Tuesday, October 20, 2009

DEDfest: Horror movie festival in Edmonton

I'm still here in Edmonton. The reason I'm here is that my mom had to have surgery and needed someone around to help with the cat and the hospital and then afterward while she's healing. The surgery went very well and she's doing fine.

This past weekend I was able to go to DEDfest, a horror movie film festival over four days here in Edmonton. Overall, I very much enjoyed the selection of movies as well as looking at the vendor's wares. The only thing I didn't like was that they were selling beer there. The first two nights, a group of people had clearly had too much and talked loudly throughout the movies. The first night there was a huge argument between the drunk and others who were bothered by his behaviour.

The second two nights, the beer people ran out of cups and so people brought beer bottles into the theatre. Of course people knocked them over so everyone got to listen to the bottles rolling down towards the stage. I know that people like to have a beer or two when at these things but it got a bit out of hand. And I'm pretty sure they don't like bottles in the theatre because they could break and hurt someone.

That aside, I very much enjoyed myself. The way it worked was that each of the nine feature movies were shown after a short film (or two) and then a selection of commercials for cheesy movies. The short films were all horror-related and the cheesy movies were either horror or blaxploitation-type movies.

Sometime each day, they would show the Jack Chop (NSFW) commercial. It's a spoof of the Slap-chop commercial... with more profanity, more laughs, and more blood.

Someone asked me if I got tired of horror movies because of the fest. Nope, I didn't get tired :) I love horror movies so much and so many different kinds of horror movies were shown that I was entertained pretty much the entire time. And because I know some of you are interested in movies, I thought I'd give you my reviews of the films shown. I took notes :)

Thursday night

Short film: Paris by Night of the Living Dead
This French, subtitled film started off with a young couple getting married. As soon as they finished their vows (which included sending to heaven their paretner, if their partner walked with the dead), they started fighting zombies. The funniest thing about this film was that the woman kept pulling out bigger and more improbable guns to shoot zombies with... things like a rocket launcher and other BFGs. It was sort of like a romantic zombie video game.

Feature: I Sell the Dead
I sell the dead is a great film starring Ron Perlman and Dominic Monaghan - actual stars - so it's possible that it might hit art houses near you. Set in Victorian times, Monaghan plays one of a pair of graverobbers who later turn into ghouls, stealing not just dead but undead bodies, and who has been convicted of murder. Perlman is a priest who wants Monaghan to tell him about his career. The movie consists of flashbacks to different jobs that the grverobbers/ghouls performed. This is a very, very funny movie. There's a little bit of blood but it's not too bad. And did I mention that it's funny?

Short film: Nightmare Island: The Legend of Hookface
The director and producer were both present for the screening of this short movie. This one is about the quintessential island with a killer named Hookface. Some teens on a camping trip are sent there to see if the killer is still operating... and of course he is. The thing I loved about this particular short was some of the phrasing used... like "sexy teens" for teens - because all teens in horror movies are sexy, yes? - and some others I won't repeat here. The production value is kind of low here and the acting is uneven but it's not bad.

Feature: Lesbian Vampire Killers
We thought that this British film was going to be awful and some kind of exploitation movie. Thankfully, it wasn't that. Yes, there's nudity, and yes, there's lesbian kissing, and yes, there are vampires, but we thought that this movie was one of the best of the entire weekend. The story is that all of the women in a small town become lesbian vampires the day they turn 18. The townsfolk know this, so they send visitors to a house for the vampires to feed on them. A descendant of a baron shows up along with a virgin woman, and the super-vampire is reborn. Fortunately, the local vicar and the descendant's friend are there to save the world.

This is a very, very, very funny movie. There's lots of funny jokes and dialogue. The editing is superb; they've managed to make the women all move super-quickly or super-slowly and it doesn't look strange. This is a movie that I highly recommend.

Friday night

Short film: Thirsty
Our protagonist is driving along at night and is very thirsty for a cherry slushie. He dreams about it; he thinks about it; he wants one, no matter what. Unfortunately, at the place he stops to get gas and a slushie, an escaped killer has already killed everyone inside. This short movie is very gory and very bloody, with a hint of sexiness as well. It's sort of funny.

