Tag Archives: Horrorfest

Fertile Ground

MV5BNTM4MzM1NTg5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzMzNjM1NA@@._V1__SX1859_SY847_And, right, the last movie on the docket? My hopes were dashed, it was not a sex- and drug-fueled teen massacre. Still, there at least was nudity; only once out of five different films in the genre is a little hard to believe. Not as hard as zero out of five would have been, though! Fertile Ground is a good old-fashioned possession ghost story, with a bit of a pregnancy twist. It rated really well on the tension scale, and decently well on the creepiness scale, and I was actually relieved that the lead actor who looked like Nathan Fillion wasn’t actually him; he would have been entirely too frightening[1], compared to this guy who was merely competent. But it had the same problem that most haunting stories have in modernity, which is that the characters stay in the range of the haunting past the point of all reason. Even though our heroine had an excuse in this particular case, it was only enough to carry her through the first two thirds of the movie. I cannot think of anyone I know in a similar circumstance who would have stayed for that last week or so.

Still, if Accepting the Premise were really a big problem, I could not enjoy this entire genre, so, y’know, no big. Plus, it had a valuable life lesson, which is that you should not turn around a blind corner while leading with a butcher knife. I just wish the ending had been as strong as the lesson.

[1] If you think I’m wrong, it’s because you maybe didn’t see his turn in the last season of Buffy, or have forgotten just how intense Malcom Reynolds is when angry. And he’s still a good guy then!

Seconds Apart

MV5BMTYyNzUwMDg4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjMzNjM1NA@@._V1__SX1859_SY847_A thing I am forced to admit I didn’t care for in The Task is that it marked the continuation of a trend that remains unbroken by my viewing of the night’s other movie, Seconds Apart. Despite being 75% teenager-centric, not one of these movies has yet been filmed in the traditional slasher vein, full of stock characters who exist only to have pre-marital sex, drink illicit alcohol and/or consume still more illicit drugs and therefore demonstrate to some killer, supernatural or otherwise, that they deserve gruesome death over the course of a single, probably stormy, night.

And I feel a little guilty about that, because most of these movies have had something pretty compelling in them, and if there’s anything I should be happy about, it’s when people are making good horror movies. For instance, in this movie, they examined a truth that I feel is usually ignored in all the annals of cinema, and also in real life for that matter: identical twins are damned creepy. Sure, they can function in society and all, and many of them are probably quite nice, but all the same: creepy! They’re, like, nature’s clones and shit, am I right? And this is just the regular ones, much less ones that seem to be able to force other people into committing suicide as part of a personal, ongoing film project.

This would have been the best film of the weekend, if not for the fact that Orlando Jones'[1] investigating police detective spent so much time on his own (uninteresting) issues and backstory, instead of just acting as a stand-in for the audience. As it is, most of the movies have been about equivalent, and at fairly high quality water mark. Which is all well and good, but I still feel like I deserve a deliciously, hilariously bad horror movie in which the budget for gore outpaces the budget paid to the actors and the scriptwriter combined. Maybe tonight?

[1] You may, and by that I mean I did, remember him from his Sprite (or Seven-Up?) commercials in the ’90s. You do not remember him from his androgynous turn in the Jackson Lord of the Rings movies; that was someone else.

The Task

MV5BNzUzMDExMDUzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDMzNjM1NA@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Last night, as foretold in prophecy, I saw a couple more of the AfterDark Originals films. (Horrorfest really was a much better name.) The first of these was The Task, which documents the production of a reality show set in an abandoned, blood-soaked prison. The generally unlikeable contestants must spend a stay through the night while performing various tasks centered around their previously professed greatest fears, in exchange for valuable cash prizes. Despite this rather distasteful premise[1], it turns out to have had quite a lot going for it!

