The Freak Show Film Festival (at Spooky Empire Weekend in Orlando) offered eleven feature films and eighteen shorts, and because I am no mere mortal I made it through all of the shorts and nine of the features. There have been more awesome feats in the history of human accomplishments, I assume, but still, I feel that some worship is in order.
I skipped Ratline in favor of an actual meal, and though Eaters was perfectly fine in its first 15 minutes my mighty endurance failed me and I left. But I saw everything else. I’m not gonna comment on everything, but here are some thoughts…
The Dead Inside: Best of the festival. (And the one I most wanted to see, based on the trailer.) A horror/comedy musical, though the film becomes less comedic as it goes on. Great songs, great performances…just a wonderfully demented little movie.
The Moleman of Belmont Avenue: A very, very funny movie. No depth or scares, and it’s certainly not a well-told story like, say, Shaun of the Dead or Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, but it’s filled with laugh-out-loud humor from beginning to end and immensely entertaining.
Absentia: An extremely well-acted, well-written, and creepy film…though while I don’t need a movie to explain ALL of its mysteries, the central questions are so intriguing that it was pretty disappointing to not get any real answers. But it’s way more intelligent than your usual horror flick, and the characters and their actions ring true.
The Last Light: As I mentioned in my previous post, George Clarke’s previous two films have been highlights of the Freak Show Film Festival, and once again he provides a very effective film on an almost non-existent budget (this time $300, twice the cost of Battle of the Bone). (Not $300K. $300.) There’s not much to the movie besides the main character walking through a dark mansion, but it’s loaded with Asian-horror-style scares. Somebody needs to give this guy an actual budget!
Beware: A fun slasher flick that takes a bit too long to kick into high gear, but more than delivers once it does, and the acting and story are quite a bit better than what you’d typically get in this kind of movie. (Trivia from the post-film Q&A: The filmmakers got financing for a spanish-language movie, so almost all of the actors were bilingual and shot both english and spanish versions of each scene.)
The Millennium Bug: The “inbred hillbilly” sub-genre meets the “giant creature” sub-genre in a very fun, well-paced, splattery movie. Absolutely no CGI, which is nice, though while the creature is nicely done, most of the sets look pretty fake. Discovering that none of the movie was shot in actual wilderness was not a big surprise.
Skew: I spent the whole movie thinking “This can redeem itself! This can redeem itself!” But…no. I always enjoy these “found footage” movies, and this one kept me interested even with the lack of scares (the makeup wouldn’t even pass the standards of your average trick-or-treater) thinking that it might build to a shocking climax. Nope. The final scene feels like it’s setting up something that will make you gasp, but it ends with a “That’s IT?!?” moment.
He Dies At The End: A man takes an online quiz about when he’s going to die. It’s funny but nerve-wracking, and ends with a jump scare so big that it took the audience a couple of minutes to settle down.
Endless: A great, great short film. There’s no dialogue and it’s done entirely in super-slow motion. It’s basically one scene that covers less than a minute of real time, and throws in a new twist about every fifteen seconds of movie time. Though it’s marred by cheesy F/X in the final shot, it’s definitely one of my favorite shorts of the festival.
Roid Rage: Disgusting and juvenile to the extreme, but undeniably funny. The “roid” mentioned in the title is not a steroid.
Play Dead: Dogs vs. Zombies! It’s a very silly short, and yet it’s got enough disturbing material (not all of the dogs survive!) to give it a bit of extra weight. Mostly a series of vignettes–I’m not sure it can sustain a feature film, but I’d like to see this one as a longer piece with a fleshed-out story.
Bull Lake: Such a pointless gorefest that there exists the possibility that it was meant to be a satire of pointless gorefests. I dunno.
The Headless Lover: A film from Denmark that’s a very blatant homage to the “Father’s Day” episode of Creepshow. (It counts as an homage instead of a rip-off because the filmmaker started off his Q&A with “I love playing this in America, because you know Creepshow!”) Extremely entertaining.
Hungry Hickory: From Damian McCarthy, the same guy who did “He Dies At The End,” and who seems to be a master of intense but fun scares…the filmmaking equivalent of somebody who’s really, really good at campfire stories.
An observation: Quite a few audience members at the Freak Show Film Festival seem to think it’s okay to take a cell phone call during the movie. In an environment where there’s lots of other stuff going on and people continually wander in and out of the movies, it’s to be expected that more cell phones will ring than usual, but if you actually answer it and sit there and have a conversation during the movie, you’re still a jerk. Knock that crap off.
Overall, a great set of movies and a great time. Kudos to Robert Massetti of Fear Film for putting this together.