5 years late, but since I'll be heading back across the pond in a few weeks and I never bothered to collect my ramblings from my first excursion to the Brussels International Film Festival (hereafter referred to as BIFFF) into a single, easy to read/navigate post, I'm remedying that now for my own purposes and convenience, as well as any other, faithful readers who might be so inclined.


BIFFF 2012, DAY 1 (Friday, April 6)
Guests: Terry Gilliam, Gert Verbeeck Films: Sennentuntschi, The Sorcerer and the White Snake, The Divide, Zombie 108 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

BIFFF 2012 Makeup/Body Painting winners

Just a quick drop in, to make mention of the winners of the BIFFF makeup (29th annual) and body painting (25th annual) contests.  These were all 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!

Makeup - Amateur Division

1st prize - Lynn Schockmel

2nd prize - Julie Van  Gaans

Makeup - Semi-Pro Divsion

1st prize - Rebecca Flores

2nd prize - Sandrine Lahou

3rd prize - Dewae Anke

4th prize - Marie Fontaine

Special FX

1st prize - Thibaut Franssen

2nd prize -Francis Jardim

3rd prize - Carol Descamps

Body Painting

1st Prize Christonique
Berry Arnould (Belgium)

2nd Prize : Georges Clowny
Caroline Trefois (Belgium)

3rd Prize :  La Evannah
Jémimah Raty (Belgium)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brussel International Fantasy Film Festival 2012 - Award winners

Here are the results of the Awards ceremony, for those who are keeping score of such things:

International Jury (Mick Garris, Marjana Jankovic, Eric Valette, Guillaume Malandrin, Paco Cabezas)

The Golden Raven (Gran Prix): The Awakening (My Pick: Juan of the Dead)

Silver Raven Awards:
Juan of the Dead, for its inventive setting and sense of humor, and especially the performance of lead actor Alexis Díaz de Villegas

Tormented, for its originality and unique view of childhood through a child eyes

European Jury (Jean-Paul Bertin, Philippe Blasband, Pierre Dejemeppe, David Hainaut, Matyas Veress, Serge Dero, Kenan Gorgun)

Silver Méliès: Iron Sky (My pick: Game of Werewolves or The Sandman or Sennentuntschi)

Special Mention: The Sandman, for bringing some love at the BIFFF.

Thriller Jury (Maxime Chattam, Stéphane Bourgoin, Gigi Etienne, Philippe Dumont)

Thriller Prize: The Whistleblower (My pick: As Luck Would Have It or Hindsight)

Special Mention: Paul Rhys for his outstanding performance in Eliminate Archie Cookson

7th Orbit Jury (Bruce Ellison, Pat Cronenberg, François Marache, Daph Nobody)

7th Orbit Prize: Himizu (My pick: Himizu) (Finally, they got it right!)

Special Mention: Shuffle

Pegase Award (Audience Prize):
Iron Sky

BIFFF Day #12 (Tuesday, 4/17)

Following Monday night’s madness, the final official day of BIFFF could not help but be a little anticlimactic. Which is not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, especially since I would start off the day hanging out with Eric Valette and Mick Garris at the pre-awards Awards announcement. (Press people get all the good stuff, I’m now convinced. If you have the opportunity to gain a press pass for any event, I say grab it…unless there’s an extra VIP pass lying around, of course.) Is it wrong for me to have been ignorant of the fact that the press is given the results before they are officially announced in public? Was I just being totally naïve? Maybe. In any case, I learned who won what (which I’ll go into a little further on down), and then chatted with several of the journalists as well as cool cat Eric Valette.

BIFFF Day #11 (Monday, 4/16)

The final day of BIFFF competition shines a spotlight on Belgium’s neighbor to the north with three Danish offerings, all of equally fine fettle. The event is further spotlighted by a small reception in the VIP lounge sponsored by a Brussels Denmark Appreciation Society, and quelle magnifique, some of the journalists are allowed to enter the hallowed carpeted section for a brief 90 minute stay. (Any longer and the place would start to smell, no? Oui.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

BIFFF Day #10 (Sunday, 4/15)

Another late night leads to another sleep-deprived day, and I feel the exhaustion level inexorably rising. Of course, I also recognize it in my colleagues as well – everyone has been on this ride for a long time, and it’s taking its toll for those who are riding it morning till night. Apparently, it was also taking the toll on Gert’s aged two-wheeler that I had been using for transport between home base and the BIFFF, because Sunday morning, en route to my interview with Iron Sky director Timo Vuorensola, the back tire just crapped out on me almost exactly halfway there. I was left with a dilemma: do I continue forward to the BIFFF and then be forced to walk the sucker home at 2:30am, or do I head back, cancel the interview and deal with the bike situation during the daylight hours? I opted for the latter, since even though I dug Iron Sky for the amusing, ambitious diversion that it was, it’s not really HorrorHound material – with no splatter or alien monsters to nudge it between the covers. Therefore, I don’t feel all the broken up about it, although Timo certainly seems like heck of a big personality from what I’ve seen in his previous night’s introduction, so it probably would have been fun. But needed to formulate a plan and get the dead ducks off the road, so there you go.

