First up, was supposed to be the short SUSPENSION, but the disc was cracked, so that didn't happen. So we jumped right into the feature, MIDNIGHT SON, which I brought to Holehead after seeing it at Cinequest. Here's what I said back then:
Without an origin back story (which I like), Jacob is going through some changes. He works night, because he is so sensitive to sunlight that it literally burns him. He eats constantly, but his body is failing him as if he's malnourished, or maybe anemic. Okay, there's no surprise that he's a vampire succumbing to the hunger for blood. But the journey there is smartly done and cool as hell. He meets and falls in love with Mary. He scores blood from a pusher working in a local hospital. He has a showing of his art--paintings of the sun. And he struggles with being good despite his hunger. In fact, I don't think the word "vampire" was ever spoken. There's no underground society or secret world. It's just a guy dealing with changes coming from within his body--same as any guy dealing with disease, or puberty, or addiction. Vampirism has been used as metaphors for all of that before. In fact, I've heard it said that the Vampire is the most used monster character in the history of film. MIDNIGHT SON shows once again that the vampire is a character that with a smart script and great acting can still hold a mirror up to humanity and show us something new.Yup, I still liked it after a second showing. Although I'll clarify that the word "vampire" is used at least once. Early on, when Jacob explains his "skin disorder" to Mary, she says, "it's like you're a vampire." And there's a moment of a meaningful look where he's thinking, 'maybe I am.'
Then the late show, with a large, rowdy, rude crowd (allegedly many of them invited for free to boost attendance). And the longish short AXED was a hell of a zombie treat from Australia. After a gruesome opening scene, we go back to the origin. A pleasant barbecue is interrupted by biohazard suit wearing jackbooted thugs, who round up everyone and put them in quarantine. Some time later, they drag them outside and unceremoniously execute (bullet to the back of the head) everyone showing the slightest signs of infection. One guy survives, picks up a trusty axe, and goes buck wild on both the zombies and the bio-suit thugs. And then it's about a good half hour of violence. Awesome.
And finally the shortish feature, KRACKOON. I really, really wanted to like this movie based on the premise--a raccoon on crack befriends a little boy and terrorizes the corrupt politicians/gangsters of New Jersey. Instead it became a lesson of what I will and won't forgive in an intentionally cheesy, no-budget movie.
- Outlandish premise. There's nothing to forgive here, this I liked.
- Ridiculously bad "special effects." As in, the krackoon is just a hand puppet with bulging eyes. Yeah, I forgive that, even embrace it as part of the cheesy fun. And actually some of the blood and gore effects are pretty good. Perhaps someone on the crew is actually a professional.
- Bad acting. Easily forgivable. It's clear there are no professional actors here, just a bunch of friends running around making a silly movie. I can embrace that fun.
- Bad shaky-cam cinematography. Particularly in the krackoon POV shots. Okay, I know this is a direct homage to Sam Raimi's love of POV shots (especially the unnamed evil POV shots in the EVIL DEAD movies). He did it much better, much more fluid. I can take a lot of shaky-cam, but this started giving me a headache. But still, if this was the worst of it, I could forgive it.
- Bad sound mixing. I've seen this over and over again. The difference between a watchable and unwatchable movie actually has nothing to do with the images, it's all about the sound. This was unbearable. I shouldn't have to constantly switch between straining to hear the dialogue and plugging my ears from a blaring soundtrack. I like to think that putting this in the hands of a competent audio expert would improve it by an order of magnitude. I hope so. It might be unsalvageable. But this is what totally lost me.
- A rowdy audience. Okay, not the movie's fault, and generally I'm fine with a rowdy audience, if they're reacting to the movie. This was more of a drunken mob who were reacting to themselves. I'm really afraid this will make me feel like an old fart, but the typical Holehead bunch is a mix of die-hard horror fans and serious cinephiles (the people you see at other, non-genre film festivals). We're not afraid to react to a movie (and engage in heated discussions afterwards), but generally it's in accordance with what's on screen, not just hooting for the sake of hearing our own noise.
Okay, that's all. And I'm proud I got through that without making some offensive joke about how the CIA invented crack to destroy the coons...oops.
I have just one more movie to see tonight and my Holehead will be done for this year (Maybe. There are rumors/hopes of a winter event. Stay tuned.)
Total Running Time: 189 minutes
My Total Minutes: 240,316