Blood on a Budget
As the current zombie invasion of pop culture rages on, it seems as though every independent filmmaker and their mother is cashing in on this horror subgenre. Because of this, every few flicks I watch for this column feature a frightening flock of undead fiends, and frankly, it’s getting me down. These braindead bores should be used as little more than a gory metaphor, and only when there is something original to say with them or when they’re accompanied by a clever twist (see Mimesis for a great example). Sadly, this is rarely the case. I, like many others, was a big fan of these re-animated rascals, but after an undying onslaught of these creatures in popular and not-so popular media for so long, I’ve become sick and tired.
But before Blood on a Budget puts this subject in the grave, at least for a little while, I present you with a pair of undead endeavors that take a unique approach to these stale reanimated stiffs, with differing results.
For a lot of horror fiends, VHS is what first brought those mind-warping fright films into their homes, and into their black hearts. Thanks to the video boom of the late 1970s and 1980s, all manner of horror invaded the homes of the masses. I first saw Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre – and of course a slew of lesser horrors – on this clunky plastic format. For those experiences, I’m forever indebted to the Victor HR-3300 (the first VHS VCR on the consumer market).
Of course, the video boom was not without its downside. As a result of the new market, countless shot-on-video crapfests crept onto video store shelves, nudging up to classics like Phantasm or Basket Case and tricking us into watching them, hoping for a similar scare. What we experienced instead was a new sensation, an enjoyment of inadequacy and a realization that really bad can also be really good.
The films in this entry were made by fellow analog appreciators who have each cranked out an apt tribute to these substandard scare films.
I hated Cub Scouts. It involved far too much nature, the great outdoors, The Jungle Book and, worst of all for a movie-obsessed fat kid like me, camping.
Of course it wasn’t all bad. There was one camping trip that stands out in my mind, where my Cub group went to Kristy Lake, just outside Ottawa, Ontario. This campsite, as one leader erroneously told me and a few other Cubs, was the very same one where “the real Jason from Friday the 13th” was known to stalk and kill campers. I was young and naive and didn’t realize he was full of shit, so I believed every word. That whole trip, I kept seeing big, burly man-like shapes in the trees, watching and waiting. The two nights we stayed there I could hardly sleep, worried that I would wake up to find Jason standing over me, holding the severed head of one of the camp leaders, while a couple of the other kids had some pretty heavy nightmares. When word of the story got back to the head honcho, the lying leader was excused from the next Cub Scout outing.
Needless to say, it was the best camping experience I’ve ever had…
There’s a lot to hate about film festivals: long lines, crowded theatres, prima donnas, self-important press, stinky patrons, over-critical snobs, extensive pre-film yammering, annoying bureaucratic policies, over-priced everything, that person sitting behind you that keeps kicking the back of your seat, and the list goes on and on.
But film festivals also give you the chance to experience films the way they were meant to be seen – in a theatre with a bunch of enthusiastic so-and-sos – before everybody else. Not only are you privy to movies that won’t come out to the gen-pop for a year or two, but you also get to see films that may never make it to theatres again, and (for you celebriphiles out there) there’s always the chance you may bump into that director you admire or that actor who’s been in a bunch of stuff.
My favourite part of film festivals, of course, is having the excuse to watch way more than the recommended daily dose of movies in a short time span. Some of those films, like the ones in this entry, could be among the best you will see all year.
What would horror be without the delightful deviants who murder, maim, and in general, ruin everyone’s good time? Certainly nowhere near as vibrant or terrifying as the genre is. Don’t get me wrong, I love ghosts and ghouls as much as the next guy, but it’s the sadistic so-and-sos who invade your home, stalk you through the night and kill you just for the hell of it that really scare me.
Today’s entries highlight two types of terrorizers. The first is a somewhat misguided movie featuring a monstrous maniac, while the second boasts a clever twist on your typical insane home-invaders; both offer mounds of mad, merciless mayhem.
In a perfect world, having parents means always having a safety net. No matter what happens, you still have a couple of folks who can give you emotional or financial support. Even if you’re a fully functioning adult, when your parents are somehow removed from you, your life changes. The scariest part is that you won’t know how it will change, until it happens.
The films in this entry explore the death of parents in unique ways, but be warned: neither uses tact in dealing with the topic, and instead favour what we all came here to see: exploitative horror.
If there’s one thing filmmakers love doing, it’s being self-indulgent. All filmmakers are cinephiles at heart and nothing does the heart better than taking it out, showing it off, and getting some recognition for it. Quentin Tarantino’s made a career out of it.
Horror fiends in particular, are so maligned by popular society that when they have a chance to display their interests to an adoring crowd, they jump at it. Which is why there are so many films about making horror films. Movies such as American Movie and Horror Business are great movies that indulge in the romance of making horror. Even that episode of Degrassi High, where Lucy makes her horror film It Creeps, is great, simply because it’s about making a horror film.
This entry’s films also try to capture the magic of meta-horror: one pretends to be a documentary and does a bad job at it (in the best way), and the other is a documentary that just does a bad job, but both swim in the sanguine sea that is horror fandom filmmaking.
A wall of dusty VHS tapes, a well-worn copy of Psychotronic magazine, or a leopard print skirt in a musty thrift shop are all great metaphors for Lindsay Denniberg’s artistic temperament. Her comedy-horror-romance Video Diary of a Lost Girl (featured in this Blood on a Budget entry), was one of my favourite films of last year, loudly displaying Denniberg’s interests with its neon settings, punk soundtrack and obsession with both sleazy and classy cinema alike.
I could go on to revere her unique vision and applaud her appreciation for horror trash, but I’ll let her speak for herself.
Writer’s block happens to us all (or at least those of us who write). I don’t care if you’re a journalist, blogger, fiction author, screenwriter or Dungeon Master, you will eventually run out of ideas and need to find a way to break through your brain blockade.
The following two films are just that: cures to the inconvenient cranial choke. One is an assemblage of under-developed premises tossed into an anthology, much like a read through a writer’s notebook. The other sees its filmmakers ditch a sleazy series in favor of adapting a literary classic. For better or worse, the filmmakers revived their arrested apex and came out with a finished product.
It’s a shame that, almost 14 years after The Blair Witch Project hit screens, we still can’t avoid mentioning it when talking about found-footage genre films. It’s understandable – it set a new standard for low-budget theatrical releases, and turned the greater public on to faux-documentary horror movies – but many found-footage frights have come out since, for better or worse, and it’s too bad the world still compares them to this one film. (I am, sadly, no different.)
After all, we don’t compare western films to 1903′s The Great Train Robbery any more, because so many new standards have been set in that genre since. There have certainly been plenty of low-budget, found-footage horrors since The Blair Witch Project, but is it possible that no one has trumped it yet?
Although Hollywood has, so far, failed to best Blair Witch, these two vicious videos present a good challenge…