It had been a helluva week in the build up to the 'Dead by Dawn' 2002 Festival, it began in the recording studio where my old band 'Scrapheap' rushed in to record two new tracks for the upcoming Dragon DVD releases of 'Suspiria' and 'Profondo Rosso'. So following two days of rehearsing and recording we had the tunes down on tape then the video shoot followed...thankfully a lot of the footage was already in the can (consisting of a Euro babe being stalked by the traditional gloved killer) but the band clips where being filmed on location (in the centre of Glasgow) through the night...the night before 'Dead by Dawn' began! It went well and although little (in fact no) sleep had been had I wasn't going to let this ruin my Festival fun...
The evening begins well when the ever friendly Michael Kraetzer (of Dragon Films) and his beautiful wife Mhina arrive at SGM Towers to join me on the trail of the UK's no.1 Horror Festival, so with Michael behind the wheel and myself attempting to give directions to Edinburgh we head off (and god help anyone that gets in our way!)...on arriving at the Filmhouse we're greeted by the very lovely Adele (Festival director) and before I can touch a beer I'm whisked over to meet the folk from Tartan Metro. Following some quick banter and a gulp of beer the proceedings begin at midnight with the premiere of Shaky Gonzales new horror flick 'One Hell of a Christmas'.
Many of you will be familiar with Shaky's earlier low budget classic 'Angel of the Night' (which had screened two years earlier at the festival and is available on DVD), so expectations where high with this special screening. Before the lights dim Shaky took to the stage with Anglo cast member Pat Kelman to bring smiles to the excitable crowd with light-hearted yarns of the films production with promise of a full 'questions and answers' session following the films screening. So to the film itself...'One Hell of a Christmas' (yeah it's March/April but who cares!) tells the tale of ex con Carlitos who whilst trying to redeem himself for the sake of his young son gets mixed up in a whirlwind of satanic shenanigans and bizarro bloody antics! 'One Hell of a Christmas' inevitably was a real mixed bag of genre viewing...it opens nicely with a cool teaser scenario of what's to come and throughout has some seriously entertaining moments of twisted fun but this is often detracted from by the production values which done the film no favours whatsoever. The problem here is that Shaky is an excellent director and whilst I'm very tolerable of films shot on video it really doesn't help when it seems that no lighting was used whatsoever leaving many scenes too dark to be enjoyable, and screening a low end video production on a massive screen like The Filmhouse has really added to the disappointment. Where 'One Hell of a Christmas' will fare well though is on the home video market where it is obviously intended. That said the film has some moments of brilliance (but oh that schmaltzy ending) from Shaky's excellent set pieces and strong direction but he really does need someone to pass some serious financial backing his way so he can deliver a high end movie that is equal to his talents.
Woke up at 10am having had my first sleep in a week and boy was I happy for it! Things got better as I lay there in bed, flicked on the TV and caught Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi et al hamming it up big time on one of their Hercules TV show classics! Several coffees and cigarettes later it was up and out to meet up with (good friend) John Cook to go catch the midday screening of the documentary 'The American Nightmare'. As ever John was bang on time and whilst he waited with me outside the Filmhouse to finish (yet another) coffee and fag who should appear but Adele (she is everywhere during this festival, in fact I'm sure she has at least four doppelgangers!) and the mighty Herschell Gordon Lewis (and ominously this wouldn't be the last time this entourage would meet). So following some quick niceties we settle down with the rest of the early die hard to watch Adam Simon's fascinating documentary.
'The American Nightmare' is on the main an excellent overview of the classic new wave of horror cinema but at times also downright ludicrous. On the plus side, we're thrilled by some choice interview segments by some of the key players in modern horror cinema - folk like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper, George Romero, Tom Savini and the highly amusing John Landis. All of them perhaps at times cover ground that most horror fans already know but it's just so enjoyable to watch them all reminisce in this format about their movies and the influences they had. On the other hand though we're also subjected to the pseudo intellectual ramblings of so called film academics as they posture about the alleged links of the same horror movies and world events of the time. Now I ask you does anyone reading ever thought that the mayhem in a low budget gem like 'Last House on the Left' had links to killings in Vietnam etc? Nah, me neither. In truth I suppose listening to the academics attempting to make such links (no doubt as contained in their thesis) is amusing in itself but after an hour or so you just wish they would go to hell and let the film makers get on discussing what in fact is purely exploitation cinema and nothing else! 'The American Nightmare' is though well worth checking out if you get the opportunity.
Time to head back out into the sun for a quick bit of fresh air and a bite to eat before the afternoons fun kicks off over at The Lumiere cinema in the form of the ever wonderful 'Cutting Edge' short film competition! This in my opinion is always one of the highlights of the event as you never know what delights you're about to behold! You also always know that even if ten new short films are screening then you're always guaranteed to find an unknown gem in there amongst the odd turkey. Here's a brief breakdown of the goodies that were on show this year...
