Written by: Paula Haifley, CC2K Horror Chick
It’s October! The Most Wonderful Time of the Year! And the time of year when a horror chick gets the busiest, and the first weekend of October started my month off with a bang.
On Friday night I hit Universal’s Eyegore awards. With the modern proliferation of awards shows, what made the Eyegores stand out was that they were short and sweet… and had egg rolls. Host Corey Feldman was an average, somewhat boring presenter, and kept mispronouncing the names of genre bigwigs, like Tobe Hooper, despite the teleprompter, and the sound system made it hard to hear a lot of what was going on. The honorees this year were Bill Moseley, Julie Benz, Tobe Hooper, and Gunnar Hansen, and Roger Corman also came to the podium to accept his 2007 Eyegore since he had missed the ceremony last year. My favorite part was seeing Buffy’s Clare Kramer (Glory) and Tom Lenk (Andrew) present an award to Benz, who was never on Buffy at the same time as the other two actors. Shut up, it was still cool. Now if they could just get the guy who played Clem…
After the awards, most of the guests went into the park for the first day of Halloween Horror Nights. I went to the park last year, and while I thought the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street mazes were better last year, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was better this year. The generic Universal Monsters maze features the masked creepies from The Strangers, but they weren’t hidden at all, which completely negates their scariness. I’d love to see a maze or a part of one that was the house from the film where the strangers popped out and you and threw your phone in the fire. That would be scary.
The mazes were very similar to last year’s, so if you’ve been before and didn’t like it, you won’t like it this time. There was an actor dressed as a “flasher” near the Mummy ride. He would open his coat, but instead of getting a sneakie peek, he was just showing off his dangling intestines. Needless to say, he was my favorite. I tried to get him to show it to me again, but he demurred. Isn’t that just like a man? They holler things at you, but once you approach them they get embarrassed and try to find other women to show their exposed guts to.
Halloween Horror Nights is happening at both Los Angeles and the Florida locations. Check UniversalStudiosHollywood.com for more info.
Saturday and Sunday I spent all damn day at Shriekfest, my favorite horror film festival (and I’ve been to a lot of them). Overall, I liked the films better than I did last year, but there were a couple that just seemed to get in because they starred name genre actors. I’d rather just see a good film. I caught twenty-two films, most of them shorts.
The stand out shorts were Side Effect, The Procedure, Cheerbleeders, Burying the Ex and Le Petit Chef. Burying the Ex, directed by Ala Trezza and starring Bones’ John Francis Daley and Rob Zombie’s Halloween’s Danielle Harris was exactly what you’d expect: A man finally tries to move on from mourning his dead girlfriend, and she rises from the grave to get him back. Le Petit Chef is another dark comic standout from Aussie Annabel Osborne, in which a little girl helps her mother bake pastries- horrible pastries. Yeah, they have weird stuff in them. Cheerbleeders was a super funny take on what can happen when a cult ritual makes the least popular boy the most popular one.
Side Effect was the best short, and also won the Pretty Scary award for best female film. Writer-director Liz Adams took the first ten pages from her feature script Blood Level and turned them into a very effective stand-alone piece, and I can see it working very well for the beginning of a feature, just like Amber Tamblyn’s opening scene in The Ring.
Teenage Lauren (Virginia Newcomb) is babysitting for the Allens (Suzy Cote and Jonathan Nail), who have a young son, an even younger baby, and a Thanksgiving turkey that needs to be prepped. Lauren offers to help with the turkey, but she also has to study for her AP courses. To get through it all, she has a brand new prescription for some bright green pills. She takes one. To get through her studying she takes another. After she falls asleep on her books, she grabs another. You can see where this is going.
After she takes a pill, Lauren’s veins are seen for a moment in stark relief against her skin. The viewer is given a few false scares but is kept in suspense as to what the side effect will be until the very last minute, when something more horrifying than even I could predict happens. This is the type of film that could easily have gone into the cheese-tastic if it wasn’t for the tight script and incredible performances. Cote’s performance as Mrs. Allen really stands out. Without spoiling it for you, I will say that it is her performance that really makes the ending work, really makes it seem like this horrible thing is actually happening, really makes the shock and surprise stick with you after the film has ended. Newcomb’s babysitter had just the right edge of stress, jitteriness, and madness masquerading as overworked sanity to sell the story as something that could actually happen. Somebody better give her some money to make the full feature. Her film could do for the pharmaceutical industry what The Ring did for journalism, namely, make it really fucking scary.
The H.P. Lovecraft documentary Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown was very comprehensive, but suffered from the intrinsic problem of Lovecraft’s life being kind of boring. The film spent a lot of time discussing his most famous stories, but if you haven’t read a lot of his work, this will spoil some endings for you. The doc is a great film for people who are already fans of his work but don’t know much about his life.
The feature films I liked, and I’d recommend checking out once they get distribution, were Rule of Three, Conjurer, and Alien Raiders. Thriller Rule of Three pops back and forth in time as the parents of a missing young woman try to find out what happened to her. I’m not so sure how I felt about the twist ending, I feel like it didn’t really mesh with the rest of the film, but the performances were great, and the film was a fantastic example of how to make an interesting film with a tiny budget and just a couple of locations.
Conjurer starred the super-cute Andrew Bowen as the photographer husband of the super-dull Maxine Bahns. After they lose their first baby, they move to an old farmhouse in the country which, surprise, has a shack on its property that the locals think is haunted. It was your standard spooky house story with some good elements and fun scares. Worth renting, no doubt, even if you just want to stare at co-star John Schneider, but that’s pretty much why I watched it in the first place.
Alien Raiders was my favorite film at the fest. It was the Thing in a supermarket, with alien hunters taking over a store and holding shoppers and employees hostage while they try to find and execute the remaining parasitic aliens who have taken over some humans in a tiny town in Arizona. The film was super cool, full of guns and sci-fi without being too sciency, but again, I thought the twist ending was a but silly and obvious.
It’s October. Go see some scary movies! Quarantine comes out today! It’s got zombies! Yay zombies!