Thursday, October 04, 2007

Atlanta HorrorFest - Day 1

Those ever enterprising little chaps at Festival League (led by the increasingly adorable, Eric Panter! Yes, my 'festival director crush of the moment'!) present the next in their series of film fests: the Atlanta Horror Fest, running Thursday through Sunday, October 4-7, in the creepy basement-ballroom of the Highland Inn, Atlanta, Georgia. Tonight was a surprisingly low key start to what promises to be an ultra-cool and uber-creep-n-gore collection of shorts and features. The set up in the Highland Inn Ballroom uses just half the space. The projection is firmly mounted and perfectly aligned and focussed. The sound could be better, due to the echo problem and the lack of sound proofing from the other half of the space, where there is an associated art exhibit. There were several occasions where the crowd on the other side of the suitably campy dividing wall was louder than the film that was screening. Hopefully, this will be addressed as the weekend progresses.

Tonight's program consisted of six short subjects and three features. The evening as a whole was sadly under-attended. Perhaps a shorts program at 5 p.m. on a Thursday is a tough way to kick-start a festival audience. However, the majority of shorts were pretty good! In screening order:

BY APPOINTMENT ONLY (Dir. Jon Faust, USA, 20 min) I saw this when the Festival League first screened it during the Underground Film Festival and remarked too briefly that "The script is a bit off and confusing. However, Nancy Sinclair's performance is stunning, chilling and totally creeped me out!" Upon a second viewing, I'd have to reaffirm my admiration for Nancy Sinclair's performance and revise my diss on the script. The only thing that might give it the 'kick' that seeing it a second time did, was to allow us to know what Sinclair's connection is from the beginning. I understand the choice that it might take a way from a 'twist', but it only builds the suspense. So, the choice in revealing Sinclair from the beginning is between 'twist' or 'suspense'. My rule of thumb: always choose TENSION!

CRAZY LOVE (dir. Wiliam Van Cuyck, California, 5 min) Quick, inventive and to the sick joke of a point, and executed with deliciously EVIL wit! Five minutes is all you need to fall in love the way that 'Charlie' falls in love with his girls...

GO ASK ALICE (dir. Shannon Lark, CA, 4 min) What a trippy and nightmarish retelling of Alice in Wonderland's tea time with the March Hare and a crow from HELL! The sound design was particularly creepy and effective in this, as were the character designs of the Hare and crow. The blood was a bit poetic for my taste, but then how literal would a violent "Alice in Wonderland" be...?

THE DOLLHOUSE (dir. C. Mark DeGaetani, MD, 26 mins.) The script seems a bit underdeveloped and the cast is a bit strained, however the pacing was more than adequate, as was the cinematography. I got the feeling that the filmmakers were struggling with the budget and had to cut down plot elements. That said, this mother-daughter duo from HELL was a nifty twist, as far as supernatural psychopaths are concerned! And their prey were sort of hunky, too, which is always appreciated. It just needs space and time to fully flesh out the relationship between the mother and daughter. Also, and I RARELY comment like THIS, but it was a bit rushed when it came to the BIG MOMENT. With a few more bucks, I think DeGaetani and crew could have a new cult flick here.

ALL BECAUSE OF YOU (dir. Gary Lynch, GA, 8 min) Yet another prime example of pithy filmmaking, which didn't waste a moment in getting us to the horror and suspense! And it's got a nice psychotic character running around the house, too! The guys (director Lynch and star, Philip Covin) were present, and you couldn't meet a couple of better gentlemen, who must have some evil wit about them! (Let's do cocktails, guys!)

MISCREANT (dir. Christopher DiNunzio, MA, 40 mins.) This is a prime example of one of my pet-peeves: the overlong short subject. At forty minutes, it either needed to be cut down to a nail biting twenty five minutes or expanded to feature length. Unfortunately, the plot incongruities are so large, that cutting seems to be its best bet. When I say 'incongruities', I am referring to moments when our heroine finds her space is being invaded by a stalker. When she calls the police, she tells them that 'this guy is stalking her' whereas the REAL issue is that she is coming home and finding notes on her dining room table with bible passages. THIS would be 'breaking and entering' and COMPLETELY unnerving! Our heroine is simply annoyed, and it just doesn't work. Her character never hits an emotional pitch that is equal to the life and death battle she is faced with. Oh, and don't get me started on the bible quoting 'villain'! Let me just say that he couldn't cut BREAD with that 'kitty paw' of a knife slash! It made the audience laugh. Of course, in dealing with independent, if not underground horror, it is possible that this was a campy lark. However, if that is the case, then the pacing has to double and the short needs to be halved.

And now, the three features, in screening order:

THE CREEK (dir. Erik Soulliard, NJ, 85 min.) I almost walked out on this. It is the perfect storm of direction, writing, editing and performances. Since Erik Soulliard was responsible for the first three elements, and since he cast the performers, he could be held responsible for them, too, the burden of this piece rests squarely on his shoulders. You could almost compare this to "The Big Chill" had they been haunted by their dead friend. There is a LOT of talking. LOTS of it. In fact, there was a scene at a campfire in which halfway through, I decided to mentally make a list of who should die first. We've got six characters and a ghost. C'mon Casper, Kill! Kill, Casper, Kill!! Unfortunately, only half the attempts are successful. I hate it when I want the victims to DIE! And I hate it even more when they LIVE! Lots of squealing screams with seemingly HOURS of self pathetic whining are rarely broken up with a pole through someone's chest. More blood! Less talk!!

Ironically, it is the more talk and less blood that gives MIYUKI (dir. Immanuel Martin, CA, 95 min) its creep factor. Yuri Nanami's performance as a Japanese exchange student, living with the PERFECT cynical depiction of a Marin County, California family, is beautifully subtle and nuanced. The cinematography is down right gorgeous in composition and lighting, and the film editing is strikingly subjective and dreamlike in its pacing. Director Immanuel Martin has done a great job with the technical elements and only has some weak spots in getting consistent 'honest moments' from some of his cast. That said, "Miyuki" has the psychological tension of "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" and with even more back story, which is something impressive to have pulled off. The tone of the film is exceptionally low key, which only adds to the pathos of the characters involved. There is a little bit of a supernatural element included, which is wholly unnecessary, or perhaps it is a cultural reference that didn't click with me. However, that is a minor quibble. With some judicious editing around a couple awkward performance moments, the film should obtain some sort of distribution.

BLOOD CAR (dir. Alex Orr, GA, 93 mins.) This film doesn't need distribution as it has become a festival mainstay this year! Or so it seems as this is no less than the FOURTH time I had the opportunity to see it. I passed on that opportunity this time, as even though I LOVED "BLOOD CAR" when I first saw it this Spring at the Atlanta Film Festival, I wanted to get back here and save some energy for the weekend. "Save Gas! Get BLOOD CAR!"

Maxxxxx says
re Horror Shorts Day 1: "Whooooooo!"
re The Creek: "Is it bed time?"
re Miyuki: "Such a good bird!"

No comments: