As 2012 stirs in its grave, every reviewer, critic, journalist, writer, blogger, etc., is letting us all know their favourites of the past year. We’ve all lived through two thousand and twelve (well, everyone reading this, anyway) and we all have opinions of what was the best. You don’t need (or care) to be told what I think, I’m sure. But I’m human and I can’t help but heap some appreciation on those who made writing this column all the more enjoyable over the last twelve months: namely, the fine filmmakers who made some of the best independent and D.I.Y. horror of 2012.
The following is not a list, but two reviews that represent some of the most notable D.I.Y. horror flicks of last year – and a look at what 2013 has in store. The first is an entry from BoaB’s top 5 films of 2012 (in the company of Zombie A-hole, Rodney Cecil: Psycho Hero, Cross Bearer and Bloody Bloody Bible Camp) that hasn’t, until now, made its way into the column; the other is the first 2013 release from BoaB’s top filmmaker of last year.
BLOOD: Very little, if any, but it’s not needed
BUDGET: Under $10,000
Of all the recent films that borrow from cinema’s past, few take the same path as this hand-made and heartfelt horror. Instead of sticking solely to the horror section, Video Diary of a Lost Girl is also influenced by ’90s off-beat television, Riot Grrl music and avant garde video art, making for a very different and very welcome tale of terror.
Teeming with ’80s video effects and dreamy distortion, the film appears at first like a feed that might have been pulled in by Videodrome‘s CIVIC-TV, as it tells the tale of Lilith, a figure in Jewish mythology who birthed a race of female demons known as Lilan. Similar to vampires, Lilan roamed the earth for centuries, essentially fucking men to death and feeding on their souls in order to survive.
Horror-fiend Louise (Priscilla McEver), a disgruntled Lilan and employee of Adult Sinema (a video store that stocks VHS editions of horror, art films and porn), encounters the reincarnation of her first love (and the first guy she sexed to death), Charlie (Chris Shields). In spite of her overwhelming emotions for him, she must fight to keep him away from her, or else she’ll kill him all over again.
At its heart, Video Diary is a by-the-numbers romantic comedy, complete with comic foils (Louise’s sleazebag boss and two catty Lilan contemporaries), clever quips, and a will-they-or-won’t-they storyline. However, this sentimental sojourn is heavily steeped in horror: Louise’s apartment is plastered in genre posters, she and Charlie are always draped in horror T-shirts, public domain horror is constantly being watched throughout, and of course there are a few crazy coitus killings. In addition, stylized sets, effectively created from cardboard, garbage and animal print and looking like a mix of German expressionism and Nick Zedd’s Geek Maggot Bingo, really separate this film from any romance you’ve ever seen. An ’80s punk aesthetic, seen in the clothing style and the garish, over-saturated colour scheme of the surroundings, also takes this film out of dreaded Sandra Bullock territory.
Although Video Diary is only director Lindsay Denniberg’s first feature, she has a number of strange short films on her CV and, in addition to her affection for horror, a love of classic cinema (as can be seen in the film’s references to G.W. Pabst’s 1929 classic Pandora’s Box).
Drenched in static and video noise, this mushy morbidity may scare off the casual horror hound with its uncommon influence, but for those fans of film who happen to prefer the macabre, this will be one delightful deviant.
And I dare you not to develop a crush on someone in this movie.
BLOOD: An assault of CG blood-spray, but even more practical gore
BUDGET: All I’ve been told is that it’s amazingly low.
It seems that Dustin Mills is finally coming into his own. While other films in his oeuvre such as Zombie A-Hole and Night of the Tentacles (covered in past BoaBs) referenced key cult classics, this drug-fueled action-horror feels very much to be Mills’ own creation.
Following a faux ’50s educational film decribing “bath salts” and their effects, we’re introduced to junkie Richie (Brandon Salkil, in the part he was born to play) who gets hooked up with a new kind of drug. This version of bath salts, deemed “Epsom Salts” by the scientist who created it (played by Mills), comes in cigarette form, is highly addictive, and happens to turn its takers into crazed, homicidal cannibals. Josh Eal (hero of Zombie A-Hole) returns as DEA Agent Forster, a one-man army on a mission to thwart the uprising of the vicious new drug.
Extremely ambitious, this is the first Mills movie to feature full-fledged hand-to-hand combat. The fight scene choreography is a little clumsy, but Salkil displays great physical prowess when killing and kicking ass. There are a lot of impressive CG settings that, as in the recent indie flick Manborg, stand out as fake and give the scenes a fun, retro video-game feel.
Apart from general borrowing from action films (Forster takes down a drug gang with his bare hands and a gun, and goes head-to-head with a super-salted Salkil), zombie films (Richie and cronies tear apart a punk show while under the influence), and even anime (a very cartoonish fight sequence where Richie obliterates a S.W.A.T. team), there are no specific references made. There is, however, the gruesome prosthetics, crude humour, and senseless nudity rife in every D.W. Mills production, and even a few familiar faces (e.g. Mills, Salkil, Eal and Night of the Tentacles‘ Jackie McKown).
At a lightning-fast 70 minutes, Balt Salt Zombies is simply a creative and chaotic caper from a pretty prolific artist coming into his own.
Video Diary of a Lost Girl is currently making the festival rounds, with two upcoming screenings in New York City (Jan. 26 at 92Y Tribeca) and San Francisco (Feb. 15 at the Roxie Theater). There is also a donation raffle to win a Lilan robe from the film through their Facebook page. Bath Salt Zombies will be available on DVD February 19 through MVD Entertainment and other major retailers. Be sure to check the Bath Salt Zombies Facebook page for more info.