Friday, April 10, 2009

A Night of Horror International Film Festival Diary, Entry # 5

The last event of the festival, featuring Toby Wilkins’ feature film Splinter and the awards ceremony, was on April 3rd, Friday.

Splinter was one of the best films I watched in the festival, and was duly awarded with Best Feature Film and Best Feature Film special effects. It told the story of two young couples, Seth and Polly, who want to spend their anniversary camping in the woods, and Deke and Lacey, who, take Seth and Polly as their hostages along with their car in their attempt to avoid going to prison. When they stop at a gas station to refill their tank and stomachs, they come face to face with a monster unlike any we’ve seen. A parasite that spreads via its splinters and takes over bodies of its victims, only to break their bones inside and control them like puppets in its search for food. In the tradition of films like Dawn of the Dead, Splinter then becomes a film, in which a group of unlikely people take shelter within the confinements of a small space, and unite against the threat that surrounds them.

As Stephen King says in Danse Macabre, “humor and horror lie side by side, and to deny one is to deny the other.” Splinter became a festival favourite with its comic moments as well as gory scenes. The response of the audience to such scenes as an arm amputation with a box cutter knife and a concrete brick was, to say the least, joyously disgusted. The fact that its original monster concept, with echoes of John Carpenter’s The Thing, was mostly created with practical effects rather than CGI made the film all the more real and stronger. Director Toby Wilkins, knowing well that mediocre computer generated effects act to a horror film’s disadvantage chose to employ practical ones as much as possible and the result is a film that resonates with An American Werewolf in London with its transformation scenes (rather than, say, An American Werewolf in Paris).

For more information on Splinter and to see the trailer, visit the website

The screening was followed by the awards ceremony, and festival organizers, judges, and previous award winners presented this year’s competitors with their specially designed A Night of Horror Awards. As I mentioned earlier Splinter got the best feature film award along with best special effects. The best Australian feature award went to I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer, which I had unfortunately missed. Three of my favourite short films in the festival, Treevenge, AM 1200 and A Break in the Monotony all returned with awards. In an example of terribly irresponsible journalism, I neglected to take notes of all the winners; however, such categories as Non-English feature film, Independent Spirit, Australian Independent Spirit made it possible for almost everyone to get an award, I should say! Joking aside, the Festival should be applauded for its recognition of Independent filmmaking, and providing a venue for independent horror cinema in Australia.

All in all, the festival gave us a wonderful couple of weeks of horror, thrills, laughter, tears – in short, a bloody good time, and I guess I’m not alone in wishing them a long life and prosperity.

Next: Macabresque gets lost in the dungeons of academia…

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Night of Horror International Film Festival Diary, Entry # 4

On April 1st, Wednesday, I went to see Kerry Anne Mullaney’s The Dead Outside at the Dendy Newtown. The programme started with three short films of the zombie variety, namely H5N1, Le Jour De La Pandemie by Jean Olivier from France, Gasoline Blood by David Pope from the UK, and A Break in the Monotony by Damien Slevin from Australia. The first two were more in the lines of short scenes from any zombie films around, with mindless flesh eating violence - which I have no objection to and quite enjoy.

A Break in the Monotony, introduced by the director at the screening, on the other hand, was something different. This four minute animation, made in three years was a combination of 2d pencil drawings and 3d backgrounds. In the tradition of best zombie films, the film used zombies as an allegory for the monotony of corporate work places, which is broken through a surprise ending. Watch the trailer here:

The Dead Outside, the feature debut of music video director Kerry Anne Mullaney, had two of my favourite things in it. Scottish accent, and zombies. So, ah wis bound tae like it nae matter what it wis like, ken? (I humbly bow to Irvine Welsh’s genius).

The Dead Outside opens with a shot of Daniel, a survivor of a neurological pandemic that left most of the population in an aggressive, paranoid and zombie-like state, driving around Scottish countryside, until he runs out of gas and starts looking for a place to stay. He goes into a seemingly deserted farm, and then gets caught in surprise by a young girl named April, who first tries to get rid of him, but then tells him he can stay. April, unlike Daniel, is all for killing the infected mercilessly and she exhibits her shooting talents in a few instances. Soon, Daniel finds out about the secret April is trying to hide and then their ‘monotonous’ life is interrupted by a stranger named Kate, who asks for help, but Daniel and April have a clash in determining whether she’s friend or foe.

Being an independent film, The Dead Outside, appears to have been made with a low budget, but it uses the material at hand cleverly. Most of the film is shot in and around a farm in rural Scotland. The use of available light and hand-held camera gives the film a verite look, which goes nicely with the grim subject matter. The Dead Outside reminds me partly 28 Days Later with the atmosphere of desperation and partly the wonderful indie horror The Signal, with the use of a neurological illness, instead of zombies. However, there was almost no action in it, compared to these two films.

