September 11 – 13 had us at the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival in Balboa Park.
For those who remember our interview with Miguel Rodriguez, the programmer for this film festival (check out episode 27), Miguel’s philosophy and approach was to program a festival that would not only provide “something for everyone,” but to also educate movie watchers who might fall outside of the horror genre.
It was a very full event providing a variety of films that truly did appeal to every possible type of horror fan out there. Sadly we could not watch every movie in festival due to scheduling, as well as taking time to interview a number of the filmmakers, but what we have listed below covers some of the programming blocks with comments on the movies that caught our attention.
For a look at the complete program, please check it out here.
The Rise Of Mexican Horror Panel
We had the pleasure of having our first interview of the festival, Aaron Soto who was one of the contributing directors to the movie Mexican Barbaro, and the title of his piece was Drain.
Comedy Horror Block
One of the fun aspects of this movie is the use of misdirection. All we see are two people having a conversation, first somewhat stiff, then loosening up to one another in a rather meta way that relies on movie clichés. It is here that once we think we understand what is going on that the short gives us another surprise right at the end creating a short film filled with giggles at first, and then one good laugh at the end. The cast is excellent and the setting is quite disarming. A truly well thought out and produced film short.
We interviewed Pia Thrasher, the filmmaker and one of the stars of this short.
The Bunny Man
Here again we are given a movie about monsters which can terrify children, but this one has a twist, and it all revolves around something called The Bunny Man. It’s a simple film that really has only two great gags, the first being that the Bunny Man is someone in a big rabbit suit, and that the mother of the family is not only the protector, but the provider.
Have you ever wondered what your toilet might say if could speak? Well the writer of this amusing British short did and gives us a straight up comedy when a man’s toilet gives its owner quite a lecture about toilet maintenance as well as some dietary recommendations. The horror element doesn’t come in until the very last moment in a very surprising way which could raise a few questions regarding the character of the toilet, but when you take a step back and remind yourself that this is a short about a talking toilet you immediately disregard any logical questions that might come up. It’s a truly funny short!
The Platinum Plan
Cryptic movie about the afterlife. Not so many laughs.
Balloons are evil monsters. In fact the only thing worse than the monstrous balloons are little girls who love the balloons. What made this amusing is how a bunch of balloons managed to attack their intended victim. Amusing.
The family that kills together? This movie from Spain basically shows that it’s not enough to hang your prey—you have tie it well too.
VERY French… More of a true horror film, but definitely played for laughs… Makes you think twice about death. What we found most amusing was the take on some stereotypical story elements from french cinema, including the nature of relationships.
The Barber’s Cut
A somewhat slapstick type of film dealing with body parts that are still alive after death. No logic behind this, but this is a horror short and there isn’t supposed to be any logic or reason. Instead we get a plot where some poor victims are desperate to escape after having been killed and dismembered. There isn’t much of high production value, but again this is played for laughs. It becomes something of a mix of Re-Animator, Frankenstein, and Sweeney Todd. It is a funny idea with good execution. The only weak element to the movie is that there really isn’t any ending. It just sort of stops.
I love being surprised, and this short definitely did that! Two bumbling home invaders are striving to break into a home during a holiday dinner, but all they are able to do is just find new ways to injure themselves. The final sequence looks like something that may have come out of a Sam Peckinpah or Quentin Tarantino film with FOUNTAINS OF BLOOD flowing all over the place that only gets funnier as the scene plays on. A brilliant short that reminds us that you don’t necessarily need dialogue to both amuse and horrify your audience at the same time.
ClownTown: Bombo & Flopsy in, An Honest Mis-stake
Here we have a movie that deals with people’s fear of clowns, and yet it makes the case that while American clowns are getting the bad rap in society today, French clowns of the Cirque Du Soleil type are actually far creepier. The cast is actually quite strong and the movie is filled with lots of gags all the while our two clown heroes, who have essentially become vampire hunters of sorts, are trying to eliminate the real threat that comes from the French clowns, Simon and Simone. With an excellent cast of characters that this short has there is strong hope that this could turn into a horror comedy franchise.
We interviewed the filmmakers involved with this short.
Reborn Or The Young Woman And The Snail
Another very French movie about death and keeping our loved ones alive. In fact it could be said that it was so French it did not make much sense.
LGBT Horror Film Block
Again, I love being surprised., and at the very beginning of the short the GLBT element (lesbian in this case) seems to be rather incidental, and that this short is more about “family serial killer in training,” but this short from Spain doesn’t follow some of the American stereotypes in that there is a strong GLBT element to the short, albeit not in the way we originally come to expect which delivers a truly surprising, and funny, ending to the story.
The short has a Facebook page with a trailer. Just keep in mind that the Facebook page and the trailer are entirely in Spanish, and there are no subtitles for the trailer.