Things of which I approved, in no particular order, were 1) the right proper evil backstory of the place, complete with abusive warden and suicidal prisoners, 2) the unrelenting tension and creepiness, 3) the believability of the characters despite that I’ve complained about this elsewhere, and especially 4) the probably best moment in the movie when the show’s producers decide that the guy who unexpectedly shows up in the prison to start screwing with their contestants that looks just like that prison warden and none of them seem to remember hiring is probably just a plant by the network to create an added level of “reality show” to the proceedings, this time with themselves as the victims of the premise.

S’pretty good!

[1] I believe the main cause of my distaste is how very plausible it seems that this show could (or indeed, already has?) pop up on my television someday. Well, that and how well-drawn the contestants were. You know, on the scale of reprehensibility.


MV5BMTMwOTQ0NDgxM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTQ3MjY4NA@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Tonight’s second movie, Husk, had all the makings of an old-fashioned splatterfest: teens in a van (okay, it was a truck, but it had van-like qualities from the interior camera angles I saw) discussing how they will be finding the girls who played strip poker at last year’s lake house party as they drive past some creepy corn fields. Then, to my surprise, it immediately defied expectations by veering off into a spooky and atmospheric ghost story, one that managed to include a murderous scarecrow without being ridiculous.

So, and this clause constitutes a spoiler alert, one of the key plot elements is a Cain-and-Abel story. The reason I mention this is that there was a random crow hanging out on the porch of the creepy house (that inexplicably wasn’t the house from either incarnation of the Chainsaw series) throughout the second half of the movie. And whenever I would see him, I would try to find a way it would fit the story for him to somehow be Matthew the Raven. I never really managed it, but the fact that I was trying to see my way clear to it should indicate the relative quality of the film more easily than any more relevant positive I could toss out.

All in all, while I really had been looking for it to be a brain-numbingly horrible slasher pic punctuated throughout by gratuitousness of every flavor, you’ll never hear me complaining about a movie that is instead actually a little bit scary, and far less so about one that puts me in mind of The Sandman.

Du saram-yida

MV5BMTM0NDU2NzgwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjQxNjQyMw@@._V1__SX1859_SY847_I could look really cool right now, if I had mentioned in a review what I thought at one point over the course of the weekend, that it was odd how in the past 16 Horrorfest movies last year and this year, there have been no more Japanese horror entries since Reincarnation the first year. Then, to my surprise, Voices was populated with Asian people speaking in subtitles! They turned out to be from South Korea, though. And more importantly, it turns out that Korean horror has no particular relation to Japanese horror, which is probably pretty reasonable of an outcome, when you think about it. But during the first moments, I felt unrecognizedly prophetic.

So the deal is, members of a certain family believe they are under a curse, because they keep killing each other for no particular reason. The deaths are scarier than what I’m used to seeing because they’re very matter-of-fact. No dramatic build-up, no terrorized flights through darkened woods, because the people killing you are people you have no reason to distrust, people who have no motive, no beef against you. They just suddenly strike. So, anyway, this is happening, and it’s confusing and motiveless, and maybe there’s a curse, but maybe not, and maybe there’s a surprisingly Western-feeling trickster spirit involved, which I mention not to accidentally spoil things so much as because I’m interested in either the connection between the trickster characters I know about and Korean ones, or else in the parallel but unrelated development of the archetype in vastly divergent cultures. (In particular, I note that Chinese trickster characters I’m aware of are usually beneficial or somewhat heroic, as opposed to the Western ones and apparently Korean ones.)

Interesting movie, in any event, but more for the underpinnings than as a scary movie in its own right. As a scary movie, it was basically fine, in keepng with the expectations I have for Asian horror movies. They are either brilliant, or else acceptable. I suppose I may never see bad ones because of the exportation filter, but for now, my knowledge indicates they are much better craftsmen than we are. Good for y’all, Asia!