BIFFF Day #9 (Saturday, 4/14)

Following the late night adventures (and extended clean-up required) of the Vampire Ball, Gert and I decided to rise a little later than usual, and with no interviews on tap, we pretty much showed up at the start of the film programming (4pm) and stayed the course until the final offering of the day. Just movies, chatting with the lovely press ladies, my exponentially expanding circle of journalist and filmmaker friends (funny how spending a week watching movies with the same people can prove to be such a bonding experience) and my now-standard dinner of an orange and baguette loaf – usually eaten during the 8pm feature. Overall, it was a solid cinematic prix fixe, highlighted by the Korean thriller Poongsan and the crowd-pleasing Finnish Nazis-on-the-moon sci-fi comedy Iron Sky.

Sorry I don’t have any interesting stories to tell for Saturday – everyone was pretty well wiped out from the previous night’s adventures and the conversations primarily centered around the celebs we had met over the course of the week (general consensus – Mick Garris is the nicest man alive, and everyone’s glad that Friedkin has left the building) and the films we were recommending to one another if they hadn’t been caught already. After all, we are now in the home stretch – only three more days of competition left!

Monday, April 16, 2012

BIFFF Day #8 (Friday, 4/13)

Following Thursday night’s awesome screening of Juan of the Dead, I was pretty well stoked to chat with one of the supporting cast, Jazz Vila, who had previously worked with director Alejandro Brugues on the film Personal Belongings. We met up in the Jameson bus that morning and had a terrific discussion about the film and how he was enjoying his role as the film’s ambassador. Jazz said that from the moment people read the script, they knew they had something special, and we talked at length about the magic act of making a movie that has a social point of view without being heavy-handed about it, something that the Juan team has managed to pull off admirably.

Jazz’s role, that of cross-dressing homosexual “China,” was one that he felt honored to play, as he knew he wanted to give the character the dignity he deserved as opposed to only being a cheap laugh as is often the case in Cuban cinema. “These people exist,” he said, “and they are real human beings. They are strong and real, and it was important to represent that.” The more we chatted, the more I realized just how easily Brugues could have turned in a cheap zombie flick instead of a genuinely rewarding and thought-provoking piece of entertainment.

INTERVIEW: JUAN OF THE DEAD'S Alejandro Brugues and Jazz Vila!!!

Calling writer/director Alejandro Brugués’ crowd-pleasing zom-com a Latino Shaun of the Dead is both a spot-on assessment yet a dangerously reductive one. In the same way that Edgar Wright’s capturing of the London suburban slacker culture proved to be Shaun’s secret weapon, so too does Brugués immerse the viewer within the pulsing poverty stricken Havana streets, lending the film an unexpected authenticity. What could have been a cheap, derivatively titled zombie flick turns out instead to be a genuinely rewarding and thought-provoking piece of apolitical entertainment that packs an emotional wallop and side-splitting splatter. Juan of the Dead is a worthy addition to the walking dead canon, and popular Cuban actor Alexis Díaz de Villegas delivers the kind of star-making role that should have Hollywood taking notice (a la Simon Pegg).

Below, Brugués and actor Jazz Vila (who plays La China, the feisty transvestite amidst Juan’s ragtag band of survivors) were kind enough to share thoughts about their film and its place amongst the cinematic undead hordes.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

BIFFF Day #7 (Thursday, 4/12)

Okay, time to get personal.

