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Jonathan Weichsel Written by Jonathan Weichsel
Oct. 8, 2013 | 3:39 PM





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SHRIEKFEST 2013 Favorites

By Jonathan Weichsel

2013 marks the 13th annual Shriekfest and my fifth consecutive year reviewing the festival. This year’s lineup of films was much stronger than years past, and featured one true masterpiece, something very rare at a genre festival. What follows are my favorite films from the weekend, in the order that I liked them.



Found:

Marty is a fifth grade boy growing up in 1980’s suburbia, who uses horror movies to escape the dismal reality of his existence. The pain that Marty goes through on a daily basis, pain that comes from his family, which looks so happy on the surface but is in reality so miserable, and from school, where he is horribly bullied, while the perpetrators get nothing more than a slap on the wrist, can be difficult to watch. Found really made me remember what it was like being a kid in the 1980’s, and made me look in a different way at all the pain and resulting anger that goes along with childhood. 

Found is a horror film that is about emotional horror as much as it is about physical horror. Not that there isn’t any physical horror. The gore in Found is completely over the top, in that imaginative, 1980’s sort of way that we all miss. But it is the emotional horror in Found that is so raw that it will cut you as sharp as any knife or axe. The turmoil that Marty goes through at home and school is so palpable, and so suffocating, that when the physical horror finally came, in the form of a film within the film, it provided such a cathartic release that it actually made me remember why I fell in love with horror all those years ago in the first place.

Watching Marty browse the horror aisle at the VHS shop, examining the box covers with wide but critical eyes, it is easy to understand why he chose horror as his avenue of escape. But while Marty chose horror, horror also chooses him. Although Marty’s life is really unbearable, lacking any sense of order or fairness, he doesn’t start to question things until he learns that his older brother, Steve is a serial killer.

It is the conflict between Marty and Steve that drives the story forward, as Marty finds himself both fascinated and repulsed by his older brother’s actions, and struggles to understand them.

Found is a film about the pain and anger of growing up in a 1980’s suburb, and how a young loner deals with his frustrations by escaping into horror movies. The film puts you in the head of a fifth grade boy, showing us thoughts and conversations that are so real it’s frightening.  Found is a true masterpiece of horror filmmaking. Raw and uncompromising, Found is the best new American horror film I have seen in years.


The Shower—Trailer from Alex Drummond on Vimeo.



The Shower:

Filmmakers have long used the zombie swarm as a commentary on society, and zombie films are as much about the segment of society that they take place in as they are about zombies. So Dawn of the Dead, which takes place in a shopping mall, is about consumerism, while Shaun of the Dead is about life as a working class stiff in London.

The shower, while not exactly a zombie film, follows the same general formula, and does so very, very well. The Shower is set at a Los Angeles baby shower full of Hollywood wannabes and nobodies. There are a bunch of actors who have done a few commercials, a writer who had a small success a few years ago, and all the aging men and women masking their desperation behind phony smiles and grandstanding one would expect at such a shindig.

When there is an outbreak of people suddenly turning crazy and killing each other, these pathetic Hollywood wannabes must work together in order to survive. Working together proves to be more difficult than it sounds, because many of them are truly awful people.

The Shower is a horror comedy, and the humor works because of how realistically the film depicts a certain Hollywood type. I live in Hollywood, and I can attest that there are many aging, delusional people here who are exactly like the characters in this film. I am not one of them however. I am a young 35.

I don’t know if anybody who doesn’t live in Hollywood will believe a single frame of this film, just because Hollywood is so not how outsiders expect, but I really felt like I knew the people up on the screen, and think The Shower will become a local hit.



Abducted:

Abducted is a sci-fi action thriller done right. This story, about a man and woman in love who are kidnapped by mysterious forces that perform bizarre medical experiments on them, is elevated by gritty, realistic production values and acting, and a script that treats its characters like human beings and keeps you guessing at the mysteries surrounding them.

Often in movies such as this there is no tension because the characters are too stupid to be believed. In Abducted, however, the characters make smart, sometimes unexpected choices, and make legitimate efforts to escape from where they are being held.

The tension is ramped up to high from start to finish and there are real scares and real suspense in almost every scene. Abducted might follow familiar ground, but it does so in a way that feels new and fresh. I found myself invested in the characters throughout, something that doesn’t usually happen with this sort of film.



Judas Ghost:

Judas Ghost is a supernatural film set in a single room. It follows a ghost hunter who is part of a British governmental agency that deals with supernatural phenomenon, who gets trapped with his team by a very malignant spirit.
What makes this film, which is spun off from a popular series of British novels, stand out is how unapologetically British it is. This is a film made with a touch of British class and a twist of dry British wit.
Although it all takes place in one room, Judas Ghost never loses your interest. Martin Delany does a great job as the lead Ghost Hunter, and brings a Doctor Who type of quirkiness to the role. The rest of the team of ghost hunters does a great job as well, as they battle the malignant spirit and are killed off one by one.
The special effects and production design deserve special mention. No, Judas Ghost doesn’t look like a Hollywood movie, but there was obviously a lot of care put into the look of the film, and a lot of attention paid to little details that pays off on screen, making Judas Ghost the best looking film at Shriekfest this year, and better looking than most indie horror films. 


2 Comments:

  1. This is a great recap of an incredible indie-horror festival! There was so much talent on display.

    We’re agreed on most of your choices, except Found. Apart from the strong performance from its young lead (Marty), Found held no entertainment value for me whatsoever and seemed to insist that (coupled with some relatively minor incidents of household dysfunction) horror films will likely inspire your children to commit heinous and despicable acts of murder. Suffocating is a great way to describe it.

    Of course, this one is polarizing by design and it is engaging on a car-accident-on-the-highway kind of level, but overall it just didn’t work for me.

    But one that I did love that you didn’t mention was Devil in my Ride. That was loads of fun and often had me laughing out loud.

    Posted by Bruce on 10/09 at 06:52 AM
  2. Hey Jonathan,

    Thanks for all those kind words about The Shower.  I really appreciate it!  Shriekfest was our first festival.  It was an awesome experience and there were great audiences all weekend long.  We had a blast.  Thanks again!  —Alex

    Posted by Alex on 10/09 at 08:26 PM

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