Slaughter (2009)

I know what I just said about Autopsy being my favorite. As a pure horror movie, yeah, it was. But I think Slaughter was the best movie I’ve seen so far this weekend. And I’m pretty sure it’s too complexly layered for me to explain why. Although the fact of it is a pretty good indicator, I guess? Without going into the spoiler-laden detail, it tells the story of a troubled girl trying to escape from her abusive past who befriends a younger and possibly more troubled girl who seems to be following the classic Dr. Drew scenario of looking to older men for the approval that her father never gave her. Which would be more Lifetime than Wolf Creek[1], except for the fact that her father seems to be paying rather more attention now! I mean, there’s no proof that he’s killing the men she brings home and feeding them to his pigs. But… well, let’s be honest, I saw this movie at Horrorfest. It’s a good bet he is, all other data being equal. I think that might be what was happening even if there weren’t any pigs, or in fact an isolated, picturesque and yet creepy farm to feed them on. That’s just the way we roll, y’know?

[1] A) I really can’t stop referencing that movie. I guess it made quite an impact! B) The description I read reminded me of Wolf Creek more than the actual experience of Slaughter did, but there’s still some good parallels to be drawn.


From the frenetic photo-documentary beginning, Autopsy was a movie that knew exactly what it wanted to accomplish, and knew how to do it, too. No screwing around with a long introduction to characters that we all know are mostly going to die soon, or a backstory about how they ended up in a drunken car crash on an abandoned highway. Just some odds and ends of credits, and then bam, plot! Which was about a creepy abandoned hospital in which this one dude is performing experiments to keep his wife alive in some ill-defined and ultimately irrelevant-to-the-story way.

What is relevant is that teens are being separated from each other, experimented on, covered in gore, and otherwise abused for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and thusly falling in with psychopathic medical criminals. And I guess partying at Mardi Gras and consuming alcohol is enough low morality to justify a horoor movie fate. But I could wish for some gratuitous nudity to seal the deal. All that said, I think this was my favorite movie of the Fest so far, because it made no bones about being anything other than what it was: a pure, unadulterated old school horror movie. And yay, that.

Crazy Eights

MV5BMjAwMzczMzE4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjcwMDM4._V1__SX1859_SY847_Horrorfest 2007’s final film may have been the most solid of them all. Crazy Eights deftly mixes the setting and atmosphere of the approximately brilliant Session 9 with the loose plot outline of The Big Chill, except if they were being haunted. After attending the funeral of a friend, six people follow a treasure map at his request to an old barn in the woods, where they find a time capsule full of their old toys from when they were kids. And, in the bottom of the trunk, they find the curled up body of a dead child. Almost from the start, the movie plays tricks on their (and by proxy our) perceptions. Freudian slips and flashbacks scattered throughout the film reveal that they know a lot more than they’re willing to admit, even to themselves. And after circumstance traps them in a nearby abandoned hospital, the dead girl has them right where she wants them.

Here’s the thing, though. It was a long weekend, and it was pretty late at night. Sometimes I drift off during movies, and I notice and fix the problem. In this particular case, I seemed to drift in and out of consciousness with perfect timing to follow all of the plot but miss all of the revealing moments that explained what happened so many years ago that they are now being punished for. And since I never had any plot gaps, I never noticed that I’d done more than close my eyes for a couple seconds. Sincerely: I stated aloud that the movie had to have another 15 minutes left in which the explanations come forth, about 45 seconds before the credits rolled. Then my friend amusedly explained to me what had happened. So, based on the atmosphere alone I say this is a good movie, and it looked like it had some pretty deep themes as well. But, I’m pretty much going to have to watch it again before I can give it fair due. Oops?

Nightmare Man (2006)

MV5BMTA4NzAzNjI3MDZeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU2MDA3NTY5Nw@@._V1__SX1217_SY911_As with the previous two nights, Sunday started out with the weakest entry of the evening. Of course, there were only two movies on Sunday, which might make the claim seem somewhat spurious. But I promise, if you were to name any three horror movies at random, this would be worse than 98% of them. Nightmare Man chronicles the trials of a woman (portrayed by a very bad actress) who has ordered a fertility mask from Africa or somewhere because her husband (portrayed by a reasonably bad actor) is having performance problems, and she wants babies. Unfortunately, upon its arrival she starts to have dreams in which a man in the mask is trying to kill her, goes generally crazy, gets prescribed pills that she infuses with a talismanic power to keep the evil Nightmare Man inside her from getting out, and semi-voluntarily commits herself to a psychiatric hospital.

