Dead by Dawn Diary 2002 (part 2)

The All-Nighter

Now for many the all-night event at 'Dead by Dawn' is perhaps the highlight of the weekends proceedings, a non stop marathon of classic and all-new genre goodies for the swarming masses of sleep free horror fans. Me, I hang my head my shame as I missed out on most of the all-night fun, well I had seen most of these and took the tragic option of getting wasted whilst hanging out with the most friendly bunch of horror deviants you're likely to meet (so a special 'hello' must go out to our new friends from Ireland, top folk one and all!) So I'll hand over now to John who will run us through the cinematic fun for the folk that did make it into the screenings...

Dagon

The opening film of tonight's entertainment was Dagon. Before the film started I was wondering - is this going to be by the team that brought us 'Re-animator' or the people responsible for 'Faust', thankfully the former (I didn't know whether to add this or not as Adele said it after I thought it). The film is based on an H.P.Lovecraft short story (but then again aren't all Stuart Gordon films). The story starts with Paul Marsh and his wife holidaying with two companions aboard their yacht, however during a freak storm the yacht unfortunately crashes on to a reef. Marsh and his wife are forced to seek help from a nearby town, as their two companions are trapped below deck. After eventually convincing two locals to take him back to the boat, he discovers that both companions are missing. This is when it all starts to get a bit tricky....Imagine the inhabitants of Midian upping sticks and moving to Potters Bluff, and you won't be that far off the mark, although Dagon has a lot more depth to it (no pun intended). I have always enjoyed Stuart Gordons films but I didn't really give him the credit he deserved as a director until now. The first time you see this film it has to be on the big screen, I'm not sure if it will loose anything when viewed on a widescreen TV, but I would not recommend taking the chance. Some of the underwater sequences I found breathtaking, I normally find myself looking for the telltale blue lines around the characters etc but I was drawn into the film, pure and simple. An excellent way to start an evenings films.

This was followed by what turned out to be the highlight of the nights viewing (and a short that I'm proud to have suggested for the event - Alan), Staplerfahrer Klaus (which translates as 'Forklift Driver Klaus'). Basically Klaus has just gained his forklift driver's licence and it's his first day on the job. And what a day he has, things go from bad to worse as the day goes on. If only all 'Safety at Work' films were made this way. The entire cinema was in an uproar of both laughter and disbelief, we are talking Peter Jackson territory here. If you haven't seen it yet - seek it out at all costs

Oh My God?! was up next. And I must say this was very entertaining in an altogether different way. A woman comes round in the boot of a car and tries to piece together how she got in this mess and what the hell is actually happening to her. The only thing she is sure of is it's her birthday, and the only things she can see are through the bullet holes in the boot and rear seat. This would be the highlight of the series if it were one of those BBC2 short plays that spring up from time to time. What a shitty birthday this turned out to be for her, but a great 10 mins for everyone else.

A Living Hell

During the intervals between films I heard a few people remark that 'A Living Hell' wasn't exactly overflowing with originality, but I had a great time with this film. Obvious comparisons to the likes of 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre', 'All night long' etc are bound to be banded about, but I got the impression that Fujii Shugo was obviously influenced more by the feel of 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' than the content. He wasn't just recreating the set pieces, as so many others do, but that feeling of dread and hopelessness was very apparent, as well as the underlying humour. All the scenes containing torture or brutality were just that, brutal. No scene was graphic purely for graphics sake, some of them were very unhinging (if that's a real word). There were a few (intentional?) nervous laughs when you could sense something was going to happen and a few of those 'oh here we go again' noises that people use to cover up. This is one I definitely will pick up when I get the chance.

Due to a beer/cigarette/pakora incident I unfortunately missed the screening of 'The Convent', but for a run down on the film why not try the reviews page.

'Wishcraft' was up next. It reminded me of a loose adaptation/rip-off of the old Monkey's Paw story. The hero (?) of the story is given a mysterious totem through the post, it turns out to be an ancient bulls penis, which grants the owner three wishes. All around him his fellow pupils start to die, and this is when the story should start to get going. It's another of those films where the makers think they have come up with something new and exciting - they haven't. If there was a choice between Wishcraft (or Pishcraft as it seemed to be retitled by everyone who saw it) and reading my three year old daughter Pinocchio for the 18th time in a row - then hand me the book and grab yourself a seat. This film would be the season's worst episode of 'Buffy', 'Witchcraft' or any of the bland not-so-original series' you see on TV. It's not even in the so-bad-it's-cheesie-fun category.