'Donor Card' - Bill Elliott's excellent animated tribute to the wondrous days of Universal's Frankenstein where the good doctor is attempting to make a partner for his lonely monster, great animation and lots of chuckles, recommended! 'Comptine' - Damien Chemin's Euro-noir tale of a young babysitter left alone with an unseen charge, doesn't sound much but this one's very atmospheric and scary, nice! 'Jesabelle' - Bryn Johns' debut feature is an enjoyable thriller about a man that is tortured by visions of a ghostly woman and his growing guilt complex, suspenseful with a great ending. 'Smile' - Simon Tindall and Patrick Acum's bizarro yarn of a man paranoid about fearful of who's watching him (and strange photographs that appear at his home) is enjoyable but perhaps over stylised for my tastes. 'The Windigo' - Katie Koskenmaki's ambient thriller follows two wildlife biologists as they study nature out in the snowy wilderness and ponder the legend of the Windigo, a classy and highly enjoyable short that deserves to be expanded upon. 'Dhampira' - Eduardo Soto-Falcon's modern gothic short follows the beautiful Mara as she falls under the spell of a mysterious vampire, stylish with a very satisfying finale. 'Fat 'n Fluffy' - Ben Boucher's cartoon yarn of two acid whacked idiots who machine gun their neighbours dog to death and the bloody consequences, over the top animated mayhem that will go down a storm with fans of 'South Park'. 'Sister Lulu' - Philip John's all too short wicked romp about a young woman's experiences in a depraved nunnery, nunsploitation has never been this much fun! 'Paques Man' - Michel Leray's show stopping shocker about a kidnapped toy executive who awakens in a locked room to find his body has been implanted with deadly toy eggs (of the 'kinder' variety), tense shocking and nailbitingly gruesome fun! 'Braineater' - Conor McMahon's demented gory shocker puts its tongue firmly in its cheek with this tale of a young boy abandoned in the woods who develops cannibalistic tendencies, hilariously gruesome, like a wild version of D'Amato's Anthropophagus by way of Pete Jackson and my own personal choice as without doubt the best short film of the year. 'Bom!' - Clément Subileau and David Tarde's snapshot of terror sees a young couple's car breakdown on the motorway, as the man heads off to get petrol his girlfriend is left to wait and wait until she realises that something is not quite right, another gem of a short movie that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat with fear and anticipation, excellent.
After the short film screenings the audience got their chance to vote for their favourites and the winners were as follows...'Sister Lulu' (3rd), 'Paques Man'/'Braineater' (joint 2nd) and 'Comptine' (1st). To help wean the audience down from the excellence of the 'Cutting Edge' short films collection we were then treated to a selection of insane animated shorts by Tenkwaku Naniwa based on the popular Anime characters such as Pokemon and Hello Kitty. These films were both inanely crap and hilariously brilliant at the same time. If farting, shitting and puking is your bag (and it's mine) then definitely check these twisted pups out! It would have been nice though to have seen these screened throughout the festival and not all at once as rectum overkill was almost had!
It was fast approaching early evening now and it was time to get back to the full-length movies and it was with Shusuke Kaneko's 'Pyrokinesis' we begin. Many of you will already be familiar with this one from it's Region 3 DVD release, basically it's another spin on the 'Firestarter' scenario but this time done with bags of CGI in a more adult twist on the X-Men theme. The film looks lavish but the problem is that with the subject matter it really is a one trick horse and this particular screening didn't help matters with the audio problems that ensued from the opening titles. No sooner had the film begun that we were treated to what sounded like a the background hum of a field of locusts scritching away, sure the film was subtitled so we don't really need to hear clearly what folk say but after twenty minutes or so I walked out - my patience had worn and my stomach said I'd be better go getting something to eat. My ever patient friend John hung around though and reported that following a brief break down mid-movie the screening problems were sorted and event director Adele seemingly (and quite rightly) kicked some serious butt with the agency projectionist that was working at this particular screening. John also assured me that my comments were right that I hadn't really missed out and the film with this sub X-Men plodder. The rest of the festival screenings thankfully went without a hitch.
Saturday evening proper was to kick off with a special screening of Brain Yuzna's classic 'Society' to promote the launch of Rough Cut Comics forthcoming publication 'Society: Party Animal'. If you haven't yet seen 'Society' then I really must ask what rock have you been hiding under? This sticky grue filled flick follows young Billy Whitney as he becomes growingly unnerved by his surroundings in middle class suburban society. Twisted, perverse and seminal essential viewing - that is if you hadn't watched a mere week before on BBC television like we had...so back off to our digs to freshen up before the all-nighter proceedings commence!
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