Day One: The Party
It was abundantly clear in the air last night that The New York City Horror Film Festival was filled with life-long devotees of the genre that were getting paid back in strides by the event organizers, Michael J. Hein and Joseph B. Mauceri. This kick-off party to the five-day movie festival showed the potential of what fans can expect.
It was a night of people from all backgrounds coming together to celebrate something they have always been passionate about. It was truly a thrilling experience to be part of the magic that included filmmakers and lovers enjoying drinks and a wickedly good time.
Well, the doors promised to open at 8 P. M sharply, but no one was allowed inside the place until around 9. That didn’t matter since I was able to have a conversation with a camera man who traveled all the way from Italy to be part of the festival. He had brought with him his Italian VHS copy of “Maniac Cop 2” in hopes that the director receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award (William Lustig), would be present. During our conversation, it was apparent that we shared a love for the same type of movies as we tried to figure out what the Italian titles for some of these movies were. And we also discussed why VHS is a crucial part of our collections and that proper aspect ratio is not as important as seeing the movie.
But the real fun started when the beautiful and talented Hayley Griffiths in a stunning silver dress began to sing with her angelic voice to the surprise of many horror enthusiasts. In a group of people expecting Death Metal this was a refreshing change of pace, and her stage presence was very commanding. Griffiths is someone who will have a long career ahead of her.
The other group that performed were The TarantinosNYC, which are a tribute band to the films of Quentin Tarantino. The band was on target with their tribute to films such as “Pulp Fiction” and “Grindhouse.” In between songs they even recited lines from the films including “Zed’s Dead Baby,” which is Bruce Willis’ final words in “Pulp Fiction.” This type of music was more in touch with what fans expected, but something felt gimmicky about this group as they seem to only focus on one director’s work as the basis for a band.
The night of music concluded with excellent performances by M-16 and Witches in Bikinis, but the musical acts were only to provide intermissions for a night of experimental short films. The short films were a mixed bag of blessing with some showing the promise of new film makers and others were just dull and needlessly violent. The secret to a good horror film may involve , but it should not be the key ingredient. The shorts started with a commercial parody on the joys of cannibalism.
The most abysmal short of the evening was “Close Call” by Ray Torres which ran three minutes and it felt as if two of those minutes were the opening and closing credits.
Also “Black Suit Youth” by Joseph Eisenstein had a unique look and feel, but it was a music video not a horror short, so in many ways it did not belong at the festival.
The evening did however have several highlights including “You Better Behave” by Geoffrey Shrewsbury, which managed to utilize four minutes to tell a creepy tale. The basic premise of a man being drugged and having his organs removed is revitalized with an edgy black and white flair. This short shows the promise of a filmmaker we need to see more of.
Another major highlight was the tongue in cheek “Aaragh, A Monster” by Gabriel Renfro. This proved a great way to make some serious chills and laughs for a low-budget. We enter on a young man running into a party and he is being chased by a monster of some sorts that we can’t see. No one at the party will believe him so he hides in the bathroom as the members of the party are slaughtered- all while he listens to the horrors. The film does use some sight gags and works perfectly. Even the posters of “Citizen Toxie” and “Night of the Living Dead” juxtapose the horror and comedy that Renfro was attempting.
“Barbee Butcher” by Sophie Lagues an animated one minute short was interesting as well, as it was brimming with imagination. It is the tale of little creature that is cutting up a Barbie doll and full of stunning originality.
There was also a brief retrospective of the horror movies we love from the past in a great montage that literally put chills down my back. The wide range of brief clips included “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 1 and 2, “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Exorcist” and ole Jason Voorhies himself, reminding us all why we love horror movies.
This amazing evening for lovers of cult cinema is only the start of the fun. On Saturday, a 3-D version of “Nosferatu: Orlok The Vampire” will be screened for the first time among a slew of other interesting new horror titles.
Saturday night Lustig will present his own 35mm copy of the 1980 Grindhouse classic “Maniac” which features the gruesome effects of Tom Savani. He will also be on hand Sunday afternoon for a brunch which includes guests, Michael Gingold, and Frank Henelotter (“Basket Case”)
Stay tuned to Review Fix for coverage of those films and more.