The plot was intercut with dream sequences and/or what seems to be hallucinations, which had a key role in explaining important details in the film. However, they weren’t always very clear to me, and there were times I felt I was missing something important. If I get my hands on a copy of it, I’ll definitely watch it again to make more sense of it. But by all means, go see it for yourselves if you get the chance. It’s worth seeing. Meanwhile, you can check the official website for the trailer and other information.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Night of Horror International Film Festival Diary, Entry # 3

I know I have been quite lazy about writing this entry, but I haven’t had any time until now to continue sharing my ramblings with my ‘devoted readers’ (Yes, they exist!)

As I had stated in my previous entry, the second event I attended on march 29th, Sunday was the horror themed party held at the “notorious” Club 77 of King’s Cross. The programme informed me that the party would be the world premiere of the French film Burn Paris Burn, and it would also feature some short films and horror themed music videos, as well as “live Surgical Side-show”. This, the programme said, would be a party to end all parties!

Now this all sounds very exciting, but frankly, the party turned out to be not quite what I expected it to be. A world premiere! At a “notorious” club! In King’s Cross! And a surgical side-show!? Horror themed music videos! A party to end all parties!!! I may be a bit over-imaginative but I had an image of a night club, which wasn’t much different from the one in the opening scene of Blade, with countless Goths dancing under flashing lights to some techno-industrial music. I was even hoping we would be sprayed with blood! (No, not really)

Instead, I went into a sparsely populated underground club, showing some trippy short films on the screen, which was otherwise really quiet. Not that I didn’t like the atmosphere in there, but it was hardly as apocalyptic as the programme promised it to be. In fact, it was hardly a party – just a bunch of really enthusiastic horror fans gathered to watch obscure stuff that they probably won’t have a chance to see again.

Here’s the party’s programme:

Short films:
Anyone There? - 10 Min Holger Frick (Germany)
Kagimiko - 13 Min Mathieu Arsenault (Canada)
The Flies - 5 Min Josh Collier (UK)
Stygian Horizon - 5 Min Evan Chan (Canada)

With horror themed music videos:
More Control - 6 Min Steve Daniels (USA)
The Beauty - 4 Min Luca Vecchi (Italy)
Hunt - 2 Min Yohei Ito (Japan)
Francois Martin By The Tenth Stage - 4 Min John Von Ahlen (AU)
The Man Who Made Monsters - 6 Min Onethirtyeight (UK)
Haunted By The Thought Of You - 6 Min Terran Schackor (USA)
Karaoke Show - 5 Min Karl Tebbe (Germany)
Crystal - 4 Min Jason Lapeyre (Canada)

Of the short films, Anyone There? and The Flies were my favourites. Anyone There? is a slasher with a twist ending – watch the teaser trailer here. The Flies is a black and white surrealist piece that draws its texture from the stuff nightmares are made, and wasn’t unlike something David Lynch would make. To watch the film, click here.

One of the best music videos shown at the party was The Heist and The Accomplice’s More Control directed by Steve Daniels. The video opened with a quote from Kenneth Anger: “Cinema is an evil force. Its point is to exert control over people and events” and continued with five minutes of the band playing in an old cinema theatre and being attacked by the said evil force. I quite liked the retro feel of the video, which fit the indie style of the band nicely. Watch the video here.

Oh, I almost forgot! In between the short films and videos, there was another trivia quiz, and this time I won a DVD (The Descent by Neil Marshall) by answering the question “Who was Videodrome written and directed by?” Thanks A Night of Horror!

After the music videos, it was time for the Surgical Side-show. Well, no, it wasn’t a carnivale act featuring live surgery, but it was a performance piece by two mascots wearing skull masks, and a woman dressed alternatively as a receptionist and a policewoman. And it was quite enjoyable, in fact, surprisingly much more so than live surgery! Find out more about the Surgical Side-show here.

The final treat of the night was the bizarre French film Burn Paris Burn, with its world premiere (this almost made me look around for a red carpet inside the club). Check the trailer here.

In an attempt to define Burn Paris Burn, I will call it a surrealist-goth-fantasy rock video meets Japanese giant monster film. Romarik de Malkhange (co-director Laurent Sebelin) is a student who is into computer games, collectible toys, and rock music. One day, he meets Venus Flytrap (Elodie Briet), who happens to be a young witch. Venus takes a peek into Romarik’s mind, and sees his alter ego, with raven black hair, goth make-up, and a constant joker smile on his face, shows great potential as a rock star who can take over the world with his music, which he makes with a bone flute. So she casts a spell on the album Romarik records with his band Satan System, and a series of events that lead to the destruction of the entire city of Paris transpire. Visually, the film was no different from a music video, and it wasn’t going for a realistic imagery, either. It was highly entertaining, and Club 77 was definitely the right place to see it with its Goth club feel.

The night was still young for vampires and other children of the night, but I was quite tired after the “party”, so I headed home.

Next on the diary: The Dead Outside!