You’re Killing Me
American GLBT movies tend to rely on a variety of tropes, all depending on what kind of story you’re telling. Sadly, the types of stories have all revolved around either AIDS or coming out. Even when the movie is a comedy, the tropes remain the same. However with this film the tropes are deliberate and played for laughs.
The narrative sort of revolves around two elements. We have our antagonist who relishes in killing anyone who gets in the way of his happiness, and then we have two gay friends (the movie heavily hints that they SHOULD be a couple instead of just friends) who have web series filled with comedic skits. The main plot of this story is when the two elements come together where our killer starts dating one of the friends behind the web series. It is here that the many gay tropes come into play, and while at first I found myself taking exception to these jokes, I suddenly remembered that I actually have some (gay) friends who are truly like that!
Once all is revealed the movie continues to take us on a few left turns, including the surprise appearance of a famous 80’s TV actress. The acting is VERY well done by the leads in this movie, and the horror element balances out well with the comedy. This movie also suggests that perhaps there is a place for the GLBT community in the horror genre.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEATURE FILM
We found this to be one the most artistically beautiful movies in a long time. This gorgeous Italian film from 1994 stars Rupert Everett (as Francesco Dellamorte) and is entirely in English. The filmmaking style is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and deals with a cemetery caretaker who must kill the deceased when they return as zombies. The style of this movie clearly took me back to the heyday midnight monster (or in this case zombie) movies.
At times the movie comes off as almost hallucinatory in its imagery, but all the while gives us a rich looking movie accompanied by a spectacular music score. It’s basically comprised of what could be considered story vignettes, all threaded together by Francesco’s responsibility to rid his little community of Buffalora of its zombies. If you’re a fan of artful movies, or even zombie movies, then this is a film you definitely need to see!
Cemetery Man can be purchased on Amazon.
Creature Feature film block
We were surprised by this short as it did not fall into what we were expecting out of Mexican Horror based on our interview with Aaron Soto. The film style has a very graphic sense of realism to it making the viewer almost FEEL what is going on in the movie. The fact that it borrows from the Luchadore (masked Mexican wrestling) is a strong cultural element to the film, but it has a strong violence element, not to mention a story idea that borrows from Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well as Motel Hell.
We interviewed the film’s director, Gigi Saul Guerrero which revealed a great deal as to why the short film had the tone that it did.
Supernatural film block
One of the creepiest movies I’ve seen in a long time, where photography can be used in a supernatural, stalking sort of way. It also deals with how people view themselves, how they wish to be viewed, and what happens when that goal is met. The open ended nature of the short only added to the creepiness of the short which left me feeling both weirded out and very unsettled.
We interviewed the producer and director, Greg Lowe (and his girlfriend, Alyssa, who influenced the ending of the short)
Japanese influenced horror about a ghost/demon hunting a man who has just received bad news. His day is getting worse! Good effects to raise the tension and excellent cinematography. There is clearly more to this story which I would love to see filmed. What helps this film is the borrowing of classic Japanese horror element, but wrapping it up in a modern “western” way of storytelling. It is definitely worth watching.
We interviewed the director Pablo Absento
Simple produced short about sleep walking, or is it? Do our doppelgänger a sleep walk for us?
The fact that teenagers made this movie only magnifies the significance of this short. While the movie made use of some low budget filming techniques, the ideas used in this short were quite impressive and imaginative. It will be interesting to see more work from these young filmmakers. This shows us that perhaps when we see someone sleepwalk it really isn’t us. Is it a doppelgänger, or is it a physical manifestation or our dream state? The short leaves it unanswered as the purpose of this is really just to surprise and creep the viewer out, which it did successfully.
El Aura Azul
Sometimes ghost stories are still the best, and this one clearly rates up there. It makes good use, if not clichéd, of lighting and shadows. It played on a clever idea, but had good use of misdirection at the end which drew a gasp from the audience at the end. Excellent foreign horror film.
Lady In The Walls
This is a locally produced film about ghost stories and legends that plays on the old “let’s scare the kids with ghost stories” idea. Growing up we are all introduced to the ghost story legend, and how we are all afraid that we could be drawn into that story. Having it take place in an old girl’s school heightens the unease as the story unfolds. The ending is somewhat predictable, but for this film it wasn’t so much about the ending as it is about the overall atmosphere of the movie.
Very creepily, and somewhat disturbing Japanese movie about a woman, her relationship with a cactus as well as an open wound on her arm and how it wishes to feed. Lots of strong imagery, but confusing story narrative.
In the past some kids go playing in an abandoned, ghostly looking theme park, and the ramifications from that as adults, especially when one of them is lost on then”ghost train.”
My conclusion is that these stories aren’t so much driven by a coherent, linear storyline, but rather based on the idea of just tapping into people’s primal fears, more in line of using images to drive the reactions from the audience than an actual coherent storyline.
