The 2nd annual Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival was held August 20-23, 2015, in Rosemont, Ill. Celebrating some of the best in indie horror, the fest featured several U.S. premieres and a handful of fun repertory screenings. Myself and Adam Riske attended the entire festival (joined by JB for two screenings). Here is our story.
Patrick: The fest kicked off with Tales of Halloween, the new anthology directed by 11 of the best filmmakers in the independent horror community right now and the movie I was most looking forward to of the whole weekend's lineup. It did not disappoint. I loved the shit out of this movie and can't wait to see it again (it comes out in limited release and on VOD Oct. 16!) to catch all the cameos and references I might have missed the first time. I know you're a fan of horror anthologies. You dug the movie too, right?
Adam Riske: I did! It's rare for horror anthologies to have the majority of their segments work which makes Tales of Halloween even more impressive because I would say at least eight are good. Even the other two weren't bad. They just weren't as good as the other eight. I'm forcing myself to compare it to Trick R Treat because of them both being anthologies and the Halloween theme and I honestly don't know now which I prefer. Regardless, it will make for a fun double feature come October. The filmmakers really did a good job of making their segments lively and fun.
Patrick: I'm in pretty much the same camp with Hellions. I think the movie was at a little bit of a disadvantage because I was buzzing so much from Tales of Halloween that it was difficult to settle in to something much more somber and slowly paced. I kept waiting for the fun, but it never came. Not the fault of Hellions. It doesn't want to be fun.
It Follows does. Not the worst, but not one of the highlights of the festival.
Day Two -- much of which you skipped because you are a grown up -- kicked off with June, a movie that gave me new appreciation for Hellions. It stars Kennedy Brice as a young girl with evil powers adopted by a couple (played by Victoria Pratt in a constant state of nervous smile face and Casper Van Dien getting unintentional laughs) who are affected by her evil powers.
This one was tricky, too, because it so clearly means well and is really trying and I don't want to discourage that. But none of the movie really worked for me, particularly a subplot about a cult and a couple of effects sequence that betray the movie's low-budget origins. I was starting to get a little nervous about the festival lineup at this point, because I started to think that indie horror was much more Hellions/June than Tales of Halloween. That turned out not to be true.
Patrick: June will be out on Blu-ray in a couple of months. You can catch up with at at home! Or you can just watch May, which is both one month and a whole lot of movie better.
Adam Riske: Next was a special screening of Fright Night (1985) with director Tom Holland in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. Lots of fun. I really admire the practical effects in Fright Night, which I don't think enough people talk about. It's sort of overshadowed by some other 1980s horror-comedies (American Werewolf in London comes to mind) when it comes to makeup effects but Fright Night's are top-notch. I also realized that William Ragsdale manhandles everyone in the movie. He's very grabby. Once I noticed that, I couldn't un-notice it. The Q&A was good, with lots of stories about Child's Play in addition to Fright Night from Tom Holland. I loved an anecdote he had about building a sequence (he used Child's Play as an example) with humor, suspense and action. It's impressive that he still remembers the beats of his movies sequences more than 25 years later.
Patrick: Fright Night was so good! I've seen that movie SO many times (even on the big screen) but this was the best it's ever been. I love how classical it is and how seriously it takes the "rules" of vampires and how great the characters are. I put something on Twitter after seeing it last Friday night that I can tell it's a great movie because there are too many wonderful characters for me to ever be able to choose my favorite. And the Tom Holland Q&A was a lot of fun. He was in good spirits and told good stories...though, to be fair, some of those were stories you've already heard if you listened to my interview with him from 2013.
wait for it...) looked, I'm willing to be much more open minded about digital.
Adam Riske: Next was a killer dog movie called The Pack, which I missed, and a midnight screening of Dude Bro Party Massacre III, which I also did not stay for. As you said earlier, Day Two was kind of my night off.
Patrick: Yeah, like you I wanted to see The Pack but Fright Night was running more than an hour late. I was tired and gave up. That means I also skipped the midnight show of Dude Bro Party Massacre III, but I had already seen that one. I'm sure it was fun with a crowd, but I'm good.
Saturday's first movie was the "WORLD PREMIERE" of Synapse, a super low-budget sci-fi movie that combined Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Strange Days and Blade Runner and 12 Monkeys and every other science fiction movie of the last 30 years. I don't want to say anything bad about it because they really were trying and given their resources they deserve a ton of credit. But as I commented to you after the screening, I felt really weird about the fact that so many people involved in making the movie were in attendance because this was their premiere but they were sharing it with me and 15 other people who were pretty indifferent. I was, at least.
Based almost solely on my new-found mega-crush on Grace Phipps, I really wanted to like Some Kind of Hate and I did. For 30 minutes. I thought the set-up was really good, with a sympathetic protagonist and an interesting enough story, but then the movie falls apart thanks to its insistence on creating a new slasher "hero" (named Moira) and side-tracking most of what made the movie interesting to begin with. This wasn't my least favorite movie of the fest by any stretch but I'd put it up there with Hellions as being the most disappointing because both started out so well but really went off the rails.
Patrick: Yeah, there are a lot of similarities between Some Kind of Hate and Hellions -- not thematically, but in that both are films made by filmmakers with talent and have a lot of good stuff in them but which just don't stick the landing. I'd be hard pressed to figure out which one I like more, actually, because while Some Kind of Hate is more my speed (and starts stronger), I also think it gets more repetitive and less interesting as it goes along. Bullying is bad, yes, got it. At least Hellions continues its weird ideas and approach throughout. I keep thinking I liked SKoH more than I did at the time, but then I remember all the stuff that I don't think works. Still, I can see that it might click with a lot of people. It's made with a lot of confidence.
Stuart Gordon's Stuck, although not as good as that movie. I liked the three leads and their dynamic together. The first act, the most comedic, really worked and I loved hanging out with the characters. I would definitely recommend this one to fellow F-heads once it's out on VOD (although I'm not sure when that will be).
Patrick: Body was really good! I think we were both loving that first half hour; I was actually sad realizing that this was a horror movie and the fun times were going to come to an end sooner or later. Just a really solid little thriller with good performances and some interesting turns. But yeah...rough Q&A. I literally fled the theater as soon as I got uncomfortable, which was about 90 seconds in. I don't deal well with that stuff.
Bubba Ho-Tep with its star Bruce Campbell there for a post-screening Q&A. I love this movie. It's so funny, has a great heart and an amazing score. It casts the perfect mood for Fall and October I think and the Ossie Davis performance is hilarious. I can't speak highly enough about Bubba Ho-Tep. The only drag was that the print was really dark looking, so I'm not sure what was going on with the projection. The Q&A was fun. Campbell is a great MC and is fun to listen to with a crowd. It's when you're one-on-one with him that he has a tendency to come across as dickish.
Patrick: Bubba Ho-Tep was fun! It was the most crowded any of the screenings and the only one that might have been sold out. Such is the drawing power of Bruce Campbell (I can't imagine what it would have been like if they had shown Army of Darkness...). The movie played well and it was great to see it on a big screen, though you're right -- it was dark and didn't look great and puts holes in my "digital is really good!" argument for the weekend. Fun Q&A, too -- no structure, but Bruce Campbell knows how to run an audience.
After Bubba Ho-Tep, you took off and I stuck around for the North American premiere of Contracted: Phase II, with the director and screenwriter and all the major cast in attendance. I'm in a bad position on this one, as I'm a big fan of the first Contracted and since its release have become somewhat friendly with the writer/director Eric England. He was basically pushed out of the sequel and I was worried that my instinct to take his side would cloud my judgment of Phase II, which...I don't know. Maybe it did. I didn't like the movie. It's directed well in that it feels slick and bigger than I'm sure its budget suggests (a budget already higher than the original film), but it makes so many stupid choices in regards to the storytelling and shits on a lot of what I dug about the first movie. I'm sure many of the people involved in making the movie are nice and everything, but I just don't think the sequel works at all.
And you, Adam Riske...you were just hours away from your first viewing of Cannibal Holocaust. Did you know when you went to sleep that night that your life would be forever changed just 12 hours later?
Adam Riske: When I went to sleep on Cannibal Holocaust Eve I was a mess of emotions. I was a) super tired (especially of eating movie concessions, which I think you were too) b) terrified about watching this notorious horror movie at noon on a Sunday and c) excited to see another full day of horror movies with one of my best buds Sir Patrick Bromley (awwwww).
Patrick: You had me at hello, LCA. I see you. Hakuna matata.
Adam Riske: But that wasn't all in a day of surprises. I got an email from the Wizard World convention people that I was invited to an early screening of Eli Roth's The Green Inferno. So not only was I going to watch one cannibal movie on Sunday, but two. Perfect bookends to maybe my craziest day ever in a movie theater.
I did not like Cannibal Holocaust overall, but I will own up to a few things - a) it's very effective at what it's trying to do, which is shock and horrify you, b) the opening theme is great and c) I like the conceit that instead of the victims being "good guys" they were fucking awful people, which made the fact that they were going to be dismembered and eaten a little easier to stomach. I also really enjoyed the post-movie discussion I had with you in the lobby with a couple of other horror fans who had also come out of the screening and were processing what they just saw. It's a rough, rough movie. It made me feel like shit. I hated hated hated hated all of the animal violence against the muskrat, the pig and that poor poor turtle. OMG that turtle. I can still vividly see it being chopped up but it went out like a man. Real Gary Cooper. He didn't scream or nothing. I could care less about the snakes and spiders that got off'd. Whatever. That's a joke, btw. You said something to me that struck a chord later on in the day regarding Cannibal Holocaust. The animal torture makes the human violence feel real. Again, that's why I say it's effective. I really hate this movie but I recognize it's well-made. And despicable.
