Editor’s Note: The following dispatch is part of Ronan’s coverage of the Irish Film Institute’s annual Horrorthon
And so it ends: Horrorthon 2012 has come and gone with a flash, the constant darkness of a cinema screening room helping to congeal five days to one long, indiscriminate stretch of quality movie time. The closing day got started with a showcase of short films, nine briefer genre works lined up for our enjoyment. The first, Yellow, was also the best: an eerie, uncanny German psychological drama that thrives on its vivid imagery and soundscape, devoid as it is of any dialogue outside the strange one-sided phone calls its protagonist receives as he hunts for a serial killer. Other highlights included: Love Bug, a clearly Shaun of the Dead-influenced zombie comedy with constant laughs; Torturous, an amusing scenario featuring a guidance counsellor who finds himself strapped to the chair of a disenfranchised torturer; Thy Kill Be Done, a typically audacious nuns-with-guns romp; and Toilet, a short so short that nothing more should be said than that it’s very funny indeed.
A documentary next in the form of Nightmare Factory, the story of special effects company KNB EFX, whose leading players’ breakthrough with Day of the Dead and Evil Dead 2 led to the birth of what would go on to become one of the most successful and prolific effects studios in Hollywood. Supported by a massive array of clips and the affectionate testimony of collaborators like George Romero, John Landis, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Frank Darabont, Nightmare Factory filters its central success story primarily through the childhood aspirations of KNB major player Gregory Nicotero. He and his people are alive with the utmost passion, going about their work after three decades in the business with just as much energy and pride. A funny and charming piece of work, it was a fitting documentary to aid in the appreciation of just how much innovation goes into the making of all this gore.
And what better to follow it with to communicate the value of good gore than The Burning Moon? A notoriously brutal German exploitation movie, it’s concern is far more with the extent of its violence than with any excellence in storytelling, acting, or indeed any other technical field. It’s the kind of film that’s so bad it’s very bad, yet even so—perhaps just because of the film it followed—there’s so much appreciable work in its incredible make-up effects. A closing-act sequence of nothing but pure bodily destruction and mutilation stretches on for ten minutes or more, relentless images of limbs being torn off, heads being smashed, and organs being tugged out of place made to seem terribly and traumatically real. It’s just a shame that it’s never really in service of anything, the unabashed brutality and its concomitant boundary-pushing the entire raison d’être of the film, a real problem when everything else is so unbearably ill-executed.
Having to depart before the festival’s final two films—Halloween 4 and the newly constructed “Cabal cut” of Nightbreed—Horrorthon 2012 closed for me with Jaume Balagueró’s Sleep Tight. Perhaps inspired by the apartment building setting of the first two Rec films—Balaguero handed the series reins over to co-creator Paco Plaza for Genesis this year—this new film follows the concierge of one such building in Barcelona, a hapless loner whose quiet, dispassionate observance of the tenants recalls The Lives of Others. Luis Tosar’s reserved performance is a masterful play on audience sympathies, our immediate identification with his sadness gradually put to greater and greater tests as more of the sinister side of his character is revealed. Balagueró manages to imbue the drama with terrific tension, one scene in particular a heart-thumping experience which ingeniously reveals the underlying moral complexity of this story and our engagement with it. And with that ends Horrorthon, though not our coverage thereof: stay tuned for full reviews of select films over the coming days.