It’s the second night of the NYC Horror Film Festival & Your favorite deity is a bit bloody but unbowed from last night. The Black Saint has strapped on his gloves again & is ready for another round in the ring with some more Horror films to tell you about. I’m doing all of the dirty work so you won’t have to unless you want to. But I have to say that Festival Director Michael J. Hein is the consummate master of ceremonies & he knows how to motivate the crowd & obviously loves what he’s doing as well. It’s refreshing to meet someone who really loves the genre & wants to celebrate it the way he does. I love the guy!!
Let’s start with the short program for the evening. The first one comes to us from Canada & is called “Remote”. Directed by Marc Roussel, “Remote” tells the (19 min.) story of a man named Matt (Ron Basch) who during a fierce snowstorm, loses his cable signal. Every channel is filled with static but then all of a sudden he comes across a channel that’s different. One he’s never seen before, one that is the mirror image of his living room. Only with a woman staring at him that he doesn’t recognize. Her name is Justine & it seems that she is looking at Matt exactly the same way he’s looking at her. They can actually see & speak to each other but even more mysteriously, on her side of the tv, it’s 30 years earlier….
“Remote” is in essence an episode of “The Twilight Zone” all gussied up in a nice shiny package for the 21st century. As I watched it I kept waiting for Rod Serling to pop up & give one of his clench jawed descriptions of what was happening on the screen. As it is, “Remote” does hold our interest because of it’s “Old School” feel. The situation Matt & Justine find themselves in is as unbelievable to them as it is to us but the actors sell the situation just fine. The fly in the ointment appears a few moments after the two of them accept their strange predicament when Matt finds out (through his computer, which amazes her) that Justine was brutally murdered on that very night & when she gets up to go to the bathroom he sees her murderer enter the house. If you read anything I’ve written before you know I can’t tell you how this all ends up. No spoilers here!! But I can say that it takes a few twists before coming to a neat & tidy ending. It isn’t really scary but the script is engrossing & if you’re willing to suspend belief for 19 minutes or so you should be happy with the way it all ends up. If only Rod was there at the end to wrap it up….. I gave it a 4 out of 5.
Next up from France was director Gallien Guibert’s “Laura”. A quick & nasty 10 min. of terror, it tells the story of a woman who is going through a rough period in her life when the film starts. It opens with the sounds of fighting. We hear but don’t see Laura training in a gym. When she gets in her car she plays her stereo loudly & beats her steering wheel to the pounding beat coming from her speakers as she loudly sings along. When she gets home she finds an eviction notice in the mail & decides to go for a swim in a nearby lake to get her mind off of her problems. We see bruises on her back as she removes her top..are they from her exploits in the gym or from somewhere else? We’re never told & it really doesn’t matter because Laura (Margaux Delafon) is being watched from a distance by someone…
The beauty of “Laura” is the sudden shift in tone it takes when she is (of course) abducted & what he (Emmanuel Lanzi) has planned for her. Unfortunately for him, Laura has other ideas once she wakes up & is fully capable of following through with them. I’ve probably said too much but believe me when I say that “Laura” packs a pretty wicked punch (Literally). It’s as fast as greased lightning & is a crowd pleaser as well. It’s pretty f*cking funny as well, her attacker’s text message to his mom in the middle of the proceedings is pretty f*cking hilarious. Ms. Delafon is a dead ringer for Angelina Jolie with a few extra years on her & commands the screen as soon as you see her. The audience really liked this one & so did I. A 5 out of 5.
The last short was Aurelio Voltaire’s “DemiUrge Emesis”. A 3 minute exercise in stop motion, it deals with the struggles all artists must face when faced with criticism & how they deal with it. It just replaces the artist with a cat that has nine eyes (I think) & the way it deals with it’s criticism is by replacing the work they criticize with meals the cat ate & then regurgitates immediately afterwards only to eat them again until they can stay down (I guess). If you haven’t figured out by now that this is some strange sh*t then just stop reading & go to sleep. Voltaire is a talented artist & the animation is bright & gaudy & strange to look at. The voice over narration by composer Danny Elfman is perfect. He has the tone of a tortured artist articulated perfectly & you can almost feel the exhaustion in his voice. It’s not scary, not even creepy but it is entertaining & it’s really f*cking odd as well. A nice little change of pace from all of the blood & sex that the audience has endured so far (did I really just say that)? A 3 out of 5.
