IFI Horrorthon 2012: Day Two

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

The eyes that proof-read this post practically bulge with the burden of so many images consumed in so small a period of time. From the beginning of the first to the finale of the last, day two of Horrorthon 2012 for this critic consisted of seven features in twelve hours, plus a small supporting short. That’s no complaint, mind; a day so spent is the cinephile’s dream, locked away from the world and beamed to another over and over and over again. The first such journey was to a future dystopia, run by a disfigured alien race with clear Nazi connotations. Manborg is an ambitious and abundantly accomplished sci-fi satire, retreading tropes from the likes of Robocop and The Terminator to hilarious effect. Barely budgeted, the low-quality special effects that pervade its every frame are half the charm, the film’s more spectacular sequences portrayed by way of wowing stop-motion animation. The audience exploded with applause as the film finished; it was a reaction well-deserved, this one of the most thoroughly informed, funnily written, and madly acted pop culture mash-ups to emerge in a long time indeed.

Camp fun was shortly replaced with stoic seriousness in the form of Midnight Son, an odd vampire re-evaluation best described as Vampire’s Kiss without the comedy. It follows a lonely nocturnal security guard as he garners a thirst for blood, contemporaneous to his new romance with a sassy street vendor. The lead performances from Zak Kilberg and Maya Parish are the strength of the film, its occasional reliance on one stereotype too many threatening at several points to derail the film entirely. Scott Leberecht has a great idea on his hands here; Midnight Son isn’t the best return possible thereon, but it’s a very promising first feature.

Considerably less attention-worthy a debut is Jean-Christian Tassy’s Calibre 9, an astonishingly ill-edited feast of fatuous nonsense, loosely comedic in tone and anti-authority in theme. Its hero is Yann Moreau, a corrupt city planner whose incidental acquisition of a gun which is in fact the reincarnated soul of a dead prostitute leads him to take down the city’s corrupt mayor. It might be passable entertainment if it weren’t for the unbearable aggravation of the aesthetic, needless extra shots spliced in at every available opportunity with all the grace and finesse of a blender. Bar a minor helping of pleasant gore, Calibre 9 is a meritless mess, its genuine intentions finding nothing in the nonsensically madcap expression it adopts.

Next up was one of the most enticing films of the festival: Ciarán Foy’s Citadel, a city-set horror of rabid children who haunt a man left to care for his newborn daughter in the wake of his wife’s death. In-depth thoughts are best saved for a full review to follow (the film opens November 9th in North America); it’s enough for now to say that Foy has concocted a sharply socially relevant horror, its strong grounding in believable emotion its greatest tool in addressing pressing economic issues.

Equally better left to discussion at full review length is Silent Hill: Revelation, which only serves to reveal that this series of games does not have a good movie in them. Our own Jaime, much more a fan of the 2006 original than me, is just as critical of Revelation‘s many and major flaws. It’s an absurd film, tonally and narratively erratic, odiously scripted, and frankly just stupid throughout in terms of both its story and scares. The best that can be said of it is that, courtesy of the IFI’s marvellous lack of 3D projection, nobody left the show with a headache. The shower of spiteful boos which followed the screening is amusingly indicative of this one’s prospects with its much desired public.

Day two came to a fantastic conclusion with a double bill of classic Italian horror in the form of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters or Zombi 2) and Dario Argento’s Deep Red, the former a gloriously gory and camp survival thriller, the latter a layered psychosexual horror with lush colours filling the screen with their texture and giving these tired eyes plenty in the way of visual meaning to feast upon. Fulci’s is the more fun film, its incredible make-up seeing its horde done away with in the most wonderfully imaginative and vicious of ways. Argento’s is perhaps more satisfying, being at times just as bloody in its own way, but always stronger with story. He is the better director, the perfect editing and score of Deep Red making it a masterclass in tension-building as the creepiness slowly escalates and builds to a startling conclusion. It was as good an ending to the day as could have been asked for; films this good make a man wish he could watch another seven right away.

Coming up tomorrow: Eurocrime!V/H/SDracula: Prince of DarknessAmerican MaryAmong Friends; and Tulpa.

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Ronan Doyle

Director of Movies On Demand & Sr. Staff Film Critic at Next Projection
Having spent the vast majority of my life sharing in the all too prevalent belief than cinema is merely dumbed-down weekend escapism for the masses, I was lucky enough to turn on a television at the exact right moment to have my perspectives on the medium completely transformed. Those first two and a half hours marked the beginning of a new life revolving around—maybe even depending upon—the screen and the depth of artistry, intellectual stimulation, and emotional exhilaration it can provide.