I was privileged to have been able to attend the best film event in the world for the seventh time in my life.
This year included fifteen 35mm films, dozens of trailers, vegan ice-cream delivery, prize giveaways, free morning cereal, no sleep and once in a lifetime memories.
Here are the line-ups from previous years:
As usual, we were able to try to guess the films based on the clues below, which was nearly impossible. (I guessed 1 correctly). The winner only guessed three correctly, but he walked away with a mondo poster of The Fog signed by John Carpenter for doing so.
In terms of movie quality, this was another consistent year. Only three films screened that I did not care for. The other twelve films I enjoyed, and a few I would say were stellar.
Now, onto the movies!
#1 – Stylish, star-studded cosmic horror film worthy of rediscovery
A bizarre cult film based off of the famous horror novel of the same name. This early entry shows Mann applying his signature style to some of the set-pieces, which were really intense. But the film has severe pacing issues and feels like it is missing too much information to make the script comprehensible. I won’t even attempt to summarize it here. Still, it is a film that deserves an impressive presentation and I’m very glad to have seen it in 35mm to get the full effect. Great score by Tangerine Dream, too.
#2 – Influential Asian horror movie that created its own subgenre
I’m not too familiar with the sub-genre to comment on this film’s place in its history. But I can saw that as a stand-alone Shaw Brothers horror/sleaze exploitation film, it was definitely entertaining.
A woman attempts to get the better end of a love-triangle of sorts by hiring a magician to create a love spell for her. The situation escalates quickly until a death spell (or two) are needed. Soon, a second magician enters the film to battle the first. It’s fun, goofy, over-the-top, and the pace never lets up. Highly recommended for those that appreciate films like this.
#3 – Quite possibly the dumbest giant monster movie ever made
It is quite possible! If you are a fan of the big guy and want to see all his films, than check this out. It’s about a young kid dreaming of monster island, meeting the son of Godzilla, and learning to overcome bullying.
You’ll probably enjoy it for its goofiness. Personally, I don’t have that attachment to the franchise. I hold the philosophy that if you’ve seen three of these films, you’ve seen then all. This print was dubbed, but what do you think it would be like watching this in the original Japanese?
#4 – Earnest entry in an iconic horror movie series that doesn’t live up to its predecessors, but is still infinitely superior to the terrible sequels and do-overs that followed
Through some good producing, this film manages to get by due to being better than the sum of its parts. The script isn’t special, but it does provide plenty of opportunity for creepy thrills: A young cross-country driving couple run across a family of cannibals in the Texas countryside.
Add in Viggo, Foree, and some solid direction from B-movie studio-horror journeyman Jeff Burr and you have yourself a slick and entertaining horror film. Definitely better than most of the series.
#5 – Fun, rarely screened sci-fi/horror inspired by 1950s-era atomic monster movies
I have never heard of this film before but I’m glad I got to see it. It played really well in the theater due to a variety of factors, but what I liked about it most was it’s adherence to that great style and character set-up used in 70’s disaster films.
This one involves a poisonous plant infecting someone with a parasitic worm. It leads to a full scale monster film set in a quarantined hospital. It has great build-up, good characters, and some impressive effects. The action was very poorly directed, but watching the story unfold was a joy.
#6 – Creepy “living dead” fan favorite
Brutal! I never realized how brutal and viscous this film was until this viewing. Based on the novel by Stephen King, it tells the story of how every parent’s worst nightmare can lead them to do unspeakable things.
Mary Lambert directed the hell out of this. From working with the creepy kid, to perfectly employing flashbacks and dream sequences. The story is a simple idea, but that is why it works so well. The sister with spinal cancer? The funeral scene? That ending? Unforgettable stuff.
#7 – Silly, low-budget horror sequel to the silly, low-budget original which played at a recent Horror-thon
The original is very nostalgic for me, having been one of the scariest viewing experiences of my young life. Without the nostalgia factor, watching it as adult, is is revealed to be charming but forgettable.