Patrick: Does the Cannibal Holocaust theme still play whenever you start to feel sad? Or hungry?
Sunday was by far the best day, not just because the movies were the best overall but also because we kept making friends with people all day who must have recognized us as being there all weekend. I've heard a lot of horror directors talk about how they love the genre because the fans are so great -- that you can just strike up a conversation with any horror fan and you guys will become fast friends -- but this weekend put that to the test. Everyone was happy to talk about horror movies, even if we had different tastes. I mean, that one dude was JUST there for the cannibal movies. Shit's hardcore.
I was genuinely bummed (?!?) to miss Cannibal Holocaust (I had to go meet with my editor at Daily Dead, who was in town for the weekend). I wanted to hear Eli Roth introduce it and I was curious about the buffet of "breakfast meats" they were advertising. And I wanted to see the movie on the big screen. I agree that so much of it is deplorable, but I think it's really powerful and effective and probably the best possible version of that kind of movie. The animal stuff is inexcusable and irresponsible (and I can't take credit for that 'makes the human violence seem more real' observation -- that's from Elric Kane of Killer POV) but I think the movie is really strong and horrifying. The little bit I was able to catch -- mostly the awful stuff at the end -- looked incredible. They had advertised a 35mm screening (another reason I wanted to see it) but it wound up being an amazing 4K digital projection.
Adam Riske: And like rainbow after a holocaust, next came Turbo Kid. I'll let you lead off with this one. Needless to say, we both love it.
Patrick: Could there be a better movie to pick you up after Cannibal Holocaust than Turbo Kid? From its opening production company card (a joke about laser discs) I was laughing and smiled the whole way through. I gushed enough about the movie in my review, so I'd love to hear your thoughts. I know you dug it too.
Patrick: It doesn't sound silly at all! It's super romantic.
Adam Riske: I love that it's like a low-fi Mad Max but has this giant heart at the center. That's what is going to keep me coming back to the movie. It doesn't hurt that it's also really funny (it shares the same kind of over-the-top violence with gusto that early Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson utilized) and that Apple is in it. Apple is such a great character. She's the best. I said it already in the comments to your review, but that performance with Laurence Lebeouf honestly reminded me of Audrey Hepburn's debut in Roman Holiday. It's effervescent acting. I'm re-watching it on VOD tonight and can't wait to see it again. It's been a long week without it my friend, but I'll tell you all about it after I see it again.
Patrick: I've watched it again since and really feel like it's a movie that someone made by pulling all the stuff I love out of my brain: the '80s stuff, the coming of age stuff, the score, the romance, the insane violence...it feels like one of those movies that someone made just for me. Even the studio logo at the beginning makes reference to being the Cannon logo. These crazy French Canadians have been reading my diary!
Adam Riske: Next was Sun Choke starring Milly from Freaks and Geeks, fake Jocelin Donahue (there's an actress in it that looks very much like Joc D) and Babs Crampton. Sun Choke is the kind of psychological horror movie that I usually enjoy and this one worked for me for the most part. I thought the performances were really good and it leaves a lot of unanswered questions which bothered me during and after the viewing but in hindsight could be a strength of the movie. I think this was one movie from the weekend that does not yet have a distributor. I hope it gets picked up by someone. It's a creepy and strong movie that people should see. I don't love it but it's easily a future Netflix This Movie recommendation.
Patrick: Sun Choke was fascinating, right? Beautifully made, really well acted but also weird and kind of cold. I totally agree with you that it's a movie very much worth seeing, though I found it a movie that's easier to admire than to love. I'm not even sure I totally followed what was happening all the time, but the strength of the filmmaking and the performances carried me. It's incredible to me that the movie doesn't have distribution yet, because even though I recognize it's not super commercial it's very accomplished and feels much more like a real movie than some of the other stuff I saw this weekend.
Patrick: He Never Died was fun. At some point I'll review it for the site and expand on my thoughts, but I thought it was a really, really perfect vehicle for Henry Rollins. I'm not sure if the filmmakers wrote it specifically for him (we couldn't stick around for the Q&A because of The Green Inferno...just one more way that movie fucked up my life) but I would be amazed if they didn't. He's such a perfect fit and there's stuff built into the story that almost totally mirrors who he is in real life. Minus some of the cannibalism. Some. The story is pretty shaggy and meandering, but Rollins is good enough that I didn't really notice until it was over.
