FrightFest 2019: Dissecting FrightFest
Bloodhound Pix’s Overall Ranking: (from best to worst) Come to Daddy Here Comes Hell The Wind I Trapped the Devil A Good Woman is Hard to Find Feedback The Furies The Dark Red Dark Encounter Extracurricular
HIGHS C. As of late I haven’t been into horror-comedy since there was a recent period of time that we were over-saturated with them from indie filmmakers trying to make a name for themselves and be the next Shaun of the Dead or Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. However, I found this season the films that really stood out as unique, strong artistic voice and watchability were the ones willing to embrace the comedy. Come to Daddy and Here Comes Hell are two key examples of movies that one could find their influences but they were their own standalone movie and were a BLAST! It’s difficult for me to choose between the two because they’re both in their own category. Come to Daddy is the better movie hands down, with an amazing script but Here Comes Hell was some of the most stupid fun I’ve had watching a new movie in a long time. J. Here Comes Hell… that's it. That film was just so much my shit that I have to single that one out as my high. Come To Daddy was the most original and had the best screenplay without question. I still find myself thinking about The Wind and the absolute sense of dread and despair it presented. Everything I saw after these lost a step or more along the way in some aspect. These were the top three of Fright Fest for me. K. Besides finishing all 10 films and reclaiming my freedom, it was definitely Come to Daddy. That film more than any other gave me my money’s worth. It was the only one which truly surprised me and continually developed in new and unexpected directions narratively. LOWS C. First off, as something that I’m sure will be mentioned by the other two, all the movies we are discussing were strong on the technical level but that’s not what we’re talking about, are we fellas? Extracurricular was a wasted attempt on great social commentary and lack of character development. The Dark Red didn’t know what it wanted to be, which is why I will ultimately have a disagreement with the others and say this one was the most infuriating to me. I credit it for being a pretty movie but that, plus all the odes to the filmmaker’s influences can’t help a lack of vision, which I know Kyle really wants to discuss. J. I don't wanna be that guy that bitches about shit and so I'm gonna keep this brief but Extracurricular was the one that almost broke me. Technically, it was more than proficient but that's kinda where my praise is gonna stop. Annoying characters and an ending that wasn't deserved in the slightest. K. Extracurricular, Dark Encounter and The Dark Red all demonstrated a high level of technical skill combined with a very low level of storytelling ability, which is something I want to discuss further in the DISCUSSION! DISCUSSION K. I noticed a lot of the films were very polished technically yet very underdeveloped or poorly thought out from a storytelling standpoint. They had great shots and camera moves, quality production value, but really nothing to say. C. I can see that completely, Kyle. I think this same issue trickles into the nostalgia, reference/Easter egg-heavy movies/series as of late. There’s this point we’re at with technology now where anyone can make a pretty movie and that’s wonderful! I want everyone to be able to tell their story if they desire. But many of these movies now are replacing substance, heart, artistic voice, and engaging (they don’t need to be likable) characters with references or cool camera/editing tricks that 15 years ago would have been difficult to pull off without a higher budget. This is why I’ll give so much credit to Here Comes Hell. Is it flawed? YES! Can you spot it’s Evil Dead 2 influence a mile away? Y E S !!! But it stays true to itself and is fun enough that you can forgive the blatant homages. Does that mean in order to have a throwback it needs to be a comedy? Not at all. But it needs to remain itself. Dark Encounter seems like it’s based around the Close Encounter references, not that it’s its own movie with influences. Do we blame the impact of Tarantino, who uses the same cinematic shots or plot elements as the films that inspired his story? I don’t believe so because despite your feelings on the man, he makes the film his own. Django Unchained can be directly linked (he isn’t subtle) to many spaghetti westerns (even the name itself) but every minute of that movie I’m aware it’s a Tarantino flick.