That is exactly what the sequel is like, although this one was tinged with a lot more humor. The gate is reopened by a teenager attempting to get wishes out of the demonic lords. But of course, every wish has its price and pretty soon everyone is scrambling to close the portal for good. Cool creature effects in this one!
#8 – Infamous and brutal 1970s gore/exploitation film that lives up (or down?) to its reputation as one of the sleaziest and most disturbing movies of all time; you’ve been warned
I don’t know what the film-maker’s were attempting with this one. Yes it’s graphic and sleazy, but the director/star really appears to be trying to make art. Not that it works. This tale of a ex-con making snuff films for revenge could have been much more straightforward if they were only trying to tap the sleaze market.
As it stands, the film straddles both worlds: half failed indie early-Scorcese film, half poorly made gratuitous exploitation film. It doesn’t work as either.
#9 – Ridiculously bad, anachronistic “period piece” horror film from a divisive director that folks tend to love or hate… or love to hate
Oh, Andy Milligan, why do people hate you so? I don’t have much experience with the director. I have only seen Blood, which I quite enjoyed, and this one.
It involves an evil priest who gets money for his church by dealing with vampires, corpse robbery, and murder. The low-budget is charming, but the performances are a bit too poor. Blood had something going for it with plot, character, and spirit. This one might have been able to produce that magic for me if it wasn’t 1:30am.
#10 – Goofy, absurd, and yet strangely charming 1970s creature feature
This film seemed to be made by and for an older crowd. No one in the movie seemed to be under fifty years old. In fact, there was a very awkward and funny love scene between two of the elderly leads.
There isn’t much to it. A swamp creature is awakened and starts killing people. The cops and some intrepid civilians attempt to stop it. Poorly made in many ways but stupid and good-natured enough to be entertaining.
#11 – Gruesome, satirical horror/exploitation favorite
This one I unfortunately couldn’t stay awake for. That wasn’t the fault of the film, just a fault of the screening time. (3am-ish?) The first half appeared to be a perfectly serviceable slasher film, with some good character set-up and tension building.
I drifted out for the payoff and awoke to a freeze frame of hairy woman-creature jumping out at the screen and then the credits rolling. I was intrigued enough to want to see this one again in its completion.
#12 – Clever and enjoyable supernatural “sequel-in-name-only” that may actually be a bit better than the original
I have not seen the original, but this sequel was a staple of my pre-teen childhood since I had a copy on VHS that I used to watch. Back then, though, I wasn’t watching it as a film fan.
Now that I’ve seen it as an adult, I can safely say that this story of ghostly possession is a clever and enjoyable film. Mary Lou died at an accident during prom. Now she comes back to possess perfectly innocent Vicki, turning her into a sexy and evil instrument of revenge.
#13 – Obscure, gory 1980s slasher film
Usually I’m not a slasher-movie fan. There has to be some technical chops or interesting twists to keep me engaged. I don’t just like the films of this genre because of the tropes.
This one definitely has the chops and the twists! The tropes are there, sure, but there is a lot more as well. It’s about twins, where the evil one tricks everyone into thinking that his good brother is the one that has been committing the murders. It culminates in a bloody night of killing and an ending that had me applauding at how off-the-wall it was.
#14 – Totally awesome, totally creepy “Animals Attack” movie
Spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. Tarantulas to be exact. They are invading a small Arizona town. Who could possibly be the only one to stop it? Yes, you are right. William Shatner!
This was a lot of fun, and definitely creepy if spiders aren’t your thing. And it has that great 70’s feel that is comprised of practical effects, energy, and lack of rules. Caution: Hundreds of spiders were harmed in the making of this film.
#15 – Zombie movie fan favorite that should be a fun film to finish the festival
I had just watched this recently, and have seen this in the theater a few years ago. But that doesn’t diminish how much fun it was to see again on the big screen.
Alien slugs land on earth, invade people’s brains, and turn them into zombies. Generic plot, yes, but told with so much humor and talent that the whole things feels fresh. All performances are great, but Tom Atkins is a standout. It’s definitely a classic for a reason.