'8 Films To Die For' Horrorfest: A Lost Opportunity
by Josh Green
November 28, 2006
The past weekend, After Dark Films took a chance and unleashed one of the most creative and original movie going experiences to ever hit theaters across America. In a span of only 4 days, After Dark Films planned to release 8 independent horror movies for a series entitled "8 Films to Die For." These films, which have never been released before, were advertised as grotesque and violent cinematic explorations into the horror genre. Our resident horror expert Josh was planning on attending all 8 films over the long weekend to see first hand what kind of experience this was going to be. Unfortunately for the folks over at After Dark Films, this "Horrorfest" turned out to be the most uncoordinated, horribly thought out waste of time for everyone who went or was a part of the series. He only ended up seeing 6 out of the 8, due to the fact that after the first 6 his mind was completely numb and there was no way he would have lasted sitting through two more of the films. Read on for his reviews and thoughts on the 8 Films to Die For Horrorfest.
Written by Josh Green
Directed by Takashi Shimizu
Review: This Japanese thriller from Grudge director Takashi Shimizu takes us into a haunted hotel for another ghost story. In Reincarnation, Sugiura (Yuka) is a young girl who happens to land the lead role in a major horror production based on the real life killings that happened in an isolated hotel. She plays a little girl who was brutally killed by her father. While filming the movie on location, Sugiura starts to witness strange things happening to her and other people involved in the production; only to realize that the spirits of the ghosts are trying to come back to life.
I have a great amount of respect for Takashi Shimizu, I think he is a very distinct director with good intentions. However, much like his other films, Reincarnation jumps around too much and doesn't feel the need to explain to the audience what's going on. It tries to scare us by confusing us, but this trick is only a distraction from the atmosphere of the film. There were a few jumps, most involving a really ugly child's doll. But the movie is too long and loses some dialogue in the subtitles - yes this movie was in Japanese. I feel like Shimizu's films always start out great, then lose potential along the way. I hope he hasn't given us his best work yet; it would be a shame for him to be done after this piece.
Directed by Jason Todd Ipson
Review: In the most original and creative film of the festival, Alison Blanchard (Corri English) is a young medical student who finds her way into taking a gross anatomy class at a hospital. When her female cadaver looks unusual, she decides to investigate where this woman came from. She finds out that the girl was a sadomasochist who unfortunately starts to come back to life after Alison's medical partners start to mess with the corpse.
A lot of these films start off really promising. Unrest had a really creative plot, an attractive cast, and realistic special effects. However, the music ruined the movie. I'm not sure if I have ever seen this happen before. The music ruined any sort of tension that the film generated and also provided a few unintentional laughs. This was really upsetting because the film actually did generate tension, but then would turn into a cheesy laugh riot when Mayan themed music kicked in. I hope the director can be given another chance to make another film in the future. He has potential and this film should be seen as one of the only highlights of the "Horrorfest" along with Dark Ride.
Directed by Craig Singer
Review: A group of six friends decide to take a road trip to an abandoned theme park ride only to meet their demise at the hands of an escaped mental patient. Sex, pot smoking, and murders occur with little time spent on exposition, something I felt like could have been dealt with a little better considering that the ending was about one of the main character's past. Being the most explicit of the film I saw, Dark Ride actually delivers what was promised in the advertisements for a "Horrorfest". There are some great references to Halloween as well as the lesser known Tobe Hooper film The Funhouse. Given how unoriginal and predicable the film is, it provided enough cliche horror moments to please the audience for 110 minutes - much too long for a slasher flick. This movie was the only one to live up to the grotesque standards of the fest. Dark Ride will be a good one to rent when it finds its way onto DVD eventually.
Directed by Nacho Cerda
Review: A woman who knows nothing about her parents ventures to Russia to try to gather information about them. To her surprise she discovers that she has inherited a house that belonged to her parents. After being stranded in the abandoned house, she stumbles upon a man who claims to be her twin brother. They team up to try and discover what happened to their parents before the house traps them inside forever.