Now onto our feature film for the evening, a film called “YellowBrickRoad”. Directed by Andy Milton & Jesse Holland, “YellowBrickRoad” (YBR from here on) tells the tale of the population of Friar, New Hampshire who in 1940 got up as a group & walked due north together up an unmarked trail into the wild. All their personal belongings were left behind as well. Most were never seen again but those that were found were either frozen to death or horrifically massacred. Now in 2010, the coordinates for the YBR trail head are declassified & an expedition sets to find out what really happened in 1940….
It’s hard to describe my feelings for this movie right now. I say that because I honestly hated it when it was over. But I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since seeing it either. So something is going on here, something I might have to revisit in the future to really get a bearing on it. I know that the film failed for me on a few fronts. First of all, not enough time was spent on the events that took place in 1940 for me to understand why the coordinates were kept under wraps for 50 years. Secondly, the film is being recorded “Blair Witch” fashion by the members of the expedition & I gotta tell you they know how to keep a camera steady up there in New Hampshire! They must’ve brought dolly tracks along with them to ensure a nice steady picture. But in hindsight, this was a blessing in disguise because if they added “Shaky-Cam” effects to this movie I might have retched in my seat.
Why? Well once our intrepid explorers begin their journey & make some decent headway they find a hat that has an odd effect on it’s wearers & they begin to hear music. Music from the 40’s coming at them in fits & spurts. Sometimes it’s as if they’re standing in front of giant loudspeakers, sometimes it’s off in the distance but it’s constant. It rarely stops & when it does it’s only for a short while. Then it returns, clear as a bell on some occasions, distorted & maddening on others. We the audience are subjected to the same music they’re hearing & it has the same effect on us (on me at least) that it does on them. Eventually I felt myself actually feeling like I was going to go crazy if it didn’t stop (Andy Milton & Dan Brennan’s sound design is VERY important to this film). As the members of the expedition slowly start to bug the f*ck out, I felt myself starting to lose it as well. I just wanted it to stop. I really did. I began to feel nauseous & dizzy watching and listening to this f*cking movie.
That’s why I hated it initially, but then I began to think about it..what if that was the desired effect of the film? What if that’s what the filmmakers wanted to achieve? Why they would do this to potential ticket buyers is beyond me, I would think that if this were indeed the case word of mouth would kill this movie at the box office really quick. I mean, who goes to the movies to get sick? But then I began to realize that if this was indeed the plan that the filmmakers had..then they really succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. As the cast gets disoriented so do we, as they go mad I felt I was going mad as well. And when their desperation for answers is coming out from the pores of their skin, my wait for how the film would end became nearly overwhelming. Where would the path lead them? Where is the music coming from? Why won’t it stop?
Unfortunately, the ending is absolutely batsh*t. I’ll be damned if I know what it all means but I know I was angry, angry because I was left feeling like I had endured some kind of cinematic torture session & got nothing out of it. I was left as bereft of answers as the expedition was. Not too cool. And to make matters worse, I was still feeling nauseous when it was all done. So nauseous in fact that I couldn’t stay for the second feature. But as I staggered out into the night to get some fresh air & re-orient myself, I was left thinking “Is this what they wanted”? “Is this what the filmmakers wanted to achieve”? It’s a maddening proposition: A film that slowly drives you as mad as the characters on the screen eventually become. I thought of John Carpenter’s episode of Masters Of Horror, “Cigarette Burns” & it’s plot mirrors the effect this movie had on me. I’m feeling nauseous writing about it right now. How f*cking bizarre is that?
So does this make “YBR” a good movie or a bad one? It’s all in the eyes (& ears) of the beholder I suppose. All of the performances are suitably affecting & nuanced. All tech aspects (especially sound) are up to snuff as well, almost too much as a matter of fact. The film looks too good. And as I said earlier, I can’t shake this f*cker out of my head just yet. The Saint has never felt like this after a film…ever. Does this make it a good film or a bad one that just caught me on a bad day? I don’t know my acolytes..I just don’t know. I gave it a 1 out of 5 initially, but in retrospect I should’ve given it a 3-4 because of it’s effect on me.
I’ll be back soon enough with the next evenings offerings from here at the NYC Horror Film Festival soon. As soon as I can get this movie out of my head for a hot minute or so…