A Night of Horror: Night Five - 03/04/09
By: Mr Intolerance on March 31, 2009  |  Comments ()  |  Share 

This was a pretty darn awesome night's screening, even by the quite high standards set by previous sessions. After a few refreshing snifters, and a brief chat with US director of the prior night's hit flick Finale John Michael Elfers (a scholar and a gent if there ever was one – he's kindly consented to be interviewed for this very site in the near future while he's still in the country), it was in to the cinema for a damn fine one-two punch (oh, and guess who won another DVD at horror trivia? Well, years of watching horror films had to get me some kind of tangible reward, surely...and I've just realised that it's becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy...), an awesome Italian short, and an impressive US feature.

Una Storia di Lupi (aka A Wolves' Tale/Dir: Cristiano Donzelli/Italy/2008/27 minutes). This was probably my pick so far for the best film of the festival. That, by the way, is a pretty big call, given some very strong competition. This grim, atmospheric tale of lycanthropy set in the harsh Italian countryside shows exactly how quality acting can raise an independent film to a weight whereby it can punch on an even level with the majors. I have two words for you, people: Franco Nero. At nearly 70, this titan of the Italian film industry still imbues his roles with an immense gravitas, even when he looks like a hobo (his trademark moustache, by the way, was bigger than ever). I kept thinking that the feeling evoked by this film was exactly what a number of the episodes of Masters of Horror tried to do, and failed at – this impressive short was an exercise in tension and unease.

The story jumps between past and present intercutting the tales of Nero's shepherd-turned-hermit as a young man lost in the wilderness, having been chased there by a vengeful pack of villagers for having freed a mysterious young woman, and the hermit having found another lost shepherd on the mountainside far too close to nightfall. The hermit tells the story of his past encounter as a kind of framing narrative for that of the young shepherd in the present, having taken the young man in to protect him from the evil that lurks on the mountainside.

Beautiful camerawork, excellent sound design and an all-round atmosphere of dread really helped to make this film an artistic success, and one that actually manages to unsettle the audience. My only gripe was with the fucking bozos a few seats down from me laughing at inappropriate moments and talking through the film. Dickheads like that don't deserve quality entertainment – talk about casting pearls before swine. This is an excellent film that I can't rate highly enough.

Plague Town (Dir: David Gregory/USA/2008/85 minutes) Another strong entry in A Night of Horror's program, this bloody and surprisingly vicious, ostensibly horror/comedy is played very straight - no mugging for the camera a la Bruce Campbell, but there were some laugh out loud funny parts in both the dialogue ("I'm sorry I called you a fucking cunt"/"That's okay, I deserved it" - maybe it was just in the delivery...), and the splatter – but somewhere along the way this film suddenly shows its true colours and its mean-spirited nature (ever see a priest cop a fire-poker through the back of the head in the opening five minutes of a film? Watching his attacker try to remove it wasn't much fun...), and ultimately its complete lack of sympathy for its characters.

Basically this is the story of the dysfunctional Moynihan family – dad is re-marrying, getting hitched to Annette. He has two daughters, medicated Molly and uber-bitch Jessica; Jessica has met a young Englishman, Robin, on their journey to Ireland, a bonding holiday for the family. Things do not go well. Y'see, we've seen the back-story; children are being born in a small back-woods town, and, well something isn't right with them – and yet the outsiders aren't unwelcome visitors – oh no, the villagers are very welcoming of them indeed... It's not a good thing.

Plague Town does not skimp on the nasty. The audience reacted well to the many scenes of extreme splatter, actually applauding the best and most original use of a garrotting wire I'd certainly ever scene. Parts of this film feature some extremely disturbing visual imagery – observe the appliance make-up on the townsfolk, especially Rosemary; it adds a level of eerieness that lifts this film (along with its bordering on the sadistic violence) that lifts it out of the B-grade gutter it may otherwise have been consigned to. A well-shot film with a soundtrack that really aids in unnerving the audience, Plague Town is more than the killer-kid/backwoods horror (a genre I have come to despise recent examples of) film it may appear from what you've just read; the shifts in tone and the brutality leading to its pitch black ending make for an ultimately highly satisfying film I thoroughly recommend you watch.

So, night 5 of A Night of Horror, and one of the best line-ups yet – not just in this year's program, but in the 3 years of the festival. An excellent night's entertainment. If only some people could live without their mobile phones having to be on all the sodding time, and motherfuckers would learn that not everything on screen needs to be discussed right then and there – that's what pubs are for after the film has finished.

<< Night Four - 29/03/09 | Closing Night - 03/04/09 >>

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