This past weekend I got to go to the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival. I’ve wanted to attend this festival since its inception, back when it was Buffalo Screams, but since I am not yet rolling around in piles of cash it was never feasible. This year, the short film my wife Lynne Hansen wrote, “He’s Not Looking So Great,” was playing there, and so on Friday afternoon I found myself in Buffalo making predictable comments about the cold weather. (“Jeez, it’s frickin’ cold! Oh, crap, is that hail???”)
With “H.N.L.S.G” director Gregory Kurczynski in tow, we checked into the Royal Amherst Hotel, a hotel so vintage that you use actual metal keys to get into your room, thus robbing me of the traditional lodging experience of going back to the front desk and telling them that my key card doesn’t work. Then we were off to the Dipson Amherst Theatre. Festival co-director and my buddy since 2005 Gregory Lamberson showed up with his seven-year-old daughter Kaelin (who we got to take to Disney World a couple of years ago), hugs were exchanged, and then we ventured into our first movie of the festival, Empire Gypsy.
Empire Gypsy (which was preceded by the impressive short “The Horizon Project”) is the reason I love all-access passes at film festivals. Because at individual ticket prices, I would have been more choosy and probably skipped this one, and it was fantastic. Extremely well-acted, intense, funny…it was a great way to start.
I finally got to meet Rod Durick, which was a treat even though he was mostly avoiding people because he was sick. He didn’t cough on me, but I would have forgiven him if he had.
After watching the short “Broken Wings,” we headed off to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. During the walk over there, Kaelin informed me that I ate boogers, a groundless accusation that really hurt. Despite my repeated denials, she insisted that this was true, finally revealing that she’d heard it on the news. At that point, I decided that any publicity was good publicity. Hopefully the announcers also mentioned my novels as they reported on my booger consumption.
During dinner, I found out that Darren Hutchings, whose “Tasha and Friends” (written and directed by Greg Kovacs) would be screening next, had also worked on “Post-Lifers.” I got to tell him that not only had I seen “Post-Lifers” a few weeks ago at the Halloween Horror Picture show, but I was one of the judges who gave it the Best Film award. And it was an easy decision.
Back at the theatre, it was time for the puppet block of programming, starting with “Tasha and Friends,” about the host of a children’s show who resents her puppet co-stars…but will soon grow to fear them. In what would turn out to be a weekend filled with great movies, this was my favorite. Absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious, with one of the greatest gore gags ever. Ever.
This was followed by the shamelessly silly feature Blood Marsh Krackoon. It has all of the character development and multi-layered plotting that one might expect from a movie about a mutant raccoon, but lots of laughs and a non-stop sense of fun. Producer Marc Makowski had also joined us for dinner, and we’d see him and Writer/director Jerry Landi frequently throughout the festival, and they were every bit as entertaining as their movie.
Due to technical difficulties, the third puppet movie wouldn’t screen until Saturday morning, but “Five Points” was also wildly entertaining. Maybe I just like puppet movies. Then Paige Davis of Alternative Films/Pop Cinema gave a fascinating talk on film distribution. I mean, I don’t even have a film to distribute and I was thinking “Wow, this is good stuff to know!”
“Merinthophobia: Fear of Being Bound Or Tied Up” was a creepy little short that preceded the feature Motivational Growth, about a guy who hasn’t left his filthy apartment in months, and finds it a bit odd when a patch of mold starts talking to him. I’m honestly not a fan of mindf*ck “What is real and what is not?” films, but I enjoyed the hell out of this one. It was utterly bizarre yet never to the point where it stopped being accessible. The talking mold, voiced by Jeffrey Combs, is a truly impressive creation.
Animosity was preceded by “Maid of Horror,” which I’d seen and really enjoyed at the Freak Show Film Festival a couple of weeks ago. Lynne had missed the first few minutes of that one, so we stuck around for the beginning, then sprinted off to the McDonald’s next door. So we came in late to Brendan Steere’s Animosity and I spent a while wondering if I was supposed to understand what was happening. Eventually I caught up. Animosity is one hell of a horror flick, with a fantastic lead performance by Tracy Willet, who would later win an extremely well-deserved Best Actress award. I’m looking forward to giving this one a second, complete watch at some point.
