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Screamfest 2012
Screamfest Horror Film Festival 2012


Coverage by Jeff Nelson




The Screamfest Horror Film Festival was created in August 2001 by film producers Rachel Belofsky and Ross Martin. This event takes place in Los Angeles, California every October, and each year the festival provides moviegoers with numerous horror films just in time for Halloween. Regardless of what you're looking for, Screamfest is known to appeal to the different spectrums of the genre. Even though I wasn't able to go to every film being shown, I had a great time. Unfortunately, the venue changed this year. It took place at the Regal Cinemas L.A. Live Stadium instead of at the Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. The parking is absolutely ridiculous at the new location, as you'll find yourself paying $25.00 for parking to see a couple movies. With the exception of the parking, Screamfest was an absolute blast.



The opening night of Screamfest started with The Collection , which is the sequel to the 2009 horror film The Collector. It starts where the first left off. The lead character, Arkin (Josh Stewart) escapes from the clutches of The Collector when Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick) is captured. Arkin is forced to team up with mercenaries hired by Elena's father in order to guide them through The Collector's booby trapped building to save Elena. This showing was completely sold out and the energy from the crowd was exciting. Before the lights were dimmed, director Marcus Dunstan walked to the front of the theater and delivered a nice introductory speech before the film started. As for the film itself, it focuses a lot more on action elements. While there is horror mixed in, this isn't a pure-blooded genre picture. While it's a very entertaining movie, the first entry is the better film. It provided a claustrophobic atmosphere, which was very effective. The sequel should have played off of the building more than it did. The Collection fortunately continues with the momentum held by the first feature while still providing plenty of blood and guts for those looking for brutality. This isn't a masterpiece, but those who are looking for something fun will receive that, so enjoy it for what it is. The film has a distribution deal with LD Entertainment and will be released in theaters on November 30th.



The second night of Screamfest started with a short film called Crush the Skull, which premiered before the foreign film from Germany called On Air. This horror short is an amusing take on the horror clich├ęs that we've come to know. It tells the story of a couple who are stuck in the middle of nowhere after their car breaks down. A mysterious man stops to help them. As he works on the car, the couple cautiously sits in the car trying to figure out if he's a killer or not. This enjoyable short set the tone for the feature film quite well. On Air follows Doc Rock (Markus Knuefken), who runs a pirate radio from his basement. One night, a serial killer, known as "The Night-Slasher" (Charles Rettinghaus), calls in on his show. Doc has to stop him from killing his next victim before his show goes off the air for the night. This film manages to be suspenseful and will have you on the edge of your seat. The build-up is solid, but the film becomes inconsistent. Unfortunately, the film becomes rather generic towards the final act. The ending is sure to have you rolling your eyes at the laziness of the writers. Even though the final moments leave a sour taste, Rettinghaus does an excellent job playing The Night Slasher. He's creepy and incredibly convincing. While the overall performances are solid, the same cannot be said about the characterization of the protagonist. The character doesn't make very many smart decisions and he isn't' very likable from the beginning. Once the movie kicks into high gear, you'll be able to guess every twist and turn. While the build-up is strong, it's a shame that the third act isn't able to successfully finish what it started.



Shortly after On Air was the screening for Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska's American Mary. The film tells the story of medical student Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) as she becomes increasingly broke and emotionally destroyed. She gets into the world of body modification and underground surgeries, which is where obsessed flesh artists are willing to pay anything in order to get unusual procedures done. Mary soon finds out that this "profession" leaves more marks on her psyche than she expected. This was one of my favorite films at the festival. It's a strange movie that will surely receive a cult following. Whether you love it or hate it, American Mary is sure to engage you in the film and make you feel overwhelming emotions. As far as the acting goes, Katharine Isabelle is absolutely fantastic as Mary. She conveys the character in a very effective way that will have you rooting for her, even when her actions don't necessarily make her a protagonist. While this is a well-made horror film, it isn't perfect. The transition that Mary goes through from being relatively innocent to being a ruthless underground surgeon is sudden and unnatural. She performs many actions that seem out of character and random. There's a subtle romantic angle that doesn't work very well. This is a small sub-plot the film has, which is constantly being dropped and picked up throughout the running time. The majority of the film is strong, but the third portion doesn't entirely fit in with the flow of the pacing. Regardless of these issues, American Mary manages to be a powerful and effective horror film. While the feature has a distributor, there currently aren't any specific distribution plans that have been made available, but if you're a fan of cult horror, then you should check this out when you can.



The third night started with a film that doesn't necessarily fit into the horror genre. True Love is about newlyweds Kate (Ellen Hollman) and Jack (John Brotherton). After their wedding, they awake alone in separate sealed rooms with no doors or windows. Images are projected on the walls and there's a monitor with two buttons: one for "yes" and one for "no." Jack and Kate must press one of these buttons for each question they're asked. They find themselves involved in a bizarre test to see if their relationship is held together by true love. The truth that can set them free may also threaten their lives. The best way to classify this film is as a drama/thriller influenced by Saw, but without the gore. Since the film has such a small budget, the story is primarily driven by its characters. While there are some interesting concepts, they aren't developed far enough. It often feels as if this film is playing it safe. There aren't any attempts to push this over the edge into new territory. Viewers will keep watching, waiting for the plot to transform into something new, but it doesn't happen. Hollman and Brotherton carry the movie well. Both of these actors deliver believable performances and accomplish quite a bit with such a small of space with almost nothing to interact with. True Love needed to bring something new to the table to separate itself from the crowd, but it fails to do so. This film has smooth pacing and never gets boring, but its predictability is a major issue when the feature is attempting to be suspenseful. It's forgettable, but it's still worth a rental when it's released to DVD/Blu-ray.



