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Event Review: 2012 NYC Horror Film Festival: Day One

New York City has had a bad couple of weeks. Both Hurricane Sandy & Nor’easter Athena unleashed their wrath on the city & it’s five boroughs. But the late Michael J. Hein’s dream of NYC having it’s own horror film festival lives on despite mother nature’s best efforts to thwart it. The combined efforts of some very dedicated people have brought the festival back after a year off and it’s bigger and better than ever! Along with a full slate of shorts & features from around the world in competition, the one & only Rob Zombie (Along with the lovely Sheri Moon Zombie) is making an appearance to receive the Michael J. Hein personal achievement in direction award. And master of horror Wes Craven will be appearing this Saturday to collect the “Lifetime Achievement Award” which is certainly deserved.

But I’m here to talk about opening night and the array of shorts & features that were chosen to open the festivities. There were five shorts and two features that were on display for a raucous crowd ready for some hard core horror shenanigans and all of us left with smiles on our faces when the evening was over…

Shorts Program

Written & Directed by Gregory Erdstein
Synopsis: A man. A tumour. Twins.

The tale of brain tumor victim Steve Swanson (Simon Lyndon) and the heretofore hidden symbiotic twin brother that was growing inside of his head. Some nifty stop motion effects help to make this short effectively creepy and understated performances by the cast make it compelling. A really creepy ending helped to make it a winner. 3 out of five shrouds.

Written & Directed by Billy Hanson. Based on a Stephen King short story.
Synopsis: A disgraced surgeon stranded on a deserted island with no food and only a handful of supplies must go to great lengths to stay alive for rescue that may never come.

The worst of the evenings short program, “SURVIVOR TYPE” tells the story of a disgraced physician Richard Pine (Gideon Emery) who finds himself the only survivor of a tragedy at sea, alone on a island with no food & only a few bottles of water & some first aid equipment to get by. Some wonky camerawork (Especially during the scenes on the island) made this a bit of a hard slog for me. It seemed like it was an effort to keep Emery in frame a lot of the time. A bland effort from Emery in the lead didn’t help matters much either but all in all a decent enough effort. It does feature the most wince inducing ankle breaking scene since “Misery” which was also based on a Stephen King novel. 2.5 out of 5 shrouds.

Written by Ted Geoghegan. Based on a story by Michael Gruosso, George A. Taramas & Frank Sabatella
Directed by Frank Sabatella
Synopsis: Death on your doorstep!

The people that brought us “NIGHT OF THE LIVING HEADS” are back with a bloody blast of gore and entrails! Reminiscent of “THE BLOB”, NIGHT OF THE PUMPKIN is the story of a demonic halloween pumpkin that is on a rampage consuming innocent people left & right. Featuring a nifty animated credit sequence and an attractive cast it’s an over the top blood bath that is both funny and disgusting. Toss in some gratuitous nudity, hysterically overwrought performances & a really hungry pumpkin and you get 16 minutes of over the top mayhem and fun! Sure to be a contender for Best Short at festival’s end. 4.5 out of 5 shrouds.

Written by Nick Ward
Directed by James Cunningham
Synopsis: The great white hunter is showing of his collection methods of rare Venusian wildlife – all guns blazing.

Based on the world of Dr Grordbort by Greg Broadmore, “THE DEADLIEST GAME” is an amazing looking short telling the story of Lord Broadforce (Geoff Houtman), his assistant, Carruthers (Simon McKinney) & Millicent Middlesworth (Morgana O’Reilly) who are riding something that looks like an AT-AT from “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” on Venus, ostensibly to gather some specimens but Broadforce kills everything they come across as he recounts tales of his bravery in war to Millicent. It features some amazingly effective CGI animation and a funny little story which only takes up a scant seven minutes. I wanted to see so much more of it after it was over. 4.5 out of 5 shrouds.

Written & directed by Ian Wolfley
Synopsis: Nathan’s one-night stand ends abruptly when his date finds an alarming growth on his body…

Holy crap! It has been years…nay decades since I have actually sank in my seat in a theater with my hands over my eyes attempting to avoid what was happening on the big screen. Even longer before I groaned in disgust and dismay during a movie but “BUG CHASER” managed to get me (& most of the audience I saw it with) to do all of that…at the same time! The story of a promiscuous man (Brendon Shucart) & the discovery of something that looks like a boil in his ass crack, it soon turns into a extremely effective gross out featuring the poor guy trying to excise the rapidly growing pustule by any means necessary. Featuring full frontal male nudity & some scenes that WILL make you uncomfortable no matter if you’re straight or gay, it was the best & most disturbing short of the evening. 5 out of 5 shrouds.

Feature Films

Written by Patrick Rea & Kendall Sinn
Directed by Patrick Rea
Synopsis: A mother and her three daughters seeking refuge from a tornado end up trapped in the cellar of an elderly woman & her beastly children, who are hungry…

A real surprise, “NAILBITER” is about a mom, Alice (Emily Boresow) and her three daughters who are on the way to pick up her husband from the airport after serving duty in the armed forces. Along the way they are waylaid by a tornado and they manage to find shelter in the cellar of a seemingly abandoned home. They soon find out that the house is not only not abandoned but the owner has some kids that aren’t really kids at all (At least not in the human sense) & not only are there more than a few of them…they’re hungry too! The story moves pretty quickly and gets to it’s central conceit with little to no muss or fuss. It features some excellent acting and direction along with some first rate tornado effects and some effectively underseen make up effects. It does manage to toss in a few bits of unnecessary nonsense along the way but besides a subplot featuring mom dealing with her alcoholic past (Which goes nowhere) & a silly plot contrivance featuring some old newspapers explaining what the hell is going on, they are hardly deal breakers. The film is well paced, great looking and scary to. Although the real deal is never really explained (It all has something to do with the storms & how they affect the locals) it never becomes bigger than it’s britches and try to explain away certain plot points by not explaining them. Throw in a fairly effective musical score and the cliffhanger style ending which I hope results in a sequel, “NAILBITER” is just that! 4 out of 5 Shrouds.

Written By Tibor Takacs, Joseph Farrugia
Directed by Tibor Takacs

Although it was presented in 2D, “SPIDERS 3D” is a nice little homage to the giant monster films of the fifties. Starring Patrick Muldoon & Christa Campbell it’s about a Russian satellite that partly crashes onto the tracks of a NYC subway station after getting hit by some wayward asteroids. The satellite was full of genetically altered spiders (Long story…) and once back on Earth they want nothing more than to grow, feed & breed. Oh…and help their queen gain enough strength to emerge from her egg and wreak havoc! Featuring some very well done CGI spiders and a hella awesome queen spider that is as big as a house & roars like Godzilla, it’s a harmless way to kill 90 or so minutes. At times I got the feeling I was watching a modestly budgeted SYFY flick but it’s much better than the boys at SYFY can rustle together right now. Director Tibor Takacs (THE GATE, I, MADMAN) and his crew know they’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here. They just want to deliver a fun little movie that has some heart and in that aspect they delivered in spades. Perhaps a tad too long it’s still a good little movie that delivers exactly what it’s poster promises…giant spiders chasing people around the streets of NYC (Although it was filmed in Bulgaria). Nicely played lead roles from both Muldoon & Campbell help a lot and the “Ick” factor is always present. 3 out of 5 Shrouds.

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