If I had a top 10 list of favorite movies (which I defiantly do not), The Exorcist would be on it. I’ve known and worshipped the film ever since I first encountered it – on television, no less – at the age of 13. I’ve seen it probably more times than any other movie, and have watched the final climactic 20 minutes exponentially more. In high school, against my coach’s well-intentioned protestations, I performed a 10-minute selection from William Peter Blatty’s source novel for our speech team and ended up attending the national finals in Dramatic Interpretation. Needless to say, I’ve been…wait for it…possessed by all things Exorcist for nearly three decades now, and even upon revisiting it last year, it still holds up. (The original cut, not the bloated and tricked up Version You’ve Never Seen, thank you very much.) As a result, I’ve known the name of director William Friedkin for a long time now, and while he hasn’t always hit the bull’s eye, he’ll go down in the history books thanks to the one-two punch of The French Connection and The Exorcist.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

BIFFF Day #6 (Wednesday, 4/11)

Okay, full disclosure: Some of the events that I’ll be chatting about in today’s entry actually occurred the day before, on Tuesday. As anyone who has walked this path before me can attest, it’s easy for everything to run together. “It’s the BIFFF!”

It’s easy to see why I was initially confused, however, since my interview with Father’s Day’s Jeremy Gillespie would have made sense to have occurred the morning after the midnight screening, right? Instead, for whatever programming and/or scheduling reasons, the interviews with Gillespie and Troma head Lloyd Kaufman took place the same day, before the film had actually screened. (In hindsight, this is less insane than it actually appears to be – it’s just that I was unaware of the upstairs press screening room computers when I made my appointments, and besides, I had already seen Father’s Day back in March courtesy of a DVD screener.) All this to justify why your sleep-deprived narrator got his days mixed up.

Friday, April 13, 2012

BIFFF Day #5 (Tuesday, 4/10)

No scheduled interviews or close encounters with celebs today, which meant that I got to actually sleep in for once. Of course, having stayed up the night before until 6am getting caught up on reviews and such more or less used up whatever credit I’d hoped to earn from the later wake-up bell. As Gert often says, “It’s the BIFFF!” i.e. any normalcy or daily routine need not apply because you ain’t gonna get it. I don’t think there has been a period in my life where I have been up past 3am every night for a week’s time. In everyday life, I’m a farm boy who’s up with the sun – this whole crashing just before dawn and waking up at noon is completely foreign to me. (You see what I did there?)

20 films in, I have also started to accumulate a list of the various BIFFF traditions that hold sway with every new cinematic unspooling. The festival crowd’s robust energy is intoxicating and contagious, their fervent passion usually elevating the viewing experience tenfold. However, for those like myself who are not really fans of “audience participation cinema,” this can take some getting used to. But if you can’t beat ‘em, you gotta join ‘em, because you can’t fight this particular ocean.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

BIFFF Day #4 (Monday, 4/9)

Later start to Day 4, as the early slots were taken up with Dutch and French language screenings of The Lorax (which I had little to no interest in seeing, even in my native tongue) plus we were slated to partake in Barbara Steele’s press conference at 2pm. I’d say that the conference itself went pretty smoothly, and since I’d situated myself down front and center, I got to make sweet, sweet goo-goo eyes with the Queen of Gothic Horror for the better part of an hour. The lone American voice amidst a sea of French and Dutch-accented reporters, I think we had a little connection there (wishful thinking perhaps, but hey, you weren’t there, you don’t know!) I got her to pose for a quick snapshot with me afterwards, and then got out of there before things got ugly. I say this because you could tell that the Reele Steele was growing tired of dealing with the rabble, especially when they started pulling out DVD covers for her to sign and blog banners to hold up for pictures. Truth be told, it was pretty evident that she was DONE with us and wanted out of there even before the interview ended, so I can’t blame her for being annoyed when the press corps refused to pick up on the signals she was putting out. Ah well, the price of celebrity, I suppose. And not for the first time, I found myself hoping that I would be more gracious should I ever find myself in such an enviable situation.

BIFFF Day #3 (Sunday, 4/8)

Day #3 began with a bit of hometown pride, screening Brussels’ own Fabrice du Welz’s breakout horror feature, Calvaire, one I’ve been a fan of since first encountering it in 2006. I was excited to meet the writer/director, but this was not to be as he disappeared following his introduction to the film…and never returned. (Apparently, he’s in pre-production on his latest feature in Paris and needed to get back to work.) Even so, I was pretty bummed and spent the better part of an hour attempting to track down his contact info so I could chat with him at some future date. Ah well.

Continuing to make new friendships (including actress Naila Ma who stars in three of the CollecTIFFF features - a dozen or so of short films shot specifically to precede the evening features - and several CollecTIFFF directors) while strengthening existing ones. Before each screening, each press member must stop by the main booth to check in and pick up admission tickets from one of the lovely ladies on hand. (This is done to keep folks from gathering tix for an entire day’s screenings and passing them off to friends, I suppose.) The upside is that each new film is now bookended by an enjoyable gabfest at the press booth with a growing group of familiar faces. I think I’m still in the lead as far as those who’ve been present for nearly every screening – hoping to keep it that way.

