First of all, if you haven’t read my appeal on behalf of the Portage Theater, go read that first. Seriously.

Okay, so now that you’re back…I seem to remember that the Indie Horror Film Festival was the one that used to run at the Egyptian in De Kalb. Spook Show Entertainment recently made a deal to move all of its fests to the Portage, and that includes the Indie Horror Film Festival.

Unlike the Movieside events I’ve covered (Terror in the Aisles, the Music Box Massacre), the IHFF was a multi-day event, so I’m breaking coverage up day-by-day for your reading convenience.

* * *

Inital thoughts: I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the IHFF: “indie” is one of those words that’s so nebulous that it’s almost meaningless, particularly when it comes to film. I mean, yes, independent from the Hollywood studio establishment, but how far do you take that? Do the so-called “mini-majors” such as Lionsgate or Dreamworks count? How about films that are self-financed but score distro deals with the majors? I have some sympathy for Drudgie’s definition of what “indie” isn’t (as laid out in his review of Dead Bodies Everywhere), although the definition doesn’t really cover what “indie” is independent from.

“Indie” can run the gamut from slick (if low-budget) productions with known actors to “backyard” productions from a gang of friends with a video camera and a few thousand bucks to spend. Most of the IFHH’s offerings fall into the latter category, and indeed there was a lot of local talent on display (and indeed, if you were paying attention to the credits, you started seeing a lot of names pop up on four or five productions–I think I saw a third of Heather Dorff’s body of work over three days).

Let’s all go to the lobby: Like the Movieside events, there are a number of special guests and merch tables set up in the lobby. Horror novelist John Everson, whose name rings a faint bell, was present on all three days. Ari Lehman, who played young Jason Voorhees in the first Friday the 13th film, was present on Friday. I had expected a couple of video vendors to be present, hawking wares, but there really wasn’t.

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And now, on to the movies!

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Plastic (Jose Carlos Gomez, 2010)

I really enjoyed this one. Very grim and gritty, a bit reminiscent of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer in tone. My one word of warning is that it’s very, very bleak. For example, there’s only three characters we ever really get to know well. There’s the serial killer, who’s, well, a serial killer (and not the funny kind). There’s the serial killer’s neighbor, who’s whiny, embittered and generally unpleasant. And then there’s the serial killer’s probation officer; if I wanted to give you an accurate account of how that guy’s an asshole, I’d need an extra blog post. Suffice it to say that this is not the sort of horror movie you want to watch if you need to be cheered up.

Note: one of my best friends used to be a probation officer. She didn’t carry a gun and handcuffs while on the job. On the other hand, she did work in the ‘burbs…maybe things are different in Cook County.

The next movie listed on the schedule was a 15-minute short named “Dream Lover,” but that wasn’t screened. Instead we got…

Music video: “The Dying Anthem” by Illusion’s Fate (Derek Cox & Dan Finnen, 2012)

The video was okay. I wasn’t much impressed with the song; the music’s okay, but the lyrics are a bit overwrought. Then again, it’s not really a style of music I’m predisposed to like.

One of the cast members is Tara O’Shea. Wonder if it’s the same Tara O’Shea that used to show up at Chicago TARDIS (and presumably still does)? If it is, I didn’t recognize her.

Short Film Block

The Duty of Living (Brandon Hunt, 2010)

Zombies. It’s very good–an examination of the human cost of a zombie apocalypse. My problem with it is, and I fully admit that this is just me, that I am dead sick of zombie apocalypses and I wish horror/geek culture would go find something else to fixate on for a few years. Another case of my personal prejudices getting in the way–if you like zombie apocalypses you should make every effort to catch this one.

Obligatory classic zombie movie reference: a minor character is named Romero.

Betania (Andrea Giomaro, 2010)

More zombies. I just did not care for this one, eggggggh.

My main problem is, it’s in Italian, and the translated subtitles are very bad–two great examples: “I am a living dead!” and “Have you problem with your father?” Babelfish would have done a better job. If the subs had been better, I might have liked it more.

Obligatory classic zombie movie references: the protagonist’s family name is Fulci.

The Hitchhiker (Kenneth Truelsen, 2011)

More faux-Grindhouse stylistic touches, which I thought were particularly indulgent–I can understand doing stuff like that if you’re trying to convince an audience that the film was actually made in the ’70s or ’80s, but in this case, no attempt was made to hide the fact that Lars’s car has a CD player and a GPS unit. And the acting was terrible.

The guy who plays Lars is named Per Knudsen, and I swear I know that name from somewhere.

Ed and the Awakening (Patrick Love, 2011)

This one is very uneven. This is a movie that could have gone in a satirical direction but instead chooses to follow the path of a silly/stupid comedy–it’s David Icke‘s take on Attack of the Killer Tomatoes instead of David Icke’s take on They Live. I would have liked the satire better. It’s paced very, very poorly, with a lot of material that simply doesn’t need to take as long as it does. The film ends on a cliffhanger, setting itself up for a sequel without really earning it.

In its defense, it’s occasionally very, very funny. Unfortunately it’s not consistently so. I would have given it a pass if the laughs had come a bit more often; personally, I’d rather see a comedy that’s a constant string of fair-to-good gags than one that’s got a dozen great gags and a lot of crickets chirping in between.

Vamperifica (Bruce Ornstein, 2011)

This was easily not only the best feature of the night, but the best feature of the whole damn festival. I will stump for it eagerly and without shame. One of the things I complain about the most in horror-comedies is that most of ’em don’t know how to balance the scares and the laughs. This one gets it exactly right. Add to the mix fantastic direction and a killer cast (one hopes the film’s writer/lead actor, Martin Yurkovic, becomes a massive star one day) and you have a recipe for a real winner.

If you like vampire movies, or if you like horror-comedies, you owe it to yourself to see it. Period.

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Tomorrow–Saturday, March 24: Vampires that don’t sparkle, writers who can’t write, and a haunted-house movie that doesn’t go nowhere. Also: remember kids, it’s okay to cut yourself if it’s for the right reasons.

7 thoughts on “Indie Horror Film Festival 2012: Day One

    1. Oh jeez, that entire mess. It’s too bad I found out about that after I bought that e-book copy of The Girl Next Door…’cuz it’s a Dorchester edition.

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      1. THE RISING is what he’s best known for, and it is the book that started his Dark Tower-esque LABYRINTH work. However, it is out of print, and it is going for $900 on Amazon. (And that’s a paperback book, not a limited edition hardcover.) I would also recommend THE CONQUERER WORMS and DARK HOLLOW (I don’t know if they’re out of print or not). Anything out of print is coming back via Deadite Press, so keep an eye out for that.

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