Would You Rather was the next feature to play on the third night. It plays with a simplistic plot, but it still manages to be somewhat effective. The story is about Iris (Brittany Snow), who is desperate to help her ailing brother. She agrees to compete in a game of "Would You Rather," which is being hosted by a sadistic aristocrat. Each round becomes more intense and the losses become bigger. The innocent version of this game is played by children around the world, so this brutal perspective is interesting. Once each round is announced to the participants of the game, you'll be able to guess what the outcomes will be for each player. Despite the fact that there aren't any surprises, Jeffrey Combs is excellent as the host of the game. He's an incredibly convincing and entertaining antagonist. Would You Rather isn't very scary or smart, but it's quite entertaining. This movie's power is used by having audiences picture themselves in the situation that the characters are in. The plot is extremely flimsy, but it's enjoyable enough to be worth checking out.



A couple days later, the Norwegian film Thale was the only feature to play on October 17th. The film follows two crime scene cleaners who come across a mysterious woman in a concealed cellar. She happens to be a mythical tailed, female creature. She never speaks a word, but the reasons for her captive begin to surface. While the film is short, it feels as if it drags on for hours. The poor pacing is a big issue with this feature. As Thale continues to play, audiences are eager for an explanation on this mythology and what's going on, but such answers aren't explained very well. The majority of the story takes place in a basement and once the scale expands a little bit, the remainder of the film feels rushed. The mythological creatures are intriguing, but we never get to know very much about them. There's absolutely no backstory and it feels as if the filmmakers are leading us on. Elvis (Erlend Nervold) and Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) are the two men who find Thale, but viewers will never find themselves rooting for either of them. Elvis makes foolish decisions, while Leo is so emotionless that audiences won't ever be able to connect with him. There are interesting concepts that lurk beneath the surface, but Thale fails to take advantage of these opportunities.



The final night of Screamfest 2012 started with Nightmare Factory. This documentary begins its story in 1989, which was when Greg Nicotero quit medical school in order to chase his dreams of making monsters for the movie industry. He teamed up with Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman to establish the KNB EFX Group, which has become one of the most well-respected make-up effects studios in the world. This film tells the story of how these men got to where they are today and provides an insight on what they do. Nightmare Factory is one of my favorite films that was shown at this film festival. Any fan of this industry can appreciate the talent and hard-work that has been put into creating all of the make-up and creature designs. It's very interesting to watch the process and learn about how this portion of the movie-making magic is developed. This documentary moves along quickly and has a lot of intriguing behind-the-scenes clips of the movies they have worked on over the years. These men have an enormous passion for what they do and it comes across clearly. There are notable interviews that are shown throughout the film from some of the biggest names in the horror industry, such as George A. Romero and John Carpenter. This documentary is a must-see for all horror fans.



Outpost Black Sun was one of the most disappointing films at Screamfest. The plot begins in the year 1945. A German scientist is working on a frightening new technology that has the power to create an immortal Nazi army. Flash forward to present day, and a task force has been deployed to Eastern Europe in order to fight a super-human army of zombie Nazis and must shut down the evil machine that's powering them before it's too late. If this group of fighters isn't able to deactivate the machine in time, the zombie Nazis will take control of the entire world. After movies such as Dead Snow, these movies have become somewhat of a guilty pleasure for many horror fans. However, this film isn't as fun as previous flicks that have a similar premise. Everything in Outpost Black Sun is unbearably generic and the action sequences are disappointing. The characters are constantly emptying their guns into the torso areas of the zombies and never seem to aim for their heads. These are some of the dumbest characters that have ever been put in a zombie flick. A group of soldiers are unable to take down only a few zombies, which is hard to believe even in a movie about undead Nazis. Even those who are looking for some B-movie cheese will find this to be a letdown.



The Factory was the last original film to be shown at Screamfest 2012. The story takes place in present day, as a killer roams the streets to abduct prostitutes during the winter season. He leaves no traces and no clues. Detectives Mike Fletcher (John Cusack) and Kelsey Walker (Jennifer Carpenter) are in charge of the case. They see that these poor women are alone in life, and in death. However, the case gets a little too personal when Mike's daughter, Abby Fletcher (Mae Whitman) is kidnapped by the same man that they've been chasing for years. Despite the promising cast, this feature has been held in a vault for a while. Warner Bros is listed as the theatrical distributor, although there hasn't even been a release date announced yet. For those of you looking forward to the release shouldn't hold their breath. The story itself is alright, but it's an incredibly predictable thriller. Audiences are sure to guess the ending by around the halfway point. John Cusack and Jennifer Carpenter carry the film quite well, but there's some clunky dialogue that couldn't be saved. The Factory isn't necessarily a bad movie, but it's just an average mystery flick with some good actors. Fortunately, the pacing is consistent and the plot never gets boring. There isn't any new ground explored in this feature, but audiences will appreciate it as a rental.

Screamfest 2012 was an incredibly fun festival to attend. My two favorite movies that premiered are American Mary and Nightmare Factory. As always, this event appeals to moviegoers who are fans of different types of horror pictures. There's something here for every fan of the genre. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend every movie the festival had to offer due to some scheduling conflicts, but I saw every movie I had the time for. The excitement didn't end with the films. Each screening has a theater room filled with fans of the genre and getting to know these festivalgoers was a real pleasure. My only major complaint about the festival would be the location. The theater itself was nice, but the parking was insanely expensive. It's difficult not to cringe at the sight of a $25.00 parking fee after seeing two movies. Other than the parking situation, Screamfest was a great way to enjoy the Halloween season and I look forward to going again next year!

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