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Entries in International (3)

Friday
Jun012018

BELGIUM'S HORROR MAESTROS FIND LOVE, FINALLY, IN DOCO LOVE-LETTER 

The horror auteurs of Belgium have often found favour with fans outside of their homeland. Director Harry Kümel's 1971 cult classic Daughters of Darkness is revered the world over; Emmanuel Kervyn’s 1988 gross-out shocker Rabid Grannies helped establish the Troma brand in the US. Yet the devoted filmmakers who have forged a dark, disturbing, occasionally brilliant Belgian horror sector are afforded little respect at home. With his documentary Forgotten Scares: An In-Depth Look at Flemish Horror Films, director Steve De Roover hopes to bring long overdue recognition to those whose visions of the macabre are rarely spoken of with the reverence they deserve…

“Horror has always been a genre that got extra piss poured over it,” De Roover delicately informs SCREEN-SPACE from his Skladanowsky Films office in Leuven, 30 kilometres east of Brussels. “You get a sense of absolute rebellion in many of the films and because a lot of them were made without proper funding, there is nothing which couldn't be shown. Typically, Flemish horror cinema has boatloads of nudity and everything nasty one could think up, just to piss off the establishment.” He cites Rob Van Eyck’s wildly successful Afterman trilogy (1985; 2005; 2013) as representative of his homeland’s approach to horror. “This ‘Mad Max from Belgium’ is full of typical Flemish activities of the old days like farming and hunting, but with a side of boobs, impalings, cannibalism and necrophilia.”

This determination to rattle the cages of conformity is central to Forgotten Scares, which takes as its starting point a claim from ill-informed journalists that Jonas Govaerts’ 2014 boy-scout/monster hit Welp (Cub; pictured, right) was “the first Flemish horror film”. De Roover exhaustively researched an industry that as far back as the mid 1970s was exploring cinema’s darkest, most challenging genre; films that existed in defiance of the nation’s cinema-going trends. Says De Roover, “I do think that this struggle [brought] a lot of extra creativity and an ever bigger drive to succeed.” De Roover admits to drawing inspiration from Australian director Mark Hartley's Ozploitation doc Not Quite Hollywood (2008), which covered a similarly undervalued Australian horror movement.

In an interview with The A.V. Club site, Baby Driver director Edgar Wright calls Daughters of Darkness, “a great movie, one [that] bridges the gap between the arty Roman Polanski or Ingmar Bergman horror movies, and the more campy, sexy vampire films of the time”. Its high brow vampiric eroticism is not often spoken of as 'classic' in its homeland, where it rarely screens. Kümel's masterpiece is given its due by De Roover, who calls it “an exercise in grandeur,” admitting, “It was the very first DVD I ordered online from the US.”

Also featured in Forgotten Scares is Kümel’s follow-up film Malpertuis (1971), starring Orson Welles, along with further works from Afterman auteur Van Eyck (Mirliton, 1978) and their contemporaries Guy Lee Thys (The Pencil Murders, 1982), the enigmatic Luc Veldeman (The Antwerp Murders, 1983), and Johan Vandewoestijne (Lucker, 1986).

The VHS boom years proved fertile ground for Flemish horror, says De Roover. “A lot of the popular films were made with the American market in mind, sometimes even as cheap copies of American cinema trends,” he says, citing The Antwerp Killer and Lucker (pictured, right) as Belgian entrants in the 80s ‘slasher pic’ craze. In addition to the insanity of Kervyn’s hilariously nightmarish Rabid Grannies (“I was in awe of the fun, bloody mayhem of that film,” says De Roover), this was also the era of Léon Paul de Bruyn’s tawdry splatter romp Maniac Nurses (1990) and his ultimately unrealized foray into Nazi-sploitation excess, SS Torture Hell. The documentary features previously unreleased footage from the set of the sado-masochistic epic, which ground to a halt when funding dried up.

