Monday, December 3, 2012

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 5

Four more movies on Sunday, and I was hungover and tired as hell (there was a bit of an after party Saturday night at the Vortex Room after THE KILLING GAMES) so I was proud of myself just for surviving the whole day.

First up was the Shorts Program part 2:
TRAVIS PORTER: RED ROCK: A hip-hop group vs. a small town full of psychos who all work for the kingpin, from the director of ROID RAGE.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHTMARE--THE BETRAYAL: Shakespeare actually trapped pagan spirits in his book, but 250 years later a greedy gunslinger releases them in California.
GAME: A bound, gagged, terrified woman running through the woods trying to evade her murderous pursuers. But there's a twist in this game.
FINE DINING: A highly stylized view of a young man exploring his culinary talents as he cooks a fine meal for his overbearing mother. Much like he did earlier with his overbearing girlfriend.
TECHNICALITY: Based on the true story of a lab technician whose drug use led to many cases being dismissed or overturned. One angry detective decides to take matters into his own hands.
WELCOME WAGON: A creepy, overly-friendly neighbor welcomes the new panda to town, in this award winner from the 24 hour film race.
BLUE HOLE: There's a devil in that frozen lake. Don't go close. And don't try to trade a new victim for the old one. The devil is the king of liars.
AS HUMAN AS ANIMAL: Confession time, I think I dozed off a bit during this one. I remember there was practically no dialogue, and it had Diamond Dallas Page and some gross close-ups of meat and a maggot-infested corpse. But I don't know what else. I want to emphasize that I started the day exhausted and hung over, so if I dozed off in this film it's entirely my fault and says nothing about the quality of the film.

Due to technical issues, STEAM CLOCK didn't play (which is a shame, because that was one of the screeners I got to watch while helping the programmers decide what to play, and I really liked it.) Instead we got to see SACKED, which was supposed to play last Thursday with A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE but didn't because of technical issues. So I finally got to see it, and it was a pretty cool story of the dangers of stupid hippies and their ridiculous super-broccoli cure.

Then, after a bit of a break, it was time for the first of two documentaries on the day (I guess this was doc day at Holehead?) SLICE AND DICE: THE SLASHER FILM FOREVER. It's a whole lot of fan service, giving us interviews from the likes of Tobe Hooper, Tom Holland, Corey Feldman, Mick Garris, and many others, as well as clips from many classic slasher films, starting with PSYCHO. And visually it keeps things moving briskly as it goes from topic to topic--the history, the bloody effects, the psychology, the monsters, the misogyny, etc. The only problem is that it doesn't really offer any insight into the genre. As a matter of fact, the most interesting parts of the film are watching the diverse group of filmmakers differ on key elements. Some insist the best monsters are the most realistic or the ones who have the best back story. Others insist the best monsters are silent and mysterious (i.e., Michael Meyers from HALLOWEEN, who has practically no motivation.) Or differing opinions on the treatment of women--are these actually morality tales that celebrate strong women, or are they overwhelmingly misogynistic? In the end, I'd say the only insight this offers is that even the people who make these films don't have a unified vision of what the genre means or what it's all about. And that might just speak volumes more about the genre than the most enlightened academic analysis.

Then there was a big pile of silliness from the director of SEX GALAXY, Mike Davis. His newest, PRESIDENT WOLFMAN, uses the same "recycled footage" style to create a political satire about President John Wolfman (Dean Stockwell) trying to stop congress from selling America to China, creating the super-nation of Chimerica. John Wolfman is a good man, but doesn't have enough leverage to stop them. That is, until he's bitten by a werewolf and suddenly all his political opponents start turning up dead. The style--if you don't just roll with it--can get tiring. And some of the jokes fall flat but enough of them work to make it fun ("I know why you're called madam Speaker, because you never shut your damn mouth!") Pretty weird.

And finally, the night ended with the second documentary of the day, EUROCRIME! THE ITALIAN COP AND GANGSTER FILMS THAT RULED THE '70S. While SLICE AND DICE offered little insight into the genre, EUROCRIME had definitely done its homework and was as informative as well as being fan service. Again we get a good mix of interviews (John Saxon, Franco Nero, Henry Silva, Fred Williamson, Joe Dallesandro, Antonio Sabato, Richard Harrison,...the list goes on and on) and clips from movies. But we also get a good overview of the Italian film industry of the time. How it was very fad based (think Swords and Sandals, Giallos, Spaghetti Westerns, etc. Wave after wave of genres that get over-made and then played out) How they copied from U.S. movies (scene by scene comparisons to the GODFATHER or DIRTY HARRY bear this out.) How the film industry colluded with the TV stations to keep the number of films on TV low so that people would have to go to the theater to watch movies, leading to a huge demand for films. How the films, as a result, were made so quickly and so cheaply that they invented their own uniquely Italian style with flexibility, speed, creativity, actors doing real stunts, dubbing all the dialogue in post (because it took too much time to do live sound), heavy reliance on zoom effects (saves the time and cost of doing multiple setups), etc. They explore how a lot of this "style" prevented them from being better received in America (the biggest laugh was when Fred Williamson talks about how Americans are spoiled and don't like when the dialogue doesn't match the lips...and suddenly his dialogue goes out of sync with his lips.) They also explore how organized crime got involved in the production of these movies, often insisting they get plum roles in the films. And they explore how other uniquely Italian elements of the style. Over-the-top violence (I usually say this in response to the old Italian cannibal films, but remember this is where 2,000 years ago when looking for a good time they decided to throw Christians to the lions and see what happens.) Brutality towards women. A fondness of car chases and elaborate crashes (which were often real.) Guerrilla style filming where the crowd in the marketplace just happened to be the people who were there when they shot. If nothing else, it makes a powerful case that despite all the over the top plots and violence, there was something in that spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style that made them somehow more "real" (or at least "real" in the way that Hollywood films aren't.) The film sort of ends with the re-discovery of a lot of these films on DVD, affording them a new life (and sometimes the actors finally get to see their own films decades after making them.) I say it "sort of" ends because the new cult audiences offer a little glimpse of hope that maybe the story isn't done yet and there's still a final act left.

I have to say that I didn't know much about the genre before. I kind of knew it existed but hadn't seen most of the movies. So in terms of the amount of information thrown at me it was a bit like trying to drink from the fire hose. But the best compliment I can give is that even with it's 137 minute running time (and being my 4th movie of the day, and that I started the day exhausted and hung over) the time flew by quickly.

Total Running Time: 392 minutes
My Total Minutes: 306,181

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