Saturday, October 4, 2008

Jason goes to Dead Channels--Day 1

Or maybe it's day 2.  Depends on if you count the opening party Thursday night as day 1.  Anyway, I guess I don't, and I'm counting this as the first 'real' day of the festival, because...I don't really have a good reason.

Anyway, first up was the animation program, starting with "Latchkey's Lament".  Rumor has it, Guillermo Del Toro was so impressed with this film that he offered director Troy Nixey the director's chair for his remake of "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark".  And I'd say I can understand why Del Toro would like this film.  It's got an excellent sense of creepy style and a charming sense of romance in telling the story of a pair of keys in love, and the monster who steals keys and devours them through a keyhole in his neck.  Trust me, this is even stranger and more impressive than I can describe it.  Oh, and though I mentioned this was the animation program, this was actually a blend of live-action and CGI

The feature, "From Inside", however was completely animated.  John Bergin directed this movie based on his graphic novel about the bleakest train ride ever.  It's a future wasteland (there's a brief reference to a nuclear holocaust, but it's not that important).  It's all told through surreal images and voice over by the main character, a young pregnant woman riding the train.  Around the train is nothing but destruction and desolation.  People are starving, and it literally rains blood.  About halfway through, I started thinking it might have worked better as a short--so much bleakness over such a long time is a lot to take.  But then a strange thing happened.  I think the surreal images with the sad but matter-of-fact voice over hypnotized me.  Although I still think there's a case for shortening the movie, I have to admit it kept me transfixed for the entire time.

Next was the official opening night gala presentation of "Let the Right One In", a Swedish film of young love and vampirism.  Oskar is a 12 year old boy who is bullied at school.  He's a quiet, timid boy who clips stories of murder and fantasizes revenge.  One local murder story involves a victim drained of his blood (in a rather comically inept attempt at kosher butchery, interrupted by a poodle).  That murder was committed on behalf of Eli, a little girl who happens to a) live in the apartment next door to Oskar, and b) be a vampire (her "father" committed the murder to harvest blood for her so she wouldn't go out and kill for herself).  Oskar meets Eli one night, and despite her warnings he falls for her.  And she's not actually bad, she just needs blood to live, so it turns into a very sweet story of young love.  Director Tomas Alfredson shows a great command of story and character, a wicked sense of humor, and some real invention in framing the killing scenes (the underwater scene is fucking brilliant).  Awesome movie.

And speaking of awesome movies, Phil Mucci's "Far Out" was a great warm up for the next film.  Here's what I said about "Far Out" when I saw it before (at the Vortex room Halloween party):
[It's] an awesome little piece about a groovy 70's party where everyone is too damn high to realize there's a vampire in their midst.
Well, that was pretty succinct, but I'll stick by it.  And I'll add...it's far out!

And then the feature kicked my fucking ass.  Frank Henenlotter ("Basket Case", "Frankenhooker") tops everything with "Bad Biology".  Jessica is a smut photographer with 7 clits (that she knows of) and a 2 hour gestation (if she has unprotected sex, she pops out a doomed mutant 2 hours later, which is doomed to die).  The male lead (I forget his name, and apparently it's not that important) was born impotent, but self-medicated to the point where his giant steroid-addled cock has a mind of it's own (and it's the mind of a junkie).  Obviously, these two were made for each other.  And this movie was made to offend everyone but delighted me.  I think Henenlotter has made a masterpiece of uncompromising outrage, if he can just get a distributor.  The special effects by Gabe Bartalos (who directed "Skinned Deep", one of my favorite little oddities) are fantastic.  I'd say if there's one weak point it's the acting, which has never been Henenlotter's strong suit (although he does have a certain talent for finding women who will get naked and fake orgasms on screen, and finding a guy who will punch himself in the cock on screen).  Instead he lives on outrageous imagination, and he's living large here.

And finally, the midnight movie, "Gutterballs".  This is an homage to 80's horror films, and it's a sick sadistic little beast from Canada.  It all takes place at a bowling alley, where two teams compete in a tournament after hours (they know the owner).  Problem is, they hate each other's guts, and the first night ends with possibly the most sadistic, extended, and exploitative rape scene in recent memory.  The next night, they continue their competition, but now there's an insane killer wearing a bowling ball bag over his face and killing with bowling weapons (pins sharpened to stake, crushing heads with bowling balls, etc.).  Yeah, it's silly, but also very, very bloody, and with lots of nudity (including a surprising amount of male nudity.  Guess they like flashing their dicks up in Canada).  But they manage to keep rather close to the 80's slasher sensibility, and don't play it too campy.  They let the campiness flow organically from the ridiculous premise.  If they had forced it further into intentionally campy spoof territory, I think it would've fallen apart (or just been really, really stupid).

And that was Dead Channels Friday.  The main theme emerging from Friday--with a birth, a giant monster cock, and bowling pin rape, I'd have to say it was all about stretching vaginas to the limit.  This is shaping up to be one hell of a festival.
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