Many of the sector’s most influential and revered genre personalities responded to the Forgotten Scares project, happy to step before the camera and recall half a century of Flemish horror inventiveness and artistry. In addition to Kümel, De Bruyn, Vandewoestijne, Govaerts and Van Eyck, De Roover secured the insight of actors Eric Feremans (The Antwerp Killer), Evelien Bosmans (Cub; pictured, below, with De Roovers) and Sven De Ridder (The Flemish Vampire, 2007); director Jeroen Dumoulein (short film De Vijver, 2014); and, the opinionated industry figurehead Jan Verheyen, director of Alias (2002).

De Roover acknowledges that in recent years Belgian horror has edged dangerously close to arthouse, even mainstream acceptance. Pieter Van Hees’ 2008 Antwerp-set chiller Linkeroever (Left Bank), starring Eline Kuppens and Matthias Schoenarts, tackled social commentary within its genre parameters; The Hollywood Reporter compared it to Rosemary’s Baby, The Wicker Man and J-horror classic Dark Water. “Left Bank shows the bleakness of some of the lower-class neighbourhoods in Flanders,” says De Roover, who considers the award-winning a step towards the mainstreaming of Belgian genre cinema. “We have only been finding our own identity in cinema over the last couple of years. It took years to earn respect for our complete cinema output and to be taken seriously [by Belgian media],” he says. Veteran horror helmer Johan Vandewoestijne continues to produce quality work, including the black horror/comedy Todeloo (2014) and the serial killer romp Laundry Man (2016).

One of the many unforgettable sequences in Forgotten Scares: An In-Depth Look at Flemish Horror Films concerns the 2013 vision The Miracle of Life from directors Joël Rabijns and Yves Sondermeier, a mother/son drama that US distributor Troma thought would work better under the title The Thingy: Confessions of a Teenage Placenta. With Steve De Roover flying the tri-coloured flag of his nation’s horror directors, the glorious madness of such flagrant Flemish film excesses as Rabid Grannies and Maniac Nurses will live forever.

FORGOTTEN SCARES: AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT FLEMISH HORROR FILMS is currently playing the film festival circuit. It can be pre-ordered on DVD from Zeno Pictures.

Saturday
Apr142018

PREVIEW: XV CINETERROR FILM FESTIVAL

The southern Chilean municipality of Valdivia represents a rich melding of geographic and historic influence that makes this small but vibrant city one of the most beautiful destinations in South America. The city, 45 square-kilometres and populated by a mere 160,000 residents, was colonized by Spanish, then German explorers; the river system that winds through the undulating coastal landscape on its way to the Pacific Ocean ensured this commune within the Los Rios Region had military and trade significance in the early days of settlement, over half a century ago.

Valdivia holds specific significance in the week ahead for Chilean horror fans determined to see local and global horror on the big screen. From Monday April 16, the city will stage the 15th CineTerror Film Festival, a celebration of modern genre cinema that presents dark visions of the imagination from Asia, Europe and, of course, South America. The six-day event, comprising 14 features and three short film strands, will screen at the Lord Cochrane Theatre in the city centre.

“This year, our program of films are absolutely independent,” says CineTerror producer Nino Bernucci, “and we hope that audiences support this decision. We have sought films that are currently travelling the international film festival circuit, works that we believe represent the essence of what we are trying to achieve.”

Opening night honours have been bestowed upon Javier Attridge’s Wekufe The Origins of Evil (pictured, right; star Paula Figueroa), a locally-shot effort that explores the relationship between the high rates of sexual assaults in southern Chile and the mythical spirits that are said to inhabit the region. In a statement released by the festival organisers, Atteridge says, “I felt fascinated by this universe of myths and legends, stories told by our grandparents for generations. As I grew older I questioned the real origin of these stories.”