Feature: Neighbor
I loved this film but I have to say that this one isn't for everyone. It starts off slow but once it gets going, it's riveting. Three bandmates are having a party; the one who owns the house needs help. The person that comes to help him is a serial killer and torturer; some of her handiwork is shown in the early part of the film. While the killer is torturing the homeowner, it's done in one take most of the time, forcing the audience to look at what she's doing. She takes out his new knee... and drills holes into his leg... and other things. This is a very gory, very disturbing movie.

It's also a very well-filmed and -edited movie. The story is interesting and aside from the disturbing scenes, it's an interesting movie. The only thing that weirded me out was that the female killer looked like my new sister-in-law. If you can tolerate disturbing scenes and like horror movies, this one is for you.

Short film: Escape from Death Planet
Here, three people are trying to leave a planet that is being terraformed when they're attacked by mutant terraform beasts. This one is ok. The CGI is a little obvious and the acting a little wooden, but the beasts are well-thought-out and the action is good.

Short film: Fallow
I loved this movie! An patch of land in Alberta will never lie fallow as long as a baby sacrifice is made. The mother decides that she doesn't want to give up the baby so the townsfolk decide to sacrifice her and the baby. Unfortunately, she and the baby's father get into an argument and the sacrifice doesn't go as expected. This short film is very funny and has a great ending. The acting is good, the story is interesting. If you can, you should find this movie.

Short film: Dead Walkers
Who doesn't love a zombie western movie? The bounty hunter comes into town dragging his prisoners only to find no one about... except zombies! A battle ensues, of course. I didn't love this one, but it wasn't a bad way to pass the time. The action was good and it had some gore.

Feature: The Return of the Living Dead
We saw the 35mm print of this 1985 zombie movie which apparently hasn't been seen in years. The undead from Night of the Living Dead have been incorrectly shipped to a medical supply company. While showing the new guy around, one of the canisters leaks and we have Night of the Living Dead all over again. This movie was quite funny in parts (like when the zombie asked for more cops on the cop radio). These zombies can run and think and all they want are braaiiinnnssss. There's a side story with the new guy's friends who hang out in a cemetery for fun. There is some nudity in this film (one woman runs around wearing only thigh-high footless leggings) and some gore, but this classic movie is worth a watch.

Saturday night

Short film: Blood Shed
The only thing I loved about this short film was the mother who encouraged her son to kill people, and that's because she was a puppet. There was a lot of gore, a lot of blood, and a lot of drugs. This was ok but really not all that great, story-wise. You'd do better to watch one of the others.

Feature: Rampage
Uwe Boll directed this film; apparently his other projects hadn't been a success (because the end result was awful) but this one is fairly highly rated. We have a disenfranchised, rather unlikable, young man who is unhappy with society. There are too many people and too much money and too much consumption and too much environmental damage, and he wants to change that. His friend rants about this very same subject but our protagonist feels that it's time for action.

So he prepares a rampage through the town in which he lives, blowing up a police station, gunning down people, and blowing up more police cars. Finally he manages to frame his friend and then disappears.

I had a hard time with this movie. In the first half (before the rampage), when the guy prepares himself, we hear news reports in the background as if the guy is flipping through news channels. But he's not doing that. As well, we see footage of him just looking toward the camera. This is explained in the latter part of the movie but it really didn't make sense in the first part. I also found myself disliking the protagonist and so found his actions sometimes silly (he gets killing mad because he doesn't get what he wants at a coffee shop? Really?).

I think if the first half had made more sense or the protagonist hadn't been quite as much of a jerk, I would have enjoyed this movie more. It did have great editing and music, and the acting and dialogue were good... it was the story I disliked. Others liked it very much.

Intermission: Burlesque dancers
We were lucky enough to see some inexperienced burlesque dancers between movies. These ladies had only just started dancing and so were a little shy and nervous, but they did a fine job dancing. It sort of reminded me of a bellydance show where you watch all the new people perform and give them support because they're new.