Did I mention that there is a body painting booth where nearly naked men and topless women are getting all dolled up with brush and pen? Well, there is and there are.

Monday, April 9, 2012

BIFFF Day #2 (Saturday, 4/7)

Despite going to bed at around 3am the night before, I found myself awake at 8am Saturday morning, my mind cooking up questions to pose to my first solo interview efforts of the fest, that of Michael Sauter (co-writer of Sennentuntschi) and bad boy Frenchman Xavier Gens, who made big horror waves in 2007 with his contribution to the avalanche of French horror that emerged in the latter half of the decade, Frontier(s). Both were held in the previously mentioned "Jameson bus," both went quite well. Got a picture alongside Gens, as well as one of him holding up an issue of HorrorHound that I could send along to Nathan for posting on the HHW Facebook wall.

Then it was time for more movies and more chatting with my ever-growing social circle. In addition to my press room gal pals, I made the acquaintance of Sven Soetemans and Thierry Wybauw, two of the many contributors to HORROR 101 that I had never yet met face to face, as well as Gert’s friends Barbara, Nicolas and Sabrina. By the end of the night, our group had taken over a full half row of seats in the epic BIFFF screening room – yes, the despicable habit of “saving seats” is alive and well in Belgium and I’ll be playing by the whole “When in Brussels” rulebook while I’m here, I guess. Saturday was also the BIFFF zombie walk, so lots of undead drippings surrounded us throughout the day.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFFF) - Day #1 (Friday, 4/6)

My first day at the festival, hereafter to be referred as BIFFF, was a rewarding and enjoyable one. The night before, when Gert was off at the opening night ceremonies, I spent my first real solo time in the city, managing to navigate my way around the myriad of twisting, turning, inner-GPS defying streets.

Seriously, you know how when you’re out in the forest and you decide to go off-trail for a while and lose your way, but then stumble upon a field of psychedelic mushrooms, chow down on them, trip out for the rest of the day and after waking up in the middle of the night in a pile of your own sick, try to navigate your way back to the car in the dark but just keep passing what looks like the same pile of rocks over and over again? I mean, we’ve all been there, right? Right?

Fool's Views (4/2 – 4/5) (pre-BIFFF)

Can you smell it, my friends?

In the days preceding the 30th annual Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival’s kick-off, my good friend and unassuming host Gert Verbeeck served as tour guide – not only to the countless sights and tastes that Belgium’s capital has to offer (of which there are many), but also unveiling the treasures of his rare and storied videotape collection (of which there are even more). With the exception of a certain Rondo-nominated documentary, all of the following Views are courtesy of the man, the myth, the legend known around the IMDb horror boards as Vomitron_G – one whose generosity and good humor are seemingly boundless. Glad to be spending the next couple weeks by his side and under his roof.

So, before we unfurl the madness that is BIFFF, we’ll indulge in a mini filmfest known as G-VHS. Hope you like…

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fool's Views (3/19 – 4/1)

Bonjour, my friends,

I’ll warn you right at the start, this is a healthy batch of flickers, assembly for the most part in preparation for (or viewed at) the 2012 HorrorHound Weekend held in Columbus, OH, March 23-25. Knowing I had Q&A panels with Stuart Gordon, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Barbara Crampton, Tippi Hedren, Julie Adams, the cast of the 1985 Day of the Dead, as well as the aforementioned Pam Grier, I knew I had work to do. Truth be told, I didn’t get to see near as many as I planned to, but I think I did more than passable work in my role as moderator. I also got to view four of the five features screened there (Monster Brawl had to take a rain check in favor of a late night diner meal with my IMDb horror board pals), followed by an array of CPL (Chicago Public Library) rentals prior to zipping off to Oshkosh for the world premiere of Dead Weight.

Warning #2: I am writing this on the eve of the Opening Night of the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFFF), where I am currently shacked up with fellow fiend Gert Verbeeck and preparing to view anywhere from four to seven flicks EVERY SINGLE DAY for the next 14 days, as well as interview several of the filmmakers. It’s like the October Challenge, only on the big screen and with a lot more beer, chocolate and waffles. Thus, it was imperative that I wrap up the past two weeks’ Views and clear the slate. Shite is about to get very, very real…maybe even surreal. Hope you dig the upcoming ride as much as I expect to.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.