Equally challenging works across the 2018 program reinforce the belief that selection for CineTerror means the ‘horror’ in your horror film is legitimate. Also from Chile is Jorge Olguin's woodland-set chiller Gritos del Bosque; other works from Latin America include three features from Mexico - Juan de la Peña’s rural estate shocker Barrancas, the heightened pseudo-reality of Omar Jacobo’s La Puta es Ciega and the horror anthology México Bárbaro II (pictured, top); two Argentinian pics - the richly-coloured palette of the Giallo-inspired Mirada de Cristal, co-directed by Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, and brothers Luciano and Nicolás Onetti’s Los Olvidados (a co-production with New Zealand); and, from Brazil, Samuel Galli’s demonic possession romp, Mal Nosso.

International works are flying in from France (Vincent Orst’s zom-com Le périple); Japan (Yoshihiro Nishimura’s mega-monster lark Tetsudon: The Kaiju Death Match); and Spain (Carles Jofre’s splatter epic Verano Rojo, bearing laurels from several festival triumphs including the Los Angeles Horror Competition).

Earning an honorary double-feature session at CineTerror is Indonesian genre master Joko Anwar. The prolific 42 year-old, who recently enjoyed blockbuster success in his homeland with Satan’s Slave, will be represented in Valdivia by his 2009 Puchon-honoured hit Pintu Terlarang (The Forbidden Door) and his blood-splattered 2012 jungle-set thriller Modus Anomali (Ritual).

The Closing Night film is the work of another local filmmaker made good, Chilean horror maestro Lucio A Rojas. His latest nightmare, Trauma (pictured, right), will screen to those brave enough to front a film that has been compared to Srdjan Spasojevic’s infamous A Serbian Film for its depiction of sexual violence and brutality in the service of political allegory (Screen Anarchy called it, “…one of the most savage and brutal horror films to debut in the recent era.”)

“It is not an easy film to watch,” understates Rojas, via the festival. “In fact, many of the crew could not watch it more than once, which may be how viewers react, too. We knew from the moment we wrote the script that it would be controversial.”

XV CINETERROR Festival Internacional de Cine de Terror de Valdivia is presented in conjunction with Corporacion Cultural Municipal Valdivia and Ilustre Municipalidad de Vadivia; it will run from April 16-21 at The Lord Cochrane Theatre. Tickets are available at the venue or via the events official website.

Monday
Mar212016

NEW WAVE OF HORROR HITS PALM BEACH FILM FEST

Under the stewardship of new CEO/President Jeff Davis, the 21st Palm Beach International Film Festival represents a defining period in the event’s history. The relatively young celebration of cinema seems poised to join the ranks of Cannes, Venice and Toronto, with whom it shares accreditation status. One key initiative in 2016 is an international strand of horror titles; ten films from seven countries that announce PBIFF as a major new platform for global genre works. Having settled into the 250-seat Palm Beach Theatre in Manalapan, Florida in 2015, patrons can expect to be thoroughly unsettled by Director of Programming Larry Richman’s impressive line-up of shockers. “The 21st PBIFF is all about fresh ideas and new directions,” says Richman, whose insight you’ll find below in our preview of the 2016 PBIFF Horror Film roster…

THE FOREST (Dir: Paul Spurrier / Thailand; 109 mins / Trailer / pictured, above): A new teacher (Asanee Suwan) establishes a bond with a mute student (Wannasa Wintawong) that leads to a terrifying, yet moving lesson in life. The first westerner to have directed a Thai-language film (P, 2005), Spurrier works elements of fantasy and the supernatural into his dark tale of redemption and revenge.

THE PERFECT HUSBAND (Dir: Lucas Pavetto / Italy; 85 mins / Trailer): Having wowed the genre festival circuit with his short film Il Marito Perfetto, Argentine-born/Italian-bred director Lucas Pavetto developed the concept into this feature-length work. A cabin-in-the-woods weekend for a young, struggling married couple (Gabriella Wright, pictured; Bret Roberts) turns particularly horrific.

