For three days at the end of April, Edinburgh’s normally sedate Filmhouse witnessed horror and fantasy fans converge upon it to celebrate FAB Fest 2010. ReelScotland sent along Robbie McKay, Adam Hughes and Anthony Forsyth to report from the event and give their views on eight of the films on offer.
FAB Fest 2010 was my first visit to a cult based film festival, and it was a strange experience: while overall the films themselves were of a high standard, the atmosphere didn’t impress quite so much.
I arrived on the Saturday and there was no evidence of FAB Fest, apart from a small sign pointing towards the Guild Room. Apparently that’s where they have the merchandising every year for Edinburgh’s annual horror festival, Dead by Dawn, but as a new attendee this wasn’t immediately obvious.
Though there were a number of people in the screenings, they seemed to remain in groups or sit on their own. The Filmhouse was still running its normal programme of films, which attracts a fairly different crowd to the cult films, and there wasn’t much mingling. This was a shame, as getting to know the fans is one of the best experiences of such events. I spoke to some visiting fans from Glasgow, who had been to previous events there and in Edinburgh,who felt the same.
Luckily I did get to meet Darren Ward (director of A Day of Violence) and Giovanni Lombardo Radice (star of City of the Living Dead), both highlights of the weekend.
Overall, I felt that given the good line up of movies, more could have been done to improve the social experience surrounding them. (Robbie MacKay)
A Day Of Violence
Darren Ward, UK, 2009
Having the scene set for this new low-budget horror by way of an intro with director Darren Ward, star Nick Rendell and legendary horror figure Giovanni Lombardo Radice, you could say audience expectations were high.
Fortunately anticipation was matched by the film, the fast paced nature of this day in Mitchell Parker’s (Rendell) life as he discovers £10,000 in an unlikely place, not relenting for a moment.
The rumoured extreme violence also lives up to, and exceeds, all expectations. This in particular does not come as a surprise to Ward who, with a cheeky grin, commented to me afterwards on the ˜walkouts’ during the screening. Even Radice seemed shocked by the intensity of the film, with this being his first full viewing.
When Radice, a man who has endured some of cinema’s most brutal on-screen deaths, admits to having to hide behind his hands on a number of occasions, you know that something highly unpleasant is happening and this is precisely what the majority of this audience wanted. (Adam Hughes)
The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle
David Russo, USA, 2009
Despite the film having the most ridiculous name, this was the movie that appealed least to me after reading a short synopsis of it. It was not one of the standout “must sees” of the festival.
In fact I believe that anyone who hears the plot, about a man forced to become a janitor who then becomes a guinea pig for a cookie company, will stay well away. This is a real shame considering the fact that that the above criticisms are quite literally the only flaws in this little gem.
Despite the entire movie being structured around the peculiar little blue fish and the circumstances leading to their conception, the well constructed characters, excellent performances and the surreal-yet-heartwarming story push the main plot into the background.
Ignore the title and suspend your disbelief and I suggest you will be pleasantly surprised. (Adam Hughes)
Buddy Giovinazzo, USA, 1986
The aftereffects of war on individuals who have fought on the front line is a heavy subject matter and not one that you would expect to be treated in a lighthearted, jovial manner. Well, no one can accuse director Buddy Giovinazzo of doing so in Combat Shock.
This is cinema at its bleakest as we witness the gradual decline of a human being who has seen horrors most of us could not imagine, yet who is expected to return to normal life and provide for his young family. Not surprisingly, this becomes increasingly difficult and it is clear why this film has endured.
The moderate pace at which we are brought to the closing moments makes the character’s complete collapse all the more disturbing and anyone who found even the slightest amusement in this film has either missed the point entirely or is just plain dead inside.
An incredibly powerful film that has lost none of its potency since its original release. (Adam Hughes)
Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Edgar Wright & Rob Zombie, USA, 2007
If there were ever a late night screening double bill which should guarantee a fun time, this would be it. Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror coupled with Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, with some kick ass fake trailers in between, is a great line-up.
Planet Terror was first up and, as suspected, it went down well with the audience. A truly gory, violent and hilarious flick, it mimics the Grindhouse era horror film but with a bigger budget and a lot more explosions.
Following leads El Wray and one-legged Cherry, the pair must try to survive a military gas leak which is turning citizens into cannibalistic monsters (covered in truly horrible pulsating boils). The plot is probably the least important part of this film; it’s meant to be a tremendously enjoyable no-brainer.
Planet Terror also features a fine ensemble of small roles with cult legends Michael Biehn and Tom Savini, alongside Josh Brolin and Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas.
This modern day classic was followed by a number of fake trailers from directors Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright and Eli Roth. They were pretty fantastic, although Machete still remains my favourite and seeing it on the big screen was excellent.
Next up was Tarantino’s Death Proof, a film in which Kurt Russell shines. Here he plays a stuntman who has a custom-made car which is death proof, apparently. He then sets about chasing these sexy ladies around various dirt roads attempting to kill them off.
Personally, I much prefer Planet Terror, but this movie has some fairly high points. The whole scene in the bar is excellent, with lots of smooth dialogue between Russell and the girls. Tarantino does get a bit carried away with the dialogue though, and his trademark fast talking doesn’t really fit the film.
