Spooky Movie Zombie Night 2009
I’ve been attending the SPOOKY MOVIE FESTIVAL, being held at the Cinema Arts Fairfax, VA and AFI Silver theater, Silver Spring, MD. Alas, I couldn’t catch the Herschel Gordon Lewis retrospective on Wednesday and couldn’t do Thursday night either (too hard during the week). I did catch ZOMBIE NIGHT Friday and NIGHT OF HORRORS Saturday. One of the reasons I’m such a fan of film festivals is there really isn’t much of a market for short films except for niche markets like either festivals or a network like AMC TV, or the Sundance Channel. And that goes double for genres like horror during any month of the year except October.
Thursday night’s selections were clustered around a theme. Zombie Night was great fun.
A standout was the short Spanish Romantic comedy “Zombies and Cigarettes“.
Lazarus Taxon was short, murky and quite creepy– the ending is a bit telegraphed, but it does redefine the notion of resurrection.
Closing up the shorts, RISING UP: A STORY OF THE ZOMBIE RIGHTS MOVEMENT was quite amusing, but mostly the odd awkward pauses during the flashback sequences made the movie so funny.
There were two features: the first one was GEORGE’S INTERVENTION, which was sheer comedic genius. George is among the ranks of the undead, and his party guests keep disappearing mysteriously. Carlos Larkin, who played
Doctor S Poster
George, was around to take questions from the audience. Apparently there will be a trilogy of George films, the next one (if it can get made) taking place in a Rehab center of the damned.
Last film of the evening was DOCTOR S BATTLES THE SEX CRAZED REEFER ZOMBIES: THE MOVIE. This was a black and white Cold War themed comedy about the undead coming back possessed by effects of “Mary Jane”. With a ton of flashbacks and an odd depth of field coupled by jerky pacing and murky lighting style, I was least impressed with this.
The following night wasn’t themed around any particular niche genre like monsters, vampires or zombies. Just a collection of oddities. There were more shorts, and more experimental, less ‘cheap laughs” oriented than the preceding night.
MORE CONTROL was great– an indie band called “The Heist and the Accomplice” cooperated to make a neat little story of a haunted theater that turns the table on the band that came there to film a music video. As a feller who did his own share of “proudly filming in the Super 8” format back in the day (as was written in MORE CONTROL’s credits) I had some appreciation for More Control’s ability to do more with less.
ALTAR was one of my favorites of the evening. Every single day is the same for Casper Stipend. He wakes up, he goes to work, he cleans a lonely women’s room at the end of a deserted hallway in an indistinct building of sorts. Every day he cleans, and every day he finds the same filth and bizarre objects clogging his one duty; from dolls to bibles, there is nothing this commode won’t chuck at him. As he becomes more unhinged and disconnected from his own societal realities, he finds a connection in the last place he would’ve looked. I loved the actor playing the Casper Stipend, the Janitor (Andrew Jenner), who has an uncanny ability to deadpan directly towards the camera.
Childhood horrors come true with THE NIGHTMARE, a fantastic little independent shot by (literally) a father and son team. NIGHTMARE was wonderful, and the ending is fantastic.
BECOMING ROMAN is funnier, and it reminds me of an old Clive Barker story from his Books of Blood era. The left hand of Roman decides he shall supplant the right hand’s dominance. An interesting dialogue (and fight) ensues. Then the left develops loftier intentions, and is surprised with results. Very clever and minimalist, and also quite funny.
One of the standout hits of the night was PHENOMENA: PROBING THE PARANORMAL, a new series of vids that will be available on the internet. PHENOMENA tells the story of a team of ham-fisted occult ‘specialists’ that can’t seem to do anything right. This is a local group of filmmakers from Richmond VA, and they were at the festival to answer questions. Apparently this series will feature the same actors over and over again, parodying those terrible “ghost chaser” style shows cropping up all over cable TV– but in their case, always finding something real (with disastrous results). I was heartened by the notion that they will be back every week, resurrected like Kenny from South Park.
AUDIE AND THE WOLF is a larger budget effort from B. Scott O’Malley. O’Malley takes the classic werewolf story and reverses it. A gentle, friendly wolf turns into a savage, bloodthirsty MAN by the light of the full moon every month. A nice twist! O’Malley is aiming at SHAUN OF THE DEAD territory here, playing violence for laughs. Sadly, it does drag a bit in the middle. Still the two leads (Derek Hughes and Tara Price) carry the slow parts nicely.
FINALE was one of the creepiest movies of the night. A mother comes to grips with her son hanging himself. Was it the suicide that everyone assumes, or was he enmeshed in the evil designs of a demon worshiping cult that summons “the Collector” from mirrors? To discover answers to her questions, she must get dragged into the same madness that claimed her son. Finale drags a bit in the center but has a tremendous bang up ending– and not much of a happy ending either.
So far, the Spooky Movie Festival has been a great time and I really appreciate the work of Mr. C.W. Prather in putting this event together.
Live stream of RISING UP: THE ZOMBIE RIGHTS MOVEMENT on Sony’s Crackle server until 31 OCT
BECOMING ROMAN on Vimeo