We were joined by fellow author and fellow Buffalo wing fanatic Derek Clendening, and then next was “His Name is Clown Face,” a seriously freaky short film, followed by the feature My Fair Zombie, a musical horror/comedy period piece by Brett Kelly done on what I assume was a ridiculously low budget. Another winner. The songs are catchy, there’s a steady stream of laughs, and it’s even kind of touching. And I have to give them credit for committing to their concept: aside from the zombies, the film always stays true to the My Fair Lady 1960’s musical blueprint, never winking at the audience. Only one of the actors, Peter Whittaker, was there, but every performance in the movie was dead-on perfect.
And then the theatre filled up for a sold-out screening of the world premiere of Troma’s Return to Nuke ‘Em High, Volume 1. The short preceding this one was…”He’s Not Looking So Great,” so Greg K. and Lynne got to see their work on the big screen in a packed house. Since the audience was really there for the feature, there was a bit of concern that the short could receive the abuse of an opening band, but it got big laughs and the audience seemed to enjoy the hell out of it. I think Lynne and Greg’s Q&A went well, but my job was to take as many pictures as possible, and I SUCK as a photographer, so I was kind of distracted from the actual content.
Return to Nuke ‘Em High? It’s a Troma flick. Probably the best Troma flick ever. It may have helped that the only Troma movie I’ve ever seen in a theatre was The Toxic Avenger, Part II in high school, and there were maybe three people in the audience, including a really creepy guy who may have been masturbating. This was a Troma movie in a packed-to-capacity theatre with most of the cast and crew (including Lloyd Kaufman) in attendance, so it was very, very, very well received. The level of stupidity is almost beyond comprehension, but the movie is an absolute blast.
After that we went to the Troma after-party, where lots of people told Lynne and Greg K. how much they enjoyed “He’s Not Looking So Great,” and I stayed out of the way. We talked film festival stuff with Darren Hutchings most of the time, and left around 2:00 AM, reportedly before things went craaaaazy.
Sunday began with a lunch at Scotch & Sirloin for the out of town filmmakers. I’m not a filmmaker, but I got to go anyway, ‘cuz I’ve got the hookup. We drove over with Geoff Klein and Melissa Mira, directors of Pinup Dolls on Ice, who seemed like perfectly lovely people and not at all deranged and evil, though apparently that is not the case. I had thought that delicious tangy Buffalo wings were out of my reach during this trip, but there they were! I can confirm that I’m not the only attendee who was filled with a sense of pure bliss. In retrospect I wish I’d hogged down a lot more of them. I sat with Darren, Peter Whittaker, and Brett Kelly, and our joy was immense.
We went back to the theatre for part of the local film showcase: “Kiva,” “Undead Playground,” “Rhythm,” and “Wormchild 2: Fresh Flesh.” I thought “Wormchild 2” was a pretty pointless slasher flick, but then Greg L. told me that it was made by a high school kid, and I had to concede that it was way better than anything I would have made in high school.
There was a narrow window of opportunity before the Dreamer Awards, so we kidnapped Greg’s wife Tamar and Kaelin and went to a 40’s style ice cream parlor. I got firecracker ice cream, which is cinnamon-flavored, and it was gooooooooood.
We got back in time for the Dreamer Awards, where co-director of the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival Chris Scioll handed out the awards with a grace that completely belied that the fact that he’d been given this task seconds before the ceremony began.
After the clever short The Summoners, the next feature was Judas Ghost, which absolutely rocked. Extremely well-paced, scary, funny, and it made incredible use out of its single-room location. Judging by the Q&A with Simon Pearce afterward, the rest of the audience was equally impressed. I’d really wanted to see Pin-Up Girls on Ice, but by this point our brains and eyeballs were no longer functioning very well, and that concluded our Buffalo Dreams moviegoing experience.
Monday morning we got to talk to Simon (who was there from the UK) for about an hour as we sat in the hotel lobby. Then, after lunch with Greg L., it began to rain to help ensure that we wouldn’t miss the weather, and we were back on a plane to Florida. Which is where I am now, much warmer but sad that it’s over.
(Technically, it’s not over. The festival runs through Thursday. You should go. It’s awesome. Click the link, kids.)
Overall, a fantastic weekend. Those Lamberson and Scioll guys put on one hell of a film festival.
And here’s the trailer for “He’s Not Looking So Great”…