The car crashes are also excellent and probably some of the most brutal I’ve seen on film. This double bill was a good choice, especially as a late night entry. The crowd got into the film, with appropriate laughs and cries of horror at the relevant points, just as any good midnight screening should be. (Robbie McKay)
David J Francis & Mike Masters, Canada, 2008
The ˜mock-zom-doc’ Reel Zombies is a thoroughly entertaining film. The premise is the misguided attempts of a group of amateur filmmakers to complete their ˜Zombie Night’ trilogy and create their masterpiece, thanks to the convenient fact that zombies have actually taken over the planet.
We view the making of the documentary as the hapless crew contend with both the extreme circumstances (i.e. zombie apocalypse) and the kind of general frustrations of trying to put together a low budget film. Despite an ending that succumbs to generic zombie film convention, this film is very funny and likeable with a bizarre cameo from cult film legend Lloyd Kaufman thrown into the bargain.
Reel Zombies was preceded by three shorts, including the amusing Mortified and the awesome German short Full Employment. (Anthony Forsyth)
Nicolas Alberny and Jean Mach, France, 2008
8th Wonderland is a high concept film that co-director Nicolas Alberny describes as ˜political sci-fi’. We follow the developing autonomy of the titular virtual country from a simple online gathering place to an influential global power.
As the nationals of 8th Wonderland appreciate the power of collective democracy, the realisation of their referendum results progress from pranks (putting condom machines up all over the Vatican) to the murder of a corrupt South American dictator, decided by majority in an online vote. When they push the international G8 too far, the real world nations decide to fight back.
The film is certainly full of big and promising ideas but ultimately it does not deliver. It is by no means a bad film but it simply cannot contain the sheer weight of themes within it. The plot is often scattershot and confusing, and nods to films like Fight Club only serve as a reminder that similar ideas have already been done much better (see also The Wave).
By the directors’ own admission, in the three years the film has taken to make, online communities like Second Life have already caught up to have the potential displayed here somewhat invalidating the warning message of the film. (Anthony Forsyth)
Robert A Masciantonio, USA, 2009
Neighbor is a new entry to the gorno sub genre featuring ex-Playboy cover star America Olivo, who plays ˜The Girl’, a psychopathic sadist who gruesomely tortures and kills a series of mostly unlikeable male characters for absolutely no reason. I was surprised by an introduction to the film right out of the video nasties handbook, being warned beforehand that people have vomited watching this film and other allusions to the horrors to follow.
The gore on show is certainly effective for a low budget film, most notably some extreme body horror inflicted on the lead asshole with nothing more than a swizzle stick. It will stay with male viewers for a long time.
Olivo is also decent as the maniacal killer, in a twist on the male-oriented genre. Frustratingly though, she almost entirely refuses to get naked. Some will tell you that this uncharacteristic lack of female nudity is evidence of the ˜character driven’ nature of the film, but don’t believe a word of it.
There is no more character development here than in the likes of Hostel and the film’s producer, on hand for a Q&A afterwards, admitted that one of the first criticisms he heard of the film is that it is ˜Funny Games for morons’.
The film most certainly split the screening audience down the middle, with half of the commentators attacking the film for its lack of plot, and half praising it for its gore content and perceived originality in the genre. (Anthony Forsyth)
Life Is Hot in Cracktown
Buddy Giovinazzo, USA, 2009
Shot on location in downtown LA, but set in ˜Any Ghetto U.S.A.’, Life Is Hot in Cracktown follows various characters as they try to survive in the most decayed and violent corner of society.
This film was quite an endurance test, but not for a negative reason. Cracktown just never lets up. A brutal rape scene is the opener, and from then on we’re chest high in the dirty, cruel world of Cracktown.
Characters range from street begging children of crack-head parents, to pimps and their transgender wives, with gangbanging youths and prostitutes in between. Through the course of the film we see the characters’ lives intertwine and play out, and watch the world they live in slowly destroy them.
The acting throughout is good though given that there are four main character stories, with various subplots and added characters, they are often not looked at in-depth. There were a few attempts to force depth, such as with a psychotic gang leader having an emotional look at his slain brother’s picture.
Given that our only other contact with the character was him gang raping women and forcing enemas on old men, it fell flat. The character was played well though, and one part of depth which did work with him were his failed attempts with his girlfriend. His switching from threatening to apologising showed an insight into how he is still just a kid and his growing up has been overtaken by the life he’s involved in.
One of the few ‘good’ characters is Manny, a hard working man holding down two jobs to support his kids. He is a generally good guy, but there is no Hollywood coating on the character. His bouts of anger and threatened violence add a realism and make the character seem more human.
The overriding factor of Cracktown is the place itself, and the effect it has on people. It is this feeling of hopelessness which permeates every character, and it’s all brought on by the world they live in and how they have to live through it. This creates the endurance aspect of Cracktown, as from the beginning you’re thrown into a harrowing, terrifying world and there are numerous scenes of horrible things happening to people.
By the end of it you are exhausted by the sheer degradation of what you’ve watched, which is a pretty impressive feat. The only way they could have made it more grimy was if they’d dipped it in the same vat which all film shot in 1980s New York was. (Robbie McKay)