GOREZONE WEEKEND OF HORROR
31st OCT – 1st NOV 2009
LEICESTER SQUARE, LONDON
Hallowe’en in Leicester Square, and it’s GoreZone Magazine’s second ever Weekend of Horror. Based at the Prince Charles Theatre there were two full days of premiers, previews, personal appearances and signings, all hosted by the lovely Emily Booth, and I popped along for day one.
It was quite a small crowd that queued for the opening film at 9.30 and after a late start we were ushered into the red and black inner sanctum for zero-budget Brit vampire thriller, Temptation. A violent little tale, Temptation follows spoilt Isabel (Caroline Haines) who, after a heavy night out in London is attacked and raped. She is rescued by sexy French vamp Aurelie (Rachel Waters) and brought back from the brink by feeding from her blood-sucking saviour. We all know what this means, of course, and soon Isabel is battling her inner demons deciding whether or not to kill herself before the darkness takes her over completely. Although the budget constraints were obvious and some of the acting atrocious (the comedy copper is worth paying to see all on his own) Temptation managed to pull off a genuine sense of unreality at times, and had a handful of effective Nightmare London shots at the start. Plus, it co-starred Laura Evans from The Basil Brush Show, and that’s no bad thing when you think about it.
A brief Q&A with cast and director later, and then we were straight into the absurd but thoroughly entertaining Samurai Princess. Kengo Kaji, who wrote and directed here, also penned Tokyo Gore Police, and if you’ve seen that you will know what to expect. Lots of silliness, energy, gore and utter nonsense. It seems fairly pointless trying to summarise the story, but essentially super-cute Aino Kishi is on a revenge mission, and so is turned into a death-dealing android by a body artist and a Buddhist nun. I said it didn’t make any sense. Laughing, wincing and cheering the action on made the whole thing vanish in an instant; thoroughly enjoyable pop-schlock schtick, and I’d suggest one of the favourite films of the weekend with the audience.
Immediately after we dive into the first real shocker of the day, Won Ton Baby!, a gleeful echo back to 70s and 80s splatterfests like Basket Case and Ghoulies. Presented by Suzi Lorraine, no-budget scream queen and, here, writer and producer, the movie concerns a monstrous Elvis-inspired evil child which has been hitching a ride in fetus in fitu for thirty years, subsumed by the ghastly tumour of his unknowing sister, Lily. When he is finally ‘born’, the creature is a violent, sexually voracious little tyke, with a ridiculous quiff and a taste for women! Not a million miles from Garth Marenghi’s Skipper the Eye Child, or a horny cabbage patch doll, there’s a lot of laughs and a lot of barf involved, not least during the scene where a rather controversial porn video is found. Oh boy. Crazy and funny, and played for gross-out giggles, Won Ton Baby! won’t be winning too many mainstream awards, but the festival crowds will love it.
After a break to allow the gore hunters time for lunch and some daylight, the production values took a distinct turn upwards with Maneater, a relatively straightforward tale of blood thirsty monsters (this time the mythical and malevolent cannibalistic spirit creature the Wendigo, a staple from the supernatural tales of the Algonquian people). Starring TV’s Superman, Dean Cain, it’s an efficient, competent but slightly ho-hum actioner with a certain amount of tension and a minor twist at the end. There wasn’t a lot that hasn’t been seen before and were it not for the unusual provenance of the central conceit I might have wished my food break had been a bit longer.
Never mind, the next movie took us somewhere we hadn’t thus far been, somewhere much blacker. Plague Town is a grim, dark, and thoroughly nasty little piece about an American family searching for their roots in rural Ireland. Stranded and terrorised by the locals, they soon learn that some family trees should be left unresearched. Not so much Who Do You Think You Are, but What Do You Think You Are, Plague Town is played for creeps and chills and it is very good at it. And just wait until you get a glimpse of Rosemary. Our print suffered from a very gloomy transfer, which the director David Gregory apologised for in his Q&A. We were promised a few festival run-outs, but a proper big screen release before the DVD comes out may be unlikely. If you want to see something bleak, mean-spirited and not prepared to rely on bumps and shocks, then you just may be in for a treat. But you’ll probably have to wait until next year.
Someone’s Knocking at the Door did employ a few shocks, however. In fact, it was pretty shocking from the first minute where a young medical student is raped to death by a woman who seems to transform magically into a crazily-endowed mad man. Bizarre endowments are the order of the day, as a small group of jaded friends experiment with pharmaceuticals and step over into a nightmare world of drug-induced sexual experiments that end in horrific ways for everyone. A lot of strobing and hallucinatory stylistic twinges later, the big twist and reveal is perhaps 10 or 15 minutes too late, but Someone’s Knocking at the Door is a polished and eager shocker, even though you may feel a little cheated plotwise at the end. Still, it’s not often you get to see a prosthetic appendage that could put Dirk Diggler to shame, and if that’s your thing, knock yourself out.
A Q&A later (and how refreshing to hear a film-maker admit that there were plot holes, but he hoped the energy of the film would gloss over them) and then it was The Telling. Pretty much the low point of the entire event, The Telling is a glossy portmanteau movie where three girls tell ghost stories as a test to see which one will gain access to a bitchy sorority house. The house in question is in actual fact the Playboy mansion and the actresses…are all Playmates. Actresses is probably too kind a phrase; I don’t mean to be snooty. We horror fans are used to the odd poor acting turn, but this was exceptional for being a full house, so to speak. Stilted, dull and not even drowning in a sea of blood (there is more gore in an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures) The Telling failed on every level and was a massive waste of time. It would be interesting to know the attendance figures before and after the showing, because I’m sure the only killing it managed was in the numbers who stayed until the end.
And that was a shame, because the much-reduced crowd who hung on for the final movie were in for a strange treat. Expecting nothing from the remake of The Children of the Corn, what we actually got was a neat and assured slice of couple-in-distress unpleasantness, involving people who could actually act (the excellent David Anders and Kandyse McClure). Graduates of Heroes and Battlestar Galactica respectively, it was great to see two accomplished and personable leads suffering so convincingly through what might otherwise have been fairly humdrum hokum. Although a shade too long, I was hooked and properly entertained, and when you’re fast approaching midnight after an early start and seven movies, that’s a pretty decent compliment.
Gorezone put on a pretty good show, Emily was a great hostess, and I hope the festival goes from strength to strength, but it was a shame to see that it hadn’t sold out. I hope it was busier the next day, but I wonder if, as attractive as the Hallowe’en weekend might have seemed at the planning stage, the scheduling might have worked against it. There’s a lot on offer for the movie fan at this time of year, and with other cinemas in the capital showing a lot of similar stuff elsewhere, perhaps the GZ crew might have more joy claiming another weekend all to themselves. Whatever they do, I’ll be back for more, and I’d recommend you give it a whirl, too.