Sleepless

Thank God for Dario Argento. Yes we all remember Adele's introduction and thoughts on Phantom of the Opera last year, but Dario Argento on the big screen is always a must. I assume you have visited the review section recently, so I won't have to outline the film. This was another film I had a lot of fun with, having seen it many times I chose a seat near the back of the cinema to watch the audience reactions (not in the seedy sense) and wasn't disappointed. For those who haven't seen it yet I won't point out the scenes that gained a reaction, but its good to see as many people getting sucked into, and getting a jump at, a serious horror film. I know there are people who will get a scare at Scream and the rest, but in my opinion you just can't beat Argento for the real stuff.

After kicking about for an hour, I arrived 5 minutes late for 'Arachnid', as did Shaky Gonzales and two companions. And being the gentleman I am I let them have my ticket. I found out later that the other two got to sit in the aisle at the side, so I probably could have got to see it.

Sunday

Many thanks to John for that report, I'm sure he's still twitching from the lack of sleep from that eye bulging marathon! Well it's Sunday afternoon now and I've hooked up again with John to head off to the Lumiere once again the what undoubtedly wouyld be one of the highlights of the weekends proceedings...the much anticiptated screening of 'Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat'. But before the Lewis festivities kick off we're treated to a short documentary piece (from producer/director Jim Moran) called 'Leatherface Speaks' in which everyone's chainsaw welding deviant Gunnar Hansen discusses the role that he is most famous for. 'Leatherface Speaks' is a refreshing candid chat with the great man and full of delightful anecdotes that make this great viewing if you ever get the opportunity.

At four p.m. though the air of excitement grows as the Godfather of Gore himself takes to the stage, yes it's Herschell Gordon Lewis and a mesmerised packed audience quickly delight to the quintessential showman analogues that he delivers as a fitting prelude to the double bill of blood red classics that are about to unfold. First up is the film that started it all...'Blood Feast'. 'Blood Feast' tells the tale of fanatical Egyptian madman and general caterer (doesn't every neighbourhood have one?) Fuad Ramses, who goes about his fanatical bloody business in 60's B-movie suburbia. Poor big haired all-American (ahem) teen girls are being chopped up all over the small town and the hapless local police don't have a clue (or a brain) to what the hell's going on! Trash cinema in the extreme and all the more lovely for it, the crowd watching rightly thrilled at the bad acting, hammy dialogue and sinister muzac and I'm sure Herschell found it gratifying to see that 40 years on cinema goers were still being entertained by his first slice of low budget gory mayhem.

The King is Back!

Following the screening Herschell was back up onstage once again to ready everyone for a special screening of a workprint of the all new 'Blood Feast 2'! In honesty, there was some uneasy expectation about this one as there was a feeling amongst some fans that perhaps the film would be on the same budgetary level as its original namesake but thankfully this was not to be the case! Whilst the film in fact plotwise is in fact actually more a remake of sorts than a sequel, it proved to be one of the most excitingly entertaining gore fests that most horror fans could have dreamed of seeing in a long time! The film opens as it intends to go on with some hysterical over the top gory carnage and then we meet (yes you guessed it) the young Fuad Ramses III (played to a tea by J P Delahoussaye) as he reopens his descendants old Exotic Catering shop. Cue the bumbling comedy cops detectives Loomis and Myers (yes you read right) who although slightly suspicious of young Faud's intentions (due to his ancestry) are distracted by his delicious culinary skills. Meanwhile local mom Mrs Lampley (who is very much moulded in the 60's suburban mom style) books Fuad to do the catering (theme sound familiar?) for her daughters forthcoming nuptials to the hapless copper Myers. Now many of you will be thinking that this does sound just like a rehash of the original films premise and yes you'd be right but there's three things that take this gem in a whole new highly satisfying direction which keeps it fresh and full of fun...firstly the production values as a whole are first rate throughout steering any doubts of trash cinema well out of your thoughts, next the script although from a derivative plot is both fresh and entertaining with many twists and 'tips of the hat' to the original as well as some great set pieces that bring a new vitality to the subject matter (and yeah, it's downright belly rumbling hysterical too), finally the gory splatter carnage is the likes that many horror fans won't have seen the likes of in years. Gougings, slashings, stabbings, decapitations - for those of you who enjoy a high gore score then this is the sort of gore movie that we haven't seen since the splatter heydays of the eighties! I only hope dearly that the gore is all left intact for the films final edit as I know this film will be met with open arms by gore depraved horror community!