THE PHOENIX INCIDENT (Dir: Keith Arem / USA; 84 mins): Combining a found-footage aesthetic, docu-drama elements and some good ol’ fashioned alien abduction lore, Keith Arem’s offers a visually arresting reimagining of certain ‘facts’ in relation to the March 13, 1997 mass UFO sighting in Phoenix. If you still have an ‘I Want to Believe’ poster in your man-cave, this is a must-see.

“I'm a huge genre fan. While I've been with the festival for several years, it was a change in management this year under new President and CEO Jeff Davis which allowed us to create a category for horror and a cash prize competition, to boot,” says Richmann, whose entertainment industry experience includes long stints in commercial radio, the tech sector and online journalism; he founded larry411.com and became a respected film festival regular as contributor for the highly-respected Indie Film Spotlight.

INTERIOR (Dir: Zachary Beckler / USA; 83 mins / Trailer / pictured, right): Carrying before it a wave of insider buzz, Zachary Beckler suburban ghost-story introduces a sly sense of humour and genuine chills to the ‘paranormal investigation’ genre. It also introduces a franchise-worthy entity in Emily, the spirited central spectre of the writer/director’s chiller.

BUBBA THE REDNECK WEREWOLF (Dir: Brendan Rogers / USA; 80  mins / Trailer): Brendan Rogers aims for instant cult status in his low-budget/low-IQ comedy/horror about a hillbilly lycanthrope and the townsfolk who bestow upon him (anti)hero status. Looks and feels a bit like the Troma classic, The Toxic Avenger (a good thing, right?)

MASKOUN (Dirs: Krystle Houiess, Sharif Abdunnur / UAE; 91 mins / Trailer): Combining both raw handheld footage with a richer, more complex film craft, the film industries of the Middle East offer a rare genre work in this chilling tale of paranormal incursion and past life manifestations from directors Krystle Houiess and Sharif Abdunnur. Advance word and plot details are shrouded in well-staged ambiguity, but anticipation is high.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from Colin Geddes, who programs the 10-film Midnight Madness section of the Toronto International Film Festival, and Tim League at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, two festivals which led me to PBIFF,” acknowledges Richmann, who also acts as PBIFF’s Executive Vice President.

THE KEY (Dir: Gedeon Burkhard / Germany; 90 mins / Trailer): Mashing gangster thrills, rampaging undead and farmhouse horror tropes and staged at an insanely high pitch, German actor/director Gedeon Burkhard’s The Key is a frantic, fierce and funny splatter feature with a legitimate shot at ‘midnight movie’ cult status.

PEELERS (Dir: Sevé Schelenz / Canada; 95 mins / Trailer) WORLD PREMIERE: Having announced his fearless talent with 2011’s Skew, Sevé Schelenz doubles-down on the humour and gore in Peelers. The last night of trading at a remote strip joint goes bad when infected patrons start turning on each other. Lots of blood, lots of boobs, lots of fun.

LAND OF SMILES (Dir: Bradley Stryker / Canada; 95 mins / Trailer): Not all is as idyllic as it would appear in Bradley Stryker’s hell-in-paradise opus, Land of Smiles. In Thailand to repair a broken friendship, Abby (Alelexandra Turshen; pictured, right) becomes a pawn in a sociopath’s twisted cat-and-mouse game; if she refuses to follow the psycho’s instructions, footage of her friend being tortured will grow alarmingly worse. But is all as it really seems…?

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME (Dir: Alejandro Hidalgo / Venezuela; 100 mins): Redemption and revenge for past sins are themes that feature in several of the horror works on offer. Venezuelan filmmaker Alejandro Hidalgo’s supremely stylish ghost story examines a crime of infanticide at the hands of a malevolent spirit and a wrongly imprisoned mother (a terrific Ruddy Rodríguez) determined to reveal the truth. Already a festival circuit favourite; earned Best Picture honours from Screamfest.

“We're not TIFF or Fantastic Fest but we can certainly aspire to have a killer horror program and these 10 films represent some of the best of what's being produced in 2016,” Richmann states.

The Palm Beach International Film Festival runs April 6-14. All ticketing and venue information can be found at the event’s official website