Some thoughts on screenings offered at Monsterpalooza in Pasadena and Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas during April (and creeping into May):
While not screened at Texas Frightmare Weekend (TFW), a creepy short titled “Oct. 23rd” and featuring Amanda Wyss (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”) went live via Vimeo over the TFW weekend. Just under 10 minutes, “Oct. 23rd” is based on a true story featuring Wyss as Karen Fernhill, who one stormy night is summoned by her friend Paige (Amanda Parsons). Paige is spooked and smoking a cigarette much to the surprise of Karen. Paige then starts talking about her young daughter Chelsea, making some unnerving suggestions about the girl’s strange behavior in the aftermath of seeing her father killed.
To Karen it seems Paige has come unhinged, and she tries to be the voice of reason. This all becomes slippery when Karen goes upstairs and talks to Chelsea (Georgia McCorkle), who offers a different slant on what’s going on.
Written and directed by Paul Santana, “Oct. 23rd” is dark and chilling and things accelerate as Karen learns too late that Paige and Chelsea are not just experiencing some sort of emotional meltdown.
Wyss, a featured guest at TFW, was saying she saw “Oct. 23rd” as having the potential to be expanded into a full-length movie. She may be right.
“Oct 23rd” can be accessed at www.vimeo.com/164745807. You might need to see it more than once to catch everything
Two movies that were screened at TFW included “Getting Schooled” and “Last Girl Standing.”
“Getting Schooled” is co-written and directed by Chuck Norfolk, who penned 2013’s “Conjoined” that earned him a FANtastic Award, along with his brother Tim, for Best Original Story / Script. “Conjoined” is a horror/comedy about a lonely man who through an Internet romance meets the girl of his dreams. Problem is, she has a conjoined twin who is a serial killer. As expected with this premise, “Conjoined” was a madcap and macabre little movie.
Now, with “Getting Schooled,” in which Chuck Norfolk collaborated on the screenplay with Tim and another brother, Steven, he delivers a send-up of the classic teen comedy “The Breakfast Club.”
Except with “Getting Schooled,” these high school students on a Saturday detention in the early 1980s have their teen angst sessions interrupted by a bloody battle to survive.
The roster of typical students is here: the outcast girl Julie (Mayra Leal), the jock Mike (Jake Byrd), the cheerleader Hillary (Morgan Tyler), the geek A student Shelly (Susan Ly) and the rebellious “criminal” Rusty (Roland Ruiz).
As if this is not an already volatile mix, the teacher overseeing the detention is a wheelchair-bound, embittered man, Mr. Roker (Tom Long), who is a cross between Lt. Dan in “Forrest Gump” and Ron Kovic in “Born on the Fourth of July.” Except that, besides holding students in contempt, Mr. Roker has completely veered off the rails. What starts out as an encounter between a teacher who hates the students as much they hate him escalates into a fatal game of cat and mouse with Mr. Roker hallucinating that he is back in Vietnam.
The dialog is silly and the students are deeply immersed in stereotypical behavior and temperament. But it is all a wink to the audience. The kills are gruesome but also macabre and comical.
Although some people walked out of the screening, those who stayed until the end reacted with applause. They got it. Sit back and enjoy a horror movie that has you guiltily giggling throughout.
“Last Girl Standing,” on the other hand, is not looking for laughs. It is instead an exploration of what happens to The Final Girl after she survives the traumatic experience of being pursued by a crazed killer.
In this movie, written and directed by Benjamin R. Moody, Akasha Villalobos plays Camryn, a young woman who manages to finally kill a man wearing a lycanthropic mask after he slaughters all of her friends during a camping trip.
Now several years later, Camryn, employed at a dry cleaner, is living a bland life except for the constant recurring nightmares. When a young man named Nick (Brian Villalobis) is hired at the dry cleaner, it opens the possibility of Camryn finally having a social life.
Unfortunately, Camryn starts experiencing hallucinations, seeing and truly believing the costumed killer somehow survived and has come back to kill her. It is one of Nick’s inner circle friends Danielle (Danielle Evon Ploeger) who reaches out to Camryn and tries to convince the woman that she has nothing to fear.
Two problems plague “Last Girl Standing.” First, Camryn is a very bland character and it is hard to develop any empathy for her. Second, it is pretty easy to see where this movie is going. The supposed plot surprise really is not that at all.
Despite that, “Last Girl Standing” is a decent effort to delve into what happens when The Final Girl, who manages to overcome overwhelming odds, still really dies in the end.
A screening at Monsterpalooza featured “The Green Fairy,” an earnest study covering almost 200 years in the history of absinthe, a cheap but vert dangerous drink. Directed by Dan Frank and written by Daniel Celestina and Caroline Posada, “The Green Fairy” transitions between interviews with historians and acted vignettes that demonstrate the horrors of absinthe when consumed. The Green Fairy in the title (played by Mindy Robison) is one of a trio of seductive apparitions (joining the fairy are the Green Goddess and the Green Demon) that are the equivalent of the pink elephants seen by drunks in the stereotypical portrayal of those who imbibe to the extreme.
These three pop up in the vignettes that dramatically show absinthe’s role in driving people like Vincent Van Gogh (Trevor Snarr) and Oscar Wilde (the late Roddy Piper in what had to be one of his last roles) to madness. Linda Blair (“The Exorcist”) also is featured in the story of her character, Mrs Lanfrey, who is murdered by her husband Jean (Casey T. Evans) after his bender with the bright green liquid that resembles Mountain Dew, and his subsequent encounter with a green beauty that plants all kinds of nasty ideas in his head.
While the vignettes are well done — Piper is especially good and tragic as a brilliant man who becomes a babbling wreck — “The Green Fairy” is dragged down by the interview sequences. These men tell stories but being Swiss, their accents make them hard to understand and they become repetitious. Tighter editing needs to be done there.
Part documentary and part drama, “The Green Fairy” seemed out of place at Monsterpalooza. People expecting to see a horror movie were instead treated to a film with little onscreen violence. While the subject was well covered, it did not succeed in holding the audience’s attention. Only a few people still were in attendance by the end of movie, and the feeling was they only stuck around to see Blair’s appearance, which occurs late in the film.