Except, on the way to the clinic the car runs out of gas, and she’s left alone while her husband forges ahead to a gas station. Whereupon I start to have Penny Dreadful flashbacks, insofar as there’s a girl in a car being stalked by some kind of bad guy. Except: is he real? Then, suddenly, the movie changes gears entirely, to a pair of couples in a cabin in the forest, playing erotic[1] Truth or Dare. The next fifteen minutes are a treat as we cut back and forth between the bad actress being chased by the crazy mask dude and the couples ramping up toward a pretty flimsy porno premise. And then, against my express wishes, the two plots collide when the couples hear the screaming woman outside and go find her. Of course, there’s no sign of her Nightmare Man, and the psychological games continue. Is he real? Is he her husband? Is she as crazy as she appears? (I mean, make no mistake, she’s crazy. It’s just a question of whether there’s really anyone out there, on top of her being crazy.) One thing I can say without it being a spoiler: sure enough, people start dying.

As bad as the acting was all around, there was one bright spot in Tiffany Shepis as the bisexual cabin owner with an NRA membership. In a sea of both character and actor mediocrity, she stood out as a shining beacon. The film itself tried to have the tongue-in-cheek badness of Saturday’s Lake Dead, but between the abysmal acting and an incomprehensible[2] final act, it was doomed to failure. Still, if you can forgive those things, which you should not, it was notable for providing me with the most opportunities to argue with the characters about how stupid they were being and how easy it would be to do smart things and maybe not die instead. On the bright side, karma was out in full force?

[1] I have no idea why this was specified, as there’s not any other kind of Truth or Dare that anyone has ever played.
[2] I mean, I know what happened. It’s just incomprehensible to me that the writers made that choice.

Tooth and Nail

tooth_and_nail_xlgSaturday’s final film, Tooth and Nail, may well have been my favorite of the weekend. There are several I can point to along various axes and say, “I liked that because…”, but Tooth & Nail is the one whose scenes I’ve been flashing on whenever I think about the weekend. In a post-apocalyptic future (with a reasonably clever backstory), people must scavenge and struggle just to have sufficient food and water, but at least the initial waves of looting and killing have ended. Now, though, a new threat is rising in the form of bands of cannibalistic Reavers Rovers who roam the landscape in search of their own next meal.

And I know, I wasn’t all that impressed either. But it turned into something a lot bigger than its summary. The focus is on one such group of survivors, trying to eke out a day to day life in a hospital, rather than heading south where most people have gone. Out on a raiding party that includes one of the college kids from Borderland, they find the first live humans they’ve seen in months, in the midst of being murdered. They chase off the killer in time to save a girl, who turns out to be Penny from one of last year’s standouts, Penny Dreadful. (I mean, the actress, not the character. That would be cool, but somewhat unlikely.) And everything seems to be going pretty well, friction among some of the group members notwithstanding. But then their leader, Professor David Carradine, is murdered. And the next day, there are people outside the hospital. At this point, newcomer Neon (née Penny) admits to having heard of these Rovers before; they killed her family and neighbors where they were holed up in a supermarket. One per night, so the meat wouldn’t go bad. But she thought she’d escaped from them, and didn’t want to cause unnecessary panic.

A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, as Neon and the others make various plans for survival, night after night, and each person must come to a decision about how far he or she is willing to go to stay alive. The final voiceover about fighting tooth and nail maybe oversells the message, but I can’t really think of another flaw the film had; and this one was quite a bit less glaring than the zombie people who looked like the rats that infected them, so.