Focusing on Horror Films at SXSW Film 2007
Grindhouse 101 panel with Harry Knowles (L) Robert Rodriguez (R)
By Anna Hanks AUSTIN, TEXAS, USA. At the 13th Annual South by Southwest Film Festival, science fiction, supernatural and horror films comprised an increasingly larger proportion of the festival’s 600 plus films, according to SXSW film programmer Matt Dentler, 27. Among the events at the spring festival was the “Grindhouse 101” panel where “GRINDHOUSE” director Robert Rodriguez and Harry Knowles of Aintitcoolnews.com discussed their appreciation of the vintage low-budget films with shocking gimmicks that were played in the old theaters known as grindhouses. Rodriguez also described enjoying the emotional release of watching a good horror film. Knowles later led “Panel of the Dead, Horror Films of Today.” Here are some top festival picks– listed in roughly the order you should try and see them– as well as films to avoid.
RECOMMEDED HORROR FILMS:
Grimm Love (d. Martin Weisz) First time feature director Weisz eerily draws you inside the story of cannibal Oliver (Thomas Kretschmann) and his willing victim Simon (Thomas Huber), whom he met on the Internet. Sound familiar? It’s based on a 2001 German cannibal case. Amazingly. Kretschmann succeeds in making the cannibal extremly sympathetic, and the killing seem like an intimate, thoughtful act of seduction. The haunting film is told via discoveries made by an American graduate student (Keri Russell) obsessed with the case. Grimm Love might be the most disturbing psychological horror film ever made. Days after seeing it I awoke from a horrific dream where I was attempting cannibalism on a late friend. On Netflix.
Borderland, (d, by Zev Berman), world premiere, is a gory political-horror movie set on the lawless Texas-Mexico border. The stunning film is a taut and terrifying thriller that begins with a brutal and unconventional killing that left the film crew ashen-faced. It’s based on the Mexican Santeria-based cult that practiced human sacrifice in the 1980’s, torturing and killing dozens in rituals to spiritually protect a drug cartel. Berman excellently shows the horror that humans can inflict on each other.
RECCOMENDED HORROR COMEDIES:
UNDEAD OR ALIVE: A ZOMBEDY
Undead or Alive: A Zombedy (d Glasgow Phillips) world premiere, is a tightly constructed “buddy movie.” Misfits Chris Kattan and James Denton are thrown together while outrunning zombie cowboys created by Native American tribal leader Geronimo. Great special effects and a tight script make for a fantastic light and gory film.
American Zombie (d. Grace Lee) is a standout film,about making a fake documentary about the American zombie. This first feature from documentary filmmaker Grace Lee is a tongue-in-rotting-cheek portrayal of zombie subculture. Brilliant dead-on details include: feuding filmmakers, dead-serious zombie advocates, scientists, historians, and the zombie rights supporters chanting “We’re here. We’re dead. Get used to it.”
Murder Party (d. Jeremy Saulneir) is a superb witty comedy where loner Christopher finds an invitation to a NYC Halloween “murder party.” Wrongly assuming it’s a real party, he soon finds himself the captive of hipster artists vying to kill him in the way that will make the biggest,bloodiest artistic splash, thus generating the most artistic grant money. A fantastic use of 18 shooting days by the Lab of Madness collective. On Netflix.
SCRAMBLED BEER Scrambled Beer (d. Christobal Valderrama) world premiere, starts as a science fiction romp. Vladimir, (who mixes eggs, beer and sugar for his morning meal) has seemingly become detached from time. He starts waking up months in the past, then far into the future. Is it his drinking? Yet in this Chilean picture, everything isn’t as it seems. In the middle, the film transforms into a dark comedy with an unlikely villein.
Fido (d. Andrew Currie)–This thought-provoking film about a lonely young boy who becomes friends with the tamed (by an electronic collar) zombie that his mother (Carrie Anne Moss) acquired from ZomCon is more of a horrible warning about the unchecked power of corporations in America than it is a horror movie.
Imprint (d. Michael Linn) world premiere, is a slow yet intriguing supernatural film about interaction between the spirit and real worlds in Native American culture.
The Signal (d David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry) is an eerie static emanating from televisions, mobiles and radios that transforms almost anyone hearing it into an indestructible bloodthirsty monster. The film is confused –sometimes it’s a comedy, sometimes straight horror — doubtless because of the three directors independently shooting the film’s different sections. Interesting but imperfect and anti-climactic.
NOT REALLY FOR US:
ELVIS AND ANABELLE
Elvis and Anabelle (d Will Geiger ) world premiere, the tale of an unlicensed mortician Elvis and the dead beauty-queen he wakes with a kiss is only an ordinary boy meets girl love story. Nothing fantastical.
AUDIENCE OF ONE
Audience of One (d Michael Jacobs), world premiere, is a documentary about an American Evangelical church struggling to make an epic cross between “Star Wars” and “The Ten Commandments” .While it’s a fascinating study of how not to make an independent film, it contains only whispers of science fiction.
Them (d. David Moreau, Xavier Palud), about a couple trapped in a isolated Romanian house tormented by invisible assailants left the sparse audience laughing.
Trigger Man , (d. Ti West.) world premiere, is a disappointing tale of tale of three hunters becoming the hunted. It’s painfully clear it was filmed by West and friends in seven days, without a real script. Don’t bother. Perhaps West will do better directing “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever.”