Horror Animation Block
Stop motion cult sacrifice
Pencil drawn demon battles
Beyond The Treeline
Classic animated short with a camping trip into the woods between father and son. No dialogue and what happens when you let your imagination run away from you, for if it does something tragic might very well happen. This was a horrifyingly sad animated short.
Don’t let your writing get the best of you
Single pencil line animation. Not much story
Very Ren and Stimpy in both animation style and humor.
Stop motion imaginative short with cloth puppets.
Marrying The Sea
Unusual animated film about a man’s battle with the sea.
In The Tall Grass
Computer animated, very European… No dialogue and no story. Just creepy setting and sounds.
Animated short shows what the world would be like if no one had a mouth and you wanted to communicate. The horror element is rather bloody and quite funny!!!
The Straw Man
Don’t abuse scarecrows, even animated ones or else you’ll end up like them.
Very short “short” about monsters that devour newborns. Very unusual.
The Last Resort
Animation done in what seems to be much like The Simpsons, but quickly changes to the style of Southpark, all dealing with a spoiled little girl who feels she should be the center of all attention, and when she doesn’t get it is when the short gets both macabre and funny.
Fun story that shows what kind of battle civil office workers go through, battling monsters and demons, just to get paperwork stamped and approved.
Tragic horror about a girl who is made of junk and treated as such, even to the point of being thrown away. However it does have an extremely clever Toy Story kind of twist. Very dark and sad. Perhaps that it comes from Iran is why it has such a deep, sad tone to it. This short is less a horror and truly more of a tragedy.
Horrible Imaginings 2015 Film Festival Awards
Best Score in a Short Film – Mr. Dentonn
Best Score in a Feature Film – You’re Killing Me
Best SFX in a Short Film – El Gigante
Best SFX in a Feature Film – Caedes: Forestglade Of Death
Best Cinematography in a Short Film – La Ropavejera (The Huckster)
Best Cinematography in a Feature Film – Valley Of The Sasquatch
Best Actor in a Short Film – Steve Wall (Ghost Train)
Best Actress in a Short Film – Fionnuala Kennedy (Bunny)
Best Actress in a Feature Film – Lena Baader (Caedes)
Best Actor in a Feature Film – Matthew McKelligon (You’re Killing Me)
Best Director of a Short Film – Gigi Saul Guerrero (El Gigante)
Best Director of a Feature Film – Jim Hansen (You’re Killing Me)
Funniest Horror-Comedy – The Barber’s Cut
Best Animated Film – Junk Girl
Best “Monster Show” Short – The Smiling Man
Best Dramatic Short – La Ropavejera (The Huckster)
Best Feature Film – Caedes: Forestglade Of Death
Special Contribution to Cinema – Arianne Ulmer-Cipes
Here is a link to the complete list of winners including the Audience Favorites (not available at press time).
Panel for Bluebeard’s Castle
The negative for this movie was preserved, and was bought by Ullmer’s daughter for preservation purposes with the film academy.
The print looks beautiful due to the preservation of the film negative. I saw few artifacts and the audio sounds amazingly clean. The movie is less a horror film and more of an art film with some of the most beautiful cinematography for its time.
Valley Of The Sasquatch
Monster movie by a local filmmaking team, this could be classified as a “B” monster movie with Bigfoot as the monster. The movie takes its time in developing its cast of characters and the circumstances which brings them to the setting where the monster mayhem is to take place. The cinematography is nice in making good use of the woods in the state of Washington, and the setting in the woods helps to create a sense of claustrophobia, especially at night. Scenes taking place in the cabin were oddly reminiscent of the original Night Of The Living Dead with the confined space that our humans have to deal with. The gore factor does increase after a time which creates uneasy laughs from the audience. Bigfoot itself looks rather poor at times, but since Bigfoot arguably doesn’t exist we must accept what the movie presents. The tension is fun and the final confrontations with the family of Bigfoot is a good payoff for a monster movie of this type. If there is a downside to this movie is that the film’s most likable character is the first to die. What breaks with cliché is how it happens. Other than that this is a fun late night/midnight monster flick.
We interviewed the movie producer Matt Medisch
While we didn’t have an opportunity to see all of the films in the festival (due to scheduling as well as conducting interviews), the movies we did see were definitely beyond the typical slasher film which has become quite predominant in American Cinema for the past several decades (with zombie movies beginning to make a resurgence). With movies ranging from comedic (You’re Killing Me) to incredibly artful (Bluebeard, Cemetery Man) it’s safe to say that the primary mission of the film festival, that being to educate and enlighten people as to the incredible depth that makes up the overall horror movie genre, was a success. Miguel Rodriguez has done an amazing job at curating and programming this festival and I can safely say that the Two Gay Geeks have had their collective eyes opened.
While we may not embrace slasher films or horror movies that fall under the “natural born killer” umbrella, we will keep more of an open mind when it comes to horror movies in general, and we are already eagerly looking forward to next year’s Horrible Imagining’s Horror Film Festival.