The film throws us into a unique and disturbing situation right from the beginning. This puts The Abandoned at an advantage because it builds interest very quickly. There is also a perfectly crafted atmosphere found inside the creepy house. Unfortunately the film dies in the second half when some sort of sense tries to pull the movie together. The rules set up in the first half seem to be thrown out the window to sneak in a few more gory scares. The cinematography was horrible during most of the movie as well, another negative drawback. The camera work was way too jittery, providing no clear indication of what was going on. It is a shame to have an interesting movie let go of what was working only to gross and shock.
Directed by Richard Brandes
Review: After Penny (Rachel Miner) experiences a horrible car crash, causing both of her parents death, her therapist (Mimi Rogers) decides to take her on a road trip to cure her of the trauma. Unfortunately for Penny they find a crazy hitchhiker on the way. After giving him a quick ride to his campsite, he proceeds to terrorize them for the remainder of the film.
There were many things that were problematic in Penny Dreadful. The part that bothered me the most was that takes place inside of a car for nearly the entire movie. Many other horror films have had only one location and succeeded, for instance most of Saw took place inside a bathroom, however Penny Dreadful is too long (100 minutes) to consist of just a girl trapped inside of a car. There is no suspense or tension in the film at all. The scariest part was that I had to pay to actually see this. This was definitely the worst film that I saw during the "Horrorfest."
Directed by Mike Mendez
Review: A group of friends reunite after the loss of a mutual friend. Wanting to pay their respects, they visit the graveyard where he is buried. As with the rest of the films from the fest, The Gravedancers starts out promising. There are some jump scares at the beginning that succeed in building tension inside the characters' haunted lives. The movie loses tension and sense when the spirits haunting the characters take the form of ridiculously mutilated bodies and floating orbs. The Gravedancers is yet another look at a film that could have been much more but wasn't. Although it provided many laughs, it wasn't campy enough to fill the Evil Dead category either. Yet another barely mediocre film that ended my rather meager "Horrorfest" experience.
Overall Critique on Horrorfest
I am a huge horror fan. I love everything from the originals like A Nightmare on Elm Street to the gore-fests like the Saw films and Hostel. I was really excited when I heard the news about this festival. I thought it was a really creative idea and could start a trend for other genre-based festivals to emerge. I was greatly disappointed and shocked at how horrible the whole event was planned and executed.
First, there was very little information as to where these films would be playing, relying on internet marketing alone to promote what, when, and where. It took about an hour or more just to figure out that a theater near me would be playing these films, as well as learning more information about the individual films themselves.
Upon arriving at the theater, there was no indication that any sort of special horror event was even taking place. No posters, banners, or anything else displaying the 8 Films To Die For. I was also shocked that I had to pay for each movie separately at a regular adult admission price. It's only a guess, but I don't think many people can or want to drop around $80 on movies over one weekend. There should have been a special price regulated by After Dark Films; something like $6 for one movie, $15 for all three in one day. For a festival that is promoting that you should see all of the films, they weren't considering the drawback of not offering a package deal. Each film didn't even have trailers for the others films that were showing at the fest, something that could have been implemented to help showcase the others. I could not believe the lack of planning. The marketing was so bad that a person sitting next to me for the film Dark Ride thought that he was here to see Nic Cage's Ghost Rider (that doesn't count out until next February).
The last, and probably the biggest shame, were the films themselves. As you probably have noticed, my reviews for each film grew shorter and shorter. This is due to the annoyance level growing larger and larger with each. These films were not "to die for." Compared to the other great horror films this year - Saw 3, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Silent Hill - they couldn't even be compared on the same scale.
To wrap up, I felt like the 8 Films to Die For Horrorfest was terribly marketed, horribly executed, and just a rotten time in general. I hate to be this critical in a review, but I was offended. I usually never feel like I have wasted my time seeing a movie, even if I don't enjoy it. After sitting through two days of these films, I did feel like I wasted my time. Especially this being when some of the biggest movies of the fall opened, such as Happy Feet and Casino Royale. If they ever decide to do another fest, the creators need to go back to scratch and take the time to evaluate what actually draws people to the movies: good marketing and a movie worth their time.