Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shaun Luu Horror Fest 2009

Last weekend most of the Samurai Dreams writers and I drove to Syracuse, NY for the fifth annual Shaun Luu Horror Fest. Held as a fund-raiser in memory of Syracuse-based hardcore singer and horror-nut Luu (who died of brain cancer), the fest is a two day marathon of genre flicks and hardcore music. We were there for the films only, eight 35mm prints* shown in a row at the Palace Theatre. While they showed some pretty strong stuff this year, none of it can compare to what they've shown in the past. Can you imagine the 2008 fest, which featured Salo, Holy Mountain, Re-Animator and Cannibal Holocaust!? Insane!

Never in my life have I sat through so many movies in a row. While it was a great experience, by the end I was tired and my eyes were totally wrecked. Check the lineup: Ghostbusters 2, Monster Squad, Black Devil Doll, City of the Living Dead, Deep Red, Cannibal Ferox, The Warriors and The Thing! I thought I'd post a play-by-play of the marathon.

Ghostbusters 2. I hadn't seen this in probably ten years, so it was interesting to revisit it on the big screen. This was the "family friendly" portion of the fest, and GB2 began at about 1pm after some introductions from fest organizers. As much fun as I had, my enjoyment was blunted slightly by my anticipation for seeing Monster Squad. Not surprisingly, this was probably the best-looking print of the night aside from Grindhouse Releasing's restored print of Cannibal Ferox.

Monster Squad. Yes! This was the flick I was looking forward most to seeing on the big screen. I would have loved to have seen this one as a kid, so this was major wish fulfillment. I noticed so much I hadn't before (the complete matte painting of the town seen from Sean's roof at the beginning, the Being poster in the clubhouse, etc). And the print was in great shape too, which I wasn't expecting.

After Monster Squad there was a two hour break, and we went to a cool vegan restaurant in the area. Drinking a bottle of Kombucha boosted my stamina levels.

Black Devil Doll. The only contemporary film of the fest, this is the debut feature from Rotton Cotton's Jon Lewis. Billed as a cross between Child's Play and Dolemite, the titular villain is an executed black serial killer reincarnated in the body of a wooden ventriloquist dummy. He spends the rest of the film killing women and raping their corpses, shitting on people and quoting Chapelle's Show. As tasteless and offensive as this low budget flick tries to be, it's more dull than anything, and I actually dozed off at one point. While I admire Lewis for making this small movie and promoting the hell out of it--and for releasing those awesome VHS-company logo shirts at RC--this really just isn't my kind of thing.

City of the Living Dead. The second in Fulci's trilogy of zombie films, I was really excited to see this one for the first time. A rare uncut print with dutch subtitles was used, and it took me about fifteen minutes to stop instinctively looking at them, even though the dialog was spoken in english. Of all the films, this felt the most unique to me, because when do you get a chance to see something like this in the theatre? The maggot-shower scene was particularly gross on such a huge screen. By this point the theatre was pretty packed, and I really felt that the audience was in synch. A totally respectful and enthusiastic crowd.

Deep Red. While it was still great to see, this was probably the most damaged and faded print of the night. But man, it ruled to hear that music at such volume. I think I may have dozed off for a few minutes here and there, but by the end I had caught my second wind.

The Warriors. Since I saw a midnight showing of this at the Hadley Cinemark last year I was thinking of taking a walk or something during this, but the audience's hype level was infectious, and I had to stay. Each gang introduction drew applause, and I was grinning through the whole thing. Really keyed into the homoerotic subtext of the film, amazed I never really noticed it before. Before the film began, the main organizer of the event (whose name escapes me) warned that Paramount was so worried about the condition of the one print they could find that they sent it over for free with warnings of extreme damage. Who knows why, because the print was absolutely beautiful, and one of the best of the night. Weird.

Cannibal Ferox. Of all the films, this was the only one I was kind of afraid to watch. While I've seen Cannibal Holocaust, Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals, Mountain of the Cannibal God and Porno Holocaust, the jungle adventure genre of Italian sleaze usually makes me queasy, especially the nasty animal-slaughter bits. And in Ferox, the scenes of animal torture and slaughter are relentless. Apart from this unfortunate business, Lenzi's film is equal parts camp and sleaze, and even at its bleakest there's humor and disarming weirdless to laugh nervously at for most of the film. The humor slowly drains out of the film however, and the last third is relentlessly dismal and depressing. And that ending! While I can't condone the animal bits, this film, like Cannibal Holocaust, is at least loaded with social commentary as well as gore and exploitation (which makes it kind of hard to deal with critically, as it makes itself impossible to dismiss, as much as one might like to do so). The audience groaned and squirmed practically in unison at every turn, and while this is an unpleasant film, viewing it with a huge audience on a large screen was a singular experience.

The Thing. It was about 2:30 am by this point, and I had to keep moving around the theatre just to stay awake. Only the most hardcore of film freaks were still in attendance by this point, and I saw more than a few people totally cached out and napping. While I wasn't at my sharpest, and I had to take my glasses off to soothe my eyes, it still ruled to see one of my all time favorite films up there. Tried to pay really close attention to where all the characters were at all times, and noticed that MacCready's shack is still standing at the end. Awesome.

Fun to notice: Mary Ellen Trainor in both Ghostbusters 2 and Monster Squad and Thomas Waites in Warriors and The Thing. Also, James and I got pretty excited when we realized that the protagonist in Cannibal Ferox is played by Lorraine De Selle, the warden from Women's Prison Massacre.

The End!

*Aside from Black Devil Doll, which must have been a DVD.


Anonymous said...

Wow brother, wow, you soooo missed the boat on Black Devil Doll. You fell asleep? Unreal!

I and my friends found Black Devil Doll to be one of the best films so far this year.

More entertaining that half the crap they showed at Shaun Luu. You are seriously out of touch.

Gregory Joseph Tessier said...

More entertaining than Argento, Hill, Fulci, Lenzi or Carpenter classics?

To each his or her own I guess.

Anonymous said...

Hey man, I just got your DVD. Will mail soon.

Had a great time over the weekend, hope you can maybe come visit me in Boston sometime this summer.


kami said...

a hell of a night! i'm old enough to have seen The Warriors and The Thing at the drive in when they first came out! awesome movies and still amongst my favourites.

Gregory Joseph Tessier said...

Hey thanx Max... no rush.

Hey Kam, yeah those two movies were both awesome on the large screen no doubt. I dozed a bit during The Thing but only because I had been watching movies for 12 hours at that point!

Nova Mob said...

When is the new Sammy Dreams comin out?

Gregory Joseph Tessier said...

Nova Mob, who are you? (sounds familiar... I forgot!) The newest issue, 6, is out, do you have that one?

Tower Farm said...

Wow...what a lineup!

Gregory Joseph Tessier said...

Yeah, I can't wait to see what they have on deck for next year. I'm checking out yr blog Tower Farm... it rules. "Nilblog"... had me in stitches. I should be uploading some new reviews soon.