Short film: The Pick Up
A high-class escort meets her date and takes him to her favourite motel. He gets more than he bargained for as she feeds on him. This was definitely an entertaining, if slow-paced, short film. The concept was great but the execution seemed to drag along a bit. The acting was a bit wooden as well. I'd love to see this one re-done sometime as the concept is interesting.

Feature: Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl
This was my favourite movie of the festival, hands-down. It's made by the same director that made Tokyo Gore Police and features the very same over the top blood geysers and gore mixed with humour.

The story is simple: the vampire girl chooses a classmate to be a companion. Meanwhile, a would-be Dr Frnakenstein experiments on people with interesting results. Finally he is able to make a Frankenstein girl out of his daughter, the former girlfriend of the vampire girl's companion. Battle ensues.

Oh, this movie is hilarious! It makes fun of many different types of schoolgirls in a politically incorrect and over the top way (the World Cutting Championships, for instance). There are lots of catchy songs, and the battles are interesting. One amazing bit of technology was watching the people walk around as only their circulatory system. That's some amazing technology.

I love love love this movie and highly recommend it, especially if you did like Tokyo Gore Police or if you like over the top Japanese films. We watched the subtitled movie, which of course I prefer.

Sunday afternoon/evening

Short film: Ice Cream Sunday
This was definitely the worst short film of the bunch. I think it was about the horrors perpetrated by the Catholic Church on its population. I'm not sure, because there was no obvious horror in it and this is a horror movie festival. One part was a priest confessing to pedophilia with fairly detailed descriptions of what he did. The other part involved a woman removing a rosary from what appeared to be her woman parts... And it appeared that it was her time of the month. Ick.

No one clapped for this one. If you're forced to watch it, then close your eyes and cover up your ears. It's awful.

Feature: Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated
I thought it would be great, to see this classic movie done in animation. I figured that they'd use a couple of
techniques, but they didn't. They used every style they could think of: rotoscoping, claymation, pen and ink, greyscale, all the cartoon types, and more. And they used them randomly throughout the movie.

It was like some guys got together and just threw in different animation styles for different parts of scenes. If they'd stuck to a few, or done short versions of the movie in each style, it would've been better. As it was, it was incomprehensible. Some of the sillier cartoony styles got laughs, but overall this was a big bust. Like the short film that preceded it, avoid this like the plague.

Short film: Zombie Apocalypse
This was a cute short film made by some students here, I think. It followed three people as zombies descended on the area. The acting was ok, the music was ok, and the story was sort of interesting. It was a good student of B-movie project.

Feature: Macabre
This subtitled Indonesian movie was about a group of travelers who pick up a woman on the way to Jakarta. She directs them to her house, invites them in to eat, and her family starts trying to kill them. It was sort of like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or House of 1000 Corpses in that way.

In this one, the family has use for the baby and there is clearly something they do with babies (born and unborn). There was also a strange symbol that was on the wall and that the family matriarch wore. This was a very bloody, gory, slasher movie and is not for everyone, but is well worth watching. There's quite a bit of comedy in the movie as well. It's also interesting to see how this genre is interpreted in another country.

Feature: Dead Snow
The final film was this Norwegian subtitled film about a group of medical students going to a winter cabin near the fjords. They are warned early on that the Nazis had occupied a nearby area and that people had disappeared, but until their own start disappearing, they don't believe that messenger. When they find Nazi loot, the battle between the students and the Nazi zombies begins in earnest. I guess the Nazi soldiers want their stuff back, even though they got it by stealing it from others.

This is an entertaining, interesting zombie/battle movie. There's some blood and lots of gore and many dead Nazis. The non-Nazi characters are likable and believable and the Nazi zombies were scary enough (clearly they were thinking, running zombies). The story was entertaining, with some funny bits, some action, some sticking it to the Nazis, and some gorgeous scenery. I enjoyed this one and it was definitely a crowd-pleaser.

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