IFI Horrorthon 2012: Day One

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Editor’s Note: The following dispatch is part of Ronan’s coverage of the Irish Film Institute’s annual Horrorthon

Considering the expectations we had to be treated to a Canadian horror, it was a little strange to have the screen filled with the words “Irish Film Board” as the audience settled in for the first screening of Horrorthon 2012. This was certainly not Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral, but rather Lorcan Finnegan’s 15-minute short Foxes, a home-grown slice of eerie horror given pole position before the festival’s opening feature. It’s an interesting film, incorporating the creepy phenomenon of “ghost estates”—huge groups of houses abandoned in the wake of the financial crash—spread throughout the country into its slow-building story of fracturing marriage and the animalism of humanity. Garret Shanley’s script offers a smart little allegory, Finnegan’s evidently experienced hand bringing its ideas to fruition with aplomb. Problems arise in the tone of the film, its consistently straight-faced approach seeming not to notice the sometime silliness into which it descends. Not quite as effective as it might have been, Foxes is nevertheless a promising little piece, and it’s always nice to see an Irish horror that actually works.

The bright white screen on which Antiviral opens is the first indication of the film’s overwhelming aesthetic; more given to meticulous frame construction than his father, Brandon Cronenberg crafts a heavily stylised movie that reflects the core themes at its heart: namely the ghastly cult of celebrity with which humanity has become entwined. The young Cronenberg has a gift for a good shot; Antiviral is replete with beautifully rendered images, the glaring whiteness throughout drawing ever more attention to the abnormality of these obsessions. I’ll save the depth of my reaction for my full review (look for it soon), suffice it to say for now that Brandon looks set to prove that filmmaking runs in the family.

Easily the highlight of day one was those few moments of Room 237 where clips from Kubrick’s canon were shown; the sheer awe of seeing some of the most iconic images in cinema on the big screen made all else pale in comparison. Not, that is, to discredit the value of the Shining-centric documentary: Rodney Ascher constructs a fascinating insight into film fandom, alternatively astonishing and amusing as he juxtaposes the mania of certain readings with that of Kubrick’s characters. He has no trouble chuckling at the expense of his perpetually off-camera subjects, yet still retains a respect for their adoration: after all, chances are those who watch Room 237 will be just as fond of the horror masterpiece as those who espouse their theories for our enjoyment.

Horrorthon’s opening day looked set to be a great one; alas the night came to a close with Detention of the Dead, a zombie comedy with neither enough laughs nor gore to excuse the dull conventionality of its plotting and complete lack of interest in any of its characters. A midnight screening, it managed to lose throughout the course of its runtime almost half the audience, the mere handful of decent gags among its disappointingly puerile stock too much for most to take at that hour of the night. It’s a shame that the story has to be quite so standard: there’s a nice undercurrent of iconoclasm to the film and lead Jacob Zachar displays an unexpectedly impressive range in his role. Too far lost in heaps of stereotypes to be rescued by these small reprieves, though, Detention of the Dead made for an underwhelming finale to an otherwise stellar opening day.

Coming up tomorrow: Manborg; Midnight Son; Calibre 9; Citadel; Silent Hill: Revelation; Zombie; and Deep Red.

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.