'Blood Feast 2' not surprisingly was met with hearty applause by the enthused audience and Herschell stood to meet the warm response with a wry grin of obvious satisfaction before one final round of 'questions and answers' by the crowd. Again Herschell proved to be a great storyteller with more anecdotes about not only the new movie but also his career as a whole. A great double bill of new and old classic gore movies in the company of the great man himself, worth the cost of the weekend pass for this session alone.

Following such heady excitement some fresh air was needed before the evenings movies brought the festival to a close. Next up was to be an evening screening of Shimoyama Ten's stylish 'St Johns Wort' but (here we go) I had just recently picked this one up on DVD so I thought I'd go unwind before the festivals closing film. Those of you that haven't picked up 'St Johns Wort' would be recommended to do so (especially when you can get a Region 3 DVD for around 5 shipped from Hong Kong). The film concerns a young computer game producer who has been using his girlfriend Nami's experiences as inspiration for his latest gaming venture. He accompanies Nami as she goes to check out an old mansion that she has inherited but they soon find that the house contains many mysterious secrets and the film quickly goes into spooky overdrive in one of the most stylised and refreshing genre outings to come out of Japan in a good while. The film is very lavish in its use of colour and Ten's direction is wonderful throughout. There is very little in the way of blood or gore on show here but the film is very satisfying without.

Dog Soldiers

And so the festival crawls to its conclusion but not before we are treated to the eye candy that is the new brit horror flick that is 'Dog Soldiers'. Neil Marshall's werewolf shocker follows the tribulations of a squad of soldiers as they are sent on manoeuvres in the wilds of Scotland. These squadies aren't happy as the evening they arrive their beloved England football team are due to play Germany (and we all know how that game went, well we'll never hear the end of it!) But missing the football is soon the least of their worries as they soon discover that they have been brought there under false pretences. The truth of the matter is that they are being used as bait by the Special Operations Division who are there to track down a brood of seven foot tall flesh hungry werewolves! Things get worse for the team though as they soon find that the so-called Special Operatives have been slaughtered by the lycanthropes and they have to find a way to survive to escape to freedom. 'Dog Soldiers' is a real crowd pleaser of a movie and undoubtedly will go down a storm when it is released nationally through multiplex theatres to the mainstream public, horror fans also will not be disappointed. Amusingly though before the screening a couple of the industry boffos that I chatted too about the film felt that they were about to see some sort of mix of Southern Comfort by way of American Werewolf but as I had already guessed this was not to be the case. What you do get is a very highly polished and exciting gory horror romp, minimal plot and stacks of tense bloody action. Marshall delivers the goods for gore loving fright fans so get the popcorn in and let yourself be entertained! A bizarre footnote to this film interestingly is that seemingly the film has been passed uncut with a 15 rating! Go figure?

Who are these nutters?

So with the final film having come to a close it was time to head back to the digs for a well needed sleep, but not before stopping off for a quick (ahem) shandy at festival director Adele's home where a few of the fest guests had gathered for end of event celebrations. Now I know some of you would be interested to know what goes on when filmmakers, producers, distributors etc let their hair down behind the scenes but I wouldn't want to be the source of embarrassment for these folk...but I will say that the highlight of the proceedings was following Shaky's teasing of participation in a vodka drinking game one unfortunate DVD company staffer entertained everyone with his own brand of projectile vomiting...

A final thanks must go out from myself to the following folk...Michael and Mhina from Dragon (I will try speaking slower next time!), Paul and Sam from Tartan (lovely blokes), Frazer (keep flossing mate), Herschell (the original and best), Eddie (where is that Surgeon no.3?), Shaky and Pat (keep the booze flowing), John (you saved my neck mate), Ed King and the Irish Crew (got any papers?) and last but by no means least the lovely Adele - nobody does it better.

See you all next year in 2003 for the big tenth anniversary extravaganza!

Got to the Dead by Dawn website here.

Back to the Spotlight page