And then. And then.
Adam Riske: The Green Inferno, which is easily my least favorite movie from Eli Roth. I like Cabin Fever a lot but every subsequent movie from him I've liked less and The Green Inferno doesn't buck that trend. I'll own up to the fact that I might not have been in the right frame of mind to watch The Green Inferno (I was annoyed by how the screening was handled and I was just done washing the taste of Cannibal Holocaust out of my film mouth), but I thought in direct comparison with Cannibal Holocaust, The Green Inferno is a far inferior movie. The movie can't decide what tone it wants to be, so sometimes it's horrifying (that centerpiece death and dismemberment sequence really bothered me, even days later) and other times it goes for laughs via gags about weed and shitting. I thought the characters were poorly developed, too (it doesn't even know which characters should get it the worst from the cannibals) and I couldn't get over how much the lead character's roommate looked like young Karg from Masters of the Universe. I hate to say it (because he seems like a nice guy) but I think the days of Eli Roth director are just about over. This movie is going to bomb and I don't think genre fans are going to like it. I wish I would have stuck around long enough after the screening to ask that one horror fan who was there just for the cannibal movies what he thought about it. I'd be curious to hear his thoughts. What about you?
Hostel Part II -- it's a movie I've warmed to since its release (if one can really warm to a movie like that). He's a guy who is very passionate and enthusiastic about making horror movies and doesn't shy away from that the way some other filmmakers in the mainstream do when they don't want to be pegged as a "horror director." Eli Roth seems to really embrace it. And the two-year buildup to The Green Inferno had me very excited to see it. I did not like the movie. I can respect that he's trying to bring back a genre that's been dormant for 30 years (and one which was never all that popular to begin with, which makes me wonder how many people will be clamoring for another cannibal movie). I respect the conditions under which he shot the movie, way deep in a South American jungle where the population had never seen a camera or a movie. But I don't think the movie works at all. I think it's dull for half of it and then, as you said, a total tonal mess in the second when it really gets going. I have liked Roth's weird mix of comedy and horror in the past -- like you, I'm a Cabin Fever fan -- but I just don't think it works with what he's doing here.
There will be people that love this movie, just as there are for every horror movie. Hardcore gore fans will be amazed at the effects (this movie is further proof that no amount of violence can stop a studio movie from getting an R). But I found it to be a pretty big disappointment, especially for a movie I've been looking forward to for this long.
Also, did the pre-movie discussion strike you as odd at all? Roth and star Lorenzo Izzo introduced it and they were fun and pleasant, but it was just one story after another of "can you believe these natives?" I didn't mind the stories so much as how they were all told for laughs. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive. I was tired. We had seen a lot of movies.
Adam Riske: I didn't have an issue with the pre-movie discussion personally because I had watched Cannibal Holocaust earlier that day and I knew what the natives are capable of. If the natives feel slighted they will find a way to track down Eli Roth and Lorenza Izzo (who I learned later are married) and eat them. I have no doubt about that.
Cannibal Holocaust theme?
Adam Riske: I loved the fest overall. I had a great time. It's so rare that film festivals come to Chicago that the recent proliferation of the Bruce Campbell Fest and the Chicago Film Critics Fest make me very happy and excited about movies. As a writer for F This Movie!, it gives those of us who go an opportunity to turn on our great community on to some films that might not have been on their radar. For that reason alone I really like the festival and think it's worthwhile to attend. Festivals are also less daunting than marathons and the Muvico theater in Rosemont is a gorgeous theater and a pleasant place to spend a weekend. I wouldn't change much at all since the quality seemed to lean towards being really interesting at the least and excellent at its best.
The low points for me weren't even really that low. The Green Inferno is probably the worst movie I saw at the fest but even that isn't like bottom 10 of the year bad. I'm glad to have finally seen Cannibal Holocaust, too. I feel like I earned some stripes as a horror fan as a result of watching that movie.
Patrick: It was a great weekend at the movies. I didn't outright loathe anything I saw; like you, I found Green Inferno to be the most frustrating and disappointing, but I recognize that there's stuff in the movie that still works. It was really wonderful to sit down for a dozen movies and know almost nothing about them -- I avoided watching trailers for any of them and pretty much only knew titles and sometimes cast members. That's so rare these days and works really well for horror movies. I got to see some stuff that I would have otherwise missed and saw two of my favorite movies of the year in one weekend. I can't wait for next year.
Adam Riske: In closing, I will say this. Turbo Kid is more powerful than Turtle Murder.
Patrick: Tonight the sky is full of turtle stars.