There’s an issue that pops up in screenwriting now where everyone wants it to feel fresh… So the writer will do multiple drafts and a producer or someone will read it multiple times. To them the script becomes stagnant because of course if you’ve read the same joke or same scare it will lose its initial “wow” factor but this is for someone that’s read it many times, an audience hasn’t even seen it yet. Anyway, another writer is brought in or a complete reworking is requested in order to make it “fresh.” YAY! It’s fresh again for the producer, director, studio head, whatever. However, in doing that for their experience of the work, it might seem new to them but it’s lost all its fine-tuning needed to create a bulletproof script. This is why people instantly want to blame any issues on a poor script, which sadly can be the case but not for the reasons that the viewer is assuming. Most of the movies in the festival probably didn’t suffer from that corporate interference that I just spoke of. What I believe the case is for what is deemed independent “genre” films comes from something I heard during my years as a projectionist with special screenings, festivals, premieres, and regular showings. There was always this arrogant attitude and aggression that came with independent festivals towards the technical staff. Anyone that’s been working those festivals long enough from that position will say it’s because filmmakers at that stage feel it is their first and potentially last chance to get into the industry. Their big break! Filmmaking isn’t a collaboration! It needs to be perfect! It needs to show who they are as a filmmaker! All they can technically accomplish! Which is why you have a romantic dramedy with an incorporated mob element that feels tacked on. Or in The Dark Red’s case you have everything plus the kitchen sink. Being a projectionist for those people sucks (HAVE RESPECT FOR YOUR TECHNICIANS, YA DINGUSES) but I get it, it’s scary. You’re at a point where this could mean a career or a project that you spent years on that disappears with no reward. In that fear of showcasing all of these elements to prove their worth, they forget the most important part of the process… Themselves. Only David Lynch can make a Lynchian movie (sorry folks) and only they (insert name here) can make a (insert name here)ian movie. Ultimately we live in a time where both companies and “genre” fans don’t want an original (insert name here)ian movie but rather something Carpenter-esque or Cronenbergian (well maybe not him so much)... Well… They don’t want it until they get it. The advice that John Gulager (Feast trilogy) gave me years ago that I keep with me is, “Make the best movie that only you can make.” Others have said it too and it’s simple but necessary for one to remind themselves that in a field where we’re constantly told, “we need something like (current big movie) or (cult movie title) meets (famous movie title).” Now I bet you were expecting to start a whole tirade were you, Kyle? K. You pretty much covered the subject better than I could, Craig. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a wink and a nod to other films, and I love to trace back the influences and inspirations of my favorite films, but the issue here was the recycling of those influences without adding anything new. That’s when it becomes a pointless exercise in style, in my opinion. J. Whatever the issues were the result of, I'll never know and in the reviews we outlined the specifics in each case. The Dark Red couldn't decide what it wanted to be other than schizophrenic, supposedly like the main character. Dark Encounter started strong and then turned into a pseudo Arrival rip off of all goddamn things. And Extracurricular was… well, full of annoying as shit characters with an ending it doesn't earn in the slightest, not to mention other boneheaded things I don't even wanna think about. Now in contrast, my favorite 3 didn't have any of these issues which I suppose should go without saying but sometimes I state the obvious. C. I think what’s interesting is how much is a reflection of what audiences want too… well some specific audiences fueled by rage and nostalgia that if it doesn’t go their way then they make petitions, boycott, send death threats, you know? All the fun stuff that comes with a fictional property apparently.
*Note: There was sarcasm involved in the sentences above, I do not believe any of that to be “fun stuff” Over the last year I’ve seen so many comments from fans of the genre that are along the lines of: Fanboy Voice “That’s why the best new horror movies are set in the 80s because you can’t get away with anything nowadays with modern technology” This takes me back to when the 3 of us were finishing the MFA program and our mentor, screenwriter, Neal Marshall Stevens stated on the subject that, “If a cell phone is holding you back from telling your story, then you’re not working hard enough. Batteries die, bad reception, forget it/leave it as you’re being chased, there are a ton of reasons that can be solved with very little writing to establish that your characters don’t have cell phones.” I may be overkilling the topic that Kyle opened the doors too but I think it’s an interesting discussion one should write about with better research than us. How much blame can you place on the filmmakers, studios, and fans? Or are they all at fault? Is it a chicken or egg scenario? People saying they “hate remakes and reboots” yet they will still go and see every one of them that comes out. Am I ultimately fishing to have a more provocative discussion than is needed for our overall review of a horror film festival? J. It’s everyone’s fault. No one is without blame. And that is certainly not true but it’s a question that will never have an answer. Kinda like toxic fandom that Craig mentions. My reaction is just to say, “fuck all those people!” and then complain about the Nightmare On Elm Street remake a little bit. Speaking of Nightmare, I can’t wait for the news on… whatever we’re getting starts coming. And you know it’s gonna happen.